The notorious white supremacist charged with carrying out the shooting rampage near Kansas City reportedly ranted to a rabbi about “getting rid of every Jew.”Click here for the rest of the article...
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, continues to experience the violent persecution of its minority population of Rohingya Muslims. Muslims are being attacked by mobs of extremist Buddhist factions, despite Buddhist principles of nonviolence. “They refer to the Rohingya as subhuman, but beyond that they actually believe the Rohingya are subhuman,” says Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, an independent organization to protect and defend human rights, “and I think this is one of the things that make them particularly dangerous.”
xShalom Cohen, a hardline rabbi known for his overt hostility toward modern-Orthodox and secular Israeli Jews, was appointed spiritual leader of the Orthodox, Sephardi Shas Party.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — Shalom Cohen, a rabbi known for his hostility toward modern Orthodox and secular Israeli Jews, was appointed spiritual leader of the Orthodox, Sephardi Shas Party.
Cohen, leader of the Porat Yosef religious seminary, was named president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages on Thursday at a ceremony in Bnei Brak neat Tel Aviv, Army Radio reported. He replaced Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who died last year.
Shortly after being announced as Yosef’s successor, Cohen reiterated his criticism of Israeli Jews who are not haredi.
“They hate us, all the ignoramuses of the Jewish Home and Yesh Atid,” Cohen said, referencing the Zionist Orthodox party headed by Naftali Bennett and the secularist party headed by Yair Lapid, respectively. “There is no difference between the two. The Ha-Kadosh barukh Hu [God] wants us to stay away from them. They are there, we are here. They will pursue their nonsense, we will pursue our holy Torah.”
Cohen, who is considered a close ally of Shas political boss Aryeh Deri, last year called Zionist Orthodox Jews “Amalek” — an extinct people that the Torah singles out for total annihilation for what is described as their cruelty to Jews.
According to Army Radio analyst Yair Sharki, Cohen’s first speech as spiritual leader marked a more separatist and hardline world view than that of Yosef.
Shas’ political party, the “World Union of Sefardi Observers of the Torah,” currently has 11 seats out of 120 in the Knesset and is not part of the coalition. Its pragmatic approach to issues connected to security and peace and other subjects that are not connected to religion and welfare has allowed it to join rightist as well as leftist coalitions, where it has used its clout to promote the movement’s massive welfare and religious education systems.
This strategy and several corruption scandals by Shas politicians have antagonized many secular and moderate religious Israelis, who form the voter bases of Yesh Atid and the Jewish Home, respectively.
Yesh Atid, which is a coalition party, has vowed not to stay in government if Shas joins.
In response to reports of demands that Jewish residents of Donetsk, Ukraine register with the government and pay fees or risk serious penalties, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
Reports that Jewish residents of Donetsk, Ukraine received notices telling them to register with authorities and pay fees or risk loss of citizenship and deportation are deeply concerning. After speaking with experts in the field, it has not been established whether this was the result of action by Ukrainians or by pro-Russian activists, designed to use the Jews of Donetsk as pawns in the ongoing dispute between Russia and Ukraine.
While the facts will need to be verified as soon as possible, we note with alarm that throughout the past several months of unrest between Ukraine and Russia, incidents of anti-Semitism, alleged and real, have been asserted by those seeking political advantage. We condemn in the strongest of terms any acts of anti-Semitism in Ukraine and elsewhere, as well as any requirement that Jews register and pay fines to live as citizens in their own country. We call on all sides to ensure that the Ukrainian Jewish community, like all the people of Ukraine, remains safe and secure. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and continue to call for a swift and peaceful resolution of the broader dispute.
The scene of what authorities say was a hate crime just days ago became the setting for tears, prayers and calls for peace as religious leaders gathered at a Kansas Jewish community center for a memorial service in honor of three people shot dead on Sunday.Click here for the rest of the article...
The organizers of "555 Days of Prayer to Save America" and the approaching, September 11, 2014 "Great Wave Offering" are asking the participants in the 555-day-long prayer...
