Jewish Journal

Sue Fishkoff

  • At Conservative rabbis’ confab, it’s not about the organization, but the future

    March 29, 2011 | 5:03 pm

    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...

  • Bar Mitzvahs without God

    January 29, 2010 | 4:13 pm

    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.

    His brother Ben’s bar...

  • Farming the Land, Torah in Hand

    February 4, 2009 | 6:55 pm

    Naf Hanau lives in the Bronx, an odd choice for someone who calls himself a Jewish farmer.

    But Hanau, 23, is in the heart of New York City only for horticultural school, to learn skills he’ll put into practice when he and his girlfriend, 27-year-old Anna Stevenson, buy land near...

  • The Rebbe’s army soldiers on

    December 4, 2008 | 1:14 am


    Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, the Chabad emissaries brutally murdered last week in Mumbai, ran the Jewish center they established in that Indian city on their own. But the young Israeli American couple were part of a worldwide network of Chabad-Lubavitch shluchim -- more than...

  • SF cops probing death of Israel activist—body found in elevator shaft

    December 2, 2008 | 8:26 pm

    SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)—A prominent Israel activist was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

    Daniel J. Kliman, 38, was the co-founder of San Francisco Voice for Israel, an affiliate of the national Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, and a well-known pro-Israel activist in the...

  • Agriprocessors tries to clean up its act

    August 5, 2008 | 7:04 pm

    POSTVILLE, Iowa (JTA)—It’s 9 a.m. on a recent Monday and about 60 people are milling around outside Jacobson Staffing, the national employment firm contracted by Agriprocessors to replace hundreds of workers lost in a May 12 federal immigration raid.

    They are hoping for jobs at...

  • New kosher cooking school steps up to the plate—and that’s not chopped liver!

    July 17, 2008 | 1:36 am

    On the first day of class at a new kosher cooking school in Brooklyn, 22-year-old Erica Zimmerman carefully slices raw potatoes into a stainless steel bowl.

    Zimmerman, a student at New York University, says she's always been interested in cooking, but as an observant Jew only wanted...

  • Under-40s reshape Jewish engagement, report finds

    June 25, 2008 | 10:24 pm

    Close to 3,500 people showed up the evening of Dawn, an all-night Shavuot celebration at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum on June 7. Mostly in their 20s and 30s, they'd come ready to spend the night marking a Jewish holiday with performance art, dancing to live bands,...

  • After raid, kosher meat in short supply

    June 6, 2008 | 2:47 pm

    NEW YORK (JTA) -- Jacqueline Lankry doesn't know how she's going to fill her orders.

    Owner of her own kosher catering firm in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Lankry orders a box a week of meat and poultry from Agriprocessors, which runs the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse, where...

  • S.F.‘s new Contemporary Jewish Museum meshes art, ideas and architecture

    June 5, 2008 | 2:34 pm

    SAN FRANCISCO [JTA] -- The Contemporary Jewish Museum, set to open Sunday, June 8, in its new San Francisco location, is a grand celebration of what Jewish sensibilities can contribute to the American cultural experience.

    It's also the latest example of the Jewish museum as event...

  • Finding Judaism in the great outdoors

    June 3, 2008 | 2:50 pm

    BERKELEY(JTA)—There were about two dozen people on Rabbi Mike Comins’ Torah Trek in Tilden Park here.

    Most members and friends of Chochmat HaLev, a Jewish Renewal-style community, had hiked a lot. Many had prayed or meditated. Some had done both together.

    But none, the hikers...

  • Raid generates fears of shortages, boycott

    May 21, 2008 | 4:35 pm

    As federal hearings began this week involving hundreds of employees netted in a government raid on the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse, some rabbis and consumers adopted a wait-and-see attitude before making any judgments -- about the company's practices or the impact of the...
  • Student on track to become first black female rabbi

    May 15, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    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.

    And when she says that next year, following her ordination as a Reform...

  • Gender equity lags in Jewish organizations

    April 17, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    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.

    It's been 44 years since Title VI of the Civil Right Act barred employment discrimination on the basis of race or sex and the Equal Employment...

  • A spiritual boost in Simi

    March 27, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    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.

