Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

There’s no such thing as "authentic" Judaism – Jewish Chronicle


Jewish Chronicle
There's no such thing as “authentic” Judaism
Jewish Chronicle
Judaism has always been complex. When we speak of authenticity, what are we being authentic to: Israelite ritual practice, the ancient Temple cult, a prophetic ethical movement, various Second Temple sectarian groupings, the polyvocal, radical rabbinic …

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There’s no such thing as "authentic" Judaism – Jewish Chronicle

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Letter: Criticizing Israel is not indictment on Judaism – Santa Cruz Sentinel

The state of Israel is a political entity. Judaism is a religion. One can criticize and act against the policies of the state of Israel without being anti-Semitic.

Dave and Marion Brodkey, Santa Cruz

The Sentinel welcomes your letters to the editor. Letters should be short, no more than 150 words. We do not accept anonymous letters. Letter-writers should include their full name as well as a street address and telephone number. We dont publish those details in the newspaper, but need the information for verification purposes. Occasionally, we reject letters simply because weve had so many on the same subject. Submit your letters online at santacruzsentinel.com/submit-letters.

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Taste of Judaism classes offered – Arizona Daily Star

This is an auspicious year for Temple Emanu-Els Taste of Judaism program.

Its the 18th annual event for the series of classes designed to introduce attendees to Judaism.

That number, 18, is the numerical value of the Hebrew word chai life.

The classes will answer questions the curious might have about the religion: What Jews believe, what the holidays mean, traditional foods, even the reasoning behind circumcision.

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon and Rabbi Batsheva Appel will lead the three 2-hour sessions.

The series of classes are offered around town:

2-4 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 13, 20, 27 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road.

6-8 p.m. Mondays, Aug. 14, 21, 28, Northwest: Nanini Library, 7300 N. Shannon Road.

Noon-2 p.m., Tuesdays, Aug. 22, 29, Sept. 5, Beth Shalom Temple Center, 1751 N. Rio Mayo in Green Valley.

6-8 p.m. Thursdays, Aug. 24, 31, Sept. 7, Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road.

The classes are free but reservations are necessary: 327-4501.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar

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Quit stalling – The Jerusalem Post mobile website

A demonstration held on Saturday outside the Prime Ministers Residence in Jerusalem against the overturning of the Western Wall agreement and the contested conversion legislation. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Nearly two years have passed since the cabinet began its journey further rightward by maneuvering around the High Court of Justice and pursuing the monopolization of religious law in our stalwart sole democracy of the Middle East.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties have unashamedly sought to roll back a conversion law that would have helped some 360,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their children to convert to Judaism with dignity and become fully integrated as Israeli citizens.

It doesnt matter that the High Courts ruling refused to recognize the unholy status quo and forced the state to recognize private Orthodox conversions in Israel. The response of our ministers was to propose their own violation of this obsolete and ill-considered concept by giving the Chief Rabbinate the monopoly on conversions in Israel.

In keeping with traditional governmental practice, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to please everyone by appointing a committee to delay and thereby avoid having to make a decision. A month has gone by, however, and Netanyahu has yet to appoint its members, let alone schedule another discussion.

The haredi ministers make no pretense of their contempt for fellow Jews of the Conservative or Reform persuasions.

They acted in response to a High Court petition submitted by the progressive Jewish movements, which they fear would result in granting Israeli citizenship to non-Orthodox converts.

The United Torah Judaism chairman, Health Minister Yaacov Litzman, and UTJ MK Moshe Gafni have told the press that they have not yet been contacted by the Prime Ministers Office regarding such a committee.

Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel, responded by saying, A month has already passed with no signal from the Prime Ministers Office about the conversion bill. We do not see that there has been a serious attempt to put together such a committee.

Speaking on behalf of all progressive Jews, Hess declared, Its obvious that we will not relinquish our right to convert in Israel. Its part of the basic principle of the Jewish state that all streams will feel at home in Israel.

Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, a longstanding advocate of greater flexibility in the practice of conversion, said it was obvious from the beginning that Netanyahu prefers to preserve his coalition at the cost of the deepening rift with the Jewish Diaspora.

Its clear to any intelligent person that the establishment of this committee by the prime minister was designed to stall, Stern added. Unfortunately, this time the harm the government of Israel has caused to Diaspora Jewry has continued, and the disconnect between the country and its Diaspora has widened, in particular among the younger generation, harm which will make it harder for us to repair.

The haredi bill endorsed by the cabinet would refuse to recognize converts whose commitment to Judaism was made outside the purview of the rabbinates State Conversion Authority, denying them citizenship and registration as Jews by the Interior Ministry. This would not only apply to Reform and Conservative conversions, but also to Orthodox conversions performed by independent Orthodox rabbinical courts.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said the cabinets approval of the bill for Knesset debate means that the government has turned against not only Reform and Conservative Jews, but also against anyone who believes in moderate and welcoming Judaism and the Zionist vision of an ingathering of exiles.

Perhaps the closest suggestion of an approach to ending this unconscionable delay in converting the conversion committee to action lies in the observation by Yisrael Beytenu leader and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman that the bill is an attempt to change Israel from a Jewish state to a state of Jewish law. He said Yisrael Beytenu would not vote for the conversion bill in the Knesset.

The time to stop this regressive bill is now, before politicians on the elusive conversion committee have a chance once again to exploit thousands of converts as pawns in the political game Israelis cannot stop playing.

