This most recent High Holy Days, I had the privilege of experiencing a dozen different synagogues in Los Angeles. They were for me days of awe -- and days of discovery.
How does an irreligious Jew find consolation at a religious service? Seeking such consolation, I attended the Hillel at UCLA High Holy Days services conducted by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller. I don’t often go to services, but in February our oldest daughter, Robin, died, and I felt drawn there.
Tradition tells us that the Gates of Repentance stay open until the end of Sukkot. The intensity of Yom Kippur has diminished, but we still remember the hours together, knocking on our hearts, trying to do spiritual CPR, to wake us up to the truth of our lives.
Only a couple of weeks ago, we were all feeling the holiness of Yom Kippur. By the end of the day of fasting, beautiful music, insightful teachings and prayers that deepened our self-awareness, we were remembering the real priorities in life.
Is there a line between the much-ballyhooed Rosh Hashanah greetings from the Iranian leadership and a U.S.-Iran accommodation on Syria?
In a time when fasting can be a political statement or a fitness trend, you might wonder about its enduring value as a spiritual ritual. To learn more, we asked people who fast on Yom Kippur what they get out of it. Our modest sample yielded folks who are interested only in a meaningful personal experience, unrelated to why anybody else fasts. For these people, the act of fasting on Yom Kippur is a choice that has nothing to do with contemporary exigencies.
For many of us, the month of Elul and the High Holy Days are our personal and communal time for introspection. The work we do for ourselves as Jews is significant as we take the opportunity to make teshuvah (forgiveness) to others and to God and to improve our lives.
Every year on Yom Kippur, Jews in synagogues all over the world engage in a communal chest-beating during the Vidui, to repent, symbolically, for our collective sins. But what about the sin of being too hard on ourselves? As the High Holy Days approach once again, it seems logical to wonder why it is always so much easier to forgive others than ourselves.
When my mother, Shulamit E. Kustanowitz, died in May 2011, the in-person Jewish community provided all the basics — post-shivah meals, abundant hugs and three places to say Kaddish: Temple Beth Am for daily minyan, Friday nights at IKAR and Shabbat mornings at B’nai David-Judea. Although I was grateful for the support, my emotional needs during that year turned out to be more complex.
Sonia grew up in Minsk, Russia, her teen years abruptly cut short by the eruption of a war that would destroy most of her family and friends, and catapult her into a harrowing struggle to survive. And survive she did, fleeing from village to village with her family, finding work of any kind wherever they found refuge, traversing the unforgiving Ural Mountain ranges to escape the relentless Nazi rampage.
In open opposition to Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which tells us on Sukkot “there is nothing new under the sun,” I decided to build a solar sukkah this fall. To energize my plan, I went to the 99 Cent Store to buy some solar yard lights to adapt for use on the roof.
Security awareness should be a primary consideration for synagogues during the High Holidays, the security arm of the national Jewish community said.
My boyfriend of four years and I finally decided to move in together. But there was one problem: What to do about the kitchen.
From wars and elections to scandals and triumphs, here’s a look back at the highlights of the Jewish year 5773.
Four Jewish institutions have teamed up to build a sukkah composed entirely of homeless signs. They are asking the public to purchase and donate the signs in time for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
No real news here, but it’s not every day the president speaks directly to the Jews (except for this week, when it seems he did).
A few days before Yom Kippur, thousands of white-feathered chickens land on Pico Boulevard. Not there to be broiled, boiled or fricasseed in any of the nearby kosher restaurants in this predominantly Jewish business district, they nonetheless have arrived in time to be served up.
If my calculations are correct, I have listened to somewhere between 70 and 80 High Holy Days sermons. The total sounds high, but when you consider that typically four different High Holy Days sermons are delivered between Erev Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the numbers add up quickly.
Before creating the human being, according to a Midrash, God consulted the angels of heaven. The Angel of Peace argued, “Don’t create him! He will bring war into Your world!” The Angel of Compassion countered, “He will do kindness, create him!”
The conversation is supposed to begin like this: “Will you forgive me for anything I might have said or done this year that has hurt you?”
Many Jews will point to the Hebrew word het for sin, which is an archery term, and insist that Judaism teaches that sin is just “missing the mark.” That simplification does a grave injustice to the Jewish tradition.
For the High Holy Days this year, the Jewish Journal invited three rabbis — Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom — to respond to a series of questions related to teshuvah, the task of making amends during the High Holy Days.
“But what are you chanting for?” the woman cutting my hair wanted to know. She didn’t mean the glory of God or even my own spiritual well-being. It turned out she had once belonged to a 1970s church that chanted for things like shoes and better jobs.
“Are we in a post-denominational world?” the rabbi asked. “That’s above my pay grade.” But the speaker, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said one thing is for sure during his keynote address at the annual seminar held by the transdenominational Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
You could make a movie about the way Sigal Farkash spends the High Holy Days. In a way, someone already has. “Have you ever seen the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’? That’s how we celebrate,” the Israeli from Sherman Oaks said, describing the lively atmosphere of food and family that pervades this time of year.
In 1963, Richard Levy was in his mid-20s and in his last year of rabbinical school when he was sent on an internship to a synagogue in Jasper, Ala. About the time of Rosh Hashanah, not far away in the town of Birmingham, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church, an African-American place of worship, and four girls were killed.
Upon his installation as president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) last year, Rabbi Rick Jacobs promised to work toward reimagining and renovating the Reform movement by focusing on engaging young adults in Jewish life, by working with other arms of the movement in seeking out great ideas and by continuing support for Israel’s security.
