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Right-wing marchers stopped from ascending to Temple Mount

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 17:03

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Police prevented dozens of protesting right-wing activists from ascending to the Temple Mount.

The activists on Thursday night were protesting the security situation in Jerusalem and the shooting last week of Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick. The demonstrators marched from the Begin Center in Jerusalem, the site of the assassination attempt on Glick, to the Temple Mount entrance.

Earlier in the day, rioting broke out in the predominantly Arab eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Shuafat and Abu Tor.

Glick began regaining consciousness on Thursday.


Jonathan Greenblatt Named New Head of Anti-Defamation League

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 13:44

White House official Jonathan Greenblatt has been named the new executive director of the Anti-Defamation League.

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Rabbi Hailu Moshe Paris, Revered Leader of America's Black Jews, Dies at 81

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 13:35

Rabbi Hailu Moshe Paris, a revered leader of the Black Hebrew Israelites, has died at 81. Born in Ethiopia, his dignity won mainstream respect — and built interracial bridges.

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Shmuel Azimov, Chabad leader in Paris, dies

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 07:59

PARIS (JTA) — Rabbi Shmuel Azimov, one of the leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidic movement in France, passed away at the age of 69.

Azimov, who was born in the former Soviet Union, died in France on Wednesday from an illness that required hospitalization.

“Despite his eminence, this was a man who spoke to his juniors, to everyone, as equals,” recalled Rabbi Avraham Weill of Toulouse. “And though he never sought the limelight, he was the driving force behind the educational revolution of the Chabad movement in France,” Weill said. “He wasn’t just a spiritual father to thousands of Jews, but an actual second father to many of them.”

Today, there are more than 450 emissaries in 115 Chabad-Lubavitch centers in 95 cities in France, which the movement’s official website, chabad.org, called “the direct result of his work.”

Azimov studied in the Central Chabad Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York, where he became deeply connected to the Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe. In 1968, Schneerson sent Azimov and his wife, Bassie, to Paris to serve as his emissaries there.

Bassie died in 2011. The Azimovs are survived by his children, Rabbi Mendel Azimov; Mrs. Esther Marasov; and Rabbi LeviAzimov, who are all Chabad emissaries in Paris.

His body was brought to burial in Israel on Wednesday.

Is she Jewish? Rabbinate says yes, Israel says no

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 11:48

Anna Varsanyi is considered Jewish by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate but not by the country’s Interior Ministry. (Courtesy Anna Varsanyi)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — In 2012, Anna Varsanyi was married in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony conducted through Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Two years later, the Hungarian immigrant has made a life in Israel, settling with her husband in the central city of Modiin and working a desk job in a hospital. She is weeks away from having her first child.

But the baby won’t be Jewish, according to the State of Israel.

Varsanyi, 30, is the victim of an unusual bureaucratic mix-up.

Israel abounds with immigrants who are considered Jewish by the state but not by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate under its stricter qualifications. Varsanyi is the rare case in which the opposite is true.

Born to a Jewish mother, Varsanyi meets the Chief Rabbinate’s standards for who is a Jew. But Israel claims Varsanyi isn’t Jewish because her mother converted to Christianity.

Varsanyi says her mother is Jewish and it was her great-grandmother who converted — in 1930.

“It’s like they tell you, ‘Come, make aliyah, you’re Jewish, you’re one of us,’” Varsanyi said, using the Hebrew word for immigration to Israel. “But when you’re already here, they say ‘You’re second-class, you’re not one of us. So you might as well leave.’ ”

Born under Hungary’s Communist regime to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, Varsanyi grew up barely aware of her Jewish heritage. But a growing interest in her Jewish roots led her to study Yiddish literature and culture at university and to register for a 10-day Birthright Israel trip. Next came a year abroad at the University of Haifa, where she met her Israeli future husband. After a stint working for the Jewish Agency for Israel in Budapest, she immigrated in 2011.

Varsanyi gained citizenship under the Law of Return, which requires only one Jewish grandparent for an immigrant for automatic citizenship. Varsanyi’s maternal grandfather was unambiguously Jewish.

But when Israel’s Interior Ministry saw a document concerning her great-grandmother’s conversion, they refused to register her as Jewish, claiming she was raised Christian. To be recognized as Jewish, the ministry told Varsanyi, she needed to convert.

Except Varsanyi can’t convert because she is already Jewish according to Jewish law, which doesn’t recognize conversions to other religions. The chief rabbinates of both Israel and Hungary consider Varsanyi, her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother to be Jewish.

“It’s hard to imagine anybody more committed to the Jewish people than someone like Anna,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, the founder of Itim, an Israeli organization that guides people with religious status issues through Israeli bureaucracy. “They’re simply not looking at the facts. This woman’s basic rights are being violated, and those of her unborn child are being violated.”

At first, the Interior Ministry’s decision had little effect. Varsanyi already had citizenship and was married, the two areas in which issues of personal religious status are most likely to cause problems.

But last year she began petitioning the ministry for a change in status, worried that her future children would not have their marriages recognized by the government.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Varsanyi said. “Why would they force me to convert when I’m Jewish? If I didn’t have principles or problems I’d say let them win. But I wouldn’t be able to face myself.”

