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The Women Rabbis Of New Mexico

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:00

New Mexico is home to several trailblazing rabbis and has become a breeding ground for female spiritual leaders. We visit as part of Our Promised Land series of all 50 states.

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The Century Ends: NFTY Music of the 90s

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 05:00

by Cantor Rosalie Boxt

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade. I have often wondered what it would have been like to be a songleader with my mentors, my friends, and my “heroes” in the 70s. Yet, as I reflect back on the time when I was a young songleader, during the years when I was in the thick of camp songleading, I see the 90s as the most extraordinary time to have been a part of NFTY – the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, and Jewish music. At Goldman Union Camp I learned everything there was to know about songleading from the greats of community singing ― Dan Nichols, Ken Chasen, Andy Vogel, Dave Snyder. When I left there to join the leadership team of Kutz Camp in 1995, I had no idea of the scope and breadth of Jewish music. In the mid and late 90s, as a songleader at Kutz, I first became aware of the diverse and extensive camp and regional musical traditions. Before that I thought the Midwest was all there was! What became clear to me at Kutz in the 90s was that there was an entire canon of NFTY music ― a repertoire that spanned the miles and borders of state and region, of accent and weather. And yet there was also music that was specific to each region, each songleader, each camp’s particular passion in text or music.

The songleaders who came before me at Kutz had been in Israel and brought us David Broza’s “Mitachat LaShamayim” and Naomi Shemer’s “Lu Y’hi” – the new contemporary Israeli rock of which I had been unaware as a youth in the 80s beyond knowing the Chasidic and Israeli folk festival repertoire of the 70s. We also began to reap the benefits of Debbie Friedman’s new compositions around prayer, women, Torah text, and healing. I remember learning and teaching her “Devorah’s Song,” “Miriam’s Song,” and “Mi Shebeirach” as a 20-year-old, knowing then the power of these songs. I understood, most importantly, their messages of strength and courage, of allowing everyone’s voice to a part of our story, and how they would resonate for years to come.

I was impressed (and startled) by the intensity of singing I experienced at SEFTY (NFTY SE/STR) and the depth of knowledge of prayer and Hebrew of OSRUI teens. The 90s were a pivotal time for NFTY and its music; as it became clear that we needed a new chordster, a new songleading “bible.” The amount of new repertoire which had been written, or discovered and shared, had made the old orange chordster out of date ― not obsolete ― but lacking in the scope which the NFTY and UAHC (now the Union for Reform Judaism) leadership recognized had grown exponentially in the 90s, and now was needed to set the course for the next 20 years.

After college I was honored to become an employee of NFTY in Israel, and the NFTY songleader at Kutz, and to be a part of the editorial team and then co-editor of Shireinu: Our Songs, the chordster published in the year 2000. It was the dynamism of our team, the lists we voted on and culled, the songs retained and songs dropped off, the songs we hoped would last, and others we knew would take off ― that mark the pivotal moments the 90s were to our camp and songleading world.

Over 20 years later, it is thrilling to be invited to be a part of the next stage – Shireinu II – in which we will reflect on how far we’ve come, on how our music has grown deeper and wider, more inclusive of voices from many faiths and backgrounds, and always with text, Torah, humanity, and relationships at the center.

So while I was transformed by the creativity and vision of the 70s, and witnessed the dynamism and boundary-breaking of the 2000s, I was able to share so richly in the music of the right decade, and to reap the benefits of those who came before and sow the seeds for those to come.

Cantor Rosalie Boxt serves Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland and is a member of the URJ Expert Faculty of Worship and Music, and Director of Worship for URJ Biennial.

 

Russia Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar Brings Riot Police Escort to Crimea Synagogue

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 21:45

Russia’s chief rabbi Berel Lazar brought armed policemen, including riot police, to tour Crimea’s Reform synagogue in Simferopol, according to CCTV footage.

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Couple Charged in Ramadan Threat to Hamptons Synagogue

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 17:28

A divorced couple from Long Island was arrested for allegedly sending threatening emails to a synagogue in the Hamptons.