(PRWeb March 26, 2014)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/03/prweb11697727.htm
URJ Books and Music is proud to release the ultimate anthology of the musical works of Debbie Friedman, z”l (1951 – 2011). Regarded as one of the most influential Jewish singer-songwriters in history, Debbie is known for her timeless Jewish folk music, filled with peaceful and universal messages, which have been adopted by Jewish congregations and summer camps around the world. Now, for the first time, that music has been gathered together in one definitive, comprehensive collection – Debbie’s original works, preserved just as she created them.
Sing Unto God: The Debbie Friedman Anthology is a tribute to Debbie’s life and music, featuring every song she wrote and recorded (plus more than 30 songs previously unavailable) in lead sheet format, with complete lyrics, melody line, guitar chords, Hebrew lyrics, transliteration, and English translation. This incredible collection of more than 215 songs was meticulously edited by composer and publisher Joel N. Eglash, formerly managing director of Transcontinental Music Publications and URJ Press, with assistance from Debbie’s sister Cheryl Friedman and other family, friends, and lifelong colleagues. The book includes more than 400 pages of music, photographs, biographical information, memories of Debbie, and tributes to her legacy.
Says Rabbi Daniel Freelander, URJ senior vice president and a close friend of Debbie’s,
Part of the Jewish revolution of the late 1960′s and 70′s was a return to Hebrew as the primary language of Jewish singing. But Debbie’s unique contribution was the courage to blend Hebrew and English in the same song, using spiritually clear and poetic English to bring meaning to a Hebrew text or concept. Debbie’s reclamation of the vernacular to express our deepest aspirations was a tipping point in contemporary Jewish music, a profound change that has created the sound and substance of American Judaism today. My life – our lives – have been spiritually enriched by her contributions, which will continue to bless as future generations sing her songs.
Debbie once stated, “My work is my joy. It is what drives me and keeps me alive.” This collection is Debbie’s final gift to song leaders, cantors, choir directors, musicians – all who breathe new life into her music, keeping her legacy alive as they “sing unto God.”
Learn more about the anthology in this press release from the URJ and order the anthology now from URJ Books and Music.
Israeli riot police entered one of Jerusalem’s most revered and politically sensitive religious compounds on Wednesday to disperse rock-throwing Palestinians opposed to any Jewish attempts to pray there.Click here for the rest of the article...
The Temple Mount was closed to Jewish visitors on the second day of Passover following rioting at the site by dozens of Arab youth.
The Arab youth, many wearing masks, threw rocks and firecrackers at Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount Wednesday morning, shortly after it opened for Jewish visitors. Many Jewish visitors come to visit the site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, during the Passover holiday.
Israeli security forces used stun grenades to quell the rioting, according to police. The French news agency AFP reported that the security forces also used rubber-coated bullets, which wounded dozens of Palestinian rioters. It also reported that many Palestinian rioters remained in the Al Aksa Mosque for fear of arrest.
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said early Wednesday afternoon that no police forces remained on the Temple Mount.
Temple Mount closed to visitors after disturbances this morning. Situation calm again. Police units not on Temple Mount
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) April 16, 2014
Arab protesters also threw rocks at police officers in an alley in the Old City of Jerusalem, with one policeman being injured. Rosenfeld said police were assessing security in the area.
Police assessing security in the old city, Jerusalem. Units in and around area to prevent any further disturbances throughout the day
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) April 16, 2014
The Temple Mount also had been closed to visitors on Sunday due to Arab rioting and violence against Israeli security forces.
On Monday, police prevented five Jewish Israeli activists from performing a live animal sacrifice at the site to commemorate Passover.
The organizers of "555 days of Prayer to Save America" are eager to join with the California -based planners of the upcoming solemn assembly, in Anaheim, on November 11, 2014. Today marks...
(PRWeb March 23, 2014)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/03/prweb11693060.htm
By Sophie Foxman
The concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) was introduced into Judaism in the early rabbinic period. It was introduced to me — and has shaped my life in astonishing ways since then — when I entered NFTY.
Growing up, I idealistically believed I could do anything and help everyone, a concept understood by my friends, counselors, and others at URJ Camp George, where I spent my summers. That’s where the seeds of my desire to be part of something bigger than myself initially were planted.