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Pedaling Through Postville, Riders Brake for Some Judaism – Chabad.org

Joy Allen, a Jewish hairdresser from the San Francisco Bay Area, has been participating in RAGBRAIthe Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowawith her father, brother and nephews for a decade. The seven-day ride covers more the 400 miles across the state, but its not a race and not very steep, which means there is time for a lot of stops.

Iowa is unique in that it has just amazing hospitality, said Allen, 52. You can do whatever you want. You can stop and chat with the Amish or spend time with the Jewish community.

Allen did just that last week in Postville, a small city of just a few thousand people in the northeast corner of the state. Chabad runs a synagogue, yeshivah and Jewish day school in town, and on Friday, local emissaries and rabbinic students parked themselves alongside the bike route and distributed blessings, bottled water and Shabbat candles. They also asked Jewish men and boys over the age of 13 to put on tefillin.

Rabbi Aron Schimmel and Rabbi Mendel Raices, directors of Chabad of North East Iowa, greeted some of the 20,000 riders with other rabbis and community members, including 50 students from the local Gan Israel summer day camp. We are stopping people who are taking a break from the race asking them if they are Jewish, the rabbi said a few hours before the start of Shabbat. We met Jews who have never worn tefillin before.

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

Schimmel, who has lived in Postville for 20 yearshome to about 60 Jewish familiessaid in all that time, bike riders in the event, coordinated by the Des Moines Register, had never pedaled through town before. He said people seemed a little surprised to see the men in their black coats and hats in the heat of the afternoon.

We had people asking who we were. Its a bit unusual seeing a bunch of Orthodox Jews in the middle of the cornfields, he acknowledged. But the cyclists werent surprised to learn that most in the Jewish community were drawn to Postville by jobs at the Agri Star Meat and Poultry plant, which has a large kosher division.

The rabbi estimated that a few hundred people interacted with the local Jewish community during the race. In addition to offering tefillin, the rabbis played Chassidic tunes and even danced with some of the riders. To have so many people stopping by in this small town, I never dreamed that such a thing could happen, said Schimmel.

In the middle of a conversation, one man mentioned that it was his fathers yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his passing. So the rabbis gathered together a minyan10 Jewish men required for a public prayer quorumso that he could recite the Mourners Kaddish.

A deli stand also offered kosher food to riders. One person who initially turned the down the request to wrap tefillinrecharged himself with a sandwichand changed his mind.

You see what kosher food can do? quipped Schimmel. Much more than all our words!

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

(Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

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Pedaling Through Postville, Riders Brake for Some Judaism – Chabad.org

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114 people just converted to Judaism in Nicaragua | The Jewish … – The Jewish Standard

Over the course of just a few days, the tiny Jewish community in Nicaragua more than doubled when 114 people converted to Judaism.

Last month, community members answered questions before a beit din, or religious court, of three Orthodox rabbis from Israel and the United States and immersed in a newly built mikvah in Managua, the Central American countrys capital. Male converts underwent circumcisions or symbolic circumcisions if they already had been circumcised.

On July 23, following the conversions conducted at the Managua home of a community leader, 22 couples wed according to Jewish tradition in a Managua social hall rented for the occasion. Kulanu, a New York-based nonprofit group that supports communities around the world that are seeking to learn about Judaism, had facilitated the conversions.

There was a great amount of trepidation in their faces and anxiousness because it was so important to them, and when they emerged from the mikvah the glow on their faces was amazing, said beit din member Rabbi Mark Kunis, who was ordained at Yeshiva Universitys Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and works at the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue in Atlanta. Its inspiring. The excitement that it engendered was phenomenal.

At least half the candidates claimed Jewish ancestry, and most had been studying Judaism for at least five years with some pursuing Judaism almost their entire lives, Kunis said. All the candidates except one family were accepted for conversion, and one of the beit din rabbis served as a Spanish translator, since most of the candidates could not communicate in English, he said.

Some young Nicaraguans who converted to Judaism in July with the help of Kulanu. (Photos by Bonita Susan)

I feel at home, Even Centeno, 21, said about becoming Jewish. This was for me like a dream. He is among the converts who trace their ancestry to Sephardic Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition.

Centeno, who converted along with his parents and sister, said that he had been aware of his familys Jewish ancestry since he was a young child and started learning about Judaism when he was 11.

The conversions bring a significant influx of Jews to Nicaragua. Jews have been living there since the 18th century, but the community numbered only about 50 in 2012 and comprised mostly American retirees, according to the Nicaraguan Israelite Congregation. That year, Kulanu helped facilitate the conversions of 14 people, most of whom claimed ancestry to Jewish men who had married non-Jewish Nicaraguan women. Another 14 converted in 2015, but the recent group is the largest to date.

Though the Nicaraguans converted together, they follow two different leaders, said Bonita Sussman, vice president of Kulanu.

The majority, including Centeno, are inspired by chasidism and follow a local leader named Akiva Simja Fernandez, who converted to Judaism in 2012 with the help of Kulanu. Fernandez follows some Jewish customs that he learned from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which does not have a presence in Managua but caters to Israeli tourists in the beach town of San Juan del Sur.

This woman and her young daughter were among the 114 people who converted to Judaism in Nicaragua last month.