The ministry has rebuffed her requests, claiming that her mother converted from Judaism before she was born. Varsanyi says this is not true, that it was her great-grandmother who converted.

The ministry also has refused to rely on the Chief Rabbinate’s recognition of Varsanyi as Jewish, despite a 2012 law allowing it to do so. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabin Haddad told JTA that the ministry has asked the rabbinical court that declared Varsanyi Jewish for an explanation but has yet to receive a response.

After several rejections, Varsanyi has come to feel like the ministry’s employees “don’t give a crap.” She said she once met with a ministry official, who after reading her papers said, “I don’t know what you want because you’re not Jewish.”

“It was traumatic — I almost cried,” she said. “Like, ‘Welcome to Israel: You’re not a Jew.’ ”

French Kosher Grocery Arsonist Gets 4 Years in Prison

Wed, 11/05/2014 - 09:27

The Chief Rabbi of France, Rabbi Haim Korsia, praised the sentencing of a man who torched a kosher supermarket to four years in jail and said it “sent an important message.”

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2 Ancient Russian Synagogues Are Rededicated

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 08:43

Two ancient synagogues that Soviet authorities confiscated in rural Russia were rededicated as Jewish houses of worship.

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German Church Transformed Into Synagogue

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 07:00

A former church in the German city of Cottbus is to become Germany’s newest synagogue, and the first since 1938 in the state of Brandenburg.

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Israel moves to ease path to conversion for those not considered Jewish

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 16:33

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, right, and lawmaker Eliezer Stern at a news conference on the government’s conversion reform, Nov. 2, 2014. (Flash90)

TEL AVIV (JTA) – The Israeli government has adopted a major reform expected to ease the path to conversion for hundreds of thousands of Israelis now prohibited from marrying in the Jewish state.

In the most significant response in decades to the estimated 400,000 Israelis who are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate, the Cabinet expanded authority for conversion beyond a small group of approved haredi Orthodox courts.

Since only Orthodox Jewish marriage is permitted in Israel, such Israelis — the majority of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union — must convert if they wished to be married in Israel.

Under the new law, which was passed Sunday and became effective immediately, the conversion process is expected to get significantly easier.

The measure, which allows any city rabbi in Israel to perform conversions, is expected to pave the way for the elimination of some provisions seen as overly stringent, such as the Chief Rabbinate’s requirement that converts send their children to Orthodox schools.

Currently, only four rabbinic courts appointed by the haredi-dominated Rabbinate are authorized to perform conversions.

“Every rabbi in every city will be able to set up his own tribunal according to Jewish law,” said Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who brought the bill to a Cabinet vote along with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. “It also gives a choice. People will be able to choose the tribunal they want to go to, and warm, friendly tribunals will be used more than others.”

Conversion policy has dogged Israel since the 1990s, when about 1 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union entered the country. The immigrants qualified for citizenship under the Law of Return, which requires immigrants to have just one Jewish grandparent. But hundreds of thousands did not meet the Chief Rabbinate’s stricter standard for Jewishness — either having a Jewish mother or undergoing an Orthodox conversion — and thus could not marry in Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate’s stringencies led many to balk at the process entirely, in many cases choosing instead to marry abroad. Israel recognizes non-Orthodox conversions performed overseas.

The Cabinet vote on Sunday is the latest attempt at a compromise to make the conversion process friendlier.

In 1999, the government established the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, a body intended to teach potential converts about Judaism from a range of non-Orthodox perspectives in preparation for an eventual Orthodox conversion, but the effort foundered.

In 2010, the issue heated up again after Yisrael Beiteinu became the Knesset’s third-largest party. The party, focused on Russian immigrant interests, proposed a measure similar to the one that just passed, but a provision would have given full control over conversions to the Chief Rabbinate. That provoked the ire of non-Orthodox groups and the law was shelved.

“This government resolution doesn’t give more power to the Chief Rabbinate,” said Seth Farber, the founder of Itim, an organization that aids Israelis with personal status issues. “The hope is that this bill will enable a much more understanding and friendly set of rabbinical courts to emerge without the Chief Rabbinate imposing their monolithic view on every conversion.”

The reform chips away at longstanding haredi Orthodox dominance of conversion policy. Both of Israel’s chief rabbis, who are haredi, oppose the new law. Should the chief rabbis attempt to block the conversions, Farber has pledged to petition the Supreme Court.

The passage of the law marks the end of a lengthy legislative process. Though it passed an initial Knesset vote last year, a ministerial committee vote required to move the measure along was postponed continuously until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removed it from the legislative agenda entirely two weeks ago, reportedly to appease haredi parties.

A group of ministers led by Bennett and Livni responded by pushing the law through the committee anyway, and a modified version passed in the Cabinet.

While the reform doesn’t go as far as recognizing non-Orthodox conversions — a step many non-Orthodox and Diaspora groups would liked to have seen — those groups nevertheless heralded its arrival. Rabbi Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Israeli Reform movement, said he supports any reform that eases conversion as long as it doesn’t hurt non-Orthodox streams.

