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Updated: 38 min 50 sec ago

World's largest Yom Kippur Kol Nidre service to stream live on...

38 min 50 sec ago

Over 100,000 expected to watch the service, led by best selling author Rabbi Naomi Levy.

(PRWeb October 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12214778.htm

Celebrate Yom Kippur in Musical Style With Sim Shalom at Zeb's:...

38 min 50 sec ago

The Sim Shalom Online Synagogue will celebrate Yom Kippur at Zeb’s Sound and Light in Chelsea, following a joyous and well-attended series of Rosh Hashana jazz services in that venue.

(PRWeb October 01, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/09/prweb12205435.htm

Jerusalem Bus Ads Featuring Women in Prayer Shawls Vandalized

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 18:18

Several public buses featuring photos of young women wearing kippot and prayer shawls were vandalized in Jerusalem.

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Israeli Chief Rabbinate Will Review Rabbi Freundel's Conversions

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 18:15

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is reviewing the validity of conversions performed by Rabbi Barry Freundel — despite the U.S. ruling that the ‘peeping’ rabbi’s conversions ‘remain halakhically valid.’

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Jerusalem bus ads featuring young women in prayer shawls vandalized

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 16:53

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Several public buses featuring photos of young women wearing kippot and prayer shawls were vandalized in Jerusalem.

The buses had their tires slashed and ads defaced with spray paint in the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Haredi men were responsible for the vandalism, according to reports.

The bus advertisements, launched last week by the Women of the Wall group, feature Israeli girls aged 11 to 14 wearing a prayer shawl and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall. The ad reads in Hebrew: “Mom, I too want a bat mitzvah at the Kotel.”

Some 50 percent of the Women of the Wall bus advertising has been vandalized since the campaign began a week ago, according to the Cnaan marketing company.

“It is sad to yet again see the ultra-Orthodox citizens take the law into their own hands and use Judaism as an excuse for the use of force, threat and violence against women,” Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs said in a statement. “We call on ultra-Orthodox leadership to strongly denounce this act of violence and all others.”

From the Archive: Kesher Israel’s murdered rabbi

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:40

Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)

Rabbi Barry Freundel’s arrest last week on voyeurism charges wasn’t the first time Washington’s Kesher Israel was ensnared in a sordid crime case.

In 1984, Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz — Freundel’s predecessor in the Orthodox shul — was brutally murdered in his Georgetown home. The Poland-born Rabinowitz, who had served Kesher Israel for 34 years, was found stabbed and bludgeoned in his home.

The crime was never solved. Read JTA’s coverage at the time.

The tragedy and its immediate aftermath was addressed more comprehensively in this article in the Baltimore Jewish Times.

29 projects debut on expanded Slingshot guide highlighting innovation

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:59

NEW YORK (JTA) — An alternative Hebrew school program in New York City, a digital repository for Jewish texts and a synagogue-based bakery in Tulsa, Okla., that employs mentally ill adults are among the 29 Jewish groups listed for the first time in the annual Slingshot guide to innovative Jewish projects.

The 2014-15 guide published Monday features 82 of what it touts as North America’s “most innovative” organizations and projects.

This year the list, previously limited to 50 groups, expanded dramatically. In addition, Washington and Midwest editions and a supplement highlighting women’s organizations also were published.

Despite the added slots, Slingshot officials said in a news release, this year’s process for selecting organizations and projects “has been more competitive than ever before, as the total number of applicants has dramatically increased.”

Launched in 2005 by a group of donors in their 20s and 30s, the Slingshot guide evaluates North American Jewish organizations based on “their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results.”

Leaders of included groups have described the guide as a “stamp of recognition” akin to being listed favorably in a Zagat restaurant guide.

Newly included groups are the Altamont Bakery; Asylum Arts; Beit T’Shuvah: Youth Services; Eshel, Inc.; The iCenter; iEngage-The Engaging Israel Project; Jewish Disaster Response Corps; Jewish Kids Groups; Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington @ Adas Israel; The Jewish Journey Project; Jewish Renaissance Project at Penn Hillel
Jewish Student Connection; Jewish World Watch; JScreen; JLens Investor Network; LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture; LE MOOD; Makom; Online Jewish Academy; RespectAbilityUSA; Righteous Conversations Project; Ritualwell; Shabbat Tent; Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center (SIJCC); SOJOURN: Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity; SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva; TAMID Investment Group; The Sefaria Project; and TI Fellowship.