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Indie Rock With A Spiritual Core

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:55

The Antlers have made a name for themselves with heartbreaking lyrics and atmospheric sounds. Singer Peter Silberman talks about how spirituality informed their new album.

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Couple arrested for threats on Hamptons synagogue

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:40

(JTA) — A divorced couple from Long Island was arrested for allegedly sending threatening emails to a synagogue in the Hamptons.

Asli Dincer, 44, and her ex-husband Melih Dincer, 31, sent email messages to the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in May and June, threatening an explosion there during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan began on June 29.

The two were arrested July 11 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport upon their return from Turkey. They were arraigned on Friday in East Hampton on charges of making a terrorist threat, falsely reporting an incident, menacing and conspiracy, according to NBC New York.

 

Bnei Akiva Chief Escapes Ouster for 'Revenge' Call

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:15

World Bnei Akiva Secretary-General Rabbi Noam Perel will keep his job after the governing body accepted his apology for his call to avenge with blood the murder of three Israeli teens.

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Lorin Maazel, Philharmonic Conductor, Dies at 84

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 22:24

Conductor Lorin Maazel, a child prodigy who later directed the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Munich Philharmonic, died on Sunday at the age of 84, according to music festival he founded.

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Anti-Israel Paris Crowd Besieges Synagogue

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 18:30

Dozens of young men protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza briefly besieged a Paris synagogue and clashed with security.

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Morocco Rabbi Beaten in Gaza Payback

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 18:16

The rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was beaten allegedly because of Israel’s Gaza operation.

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Rabbi of Casablanca assaulted in response to Israel’s Gaza operation

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 13:55

(JTA) — The rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was beaten allegedly because of Israel’s Gaza operation.

Rabbi Moshe Ohayon was attacked Friday night as he walked to synagogue for Sabbath services, according to local and Israeli reports.

Ohayon suffered a broken nose and broken ribs, and was beaten on the head in the attack, according to the French language alyaexpress-news.com. The rabbi reportedly asked passers-by for help but was ignored.

The alleged attacker, a local Muslim man in his 20s, reportedly told the rabbi during the attack that it was in retribution for Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The assailant is known to local police, according to the report, and officers were searching for him in order to arrest him.

Following the attack, Casablanca Jews called on local authorities to increase security around synagogues and other Jewish institutions.

Palestinian officials put the Palestinian death toll at more than 166 since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, which entered its sixth day on Sunday.

Since July 8, the Israel Defense Forces said, 707 rockets have hit Israel and 160 have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

 

Paris Shul Firebombed as Anti-Semitism Flares Across Europe

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 10:16

A firebomb was hurled at a synagogue near Paris, part of a string of anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe coinciding with Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza.

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Crimea Reform Rabbi Accuses Russian Jewish Leaders of 'Invading' Synagogue

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 09:44

A prominent Chabad rabbi from Moscow denied accusations that he and several of his colleagues, including a chief rabbi of Russia, forced their way into a Crimean Reform synagogue’s offices.

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Jewish? No, We’re Subbotniks. Welcome to Our Synagogue.

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 06:00

Subbotniks are a Russian group that practices Jewish rituals, yet are considered distinct from the community. Their numbers are dwindling but some seek to preserve their ancient culture.

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Why British Orthodox Rabbi Fasts for Ramadan

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 06:37

Rabbi Natan Levy decided to “engage Ramadan as a committed Jew” to promote “a deeper conversation within the Jewish community on how we move beyond demonization of Islam.”

