Attitudes toward same sex marriage in Judaism have undergone a dramatic change in the last quarter century. The prohibition recorded in Leviticus 18 has been affirmed by some, negated by others and reinterpreted by still others. Did the Torah intend loving same sex relationships? Did it understand homosexuality as a fundamental orientation rather than a choice?
Usually, the frantic words, “Someone get the rabbi!” uttered in a hospital room mean only one thing. So Debbie Marcus burst into tears when Rabbi Jason Weiner was summoned to her grandfather’s room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in July 2008.
“Fundamentally, your job is not that different from my job,” screenwriter Alex Litvak told a room full of rabbis assembled at American Jewish University for the annual High Holy Days conference sponsored by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
In the age of 140-character tweets and 38-second video clips, the Conservative movement is putting its foot down with a nearly 1,000-page reference tome, “The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews.”
The Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards -- which sets halachic policy for the Conservative movement -- has voted unanimously to provide the approximately 1,600 Conservative rabbis with guidelines on performing same-sex marriages.
The Israeli government will begin paying non-Orthodox rabbis and recognizing them as community leaders.
No one taught Rabbi Ahud Sela how to read a budget when he was in the seminary. Talmud and pastoral counseling took precedence over the basics of planned giving.
The Claremont School of Theology, a Christian divinity school in Los Angeles, will use a $40 million gift to begin training Jewish and Muslim clergy. The gift from David and Joan Lincoln of Arizona, which was announced Monday, will help Claremont transform itself into a multifaith institution offering interfaith degree programs as well as training for rabbis, imams and ministers, The Los Angeles Times reported.
As details of the special operation that took out Osama bin Laden continue to unfold, rabbis in Los Angeles are pulling from biblical verses, Jewish traditions and their own gut reactions to help formulate an appropriate Jewish response to the news. Early Monday morning, Rabbi David Wolpe posted this on Facebook:
Nobody thought much about the shabby but quiet middle-aged man who showed up last weekend at an Orthodox study hall in suburban Cleveland.
A sell-out crowd packed the American Jewish University’s (AJU) Gindi Auditorium on April 3 and watched as Rabbi Zoë Klein of Temple Isaiah tangoed her way to the inaugural “Dancing With the Rabbis” trophy. An ecstatic Klein, cheered on by her family, wowed the audience with her passionate routine with professional partner Daniel Ponickly.
Dozens of North American Orthodox rabbis protested to Israel's Interior Ministry following reports that converts under Orthodox auspices are being denied the right to immigrate. "We are concerned that conversions performed under our auspices are being questioned vis-à-vis aliyah eligibility," said a letter delivered to the ministry on Tuesday. "We find this unacceptable, and turn to you in an effort to insure that those individuals whom we convert will automatically be eligible for aliyah as they have been in the past."
In the fall of 2007, then-rabbinical student Shmuly Yanklowitz traveled with a few of his colleagues from the Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York to San Diego. Wildfires had just burned through 500,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,500 homes. “I didn’t know what we were going to do,” Yanklowitz said at the time. “I just knew that we had to be there.”
Over 750 rabbis and cantors of all denominations signed a letter urging their Israeli colleagues to speak out against a ruling by 39 municipal rabbis banning renting to non-Jews.
Lynne Kern knew at 13 that she wanted to be a rabbi, even though in 1970 there were no female rabbis to act as role models.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blasted a ruling by dozens of Israel's municipal chief rabbis that forbids renting homes to gentiles, and more specifically to Arabs.
Two rabbis in western New York have pulled out of a Muslim-Jewish outreach effort, charging that the national sponsor is involved in Islamic fundamentalism.
Yesterday, Glenn Beck and the leadership of Fox News made a mockery of their commitment to me and two rabbis. Let me take a few steps back to tell you why what happened yesterday scares me.
A large group of rabbis visited the Temple Mount on the eve of Jerusalem Day.
Four rabbis representing The Board of Rabbis of Southern California visited the Polish Consulate in Los Angeles last week to offer letters and wishes of condolence after the April 10 plane crash that killed the Polish president and 94 others, including many governmental leaders.
Fearing jihadists will attack synagogues during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a group of badass rabbis has developed a program to turn your average shul-goer into a lean, mean fighting machine.
Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Weisz, the Brooklyn-based grand rabbi of the Spinka sect, along with four local associates, pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy charges in downtown federal district court Monday.
An observant Jew was once brought before the judge on counts of tax fraud. Seeing the kippah-wearing Jew before him, the judge innocently asked, “Mr. Schwartz, you are clearly a God-fearing man. How do you explain your immoral behavior?”
Seeking to accentuate Jewish traditions that place a premium on ethical integrity, Los Angeles Orthodox rabbis are encouraging local businesses to sign up for a new seal of certification that ensures employers are treating workers fairly and humanely
" . . . So can a Jew remain true to the Talmud and Torah while simultaneously voting Republican? He not only should not -- he cannot . . . "
Barack Obama told a conference call of rabbis this morning that he supports government funding for after-school and mentoring programs in faith-based schools
Animal welfare expert Temple Grandin accused kosher slaughterer Agriprocessors of putting on a "show" for visitors
It is a momentous day for gay and lesbian couples -- but doubly meaningful for rabbis in same-sex relationships: Not only can they marry, but they can perform legal marriages for other same-sex couples, too.
