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Millions Skimmed From Milan Jewish Community

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 12:55

The Jewish community in Milan is confronting an apparent case of embezzlement in which millions of dollars were removed from the community bank accounts.

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Eric Cantor's Meeting With Jewish Immigration Activists Yields Little

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 20:03

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a descendant of Jewish immigrants to America, told Jewish activists on Thursday he supports fixing the immigration system but will oppose attempts to pass comprehensive reform in the House of Representatives.

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Rabbis Raise Nearly $600,000 in Shave-a-Thon for 'Superman Sam'

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 18:59

This week, 73 North American rabbis will be missing something when they go to Shabbat services: their hair.

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Reform Movement Horrified by Fort Hood Shooting

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 18:27

In response to yesterday’s tragic shooting at Fort Hood in Killeen, TX, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred yesterday at Fort Hood. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. This horror cannot help but remind us of the 2009 shooting at the same base. Though the details about the perpetrator’s motivation and the means through which he obtained his weapon are still developing, yesterday’s events reinforce the need to ensure that common-sense gun violence prevention laws are in place to help prevent these incidents and others in which guns lead to the loss of innocent lives.

The Talmud teaches us, ‘He who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe.’ The loss of so many lives is not just devastating – it is unacceptable. We call on members of Congress, the President and people committed to the well being of all Americans to find shared values on gun violence prevention measures that will help ensure the safety of us all.

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto's New York Synagogue Faces Foreclosure

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 18:25

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto may have lost his home. And he could soon lose his synagogue.

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Diaspora Rabbis Urge Jerusalem Mayor To Withdraw Support From Anti-Arab Cleric

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 18:09

More than 1,000 Diaspora rabbis called on Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to withdraw his support for Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, known for his anti-Arab stances, as chief rabbi of the city.

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Diaspora rabbis urge Jerusalem mayor to quit backing anti-Arab rabbi

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 16:32

JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than 1,000 Diaspora rabbis called on Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to withdraw his support for Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, known for his anti-Arab stances, as chief rabbi of the city.

The rabbis, including the leaders of the major non-Orthodox Jewish movements and the head of the New Israel Fund, sent the letter to Barkat on Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Barkat’s office has denied the mayor is supporting Eliyahu, who is considered one of the most fundamentalist modern Orthodox rabbis in Israel, for the post, Haaretz reported.

The positions of Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem have been vacant for more than 10 years, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Eliyahu, currently the chief rabbi of Safed, has been under fire in recent years for anti-Arab remarks and religious rulings. He has called on Jews not to rent or sell apartments to non-Jews and been quoted as saying, “A Jew should not run away from an Arab. A Jew should chase away Arabs.” Eliyahu is the son of the late Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.

Among those who signed the letter to Barkat were Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Reform movement; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, head of the Conservative movement; liberal Orthodox Rabbi Asher Lopatin; Reconstructionist Rabbi Deborah Waxman; and Rabbi Brian Lurie, president of the New Israel Fund.

The rabbis said in the letter that appointing Eliyahu to the post would “send a message of divisiveness and intolerance.”

Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein opposed Eliyahu’s recent candidacy for the position of chief rabbi of Israel.



Y.U. Rabbinic Student Evan Zauder Gets 13 Years for Sex Abuse

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 13:32

A Yeshiva University rabbinical student who pleaded guilty to child exploitation and possession of child pornography was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison.

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Y.U. rabbinical student sentenced to 13 years in abuse case

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 12:15

(JTA) – A Yeshiva University rabbinical student who pleaded guilty to child exploitation and distributing child pornography was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison.

Evan Zauder, 28, was sentenced on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York, the Y.U. student newspaper, The Commentator, reported Thursday.

Rabbis and a professor from Yeshiva University had written letters to Judge Lewis Kaplan requesting leniency in his sentencing.

Zauder pleaded guilty in January 2013 to one count each of enticing a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity; transporting, receiving and distributing child pornography; and possessing child pornography.

He was arrested in May 2012 after the FBI raided his Manhattan apartment and discovered on his computer hundreds of images and videos of boys engaged in sex acts.

Zauder, who worked as a sixth-grade teacher at the modern Orthodox school Yeshivat Noam in Paramus, N.J., also was charged with having relations in 2011 with a 14-year-old male he met on the Internet. The teen was not a student at Yeshivat Noam.

The letters for leniency from family members and friends at Yeshiva University requested the minimum sentence of 10 years.

Y.U. staff who wrote letters in support of Zauder included Rabbi Ezra Y. Schwartz, a rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary; David Pelcovitz, a psychology and Jewish education professor and an instructor in pastoral counseling; and Rabbi Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life.

Zauder also served as a former youth director at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck and a former part-time youth director with Bnei Akiva youth groups, according to The Commentator.