The full guide, including supplements, can be downloaded at http://www.slingshotfund.org/order/

Rabbinic Group Knew of Rabbi Barry Freundel Conversion 'Violations' in 2012

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:49

The leading Modern Orthodox rabbinical association says that it knew in 2012 that Rabbi Barry Freundel acted inappropriately in his role overseeing conversions, but that it chose not to bar him from working with converts and did not inform his synagogue.

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RCA affirms validity of Freundel’s past conversions, but not Israeli Rabbinate

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:10

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Rabbinical Council of America affirmed that any conversions performed by Rabbi Barry Freundel, the Orthodox rabbi in Washington facing charges of voyeurism, are valid.

The RCA, the main modern Orthodox rabbinical association in the United States, issued a statement Monday to assuage the concerns of Orthodox converts to Judaism whose conversion process was overseen by Freundel, who was arrested last week for allegedly installing a hidden camera in the mikvah to spy on women in the shower. The rabbi has pleaded not guilty.

However, it’s not clear that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate will honor Freundel’s conversions. In response to an inquiry from Israel’s daily Haaretz, Rabbinate spokesman Ziv Manor left open the possibility that those conversions might be invalidated.

“The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is drafting a policy regarding conversions performed by Rabbi Freundel that will attempt to strike a balance between what is permitted according to Jewish law, on the one hand, and the rights and welfare of the converts, on the other,” Manor said, according to Haaretz.

Freundel has been suspended without pay from his position as rabbi at Kesher Israel, a modern Orthodox congregation in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, and from the RCA, where Freundel served on its executive committee.

“The Beth Din of America — under the leadership of Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz — has concluded as a matter of Jewish law that conversions performed by Rabbi Freundel prior to his arrest on October 14, 2014 remain halachically valid and prior converts remain Jewish in all respects,” the RCA said in its statement, which also expressed sympathy with Freundel’s alleged victims and his family.

The RCA also announced that it would appoint a woman to serve as an ombudsman for converts at all the RCA’s rabbinical courts for conversion, known as batei din. The role of the ombudsman will be to field any questions or concerns from conversion candidates who feel uncomfortable raising those issues with the rabbi in charge of their conversion process.

Also, the RCA said it would appoint a commission made up of rabbis, lay leaders and mental health professionals to review RCA conversion processes and suggest safeguards against possible abuse.

“We wanted to create all kinds of opportunities for potential converts to feel safe to share their discomforts and concerns,” Rabbi Mark Dratch, the RCA’s executive vice president, told JTA in an interview.

Freundel spied on women in the mikvah at least since 2012, according to documents filed in Washington Superior Court. He allegedly hid a camera in a clock radio and installed it in the shower area of the mikvah.

Freundel was released the day after his arrest with orders to stay away from his synagogue and alleged victims.

In Orthodox Judaism, mikvah ritual baths are used for the purposes of conversion and on a monthly basis by married women at a certain point in their menstrual cycle. Some men also visit the mikvah before Shabbat or holidays.

The RCA said it had fielded one other complaint of inappropriate behavior by Freundel — that he had shared a room with a woman who was not his wife on an overnight train. But those allegations of impropriety could not be substantiated and the matter was dropped.

“The overwhelming majority of our members are people of integrity and honesty who work hard and are trustworthy,” Dratch told JTA. “From time to time we have people who violate the norms, and unfortunately suspicion has cast a very large net over a large number of people. That undermines our ability to represent out community and lead our community and do our job properly.”

Tale of Two Sermons on Israel

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00

EDITORIAL: The high holidays presented a challenge to rabbis who felt the need to address Israel. Two sermons show the difficulty and possibility involved.

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Anti-Semitic Graffiti Sprayed On Temple Mount

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:09

Graffiti equating the Star of David with a swastika was found painted on the Temple Mount.

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Israeli follower of fugitive rabbi drowns in Belgian river

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:04

(JTA) — A follower of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, an accused sex offender who fled Israel, drowned in Belgium while swimming in a river near Antwerp.

The body of Nissim Levy, 27, was buried last week in his hometown of Ashkelon, the news website ashqelon.net reported Saturday.

Levy was in Belgium to be near Berland, head of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary. Last year Berland fled Israel amid allegations that he sexually assaulted at least two female followers, including a minor.