Fernandez and many of his followers some of whom claim Jewish ancestry wear black velvet kippahs and wide-brimmed black hats, and sing and dance to chasidic music during celebrations.

A second group, which has 38 members of one extended family, heeds Moshe Omar Cohen-Henriquez, who traces his ancestry to Jews from Curacao who were forced to convert to Christianity. The group adheres to Sephardi customs and has access to a mikvah, or ritual pool, adjacent to Henriquezs home. The men wear big crocheted kippahs.

Before they decided to become Jewish, Sussman said, the converts identified with Christianity or messianism, a movement that infuses Christian belief with some elements of Jewish ritual practice.

This isnt the first mass conversion facilitated by Kulanu. Last year, the group brought rabbis to Madagascar to convert 121 people, building a Jewish community where none had existed.

Sussman noted the ways in which the members of the Nicaraguan community relate to their Judaism.

Nicaraguan men who converted to Judaism wait for their brides before a traditional Jewish wedding for the 22 couples on July 23.

These two are unique in that one is Sephardic and descendants of anousim and the other tends towards chasidic kabbalistic practice, she said. Anousim is a Hebrew term for Jews who were forced to abandon Judaism against their will.

Though the Madagascar community also follows chasidic traditions, the Nicaragua group that follows Simja is distinctive in the fact that it follows customs learned from Chabad, Sussman added. (Chabad has no official ties to the converts or Kulanu.)

Sussman sees the conversions as part of a larger phenomenon.

This is a new trend in Jewish history, she said. In the last 100 years we have seen the Holocaust, the destruction of all Jewish communities in Arab lands, and the rebuilding of a Jewish homeland. We are now entering an era of rebuilding the Jewish people.

In general, while there may be some hot spots of interest in Judaism in the Western countries, for the most part serious interest in religion is a thing of the past, she said. Today, however, the interest lies in Africa, South America, and India. As Jews, we must be part of this exciting new development.

A young Nicaraguan girl is among a growing Jewish community in Managua.

Kulanu is planning to send equipment to the Nicaraguans to perform kosher ritual slaughter. The big need is for kosher meat. Were planning to get them shechitah knives, Sussman said. They havent eaten meat, some of them for years. They eat vegetarian and fish.

The dietary restrictions didnt seem to be a problem for Centeno, who was getting ready to cook for Shabbat, when he would be hosting 70 community members.

All the community will be in my house, he said. Well do a Shabbaton. Today, Im preparing all the food.

JTA Wire Service

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114 people just converted to Judaism in Nicaragua | The Jewish … – The Jewish Standard

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Blending Judaism and survival skills at camp for boys – Jewish United Fund

The Hebrew word Gila translates to happiness. But it is a different kind of happiness than other similar Hebrew words like simcha , or osher . Gila is the happiness found through discovery. And that is exactly the kind of happiness Chicago native Rabbi Tani Prero promotes.

Yagilu means “they will be happy through discovery,” which is Prero’s intention at his wilderness camp called Camp Yagilu Wilderness. Through Yagilu , located in Swan Lake, N.Y., Prero works with adolescent Orthodox boys on self-confidence, responsibility, and growth in the great outdoors.

Yagilu aims to help children discover their individual talents and strengths, while uncovering beauty and wonder in the world around us by harnessing the tools in nature.

The camp does this by teaching teenage boys survival skills like fire-making, navigation, how to build a shelter, the art of camouflage, and knife safety. As they learn these skills, the boys become aware of their surrounding and of themselves.

“At the end of the summer, you should see the smiles; you should see their fists raised with happiness, you should hear their cheers,” Prero said.

The model of the camp focuses on challenge and success. Prero explained that success without challenge can make people become cynical. Also, if you have challenge without success, people become discouraged, he said. Yagilu works to empower kids no matter their personal challenges. He reflected that being a teenager is not easy, and he wanted to give teenagers a place to grow and thrive.

Like his campers, Prero did not have much experience in the wilderness growing up. As a West Rogers Park native, there is not much nature to be found.

“I grew up in Chicago. It’s flat. There are no mountains But I remember going to camp. The first overnight hike I went on was in the Colorado Rockies and I remember [how] it just inspired me in a way I never felt before,” he recalled. “I really wanted to continue doing that and I wanted to also offer that to kids.”

Since Yagilu began in 2013, the camp has grown every year. In its first summer, the camp had about 45 boys, the second summer they had close to 70, last year 80, and this year they have around 100 campers. Ideally, Prero would like to have 200 campers and expand to other locations too.

The rabbi also discussed how the wilderness and Judaism fit together. In fact, he believes they are one in the same. While people today live in human-made environments, the wilderness is exactly how God intended the Earth to be. He added that if a space is natural, anyone can connect to God through the natural energy God puts there. At Yagilu , this energy is so powerful that the boys say prayers over the environment.

“In Judaism, there are certain brachot for things in nature,” Prero said. “We can connect to God through that viewOne day if it rains, we’ll spend a day studying the song of the rain. If we’re going by a river, we’ll spend a day studying the song of the river.”

After the summer, Prero sees his campers grow in so many different ways. He sees them grow in self-confidence, their ability to try new things and in their leadership abilities.

“I had one camper, when I first met him, he couldn’t even look me in the face,” he said. “Then, when he came back to school, his teachers noticed he was a different kid. His parents called me after the first parent-teacher conference of the year and said they wanted to thank me. Every single teacher said that this boy is a new kid this yearThat’s why I started Yagilu . That’s why I stay up until 2 in the morning working on Yagilu .”