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6 Ways URJ Camps are Leading the Way in Jewish Camping

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 22:56

The Forward recently shared “Jewish Camp Trend-Spotting: 10 Ways a Summer Ritual Is Changing,” detailing how the world of Jewish camping is evolving – and the Reform Jewish Movement’s 15 summer camps are leading the way! Here are a few ways URJ Camps are on the cutting edge:

  1. Specialized Programs: Specialty camps allow us to expand our geographic and programmatic reach to cohorts of young people who otherwise would be unlikely to enroll in Jewish camp.
    • Ours is the only Jewish camping system that received funding in both rounds of the Specialty Camps Incubator program. An initiative of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and the AVI CHAI Foundation, these grants support the creation of new specialty camps to engage more children in the Jewish camp experience.
    • At URJ 6 Points Sports Academy (NC), Jewish athletes participate in top-level sports training in a Reform Jewish camp setting. This year’s registration was the highest in the camp’s five-year history.

    • For the 49th summer, URJ Kutz Camp (NY) has offered offers teens a customized program to enhance their skills in arts, music, leadership, and advocacy skills as part of the NFTY leadership experience.
  1. Day Camps: This summer, URJ Camp Harlam (PA) launched URJ Harlam Day Camp, the Reform Movement’s inaugural community day camp – a strategic initiative to complement Reform Judaism’s youth engagement focus. The camp will create new outreach opportunities to young Jewish families and provide a gateway into Jewish camp for hundreds of children.
  1. Year-Round Programming: Recognizing the steady decrease in post-b’nai mitzvah involvement, the URJ is developing programs to engage youth year-round.
    • URJ Camp Newman (CA) and URJ Greene Family Camp (TX) are expanding to become year-round centers for living Judaism. The expansion includes three core components: a year-round retreat center, a summer camp, and creative, community-driven programming in areas such as social justice, arts, adventure, and Jewish studies.
    • URJ Camps Service Corps , an innovative partnership between Reform camps and local congregations, will integrate Service Corps Fellows into congregations during the year and into camps during the summer. In 2014-2015, the program’s 40 Fellows will blend experiential, camp-style education with camp recruitment at the congregational level.
  1. Shorter Sessions: Camps are adjusting their summer calendars and shortening the length of some sessions to better synch with school schedules. At URJ Camp Kalsman (WA), interest in shorter sessions led to 20% more registrants, the camp’s largest enrollment, confirming the efficacy of the strategy.
  1. Broader Definition of Camp: New programs blur boundaries among camp, teen travel, and service programs. Mitzvah Corps offers community-based service learning opportunities for Jewish teens, pairing them with grassroots organizations that provide hands-on social action experiences.
    • This summer, Mitzvah Corps experienced a 100% growth in registration and added program locations in Portland, OR, and Washington, D.C. (a partnership with the Religious Action Center).
  1. Inclusion: URJ Camps are committed to providing a Reform Jewish summer experience to all children, including those with disabilities. Professional inclusion coordinators at each camp work with parents, caregivers, and others to ensure fulfilling camp experiences for all children. Several programs for young people with disabilities also are offered:

The URJ Campaign for Youth Engagement strives to provide youth from 8 to 26 with expanded and immersive Jewish experiences. With more than 12,400 participants in 2014, for the sixth consecutive year, we will reach, inspire, connect, and engage more young people than ever before. This work will benefit more than 15,000 individuals in our community — kids, parents, staff, lay leaders, alumni, and congregational professionals – building and strengthening Jewish identity, pride, community, and commitment.

6 Ways URJ Camps are Leading the Way in Jewish Camping

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 22:56

The Forward recently shared “Jewish Camp Trend-Spotting: 10 Ways a Summer Ritual Is Changing,” detailing how the world of Jewish camping is evolving – and the Reform Jewish Movement’s 15 summer camps are leading the way! Here are a few ways URJ Camps are on the cutting edge:

  1. Specialized Programs: Specialty camps allow us to expand our geographic and programmatic reach to cohorts of young people who otherwise would be unlikely to enroll in Jewish camp.
    • Ours is the only Jewish camping system that received funding in both rounds of the Specialty Camps Incubator program. An initiative of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and the AVI CHAI Foundation, these grants support the creation of new specialty camps to engage more children in the Jewish camp experience.
    • At URJ 6 Points Sports Academy (NC), Jewish athletes participate in top-level sports training in a Reform Jewish camp setting. This year’s registration was the highest in the camp’s five-year history.