Those seeds blossomed during many summers at Camp George. By the time I was in high school, I was nearly bursting with a desire to inspire change. The only thing missing was a place where I felt comfortable enough to speak my mind. I desperately needed a community that shared my commitment to and excitement about tikkun olam.
Lucky for me, one of my best friends from Camp George reached out to me with a line I will never forget: “Hey Sophie, you should come to NFTY. Trust me, you’ll love it!”
To say that line was an understatement would be one itself. I dove headfirst into the NFTY community, learning, growing, and being guided by the same principles that I had been trying to incorporate into my own life.
Among NFTY’s 13 principles, three in particular stood out to me. The first two, tikkun olam and kehilah (community) were right up my alley! What could be better than a community dedicated to repairing the world? The third principle that excited me was tikkun middot, which emphasizes the importance of creating an environment in which individuals can improve themselves, as well as meet and exceed their potential as Jews and citizens.
Only when saw someone with the title of Social Action Vice President at my first NFTY regional event did I realize the potential of this amazing organization. Through meaningful programming, exciting fundraisers and hands-on community service, NFTY was able to help me shift my mindset from “Wow, I want to make a difference” to “Wow, I can make a difference.”
Feeling so empowered led me to explore NFTY’s social action history.
Through my research, I learned that NFTY has always been at the forefront in supporting human rights and justice for all, and that our work in this area is inspired by the teaching in Genesis that all people are created b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God). NFTY was at the March on Washington, supporting Martin Luther King Jr. in his quest for equality and civil rights. NFTY also supported Ethiopian Jews making aliyah to Israel by establishing Project REAP (Reform Movement’s Ethiopian Jewry Assistance Program). NFTY always has been — and will continue to be — a beacon of hope, help, and understanding for those in the world who struggle for equality, for freedom, for survival. Knowing how much of NFTY’s rich history is immersed in social action, I was thrilled to be a part of this active youth movement.
In Genesis 3:9, God asks Adam and Eve, “Ayeka?” (“Where are you?”)
“Heinini!” (“Here I am.”) Adam replies.
This simple interaction encapsulates NFTY.
Where are we?
Here we are, moving forward to change the world.
Inspired by the work of NFTY and the confidence it gives its members, I decided to run for Social Action Vice President of the Northeast Lakes Region. When my peers elected me, I had yet another shift in perspective when I realized, “Wow, I am making a difference.”
Singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, z”l, in her song “And the Youth Shall See Visions,” wrote these lyrics: “We must live for today; we must build for tomorrow.” Indeed, NFTY sees a vision for a brighter future, and just as Debbie’s lyrics ring out, so too do we strive to live for today and build for tomorrow.
With my time in NFTY ending soon, I am especially thankful for what it has given me, and for the tremendous impact it is making — and will continues to make — on the world. When asked, I still tell people that when I grow up, I want to change the world. Thanks to NFTY I have the foundation and the confidence to step up and say “Heinini!” (“Here I am to help.”)
Sophie Foxman, a senior at TanenbaumCHAT in Thornhill, Ontario, is the 2013-14 NFTY-NEL Social Action Vice President. She also is a dreamer, a mover, a shaker, and a world-changer.
We are grateful to Women of Reform Judaism who have supported NFTY for 75 years and continue their generosity as Inaugural Donors to the Campaign for Youth Engagement.
President Barack Obama on Monday deplored the shootings at Kansas City-area Jewish centers, saying at an Easter season prayer breakfast there was no place for anti-Semitism or other religious-based hatred.Click here for the rest of the article...
by Rabbi Danny Burkeman
Pesach is coming, and at s’darim across the Jewish community we will once again label four children as wise, wicked, simple, and the one who does not know how to ask. I have always struggled with this part of the seder for two reasons. All of my work with young people has taught me that we should avoid labeling children because it gives them a negative message, often encouraging them to live up to the label we ascribe. And on a secondary level, I have always found it hard to understand why the respective questions correspond to the labels that the Hagaddah gives them.