Did you know that many people actually find free time more difficult to enjoy than work? Although many people also find their work stressful, boring or meaningless, success doesn’t make people happy either.
Jonathan Gordon didn’t grow up particularly observant. Until his bar mitzvah, he attended High Holy Days services with his parents, but once he turned 13 he stopped going — he felt unengaged.
Every day in my office, I see parents, embittered by divorce and so grateful to finally be physically and legally apart from a partner they once loved and now hate, struggling to co-parent and jointly make decisions about their children.
The Los Angeles Jewish Singles Meeting Place, a group that arranges small-scale events every week to connect middle-aged singles in a non-threatening environment, might seem an unlikely sponsor for community-wide services during the High Holy Days.
The digital age is changing the way we approach all aspects of life — including repentance. There is a catharsis in release, especially public release, and that’s what the founders of a slew of new digital programs and apps have tapped into during the High Holy Days. From scandalous sins to high hopes, the Internet is teeming with people looking for a platform to atone and reflect this coming New Year.
“Organized Judaism is in trouble.” I’ve been hearing that refrain for years now, from rabbis and Jewish leaders in speeches, sermons, op-eds and conferences. The litany of complaints is familiar: Synagogue membership is down; the new generation doesn’t like organized religion; people want something new; and so on.
As President Barack Obama and the world deliberate over how to respond to Syria’s murderous decision to use chemical weapons, a group of Israeli Jews have been fighting the humanitarian crisis the old-fashioned way — by smuggling aid into Syria.
Left destitute overnight when the Nazis confiscated his life savings in 1941, Ben Lesser’s father, Lazar, used a 100-pound bag of flour and some salt — a housewarming gift from a friend — to bake pretzels for the local bars in Niepolomice in southern Poland.
For the past eight years, the Chai Center has been holding High Holy Days services at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Theater in Beverly Hills. This year, however, just weeks before Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz received a call from the WGA indicating that, because of construction, the theater space would not be available.
The ADL’s Pacific Southwest region held its annual Jewish security briefing, “Hate Crimes: From Investigation to Prosecution.” The event provided tips to Jewish leaders on how to keep their congregants and buildings safe and secure during the High Holy Days, a time of year when the community is perceived to be at greater risk.
Here in Pico-Robertson, we’re bracing ourselves for the annual onslaught of kosher calories known as the Holy Month. Some people think that this time of year calls for only a few big meals. Not quite. If you’re a stickler for tradition, the actual number of Thanksgiving-level meals over the next month is closer to — I’m not kidding — about 18. And that’s not even counting the Yom Kippur pre-fast and break-the-fast meals.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is considered a High Holy Day, but it’s also a happy holiday, full of hope and optimism.
It’s well past 10 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, and the halls of Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) are filled with the sounds of creativity. In one room of the Encino Conservative congregation, the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony winds down its rehearsal, packing up instruments as its musicians prepare, finally, to go home.
A deep spiritual life is hard to find. While opportunities abound for spiritual connections (yoga, meditation, retreats and the like), for most of us it doesn’t come easy. The noise, unfinished to-do lists and the distractions of everyday life interfere with quieting our minds, letting go of our egos for a moment and connecting to something far greater than ourselves.
Six years ago, when Rabbi Jackie Redner was hired as a full-time rabbi at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services center, she decided to visit the kids in the Nes Gadol program first. Nes Gadol is designed to prepare children with autism for their bar and bat mitzvahs — they learn about Jewish history and religious practice and write speeches about their relationship to Judaism and faith.
Ever felt like running out of Temple on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur? If you did, would your Rabbis chase you down? This is one man's story of Temple fear.
The question “Where are you going for services?” is a mainstay among Jews around this time of year. Numerous congregations that ordinarily perform Shabbat services at their own locale often need to find larger, and more spacious, nontraditional venues — often churches, theaters or hotels — for the High Holy Days to accommodate the many who come only then to meet their spiritual needs.
The good news for Jewish children’s books this year is the occasion of the 20th anniversary of beloved picture book character Sammy Spider. There is even a colorful plush toy available on the publisher’s Web site (karben.com).
“When you enter the land that YHVH, your God, is giving you as a heritage …” (Deuteronomy 26:1).
What is the art of welcoming?
I confess there’s something that’s always bothered me about this time of year, when we put such a big emphasis on reflecting on our mistakes. Why only now? Isn’t this something we should be doing all year? As a community, we certainly do plenty of it, through the very act of constantly challenging one another.
On Aug. 5, the Birthright Israel alumni organization NEXT launched its 2013 High Holy Days initiative. It features an interactive, nationwide map of services and events — including learning opportunities, dinners and break-the-fasts — as well as a first-time offering of resources and small subsidies for people willing to host Rosh Hashanah meals and Yom Kippur break-the-fasts.
If the practice of Judaism is based on synagogue attendance, and if synagogue attendance is based on the passive recitation of prayer, then Judaism is in trouble.
When cellist Lynn Harrell would play “Kol Nidre” at his synagogue on Yom Kippur, he felt more than the notes and the melody. It was through the music that he discovered he wanted to become a Jew.
Rabbi Jonathan Bernhard named Board of Rabbis SoCal president, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel is opening early childhood center, Harry Corre and Janice Kamenir-Reznik honored
The big question in Detroit in the fall of 1934 had nothing to do with the troubled state of the world. Rather, the fans of the Detroit Tigers wanted to know whether their star first baseman, Hank Greenberg, was going to play on the Jewish High Holy Days. After all, the Tigers were in first place and they were contesting the New York Yankees for the pennant.