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Tiny community of Nicaragua sees 114 people convert to Judaism – Jewish News

Over the course of just a few days, the tiny Jewish community in Nicaragua more than doubled when 114 people converted to Judaism.

Last month, community members answered questions before a beit din, or religious court, of three Orthodox-trained rabbis from Israel and the United States and immersed in a newly built mikvah in Managua, the Central American countrys capital. Male converts underwent circumcisions or symbolic circumcisions if already circumcised.

On July 23, following the conversions conducted at the Managua home of a community leader, 22 couples wed according to Jewish tradition in a Managua social hall rented for the occasion.Kulanu, a New York-based nonprofit group that supports communities around the world seeking to learn about Judaism, had facilitated the conversions.

There was a great amount of trepidation in their faces and anxiousness because it was so important to them, and when they emerged from the mikvah the glow on their faces was amazing, said beit din member Rabbi Mark Kunis, who was ordained at Yeshiva UniversitysRabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminaryand works at the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue in Atlanta. Its inspiring; the excitement that it engendered was phenomenal.

At least half the candidates claimed Jewish ancestry, and most had been studying Judaism for at least five years with some pursuing Judaism almost their entire lives, Kunis told JTA. All the candidates except one family were accepted for conversion, and one of the beit din rabbis served as a Spanish translator, since most of the candidates could not communicate in English, he said.

I feel at home, Even Centeno, 21, told JTA of having officially become Jewish. This was for me like a dream.

Centeno is among the converts who trace their ancestry to Sephardi Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition.

Centeno, who converted along with his parents and sister, said he was aware of his familys Jewish ancestry since he was a young child and started learning about Judaism at the age of 11.

The conversions bring a significant influx of Jews to Nicaragua. Jews have been living there since the 18th century, but the community numbered only about 50 in 2012 and was comprised mostly of American retirees,accordingto the Nicaraguan Israelite Congregation. That year, Kulanu helped facilitate theconversionsof 14 people, most of whom claimed ancestry to Jewish men who had married non-Jewish Nicaraguan women. Another 14 converted in 2015, but the recent group is the largest to date.

Though the Nicaraguans converted together, they follow two different leaders, said Bonita Sussman, vice president of Kulanu.

The majority, including Centeno, are inspired by Hasidism and follow a local leader named Akiva Simja Fernandez, who converted to Judaism in 2012 with the help of Kulanu. Fernandez follows some Jewish customs that he learned from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which does not have a presence in Managua butcatersto Israeli tourists in the beach town of San Juan del Sur.

Fernandez and many of his followers some of whom claim Jewish ancestry wear black velvet kippahs and wide-brimmed black hats, and sing and dance to Hasidic music during celebrations.

A second group with 38 members of one extended family heeds Moshe Omar Cohen-Henriquez, who traces his ancestry to Jews from Curacao who were forced to convert to Christianity. Thegroupadheres to Sephardi customs and has access to a mikvah, or ritual pool, adjacent to Henriquezs home. The men wear big crocheted kippahs.

Prior to deciding to become Jewish, Sussman said, the converts identified with Christianity or messianism, a movement that infuses Christian belief with some elements of Jewish ritual practice.

This isnt the first mass conversion facilitated by Kulanu. Last year, the group brought rabbis toMadagascarto convert 121 people, building a Jewish community where none had existed.

Sussman noted how the members of the Nicaraguan community relate to their Judaism.

These two are unique in that one is a Sephardic and descendants of anousim and the other tends towards Hasidic kabbalistic practice, she said.

Anousim is a Hebrew term for Jewswho were forced to abandon Judaism against their will.

Though the Madagascar community also follows Hasidic traditions, the Nicaragua group that follows Simja is distinctive in the fact that it follows customs learned from Chabad, Sussman added.(Chabad has no official ties to the converts or Kulanu.)

Sussman sees the conversions as part of a larger phenomenon.

This is a new trend in Jewish history, she said. In the last 100 years we have seen the Holocaust, the destruction of all Jewish communities in Arab lands and the rebuilding of a Jewish homeland. We are now entering an era of rebuilding the Jewish people.

In general, while there may be some hot spots of interest in Judaism in the Western countries, for the most part serious interest in religion is a thing of the past. Today, however, the interest lies in Africa, South America and India. As Jews we must be part of this exciting new development.

Kulanu is planning to send equipment to the Nicaraguans to perform kosher ritual slaughter.

The big need is for kosher meat. Were planning to get them shechitah knives, Sussman said. They havent eaten meat, some of them for years. They eat vegetarian and fish.

The dietary restrictions didnt seem to be a problem for Centeno, who was getting ready to cook for Shabbat, when he would be hosting 70 community members.

[A]ll the community will be in my house, well do a Shabbaton, he said. Today Im preparing all the food.

Some young Nicaraguans who converted to Judaism in July with the help of the Kulanu organization, July 20, 2017. (credit Bonita Sussman)

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My Journey to Judaism – Intermountain Jewish News

The Intermountain Jewish News is a weekly independent newspaper founded in 1913, covering the Jewish communities of the Front Range.