Berland, who is living in a southern suburb of Amsterdam with scores of his supporters, apparently was in the Antwerp area for the weekend.

Israel has requested his extradition from the Netherlands, where Berland was arrested last month at the airport upon his arrival from South Africa. Since fleeing Israel, he has taken up residence in the United States, Switzerland, Morocco and Zimbabwe, often with dozens of followers.

Levy’s body was sent to Israel with help and funding from the Shomre Hadass Jewish community of Antwerp, according to the Hebrew-language Behadrei Haredim news website.

His family also contacted another Jewish community, the haredi Orthodox congregation Machzikei Hadass, for assistance, the website reported, quoting an unnamed member of Shuvu Bonim who claimed that the congregation declined to help.

Rabbi Pinchas Kornfeld of Machzikei Hadass denied the claim, telling JTA, “The deceased’s family asked us for assistance and we offered to cover all expenses for burial in the Benelux, but we also said that we would need a third party to cover the costs attached to sending the body to Israel, which are substantial.”

Rabbi Freundel's Synagogue Responds to His Arrest

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 09:27

The president of Kesher Israel synagogue gave a heartfelt reaction to Rabbi Barry Freundel’s arrest on voyeurism charges — in a speech that did not mention Freundel by name even once.

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Ex-Gangster Turned Hasidic Rabbi Busted for Impersonating Cop

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 15:01

When Latin Kings gang member Roberto Eddy Santos was released from prison, he assumed the identity of a rabbi — before going on to pose as a police officer.

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Food Truck Pastor

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:01

On neighborhood sidewalks in St. Paul, Minnesota, Rev. Margaret Kelly, a Lutheran pastor, brings meals, prayer services, and a sense of community to the hungry and homeless with a food truck church.

The post Food Truck Pastor appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

How Do You Celebrate Simchat Torah When Your Rabbi Has Been Arrested?

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 08:03

Rabbi Freundel’s arrest on voyeurism charges did not stop the congregants at Kesher Israel from celebrating Simchat Torah with a determinedly joyous lay-led service.

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The Hebrew School on Wheels

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 06:00

Debbi Ballard wanted to get more kids excited about Jewish education. So the Floridian bought a 38-foot recreational vehicle and turned it into a Hebrew school on wheels.

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Rabbi Avi Weiss to step down as rabbi of Hebrew Institute of Riverdale

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 04:48

(JTA) — Rabbi Avi Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, announced that he will step down as rabbi of the congregation.

Weiss — who has been an ardent activist on behalf of embattled Jewish communities and pushed a more religiously liberal brand of Orthodoxy — made the announcement Thursday during holiday services. Weiss said his retirement would be effective next July.

He said he will continue to serve as rabbi-in-residence at the synagogue, the Forward reported.

Weiss is the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox rabbinical school, and Yeshivat Maharat, an institution for women that has graduated two cohorts of female spiritual leaders called Maharats, an acronym meaning female spiritual, legal and Torah leader.

Hamas Leader Accuses Israel of Coveting Temple Mount

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 17:39

The leader of the Palestinian group Hamas on Thursday called on Muslims to defend the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, saying Israel was trying to seize the site, revered in Islam and Judaism and focus of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.

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Freundel pleads not guilty to voyeurism charge

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 15:38

(JTA) — Rabbi Barry Freundel pleaded not guilty to voyeurism in a Washington, D.C. court.

Freundel, rabbi of Washington’s prominent Kesher Israel Congregation, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Washington. He was charged with voyeurism after a witness allegedly saw him installing a clock radio with a hidden camera in the women’s showers of the congregation’s mikvah.

On Wednesday, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge William Nooter ordered Freundel to stay away from Kesher Israel and the Jewish converts who immersed in the mikvah, according to Reuters.

Kesher Israel has suspended Freundel without pay, as has the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America. The RCA probed Freundel this summer for allegedly making reservations to stay in a hotel room with a conversion candidate who was not his wife, according to the Jewish Daily Forward.

The RCA questioned Freundel about the matter, but the person who made the allegation could not provide supporting evidence.

“There were conversations with Rabbi Freundel on this matter,” RCA President Rabbi Leonard Matanky told the Forward. “Those who were involved with the conversations were satisfied with the explanation and no further action was taken.”