    "Feel how much space there is in...

  • Intermarriage reports urge understanding and openness

    March 13, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    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.

    One report, the result of a new...

  • Jewish researchers dispute some Pew religion survey data

    February 28, 2008 | 5:00 pm

    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...

  • Ms. magazine’s ad rejection elicits strong response

    January 17, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    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...

  • Program helps grandparents nurture interfaith grandkids

    January 17, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    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...

  • Eco-kashrut supporters turn attention to kosher meat

    December 20, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    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...

  • Survey says Reform rabbis don’t know what members want

    December 6, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    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.

    In general, the synagogue leaders seem...

  • Impact of Soviet Jewry drive still resonates in U.S. today

    November 29, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    When Jacob Birnbaum began knocking on dormitory doors at Yeshiva University in the spring of 1964, he only half-believed anyone would answer.

    The young British activist had come to New York to mobilize a grass-roots campaign to draw attention to the plight of 3 million Jews trapped...

  • American Jewish youth alienated from Israel, study finds

    September 13, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Young American Jews are increasingly alienated from Israel, according to a report released last week.

    The report, titled "Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and their Alienation from Israel" and commissioned by The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, generally...

  • ‘Praying without paying’ becomes more common

    August 30, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    When 63-year-old Steven Fruh was growing up in Manhattan, his parents did not belong to a synagogue. "They couldn't afford it," he said.

    At the High Holy Days, they would buy one ticket between them, for the congregation's overflow service in the basement.

    "As a kid, I was very...

  • ‘Half-Jews’ fight for acceptance

    July 12, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    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've had endlessly to defend my half-Jewishness: resist rabbis who...

  • Conversion for those raised Jewish? Rabbis address unique obstacles for patrilineal converts

    April 26, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    When David Levine stepped into the mikvah last year, he believed he was affirming what he already was, not converting to something new.

    "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...
  • New congregations net results online

    February 22, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    When Ikar, a 3-year-old congregation in Los Angeles, wants to make an announcement to the 1,500 people on its mailing list, it doesn't send a letter. It sends an e-mail.

    "We've never sent out a piece of hard mail," says Joshua Avedon, who is in charge of technology for the young,...

  • Social justice moves to front of some congregational agendas

    February 15, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Three state Assembly members and a lone county supervisor were no match this week for 500 Jews demanding more money for health care. "We meet tonight to ensure health-care coverage for all county residents," said Rabbi Joel Fleekop of Congregation Shir Hadash of Los Gatos, host of...
  • Renewal seeks consistency in its rabbinical training

    January 25, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Karyn Berger, a slight, dark-haired woman wearing a royal blue tallit, steps up to the microphone to introduce herself and her four colleagues. All are about to be ordained as Jewish Renewal spiritual leaders -- two rabbis, two rabbinic pastors and one cantor.

    "We were born in...

  • Special-needs kids enjoy giant circle of friends

    December 14, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Micah Abraham is standing on a stool in his parents' kitchen, stirring a bowl of brownie mix. "Frosting?" the 7-year-old asks Daphna Davidowitz, 16, his Friendship Circle volunteer.

    "Not yet," she cautions.

    "When brownies done, we put on frosting!" Micah persists.

    Suddenly he turns...

  • Readers finally get their say at JBook.com’s Peoples’ Choice Awards

    October 26, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    The people have spoken, and they spake Foer.
    "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...
  • ‘Moishe Houses’ provide post-Hillel hangout for 20-somethings

    October 12, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    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...
  • The Trailblazer’s Toolbox: Programs That Grab

    August 31, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Here's a brief rundown of the national synagogue revitalization programs that have arisen since the early 1990s.

    • Billed as the first such initiative, the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) was created in 1992. It strives to popularize Jewish learning among congregants...

  • How to Be Jewish 101

    August 31, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    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?

    What is the magic that transforms certain shuls into sacred communities that embrace and uplift their...

  • Communities on Alert After Seattle Shootings

    August 3, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    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...

  • Reform Rabbis Split Over Performing Mixed Marriages

    July 13, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    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,...

  • Conservatives Focus on Intermarrieds

    June 1, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    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.