While we could analyze each of the children and their corresponding labels, I would like to devote my focus on the wicked child. He asks: “What does this service mean to you?” The Hagaddah’s preoccupation is on the fact that the question says “you,” suggesting that this child no longer identifies with the Jewish people; he is therefore told, in no uncertain terms, that if he had been there he would not have been saved from Egypt. But in reality, one could see this as a question seeking to understand what is happening by looking at it through another person’s eyes. The “wicked” child might not feel a connection to the seder, but he is still seated around the table trying to understand the relevance and meaning for others.
In light of the recent Pew study, this question and this child have taken on a new significance for me. A great deal of attention was given to the study’s finding that 22% of the American Jewish community today identify as Jews of no religion. The study said of them that they “are not only less religious but also much less connected to Jewish organizations and much less likely to be raising their children Jewish.” But despite this label, according to the study, 42% of Jews of no religion still attended a seder last year, assuming their place around the table.
With this growing group in the Jewish community, we might reconsider the question of the supposedly wicked child: “What does this service mean to you?” Using the Pew study’s categories, surely this is the question the “Jews of no religion” could conceivably ask the “Jews by religion.” In this context, the “you” in the question does not symbolize that the group no longer identifies as part of the Jewish community. Rather it symbolizes a struggle to find meaning in Jewish religious life. In seeking meaning, they are still seated around our communal table, identifying as Jews, and they ask others to help provide them with an insight into the meaning.
If we offer this group the answer suggested by the Hagaddah, not only do we fail to answer their question, but we further alienate them from Jewish religious life, and by extension the organized Jewish community. The Hagaddah solidifies a “them” and “us” approach by excluding them from the formative experience of Jewish history, our Exodus from Egypt. And once we exclude them from our communal history, what likelihood is there that they will want to be part of our shared future? Their voice will be silenced, but unlike the child who does not know how to ask, who is silent due to an inability to question, their silence will come because they have removed themselves from our communal table.
It is wonderful that in twenty-first century America, people continue to identify as Jews despite feeling no connection to the religion. In this group we can see either a threat or an opportunity. The Hagaddah’s response to the question comes from a place of fear, feeling threatened by this group and trying to coerce them back into the fold. Instead, we can see the opportunity to try and find ways to help this group find meaning in Jewish religious life. It may not have the same focus as the Judaism of our grandparents, but it can still be rooted in Jewish history and tradition, inspiring them to a deeper Jewish connection.
In this way, the question “What does this service mean to you?” is a wonderful one for us to answer. One may find meaning in the story of the Exodus as a way to find a connection to God, through God’s relationship to the Jewish people. Or perhaps the meaning comes from our slavery experience which compels us to be socially active in the world on behalf of others. Or maybe there is meaning in the seder as a chain linking us back through our history, but also forward into the future with the emphasis on teaching our children. We each can share our personal understanding of the seder to offer them a variety of ways to find a connection.
The Hagaddah provides us with just one answer. Today, with so many possible responses to this question, rather than pushing this group away, we instead can find ways to answer this question with meaning and love to deepen their Jewish connection. Then, perhaps at next year’s seder, they will not ask this question but instead answer it for others, sharing the meaning they have found.
Rabbi Danny Burkeman is a spiritual leader at The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, NY. He also serves as a board member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and a Rabbis Without Borders fellow.
Originally posted at eJewish Philanthropy
South Africa’s chief rabbi called on the Jewish community not to shelter or support Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who fled Israel after accusations of sexual assault.Click here for the rest of the article...
In response to today’s shootings at several Jewish communal institutions in Overland Park, KS, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We mourn the tragic loss of life in today’s shootings in the Overland Park, Kansas Jewish community. Information about the perpetrator is still being uncovered, but early reports indicate that anti-Semitism may have been a factor. If so, it is a tragic reminder, this day before Jews around the world observe Passover, of the hatred that continues to plague our world. It is also yet another horrific instance of an act of senseless violence involving the use of guns to take innocent lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in today’s shootings. May the memories of those lost be forever a blessing.
The Temple Mount was closed to visitors after Muslim worshippers threw stones and firebombs at police offers guarding the Mughrabi gate near the Western Wall Plaza.Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Shoshan Ghoori journeyed to Peru to find out whether quinoa is kosher for Passover. It is — but what about the treatment of farmers who grow it?Click here for the rest of the article...