The IJN is a member of the American Jewish Press Association, Colorado Press Association and National Newspaper Association. The IJN has garnered many first place awards in news writing, features, profiles, arts and criticism, editorial writing, special sections and graphic design.

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My Journey to Judaism – Intermountain Jewish News

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There’s no such thing as "authentic" Judaism – Jewish Chronicle

Jewish Chronicle There's no such thing as “authentic” Judaism Jewish Chronicle Judaism has always been complex. When we speak of authenticity, what are we being authentic to: Israelite ritual practice, the ancient Temple cult, a prophetic ethical movement, various Second Temple sectarian groupings, the polyvocal, radical rabbinic …

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Letter: Criticizing Israel is not indictment on Judaism – Santa Cruz Sentinel

The state of Israel is a political entity. Judaism is a religion. One can criticize and act against the policies of the state of Israel without being anti-Semitic. Dave and Marion Brodkey, Santa Cruz The Sentinel welcomes your letters to the editor. Letters should be short, no more than 150 words. We do not accept anonymous letters. Letter-writers should include their full name as well as a street address and telephone number. We dont publish those details in the newspaper, but need the information for verification purposes. Occasionally, we reject letters simply because weve had so many on the same subject. Submit your letters online at santacruzsentinel.com/submit-letters. Advertisement

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Taste of Judaism classes offered – Arizona Daily Star

This is an auspicious year for Temple Emanu-Els Taste of Judaism program. Its the 18th annual event for the series of classes designed to introduce attendees to Judaism. That number, 18, is the numerical value of the Hebrew word chai life. The classes will answer questions the curious might have about the religion: What Jews believe, what the holidays mean, traditional foods, even the reasoning behind circumcision. Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon and Rabbi Batsheva Appel will lead the three 2-hour sessions. The series of classes are offered around town: 2-4 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 13, 20, 27 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road. 6-8 p.m. Mondays, Aug. 14, 21, 28, Northwest: Nanini Library, 7300 N. Shannon Road. Noon-2 p.m., Tuesdays, Aug. 22, 29, Sept. 5, Beth Shalom Temple Center, 1751 N. Rio Mayo in Green Valley. 6-8 p.m. Thursdays, Aug. 24, 31, Sept. 7, Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road. The classes are free but reservations are necessary: 327-4501. Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar

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Quit stalling – The Jerusalem Post mobile website

A demonstration held on Saturday outside the Prime Ministers Residence in Jerusalem against the overturning of the Western Wall agreement and the contested conversion legislation. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Nearly two years have passed since the cabinet began its journey further rightward by maneuvering around the High Court of Justice and pursuing the monopolization of religious law in our stalwart sole democracy of the Middle East. The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties have unashamedly sought to roll back a conversion law that would have helped some 360,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their children to convert to Judaism with dignity and become fully integrated as Israeli citizens. It doesnt matter that the High Courts ruling refused to recognize the unholy status quo and forced the state to recognize private Orthodox conversions in Israel. The response of our ministers was to propose their own violation of this obsolete and ill-considered concept by giving the Chief Rabbinate the monopoly on conversions in Israel. In keeping with traditional governmental practice, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to please everyone by appointing a committee to delay and thereby avoid having to make a decision. A month has gone by, however, and Netanyahu has yet to appoint its members, let alone schedule another discussion. The haredi ministers make no pretense of their contempt for fellow Jews of the Conservative or Reform persuasions. They acted in response to a High Court petition submitted by the progressive Jewish movements, which they fear would result in granting Israeli citizenship to non-Orthodox converts. The United Torah Judaism chairman, Health Minister Yaacov Litzman, and UTJ MK Moshe Gafni have told the press that they have not yet been contacted by the Prime Ministers Office regarding such a committee. Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel, responded by saying, A month has already passed with no signal from the Prime Ministers Office about the conversion bill. We do not see that there has been a serious attempt to put together such a committee. Speaking on behalf of all progressive Jews, Hess declared, Its obvious that we will not relinquish our right to convert in Israel. Its part of the basic principle of the Jewish state that all streams will feel at home in Israel. Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, a longstanding advocate of greater flexibility in the practice of conversion, said it was obvious from the beginning that Netanyahu prefers to preserve his coalition at the cost of the deepening rift with the Jewish Diaspora. Its clear to any intelligent person that the establishment of this committee by the prime minister was designed to stall, Stern added. Unfortunately, this time the harm the government of Israel has caused to Diaspora Jewry has continued, and the disconnect between the country and its Diaspora has widened, in particular among the younger generation, harm which will make it harder for us to repair. The haredi bill endorsed by the cabinet would refuse to recognize converts whose commitment to Judaism was made outside the purview of the rabbinates State Conversion Authority, denying them citizenship and registration as Jews by the Interior Ministry. This would not only apply to Reform and Conservative conversions, but also to Orthodox conversions performed by independent Orthodox rabbinical courts. Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said the cabinets approval of the bill for Knesset debate means that the government has turned against not only Reform and Conservative Jews, but also against anyone who believes in moderate and welcoming Judaism and the Zionist vision of an ingathering of exiles. Perhaps the closest suggestion of an approach to ending this unconscionable delay in converting the conversion committee to action lies in the observation by Yisrael Beytenu leader and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman that the bill is an attempt to change Israel from a Jewish state to a state of Jewish law. He said Yisrael Beytenu would not vote for the conversion bill in the Knesset. The time to stop this regressive bill is now, before politicians on the elusive conversion committee have a chance once again to exploit thousands of converts as pawns in the political game Israelis cannot stop playing. Share on facebook