Rabbis’ mass head-shaving inspired by ‘Superman Sam’ raises nearly $600K

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 11:51

An assembly line of rabbis having their heads shaved at the Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Chicago, April 1, 2014. (Julie Pelc Adler)

NEW YORK (JTA) — This week, 73 North American rabbis will be missing something when they go to Shabbat services: their hair.

As part of a campaign that raised more than $570,000 for pediatric cancer research, approximately 60 male and female rabbis voluntarily shaved their heads on Tuesday night at the the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Chicago. (Several rabbis who were unable to make it to the mass hair-shedding event shaved their heads elsewhere at different times.)

Two newly shorn braids adorn a photo of Samuel Sommer, whose struggle with refractory acute myeloid leukemia inspired the Reform rabbis’ Shave for the Brave campaign. (Julie Pelc Adler)

Many of the shaved were inspired by the death last December of Samuel Sommers, the 8-year-old son of Rabbi Phyllis and Michael Sommers, to refractory acute myeloid leukemia. Phyllis Sommers, an associate rabbi at Am Shalom in suburban Chicago who had documented her son’s struggle on a blog called “Superman Sam,” came up with the idea for the shaving campaign along with a fellow rabbi shortly before Samuel’s death.

While Samuel inspired the shaving campaign — done in partnership with St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a group that funds pediatric cancer research — it inspired a new Jewish ceremony.

Volunteers at Mayyim Hayyim, a nondenominational mikvah in suburban Boston, developed a series of blessings for individuals wishing to immerse in a mikvah, or ritual bath, before shaving their head or cutting their hair for a charitable purpose.

Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr, one of the volunteer coordinators of the rabbinic head-shaving campaign, reached out to Mayyim Hayyim soon after Sam’s death asking if the nonprofit, which has developed numerous ceremonies involving mikvah immersion, had a ceremony for people shaving their heads for cancer research.

“We jumped on it,” Carrie Bornstein, Mayyim Hayyim’s executive director, told JTA. “What’s exciting is it’s a whole new way of thinking about what mikvah can do in our secular lives. There’s a whole religious component, the fact that they are doing this as rabbis, to this very secular occurrence. The idea of marking something in that way and being conscious of the transitions going on in our lives was very exciting.”

The new ceremony, which also can be used by people donating their hair to groups such as Locks of Love, consists of three immersions, each preceded by a blessing.

Rabbi Anna Persin sitting with some of her recently shaved colleagues following the Shave for the Brave, an event to raise money for pediatric cancer research, April 1, 2014. (Julie Pelc Adler)

Originally called “36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave,” the campaign that culminated in the group head-shaving on Tuesday night ultimately recruited twice that many rabbis and raised more than triple its original fundraising goal of $180,000.

According to Rabbi Charles Briskin, one of the newly bald rabbis, the campaign brought in more money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation than any other single head-shaving event this year.

Founded in 2000, St. Baldrick’s coordinates group shave-a-thons in which volunteers shave their heads to show solidarity with cancer patients who have lost their hair to chemotherapy, raise awareness and solicit donations.

Although he did not opt to immerse in a mikvah beforehand, Briskin said in an email interview that “from a participant’s point of view, having my head shaved last night was truly a sacred experience.”

A group hug of newly bald rabbis following the head-shaving fundraiser at the CCAR convention, April 1, 2014. (Julie Pelc Adler)

“Of the sixty or so shavees, some who knew Sammy and the Sommers well, others just met them, yet we all feel we know them well,” he wrote. “Last night, however, we were all part of one extended family, sitting, shaving, crying and laughing in solidarity.”

Afterward, Briskin said, “we just hugged one another, admired our new looks, and of course rubbed one another’s heads.”

Olivia Kessler helps fight malaria in Africa

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 11:22

Olivia Kessler spearheaded a campaign educating thousands of teens about malaria. (Courtesy Olivia Kessler)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Like many teens, Olivia Kessler was unaware of malaria’s devastating global death toll.

Each year, the disease, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, strikes an estimated 219 million people in 109 countries around the world. Approximately 600,000 people die from malaria every year; most are children under the age of 5.

“I’m very passionate about global health issues, but I didn’t know much about malaria,” said Kessler, 18, a senior at the Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. “I knew it was treatable and could be eradicated.”

After hearing of a partnership between the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center and Nothing But Nets, an organization that purchases mosquito nets and distributes them to countries in Africa, Kessler decided to act.

She organized a monthlong social action campaign last October for NFTY, the North American Federation of Temple Youth. Using such tools as Twitter, Facebook and the NFTY website, the campaign educated several thousand NFTY teens across the country about the disease and the Jewish ethics of helping to fight it. In addition, the teens sent more than 300 action alerts to Congress and raised nearly $3,000 for Nothing but Nets.