The bulk of the upswing in support has come from synagogues, where lay leaders have taken an active role in engaging with legislators, and rabbis increasingly use their pulpits to educate congregants on how to support the Jewish state short of living there
A new group of Orthodox day school principals and pulpit rabbis on Los Angeles' Westside began meeting a few months ago to work through issues that overlap the classroom and the synagogue.
It is too easy to label Korah evil and dismiss his claims. There is nothing in the pshat, the simple reading of the biblical text, to castigate Korah as the embodiment of evil. In fact, it is suspicious how ready everyone is to get rid of him. What are we covering up? What truth does Korah know?
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.
The aim of the conference is to make a positive contribution toward resolving religious conflict wherever it arises. According to the Jewish representative of Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Andre Azoulay, "the word of God has been kidnapped." He added that it's no longer enough for religious representatives to watch from the sidelines as religion is used by those who preach hatred.
The first time the word "rebbetzin" appeared in The New York Times was in 1931, in a review of a book about Yiddish theater. The term stood untranslated; the reviewer and his editors assumed that readers would understand the meaning.
Ten years ago, the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) sued the city of Beverly Hills to block the local Chabad house from erecting a 27-foot menorah in a public park near City Hall.
Nation and World Briefs
When Mark Firestone was searching for a shul to join, he didn't look for a shul that had a nursery school or Hebrew school attached. Nor did he fret about the services he'd be getting for his membership fee. Instead, he wanted a shul that was quiet.
"I wanted it to be very quiet, so you can hear yourself daven, and hopefully Hashem can hear it," said Firestone, a Pico-Robertson life insurance salesman who belongs to Aish HaTorah. "I have been to other shuls where you can barely hear the Torah reading, because people are talking so much. Aish has zero tolerance for people talking in shul."
For many Jews, the High Holidays is a time when they consider joining or renewing their synagogue memberships. However, what attracts them to synagogues, and what rabbis feel is important when choosing a synagogue, is not always the vast array of services that synagogues and temples provide.
Many members and rabbis feel that it is the intangibles -- the atmosphere in the shul or the feeling of community that really attracts people, not the Hebrew school, youth program or adult education that is offered.
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.
Letters to the Editor
For most parents, preparing a child for a bar or bat mitzvah is just another of many coming-of-age stresses. But for parents whose children have special needs, the stress can be almost unbearable. Yet arranging b'nai mitzvah ceremonies for such children are not impossible, with a little love and support.
Margie Kommer, whose son, Max, was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), understands the loss of face some parents feel.
"It's very hard to go to a bar or bat mitzvah and see these shining stars, and see your own children struggling," she said.
And, naturally, children compare themselves to their peers. They can become so disheartened that they give up.
A group of prominent rabbis has called upon Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jews from Gaza. If the Gaza disengagement plan goes through the Knesset, many soldiers will face a bewildering dilemma, as they must choose between the orders of their commanding officers and the orders of their religious authorities.
Madonna's just-completed visit to Israel has been called a lot of things: scandalous, threatening, inspiring, encouraging, cheap.
In downtown Los Angeles, three judges are deciding a case involving tens of millions of dollars and dozens of properties. The judges aren't dressed in robes or seated behind wooden podiums with a court reporter close at hand. Instead, the three bearded rabbis are sitting in a small conference room at a table piled high with documents they peruse carefully.
Three of Orange County's senior rabbis have decided to take a sabbatical. While the three have decided on their own to take a respite from the 24/7 demands of being a rabbi, their congregations are taking a different approach to temporarily replacing an absent spiritual leader.
Apart from the 175 member families she served at Anchorage's Congregation Beth Sholom, Rabbi Johanna Hershenson found little other Jewish life. As the only non-Orthodox rabbi in Alaska, she became a long-distance consultant to lay synagogue leaders in even more isolated areas, such as Homer and Fairbanks.
The Torah portion for this Shabbat is Korach, which details a disastrous mutiny led by Korach, a first cousin of Moses and Aaron.
While the Los Angeles community has it share of rabbis and teachers who can teach a great class or two, there is always an allure of having someone come in from overseas as a special guest speaker. But now, airplanes are no longer necessary to get an overseas speaker to talk in Los Angeles.
Jesus will appear on the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday -- thanks to Mel Gibson. The Hollywood star directed and financed the $25 million epic "The Passion of the Christ," which is emerging from a nearly yearlong media storm and is due to hit 2,000 screens nationwide Feb. 25.
Jewish leaders are talking -- but also wary of talking too much -- about filmmaker Mel Gibson's controversial religious film, "The Passion of the Christ," opening Feb. 25.