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August 5, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Pedaling Through Postville, Riders Brake for Some Judaism – Chabad.org

Joy Allen, a Jewish hairdresser from the San Francisco Bay Area, has been participating in RAGBRAIthe Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowawith her father, brother and nephews for a decade. The seven-day ride covers more the 400 miles across the state, but its not a race and not very steep, which means there is time for a lot of stops. Iowa is unique in that it has just amazing hospitality, said Allen, 52. You can do whatever you want. You can stop and chat with the Amish or spend time with the Jewish community. Allen did just that last week in Postville, a small city of just a few thousand people in the northeast corner of the state. Chabad runs a synagogue, yeshivah and Jewish day school in town, and on Friday, local emissaries and rabbinic students parked themselves alongside the bike route and distributed blessings, bottled water and Shabbat candles. They also asked Jewish men and boys over the age of 13 to put on tefillin. Rabbi Aron Schimmel and Rabbi Mendel Raices, directors of Chabad of North East Iowa, greeted some of the 20,000 riders with other rabbis and community members, including 50 students from the local Gan Israel summer day camp. We are stopping people who are taking a break from the race asking them if they are Jewish, the rabbi said a few hours before the start of Shabbat. We met Jews who have never worn tefillin before. (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) Schimmel, who has lived in Postville for 20 yearshome to about 60 Jewish familiessaid in all that time, bike riders in the event, coordinated by the Des Moines Register, had never pedaled through town before. He said people seemed a little surprised to see the men in their black coats and hats in the heat of the afternoon. We had people asking who we were. Its a bit unusual seeing a bunch of Orthodox Jews in the middle of the cornfields, he acknowledged. But the cyclists werent surprised to learn that most in the Jewish community were drawn to Postville by jobs at the Agri Star Meat and Poultry plant, which has a large kosher division. The rabbi estimated that a few hundred people interacted with the local Jewish community during the race. In addition to offering tefillin, the rabbis played Chassidic tunes and even danced with some of the riders. To have so many people stopping by in this small town, I never dreamed that such a thing could happen, said Schimmel. In the middle of a conversation, one man mentioned that it was his fathers yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his passing. So the rabbis gathered together a minyan10 Jewish men required for a public prayer quorumso that he could recite the Mourners Kaddish. A deli stand also offered kosher food to riders. One person who initially turned the down the request to wrap tefillinrecharged himself with a sandwichand changed his mind. You see what kosher food can do? quipped Schimmel. Much more than all our words! (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa) (Photo: Chabad of North East Iowa)

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August 4, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

114 people just converted to Judaism in Nicaragua | The Jewish … – The Jewish Standard

Over the course of just a few days, the tiny Jewish community in Nicaragua more than doubled when 114 people converted to Judaism. Last month, community members answered questions before a beit din, or religious court, of three Orthodox rabbis from Israel and the United States and immersed in a newly built mikvah in Managua, the Central American countrys capital. Male converts underwent circumcisions or symbolic circumcisions if they already had been circumcised. On July 23, following the conversions conducted at the Managua home of a community leader, 22 couples wed according to Jewish tradition in a Managua social hall rented for the occasion. Kulanu, a New York-based nonprofit group that supports communities around the world that are seeking to learn about Judaism, had facilitated the conversions. There was a great amount of trepidation in their faces and anxiousness because it was so important to them, and when they emerged from the mikvah the glow on their faces was amazing, said beit din member Rabbi Mark Kunis, who was ordained at Yeshiva Universitys Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and works at the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue in Atlanta. Its inspiring. The excitement that it engendered was phenomenal. At least half the candidates claimed Jewish ancestry, and most had been studying Judaism for at least five years with some pursuing Judaism almost their entire lives, Kunis said. All the candidates except one family were accepted for conversion, and one of the beit din rabbis served as a Spanish translator, since most of the candidates could not communicate in English, he said. Some young Nicaraguans who converted to Judaism in July with the help of Kulanu. (Photos by Bonita Susan) I feel at home, Even Centeno, 21, said about becoming Jewish. This was for me like a dream. He is among the converts who trace their ancestry to Sephardic Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition. Centeno, who converted along with his parents and sister, said that he had been aware of his familys Jewish ancestry since he was a young child and started learning about Judaism when he was 11. The conversions bring a significant influx of Jews to Nicaragua. Jews have been living there since the 18th century, but the community numbered only about 50 in 2012 and comprised mostly American retirees, according to the Nicaraguan Israelite Congregation. That year, Kulanu helped facilitate the conversions of 14 people, most of whom claimed ancestry to Jewish men who had married non-Jewish Nicaraguan women. Another 14 converted in 2015, but the recent group is the largest to date. Though the Nicaraguans converted together, they follow two different leaders, said Bonita Sussman, vice president of Kulanu. The majority, including Centeno, are inspired by chasidism and follow a local leader named Akiva Simja Fernandez, who converted to Judaism in 2012 with the help of Kulanu. Fernandez follows some Jewish customs that he learned from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which does not have a presence in Managua but caters to Israeli tourists in the beach town of San Juan del Sur. This woman and her young daughter were among the 114 people who converted to Judaism in Nicaragua last month. Fernandez and many of his followers some of whom claim Jewish ancestry wear black velvet kippahs and wide-brimmed black hats, and sing and dance to chasidic music during celebrations. A second group, which has 38 members of one extended family, heeds Moshe Omar Cohen-Henriquez, who traces his ancestry to Jews from Curacao who were forced to convert to Christianity. The group adheres to Sephardi customs and has access to a mikvah, or ritual pool, adjacent to Henriquezs home. The men wear big crocheted kippahs. Before they decided to become Jewish, Sussman said, the converts identified with Christianity or messianism, a movement that infuses Christian belief with some elements of Jewish ritual practice. This isnt the first mass conversion facilitated by Kulanu. Last year, the group brought rabbis to Madagascar to convert 121 people, building a Jewish community where none had existed. Sussman noted the ways in which the members of the Nicaraguan community relate to their Judaism. Nicaraguan men who converted to Judaism wait for their brides before a traditional Jewish wedding for the 22 couples on July 23. These two are unique in that one is Sephardic and descendants of anousim and the other tends towards chasidic kabbalistic practice, she said. Anousim is a Hebrew term for Jews who were forced to abandon Judaism against their will. Though the Madagascar community also follows chasidic traditions, the Nicaragua group that follows Simja is distinctive in the fact that it follows customs learned from Chabad, Sussman added. (Chabad has no official ties to the converts or Kulanu.) Sussman sees the conversions as part of a larger phenomenon. This is a new trend in Jewish history, she said. In the last 100 years we have seen the Holocaust, the destruction of all Jewish communities in Arab lands, and the rebuilding of a Jewish homeland. We are now entering an era of rebuilding the Jewish people. In general, while there may be some hot spots of interest in Judaism in the Western countries, for the most part serious interest in religion is a thing of the past, she said. Today, however, the interest lies in Africa, South America, and India. As Jews, we must be part of this exciting new development. A young Nicaraguan girl is among a growing Jewish community in Managua. Kulanu is planning to send equipment to the Nicaraguans to perform kosher ritual slaughter. The big need is for kosher meat. Were planning to get them shechitah knives, Sussman said. They havent eaten meat, some of them for years. They eat vegetarian and fish. The dietary restrictions didnt seem to be a problem for Centeno, who was getting ready to cook for Shabbat, when he would be hosting 70 community members. All the community will be in my house, he said. Well do a Shabbaton. Today, Im preparing all the food. JTA Wire Service

