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The December Project

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 12:02

Sara Davidson is a best-selling writer and journalist who confesses she felt completely unprepared to face the reality of her own mortality. In 2009, she met Jewish Renewal founder Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. They spent every Friday together for two years discussing what the spiritual teacher believed helps one prepare for death. The rabbi died this summer on July 3 at the age of 89. Their conversations culminated in Davidson’s book The December Project, named for what Reb Zalman referred to as the December of life. “When you feel you’re coming to the end of your tour of duty, what is the spiritual work of that time,” he asked, “and how do we prepare for the mystery?”

The post The December Project appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Orthodox educator Rabbi Elimelech Meisels sued for sexual assault

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 11:10

NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, who runs four religious seminaries in Israel for young Orthodox women, is being sued for sexual assault and fraud.

The civil suit was filed Monday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of four parents with daughters signed up for Meisels’ haredi Orthodox seminaries for the 2014-2015 school year. The parents are seeking to recover their tuition deposits.

The suit alleges that Meisels would lure girls under his charge “into late night coffee meetings and other private settings and then sexually assault them.” It says he threatened to ruin girls’ marriage prospects if they told and would “intimidate his victims by telling them that no one would believe that a rabbi and author with his reputation would have done such a thing.”

Meisels denies the allegations.

“The allegations are completely false,” Meisels told JTA in an email. “My attorney has advised me to pursue legal action against all those who are wronging myself and the seminaries.”

The seminaries named in the suit are Peninim, Binas Bais Yaakov, Chedvas Bais Yaakov and Keser Chaya.

The complaint said that seminary attendance has had negative impacts on the marriage prospects of the Orthodox women who have gone there. The parents involved in the lawsuit allege that Meisels is committing fraud by misrepresenting the seminaries as institutions that help Orthodox girls become upstanding Jewish women. Aside from Meisels, other administrators at the seminaries are named in the suit.

The matter was initially brought to the attention of the Chicago Beit Din, a Jewish religious court, which concluded that “students in these seminaries are at risk of harm and it does not recommend that prospective students attend these seminaries at this time,” according to the lawsuit. Following the Beit Din determination, two institutions that offered college credits to students attending Meisels’ seminaries suspended their affiliation with them.

Though Meisels claimed to have sold his seminaries following the Beit Din ruling, the Beit Din did not accept the sales as legitimate, according to the complaint.

Though the schools are based in Israel, Meisels and the other defendants named in the suit are U.S. citizens, and the non-profit organization that processes funds for the seminaries — Peninim of America — is a nonprofit charity in the United States, according to the complaint.

Luring Young Boston Jews With 'Beer Mitzvahs' and Shabbat in Bars

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 07:46

Welcome to Riverway Cafe, a program of Temple Israel of Boston to reach out to millennial Jews. The program is an outgrowth of the Riverway Project, which brings Jewish events to unconventional settings, like Shabbat services in bars.

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Athens Chief Rabbi Dies at 76

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 09:42

Rabbi Yaacov Arar, who served as Chief Rabbi of Athens for over four decades, has died.

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After 5 Attacks, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs Ponders Future

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:09

After the latest attack on his home, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs sat down on his couch, picked up the phone and made three calls.

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Prague Jews Elect David Peter as Chief Rabbi

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 17:50

The Jewish community of Prague elected Rabbi David Peter, a native of the Czech capital, as its new chief rabbi.

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'Magic in the Moonlight' Isn't That Bad and Neither Is Woody Allen

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 16:34

Reviewing Woody Allen’s ‘Magic in the Moonlight,’ Ezra Glinter said the director should have quit while he was ahead. Jay Michaelson finds the argument morally and aesthetically wrong.

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Rabbi Attacked by Thugs at Australia Mall

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 07:53

A visiting rabbi from Jerusalem was threatened and verbally abused by a gang of youths in a shopping mall in Western Australia.

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Palestinians riot at Temple Mount for second morning

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 06:34

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Masked Palestinians attacked police at the Temple Mount with stones and firebombs for the second morning in a row.

Israeli security forces arrived at the scene of the incident at the Mughrabi Gate on Tuesday morning and pushed the protesters back into the Al-Aksa Mosque at the site. Twelve protesters were arrested and several police officers were injured.

The incident occurred on the morning of the fast day of Tisha B’Av, as thousands of Jewish worshippers gathered below the Temple Mount at the Western Wall for special prayers for the day of mourning, which marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount was open to visitors after the incident. Extra security measures were put in place in the old city for the fast day, according to police.

 

Visiting Jerusalem rabbi attacked at mall in Australia

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 06:10

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A visiting rabbi from Jerusalem was threatened and verbally abused by a gang of youths in a shopping mall in Western Australia.

Rabbi Avraham Shalom Halberstam, known as the Stropkover Rebbe, is visiting Australia on a lecture tour. On Monday he and his assistant were set upon by up to six pro-Palestinian youths at a major mall near a Jewish suburb, according to an eye-witness.

Danny Mayer, a modern Orthodox Jew who went to pick up the two ultra-Orthodox Jews, told JTA Tuesday: “I’m a bit shaken from yesterday. I’m the one who pretty much rescued the rebbe.”

He added: “They were surrounding him so I raced over to get him into the car and they surrounded the car screaming, ‘You are killing babies in Gaza.’”

Mayer said the teenage gang got “very agitated” and started banging on the car and spitting on it.