“I never really realized how lifesaving a net is,” she said. “It changed my whole perspective.”

For her efforts with the campaign, the United Nations recognized Kessler on International Day of the Girl in October.

“Honestly, I didn’t love the recognition, I just loved doing it,” she said. The upside, though, was “more people read about my campaign and it pushed it further.”

Recently elected as the new social action vice president for NFTY, Kessler will attend Dickinson College in the fall. She plans to study political science and Middle East studies.

This spring, however, Kessler will continue her campaign to help eradicate malaria as she embarks on a two-week internship at the Religious Action Center.

“Our action campaign lasted only one month,” she said, “but our commitment to this issue is ongoing.”

Kessler recently shared with JTA her most meaningful Jewish experience, what her future plans might be and which global health leader she hopes to meet.

JTA: Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you have had?

Kessler: Spending the summer of 2012 in Israel with NFTY, hiking through the Negev and celebrating Shabbat with my friends.

 Who or what have been the biggest influences in your life? 

My family. They’ve inspired me to always reach out and do what I can for others and have an open mind.

What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

I really like Hanukkah. It’s a time when my family gets together and there’s great food.

If you could travel anywhere in the world that you’ve never been, where would you go?

Morocco. I’m very interested to see the cultural relations in that region.

 What do you think you want to be doing when you “grow up” or would like to be doing professionally in perhaps five or 10 years?

I want to apply for the Peace Corps and travel to Tanzania to work on this issue [of malaria]. I would like to work in the nonprofit world, possibly with the RAC. I’m fascinated by it.

If you could have lunch or coffee with anyone and tell him or her about the work you’ve been doing for Nothing but Nets, who would it be?

Bill Gates. It would be fascinating to have a conversation with him about global health initiatives and to think outside the box with him.

The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which is dedicated to celebrating and supporting teens repairing the world. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 DillerTeen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org. Please tell us about teens who deserve attention by sending an email to teens@jta.org.

Rabbi Frequent Flyer Binyomin Ginsberg Loses Supreme Court Appeal on Miles

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 10:12

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Minnesota rabbi who claimed he was cut from an airline’s frequent flier program for earning too many miles.

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Supreme Court rules against Minn. rabbi over frequent flier program

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 08:53

(JTA) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Minnesota rabbi who claimed he was cut from an airline’s frequent flier program for earning too many miles.

The court issued its unanimous ruling on Wednesday.

Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg was one of Northwest Airlines’ top fliers when he was cut from its program in 2008. Northwest has since been absorbed by Delta.

Ginsberg, who acquired his frequent flier miles by consulting with educational organizations throughout the country, said the airline was targeting top miles earners. Northwest countered that Ginsberg complained too frequently — 24 times in a seven-month period.

The rabbi reached the highest level of the WorldPerks program in 2005 before being dropped after Northwest and Delta announced their merger.

Ginsberg sued the airline, claiming breach of contract. The airline said its contract allowed it to cancel membership for abuse of the program.

165-Year-Old Ex-Shul on Lower East Side Closed After Column Cracks Found

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 08:11

A former synagogue on the Lower East Side of Manhattan was evacuated after cracks were discovered in the building’s columns.

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Brooklyn's Congregation Beth Elohim Lays Off 12 Amid Fiscal Crisis

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 15:02

Newly discovered accounting errors at Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim forced the synagogue to lay off 12 employees — just as Rabbi Andy Bachman announced he’s leaving.

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A Kosher Winery Grows in Berkeley

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 11:54

Roving jazz musician, Jeff Morgan fell in love with wine while performing in Monte Carlo. Years later, he’s opening Berkeley’s first kosher winery.

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Poland Says Non-Commercial Kosher Slaughter Legal

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 11:31

Polish Jews who perform non-commercial ritual slaughter for the needs of the Jewish community are not violating the law, Poland’s parliament announced in a statement.

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Eric Cantor Agrees To Meet Jewish Delegation on Immigration

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 06:00

Under mounting pressure on immigration, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will meet with Jewish advocates for reform on Thursday.

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"555 Days of Prayer to Save America" Issues New Prayer Plea...

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 04:26

Amid the continuing violence in Nigeria, "One Church // One Voice," and "Save America Gathering," the parent organizations of "555 Days of Prayer to Save America," are...

(PRWeb March 18, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/03/prweb11676812.htm

Avital Leibovich, Ex-IDF Spokeswoman, Named Jerusalem Chief of AJC

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 12:50

Avital Leibovich, the former chief spokeswoman to the international media for the Israeli military, was named director of the American Jewish Committee office in Jerusalem.

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