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August 3, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Blending Judaism and survival skills at camp for boys – Jewish United Fund

The Hebrew word Gila translates to happiness. But it is a different kind of happiness than other similar Hebrew words like simcha , or osher . Gila is the happiness found through discovery. And that is exactly the kind of happiness Chicago native Rabbi Tani Prero promotes. Yagilu means “they will be happy through discovery,” which is Prero’s intention at his wilderness camp called Camp Yagilu Wilderness. Through Yagilu , located in Swan Lake, N.Y., Prero works with adolescent Orthodox boys on self-confidence, responsibility, and growth in the great outdoors. Yagilu aims to help children discover their individual talents and strengths, while uncovering beauty and wonder in the world around us by harnessing the tools in nature. The camp does this by teaching teenage boys survival skills like fire-making, navigation, how to build a shelter, the art of camouflage, and knife safety. As they learn these skills, the boys become aware of their surrounding and of themselves. “At the end of the summer, you should see the smiles; you should see their fists raised with happiness, you should hear their cheers,” Prero said. The model of the camp focuses on challenge and success. Prero explained that success without challenge can make people become cynical. Also, if you have challenge without success, people become discouraged, he said. Yagilu works to empower kids no matter their personal challenges. He reflected that being a teenager is not easy, and he wanted to give teenagers a place to grow and thrive. Like his campers, Prero did not have much experience in the wilderness growing up. As a West Rogers Park native, there is not much nature to be found. “I grew up in Chicago. It’s flat. There are no mountains But I remember going to camp. The first overnight hike I went on was in the Colorado Rockies and I remember [how] it just inspired me in a way I never felt before,” he recalled. “I really wanted to continue doing that and I wanted to also offer that to kids.” Since Yagilu began in 2013, the camp has grown every year. In its first summer, the camp had about 45 boys, the second summer they had close to 70, last year 80, and this year they have around 100 campers. Ideally, Prero would like to have 200 campers and expand to other locations too. The rabbi also discussed how the wilderness and Judaism fit together. In fact, he believes they are one in the same. While people today live in human-made environments, the wilderness is exactly how God intended the Earth to be. He added that if a space is natural, anyone can connect to God through the natural energy God puts there. At Yagilu , this energy is so powerful that the boys say prayers over the environment. “In Judaism, there are certain brachot for things in nature,” Prero said. “We can connect to God through that viewOne day if it rains, we’ll spend a day studying the song of the rain. If we’re going by a river, we’ll spend a day studying the song of the river.” After the summer, Prero sees his campers grow in so many different ways. He sees them grow in self-confidence, their ability to try new things and in their leadership abilities. “I had one camper, when I first met him, he couldn’t even look me in the face,” he said. “Then, when he came back to school, his teachers noticed he was a different kid. His parents called me after the first parent-teacher conference of the year and said they wanted to thank me. Every single teacher said that this boy is a new kid this yearThat’s why I started Yagilu . That’s why I stay up until 2 in the morning working on Yagilu .”