    Instead, Lachter was...

  • Jewish Studies Bug Bites Parents, Too

    May 18, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    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.

    He signed up for the Florence Melton Parent Education Program, a Jewish adult education...

  • Shopping for Jews? Clean Up on Aisle 5

    April 13, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Anyone who walked into Albertsons in Los Altos on a recent Sunday would have run right into Margie Pomerantz's Passover table.

    There she sat, next to the kosher food display right inside the supermarket's front entrance. A big handwritten sign reading "Passover in the Aisles" hung...

  • What Do Gen-Y Jews Want? Everything

    April 6, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Brandeis University just released a new study of Jewish college students. It found that they're proud to be Jewish, largely unaffiliated, attracted to Jewish culture more than religion, like diversity and don't feel strong ties to Israel or Jewish federations.

    Reboot, a nonprofit...

  • Campus Outreach Connects Orthodox

    February 23, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    At the Enormous Activities Fair during UCLA's Welcome Week last September, Sharona Kaplan stepped away from her own brochure-laden table to help out at the busier Hillel table.

    A first-year student perusing Hillel's sign-up sheet seemed stuck on one question.

    "So what kind of...

  • A Step Into Secular

    January 26, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Chaim breezes into a diner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan clutching two huge shopping bags.

    "I got some clothes, this plaid shirt, two for $5, this leather jacket just $20," says Chaim, 19, in the clipped, Yiddish-accented English of the Chasidic world he comes from. "I didn't...

  • Few Females Filling Mohel Role in U.S.

    January 26, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    When Dr. Debra Weiss-Ishai watched her son's brit milah two years ago, she thought to herself, I could do this better. Not just technically, although as a pediatrician she had done numerous medical circumcisions. She felt she could bring a warmth and spiritual beauty to the ritual in...

  • Conservative Jews Gather at Crossroads

    December 1, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    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)?

    Those are some of the vexing questions the United Synagogue of...

  • How They Choose to Be Jews

    November 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    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.

    How this translates...

  • State Textbooks Get Accuracy Upgrade

    November 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    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.

    But when the California Board of Education...

  • Hillel Readies Plan of Attraction

    November 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    The Jewish college student of today is likely to be more interested in discussing religion than in practicing it. Therein lies a challenge and an opportunity, and Hillel, the college Jewish organization, says it's ready to respond.

    It was in the summer of 2004 that Hillel began work...

  • Juvenile Offenders Taste Teshuvah

    October 13, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    The slightly built, 13-year-old Latino boy sitting in the Starbucks near downtown Los Angeles didn't know much about teshuvah, the Jewish notion of repentance.

    But it lies at the heart of L.A.'s Jewish Community Justice Project, and it kept this scared kid with the tremulous smile...

  • Panel Rejects Texts Over Religious Bias

    October 13, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    In a surprise move, an advisory body to the California Board of Education rejected a sixth-grade history program that Hindu and Jewish groups blasted as biased, erroneous and culturally derogatory.

    During a two-day late September hearing before the state's Curriculum Development and...

  • Young Jews Choose Offbeat Expression

    September 29, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    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...

  • Lay Leaders Keep Synagogues Going

    September 8, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    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.

  • Rural Shuls Make Do Without Rabbis

    September 8, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    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...

  • Coffee Co-op Brews Mugs of Peace

    August 25, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    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...

  • Analysis - Leftists Try to ‘Take Back God’ in 2008

    July 28, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    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.

    "The right is correct; there is a huge spiritual crisis in America," said Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun...

  • Shavuot Gets Hip

    June 9, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    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...

  • Cossacks Look to Make Over Image

    September 9, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    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.

    "I've been taking care of my horses," he explains.

    Of course. What else...

  • Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Legacy Expanding

    June 24, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    Ten years after the death of the last Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, his influence on the Jewish world continues to grow.

    Tens of thousands of mourners visited Schneerson's grave in Queens, on Tuesday for his 10th yarhzeit. Israel's two chief rabbis had called for a...

  • Organic Experience

    October 31, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    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...

  • How the West Was Won

    August 15, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    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...

  • Chabad’s ‘Cowboy’

    August 23, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    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.

    The show was first...