    • For the 49th summer, URJ Kutz Camp (NY) has offered offers teens a customized program to enhance their skills in arts, music, leadership, and advocacy skills as part of the NFTY leadership experience.
  1. Day Camps: This summer, URJ Camp Harlam (PA) launched URJ Harlam Day Camp, the Reform Movement’s inaugural community day camp – a strategic initiative to complement Reform Judaism’s youth engagement focus. The camp will create new outreach opportunities to young Jewish families and provide a gateway into Jewish camp for hundreds of children.
  1. Year-Round Programming: Recognizing the steady decrease in post-b’nai mitzvah involvement, the URJ is developing programs to engage youth year-round.
    • URJ Camp Newman (CA) and URJ Greene Family Camp (TX) are expanding to become year-round centers for living Judaism. The expansion includes three core components: a year-round retreat center, a summer camp, and creative, community-driven programming in areas such as social justice, arts, adventure, and Jewish studies.
    • URJ Camps Service Corps , an innovative partnership between Reform camps and local congregations, will integrate Service Corps Fellows into congregations during the year and into camps during the summer. In 2014-2015, the program’s 40 Fellows will blend experiential, camp-style education with camp recruitment at the congregational level.
  1. Shorter Sessions: Camps are adjusting their summer calendars and shortening the length of some sessions to better synch with school schedules. At URJ Camp Kalsman (WA), interest in shorter sessions led to 20% more registrants, the camp’s largest enrollment, confirming the efficacy of the strategy.
  1. Broader Definition of Camp: New programs blur boundaries among camp, teen travel, and service programs. Mitzvah Corps offers community-based service learning opportunities for Jewish teens, pairing them with grassroots organizations that provide hands-on social action experiences.
    • This summer, Mitzvah Corps experienced a 100% growth in registration and added program locations in Portland, OR, and Washington, D.C. (a partnership with the Religious Action Center).
  1. Inclusion: URJ Camps are committed to providing a Reform Jewish summer experience to all children, including those with disabilities. Professional inclusion coordinators at each camp work with parents, caregivers, and others to ensure fulfilling camp experiences for all children. Several programs for young people with disabilities also are offered:

The URJ Campaign for Youth Engagement strives to provide youth from 8 to 26 with expanded and immersive Jewish experiences. With more than 12,400 participants in 2014, for the sixth consecutive year, we will reach, inspire, connect, and engage more young people than ever before. This work will benefit more than 15,000 individuals in our community — kids, parents, staff, lay leaders, alumni, and congregational professionals – building and strengthening Jewish identity, pride, community, and commitment.

Baruch Lebovits, Brooklyn Rabbi Charged With Sex Abuse, Gets Plea Deal

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 18:55

Baruch Lebovits, a Brooklyn rabbi convicted of sex abuse in 2010 only to have the conviction overturned on appeal, was sentenced to two years in prison as part of a plea deal.

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Why an Orthodox rabbi is fasting this Ramadan

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 17:40

A few hours into the 10th day of Ramadan, Rabbi Natan Levy was swapping fasting tips with a Muslim fellow passenger aboard the London Northern train line.

Specifically, they were debating the merits of having a very large meal before sunrise — a technique adopted by many observant Muslims who are trying to cope with a whole month of daytime fasts on a continent whose summers afford more than 14 hours of sunlight every day.

“We agreed better to eat less,” said Levy, 40, who is the interfaith and social action consultant of Britain’s Jewish Board of Deputies.

Like the Muslim passenger, Levy was speaking out of experience: This year, Levy joined Muslims around the world in their fast.

Levy told JTA that he decided to “engage Ramadan as a committed Jew” to promote “a deeper conversation  within the Jewish community on how we move beyond demonization of Islam.”

The decision to fast, he said, was partly born of frustration at how “the Anglo-Jewish community appears to  live in a state I could only call deeply distrustful of anything Islamic.”