“I’ve been in Israel for seven years,” added Mayer, “and it wasn’t too far from being in an Arab village and trapped in a car. We absolutely felt threatened.”

“The Rebbe is shaken but OK,” he said.

When Mayer started taking photos on his phone the youths ran away, he said. “The wider community needs to know that Jews around the world are being affected because they are Jews,” Mayer said.

The incident has been reported to police and closed-circuit TV footage is being checked.

The incident comes less than two weeks after the walls of Perth’s only Jewish school were painted with graffiti that read “Zionist scum.” It also comes in the wake of police confirming a Perth-based Islamic preacher who described Jews as “filthy rapists” won’t be prosecuted under the state’s race hate laws.

Ian Britza, a state lawmaker in Western Australia, told JTA: “I was absolutely horrified. I condemn it in the highest possible terms.” The state government should publicly condemn it and even offer the rebbe a public apology, he said, adding “I’m not ashamed to be a friend of Israel.”

Halberstam, who runs several yeshivas in Israel, leads the Hasidic sect that originates from Stropkov, a town in Slovakia.

All God’s Griffins Got Wings at Cleveland Synagogue

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 06:00

Winged lions and Orthodox temples don’t usually go together. In the midst of a renovation, Cleveland’s historic Green Road Synagogue ponders removing the griffins for aesthetic reasons.

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Flamboyant First as Jewish Boat Floats in Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Fest

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 17:04

A Jewish boat debuted at the world famous Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade. Revelers included a rabbi and celebs — and vowed to battle hatred of all stripes.

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Rabbi Detained for Singing Songs at Auschwitz

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 15:37

An Israeli rabbi is demanding an apology from the administration of the Auschwitz memorial after he was detained while leading a group of Jewish teenagers.

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No Tisha B'Av Fast for Israeli Soldiers in Gaza

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 13:55

Israeli soldiers talking part in the Gaza operation are exempted from fasting on Tisha b’Av, the chief rabbis of Israel ruled.

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Israeli soldiers in Gaza exempt from Tisha b’Av fast, chief rabbis rule

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 12:31

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli soldiers talking part in the Gaza operation are exempted from fasting on Tisha b’Av, the chief rabbis of Israel ruled.

Rabbis David Lau (Ashkenazi) and Yitzhak Yosef (Sephardi) presented their ruling on Jewish law, or halachah, on Monday — the fast was to begin at sundown.

“As IDF soldiers are standing on the frontline and fighting and sacrificing their lives for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, we hereby declare that according to Jewish law, soldiers on the frontline are exempt from fasting on Tisha B’Av, and all the mourning laws do not apply to them,” the ruling stated.

Tisha b’Av, which ends on Tuesday after sundown, commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

Lau also ruled that during the nine days preceding the fast, when Jews refrain from listening to music, religious artists could perform for the soldiers to provide encouragement, Ynet reported.

A Punk Rocker, Tisha B'Av and Our Love of History

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 12:30

A punk rock musician taught Avi Shafran an unexpected lesson about Tisha B’Av. The rocker was bemused to hear that Jews still mourn the destruction of the temples.

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300 Rabbis Plead for Action To Free Alan Gross

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 11:47

Three hundred U.S. rabbis urged President Barack Obama to “take action” to secure the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Cuba for attempting to establish Internet communications for Cuban Jews.

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300 Rabbis Plead for Action To Free Alan Gross

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 11:44

Three hundred U.S. rabbis urged President Barack Obama to “take action” to secure the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Cuba for attempting to establish Internet communications for Cuban Jews.

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Israeli rabbi demanding apology after group prevented from singing at Auschwitz

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 11:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli rabbi is demanding an apology from the administration of the Auschwitz memorial after he was detained while leading a group of Jewish teenagers.

Rabbi Rafi Ostroff said he was threatened with arrest if his group of Australian and South African boys did not stop singing Jewish songs while visiting the site.

Ostroff, the head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, was detained Friday and ordered to submit to 24 hours in jail or pay a $350 fine. He said he paid the fine since it was two hours before Shabbat.

The rabbi was leading a delegation from the Bnei Akiva youth group on a pilgrimage to the concentration camp.

Ostroff wrote on Facebook that “the guards of the camp hounded us all the time, shouting at us not to sing” as they prayed during the visit.

Ostroff said that in a “secluded part” of the Birkenau camp, the “boys spontaneously started singing ‘Ani Maamin.’ This was the song that prisoners sang on the way to be murdered there. A guard drove after us with his car and demanded that they be silent. I told him that I don’t have control over this as they are singing from their hearts. He then threatened to arrest me and called the police.”

The rabbi called on the memorial site guards to “be considerate and compassionate to Jewish groups. We are not visiting there out of curiosity. It is a journey to the depths of our souls.”

The memorial’s management told NRG, the website of the Maariv daily newspaper, that the behavior of the group was “disruptive” and “unacceptable.”

“The noise bothered instructors and other visitors who were there at the time. They also interfered with other visitors in sensitive places such as the crematorium building,” the camp administration said in a statement, according to NRG.

The management stressed that the incident was not related to the “Israeli origin” of the rabbi.

“There are different ways to remember,” its statement said, “but do not let that disturb others during their visit there.”

Malmo Rabbi Attacked as Anti-Semitism Surges

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 09:19

A rabbi from the Swedish city of Malmo was attacked by men who hurled objects at him from a car and used anti-Semitic pejoratives.

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