“Now there are no more excuses for [Religious] Zionist rabbis,” he said. “Now is the time for them to deliver.”

Introducing the URJ’s 2020 Vision: A Clear View of Our Future

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 13:06

When Rabbi Rick Jacobs assumed the presidency of the Union for Reform Judaism two years ago, the URJ committed to develop more coherent and aligned services that not only would significantly strengthen Reform congregations and the pressing issues they face, but also would advance the mission and ideals of Reform Judaism.

To understand the needs of congregations of all sizes and from all over the continent, Rabbi Jacobs and I, as well as other members of the URJ’s senior lay and professional leadership visited with congregations, communities, and key leaders throughout North America, engaging in a comprehensive listening tour. Nearly 80% of the Movement’s congregations weighed in — telling the team about life in your communities, about your creative approaches to challenges, and about your concerns for Jewish life in the future. Using all your input as data, we have formulated the URJ’s 2020 Vision: A Clear View of Our Future, a framework that we believe will help us share your successes, learn from one another, and provide new ideas to solve congregational and Movement-wide challenges.

I am pleased to share with you now an interactive presentation about the 2020 Vision at 2020.urj.org. I hope you will take 15 or 20 minutes to explore the presentation, which delves more deeply into the URJ’s bold and ambitious vision for the future of Reform Judaism and the opportunities for your congregation.

The presentation explains the vision in a linear narrative, and will guide you from page to page. If you are pressed for time, or just want an initial overview, you may want to use the navigation buttons at the bottom to go from section to section instead. And, please note that each page has a “contact us” button in the upper right hand corner. We really do want to hear from you, so when you’ve finished, we hope you will take a moment to share your reactions. Finally, if you would like a member of the URJ’s senior leadership team to join your temple board by video to discuss the vision, please contact Shelley Schweitzer.

I am confident that the 2020 Vision puts the URJ on the path to building a vibrant Reform Movement and bright Jewish future. I hope you agree – and I look forward to hearing from you.

Benjamin Netanyahu Meets Jordan King Abdullah Over Temple Mount

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 09:04

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah II reportedly met secretly to discuss tension in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount.

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Abbas sends letter to family of would-be Palestinian assasssin

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 06:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister condemned a condolence letter sent by Mahmoud Abbas to the Palestinian man who shot a Temple Mount activist, who Abbas called a “martyr.”

Muataz Hijazi “will go to heaven as a martyr defending the rights of our people and its holy places,” Abbas wrote in the condolence letter sent Saturday to Hijazi’s family.

Hijazi is alleged to have shot activist Yehuda Glick three times in the chest and abdomen outside of the Begin Center in Jerusalem after Glick addressed a conference on Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. Hijazi and an alleged accomplice both worked at the Begin Center’s restaurant.

Glick remains in serious condition and on a respirator at Shaarey Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he underwent a third surgery on Monday.

“When we are trying to calm the situation, Abu Mazen sends condolences over the death of one who tried to perpetrate a reprehensible murder. The time has come for the international community to condemn him for such actions,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued Saturday night.

Abbas letter shows he is “a partner for terror, a partner to terrorists, a partner of murderers,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a Facebook post.

Abbas’ letter amounts to “open support for terror and encouragement of further murders,” he wrote.

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

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 22:09

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:...

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 22:09

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

Benjamin Netanyahu Calls for Temple Mount Calm

Sat, 11/01/2014 - 16:29

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday urged lawmakers to show restraint over Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, which has been at the heart of rising tension with the Palestinians in recent weeks.

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Kent Nerburn

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 11:01

Kent Nerburn tries to find the spiritual in everything. An award-winning writer and spiritual teacher, he tells the stories of Native Americans so they speak, he says, “from honest emotions.” His job “is to present a truth that you will embrace more fully if your believe it as you read it….Their world and their way of seeing have enriched my world and my way of seeing.”

The post Kent Nerburn appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Yazidi Leaders Seek Help Against ISIS

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 09:00

A delegation of top Yazidi religious and cultural leaders came to the US this week (October 24-31) seeking help for their community in Iraq, which has been devastated by ISIS extremists. ISIS considers the ancient religious minority to be pagan. More than 300,000 Yazidis have been driven from their homes and need humanitarian aid. In addition, the delegation says it has documented nearly 7,000 names of Yazidi girls and young women who have been kidnapped by ISIS and forced into sexual enslavement. The delegation met with a variety of American political and religious leaders. Watch excerpts of interviews about the Yazidi crisis with Matthew Barber, a University of Chicago scholar who recently lived in Iraq, and Murad Ismael, a Yazidi human rights advocate. Managing editor Kim Lawton interviewed them after a meeting organized by the International Association for Human Values, founded by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The post Yazidi Leaders Seek Help Against ISIS appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Temple Mount Activist Yehuda Glick Recovering After Shooting

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 07:18

Health officials said the condition of Rabbi Yehuda Glick, the activist seriously wounded in a suspected terrorist shooting, is improving.

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Muslims Return to Temple Mount for Prayers

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 06:01

Muslim worshippers over the age of 50 returned to pray at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, a day after Israeli authorities shut down all access to the sacred compound following violence in East Jerusalem.

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