Last week, a congregant in Levy’s local shul ran home in fear because she found herself sitting next to a Muslim guest for the Kabbalat Shabbat service, he recalled.

“This  was a shameful moment for us, but not a surprising one,” he said. “My daughter has not been taught a single fact about Ramadan at her Jewish School.  The fasting is simply a touchstone toward a deeper conversation.”

But at a time when Islamist militants are emerging as a serious threat to the physical safety of European Jews, Levy says that he does not want to appear naïve.

“There are elephants in the room between Jews and Muslim, scary ones,” he said. “But I don’t think that we can start discussing  elephants, until we realize there is more that unites Jews and Muslims than divides us.”

Some of the fear, however, is rooted in reality, Levy wrote in an email answering JTA’s questions.

“Rockets are now  falling upon my family in Israel as I write this, launched by  a terrorist organization whose manifesto justifies its actions with hateful and violent quotes from the Quran,” Levy wrote. “But the more time I spend in conversation with Muslims, and the deeper I engage with Ramadan,  the clearer it becomes that Islam cannot be reduced to the twisted form espoused by Hamas: That it contains a deeper truth and  a grander vision of compassion and peace.”

Still, in  immigrant neighborhoods across Europe, Ramadan is an especially tense period in summer, when the heat compounds some fasters’ general irritability and resentment toward the establishment.

On the sixth day of Ramadan, dozens of Muslims gathered in the Schilderswijk, one of Holland’s largest immigrant neighborhoods in The Hague, to chant menacing cries about Jews and rail against police’s crackdown on Islamists — part of an annual increase in confrontations between Muslim youths and police during Ramadan.

Aware of this volatility, police in cities from Bradford, England, to Amsterdam increase patrols and train their officers on how to diffuse conflicts.

Levy says he gained some personal insight as to the process that leads to these confrontations.

“Fasting seems to  strip out a lot of the extraneous elements of my daily routine, leaving a certain focus, a certain single-minded quality of thought,” he said.

And while the Muslims Levy knows are “using it towards wise and compassionate action,” he speculates that “perhaps,  if someone who was fasting honed in on anger, resentment, righteous injustice,” then fasting could reduce these feelings “into a singular, white hot beam of reactive force.”

“Ramadan, like any religious practice is a powerful and effective tool, but what we do with such a tool lies entirely in our hands,” Levy said.

Baruch Lebovits, Brooklyn rabbi charged with sex abuse, gets plea deal

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 17:29

NEW YORK (JTA) – Baruch Lebovits, a Brooklyn rabbi convicted of sex abuse in 2010 only to have the conviction overturned on appeal, was sentenced to two years in prison as part of a plea deal.

The deal was approved Wednesday. Lebovits is expected to serve less than a year of additional jail time because he will receive credit for the 13 months he spent in prison for his initial conviction on charges of molesting a boy, according to The New York Times. That conviction on eight counts of child molestation, which carried a 10-year prison sentence, was overturned due to a procedural snafu. Lebovits was then released from prison.

The case was part of ex-district attorney Charles Hynes’ controversial drive to address sex abuse in the haredi Orthodox community.

It riveted Brooklyn’s haredi Orthodox community in part because Lebovits also was accused of molesting the teenage son of Sam Kellner, a fellow haredi who helped prosecutors build a case against Lebovits. In a twist, prosecutors later charged Kellner for bribing a third person to testify against Lebovits — an accusation Kellner said was a lie concocted by Lebovits supporters. In March, the district attorney’s office dropped the charges against Kellner.

This week, Kellner denounced the plea deal as insufficient punishment, saying it sent a dangerous message to child molesters.

“What is the thing that we’re going to tell them?” Kellner said, according to the Times. “Go to the police and, what — how do we safeguard these kids?”

When Lebovits’ original conviction was voided in 2012, the court said that while there was enough evidence to prove his guilt, Lebovits was deprived of the right to a fair trial because prosecutors did not hand over until the middle of the trial a detective’s notes about one of the witnesses that the defense was expected to call.