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August 3, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

Tiny community of Nicaragua sees 114 people convert to Judaism – Jewish News

Over the course of just a few days, the tiny Jewish community in Nicaragua more than doubled when 114 people converted to Judaism. Last month, community members answered questions before a beit din, or religious court, of three Orthodox-trained rabbis from Israel and the United States and immersed in a newly built mikvah in Managua, the Central American countrys capital. Male converts underwent circumcisions or symbolic circumcisions if already circumcised. On July 23, following the conversions conducted at the Managua home of a community leader, 22 couples wed according to Jewish tradition in a Managua social hall rented for the occasion.Kulanu, a New York-based nonprofit group that supports communities around the world seeking to learn about Judaism, had facilitated the conversions. There was a great amount of trepidation in their faces and anxiousness because it was so important to them, and when they emerged from the mikvah the glow on their faces was amazing, said beit din member Rabbi Mark Kunis, who was ordained at Yeshiva UniversitysRabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminaryand works at the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue in Atlanta. Its inspiring; the excitement that it engendered was phenomenal. At least half the candidates claimed Jewish ancestry, and most had been studying Judaism for at least five years with some pursuing Judaism almost their entire lives, Kunis told JTA. All the candidates except one family were accepted for conversion, and one of the beit din rabbis served as a Spanish translator, since most of the candidates could not communicate in English, he said. I feel at home, Even Centeno, 21, told JTA of having officially become Jewish. This was for me like a dream. Centeno is among the converts who trace their ancestry to Sephardi Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition. Centeno, who converted along with his parents and sister, said he was aware of his familys Jewish ancestry since he was a young child and started learning about Judaism at the age of 11. The conversions bring a significant influx of Jews to Nicaragua. Jews have been living there since the 18th century, but the community numbered only about 50 in 2012 and was comprised mostly of American retirees,accordingto the Nicaraguan Israelite Congregation. That year, Kulanu helped facilitate theconversionsof 14 people, most of whom claimed ancestry to Jewish men who had married non-Jewish Nicaraguan women. Another 14 converted in 2015, but the recent group is the largest to date. Though the Nicaraguans converted together, they follow two different leaders, said Bonita Sussman, vice president of Kulanu. The majority, including Centeno, are inspired by Hasidism and follow a local leader named Akiva Simja Fernandez, who converted to Judaism in 2012 with the help of Kulanu. Fernandez follows some Jewish customs that he learned from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which does not have a presence in Managua butcatersto Israeli tourists in the beach town of San Juan del Sur. Fernandez and many of his followers some of whom claim Jewish ancestry wear black velvet kippahs and wide-brimmed black hats, and sing and dance to Hasidic music during celebrations. A second group with 38 members of one extended family heeds Moshe Omar Cohen-Henriquez, who traces his ancestry to Jews from Curacao who were forced to convert to Christianity. Thegroupadheres to Sephardi customs and has access to a mikvah, or ritual pool, adjacent to Henriquezs home. The men wear big crocheted kippahs. Prior to deciding to become Jewish, Sussman said, the converts identified with Christianity or messianism, a movement that infuses Christian belief with some elements of Jewish ritual practice. This isnt the first mass conversion facilitated by Kulanu. Last year, the group brought rabbis toMadagascarto convert 121 people, building a Jewish community where none had existed. Sussman noted how the members of the Nicaraguan community relate to their Judaism. These two are unique in that one is a Sephardic and descendants of anousim and the other tends towards Hasidic kabbalistic practice, she said. Anousim is a Hebrew term for Jewswho were forced to abandon Judaism against their will. Though the Madagascar community also follows Hasidic traditions, the Nicaragua group that follows Simja is distinctive in the fact that it follows customs learned from Chabad, Sussman added.(Chabad has no official ties to the converts or Kulanu.) Sussman sees the conversions as part of a larger phenomenon. This is a new trend in Jewish history, she said. In the last 100 years we have seen the Holocaust, the destruction of all Jewish communities in Arab lands and the rebuilding of a Jewish homeland. We are now entering an era of rebuilding the Jewish people. In general, while there may be some hot spots of interest in Judaism in the Western countries, for the most part serious interest in religion is a thing of the past. Today, however, the interest lies in Africa, South America and India. As Jews we must be part of this exciting new development. Kulanu is planning to send equipment to the Nicaraguans to perform kosher ritual slaughter. The big need is for kosher meat. Were planning to get them shechitah knives, Sussman said. They havent eaten meat, some of them for years. They eat vegetarian and fish. The dietary restrictions didnt seem to be a problem for Centeno, who was getting ready to cook for Shabbat, when he would be hosting 70 community members. [A]ll the community will be in my house, well do a Shabbaton, he said. Today Im preparing all the food. Some young Nicaraguans who converted to Judaism in July with the help of the Kulanu organization, July 20, 2017. (credit Bonita Sussman)

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August 3, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed

My Journey to Judaism – Intermountain Jewish News

The Intermountain Jewish News is a weekly independent newspaper founded in 1913, covering the Jewish communities of the Front Range. The IJN is a member of the American Jewish Press Association, Colorado Press Association and National Newspaper Association. The IJN has garnered many first place awards in news writing, features, profiles, arts and criticism, editorial writing, special sections and graphic design.

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August 3, 2017   Posted in: Judaism  Comments Closed


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