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Will Spike in French Emigration Decimate Jewish Life?

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 09:34

French Jewish life is robust, and the country has hundreds of Jewish schools. How would the community be affected if large numbers flee to Israel in the face of anti-Semitism?

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Can Going to Synagogue Make You Healthier?

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 07:57

Regular synagogue attendance may make you healthier, a new study indicates.

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Study links synagogue affiliation to better health

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 07:50

(JTA) — Regular synagogue attendance may make you healthier, a new study indicates.

A study of four large American Jewish urban communities by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion found that “adults who affiliate with a Jewish religious denomination and attend synagogue report significantly better health than secular or non-practicing Jews,” Jeff Levin, director of the institute’s Program on Religion and Population Health, said in a statement issued Tuesday by the Texas university.

“People with a strong sense of religious identity and who participate in their faith seem to do better, on average, than people without an active spiritual life,” added Levin, a professor of epidemiology and population health, who conducted the study.

The study, based on data collected throughout the 2000s as part of Jewish community surveys from Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New York, was published in January’s Journal of Religion and Health.

“While there have been hundreds of studies of physical and mental health among Christians and members of other faiths, Jewish studies have been limited mostly to Israelis and to smaller clinical samples in the U.S. or the United Kingdom,” Levin said.

The results were consistent across denominations. Whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform, affiliated Jews reported better health than secular, non-affiliated Jews. Likewise, Jews who attended synagogue, whether regularly or less frequently, reported better health than those who never went.

Levin suggested following up with a national health survey of the Jewish population.

“This would provide an opportunity to dig a lot deeper than what’s possible using data from existing community surveys, which weren’t really designed to assess health,” he said. “It’s fortunate that a question or two on health was included in these surveys, but we can do a lot better.”

A sophisticated national survey also could serve as a needs assessment that would provide valuable information for Jewish organizations seeking to address the health and life needs of American Jews, Levin said.

Established in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion initiates, supports and conducts research on religion.

Today Matters: Make It Count

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:00

By Rabbi Josh Weinberg

“This is the day that the Lord has made – let us exult and rejoice on it.” -Psalms 118:24

During the years I taught Jewish history on our Movement’s NFTY-EIE high school semester abroad program, at the end of each semester I would ask my students this question: “What are the top five most important moments or dates in Jewish history?” With great consistency they would cite similar moments―the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the unification of Jerusalem as our fledgling nation’s capital under King David, the destruction of the Second Temple on the 9tn of Av 70 CE, and, in a jump to modernity, the outbreak of WWII and the establishment of the State of Israel. Those 10th-12th graders were always eager to “pass the test” and prove that they had a solid grasp on the 4,000 years of history we’d covered in a relatively short period.

While their answers and dates were important and of great significance to our people and our collective narrative, mine was a trick question. The answer is simple: today. Today is the most important day in Jewish history because the important dates in our past are exactly that – in our past. We cannot control or change them. Today is about seeing the unfolding trajectory of our people’s past and using it to impact our future. Today is about taking the triumphs and tribulations, all of our collective suffering, and our remarkable contributions to the world, and making them count.

Today we have a tangible opportunity to make it count. Today, the voting is open for the World Zionist Congress, and today we have a chance to join with every Jew in the United States to make our voices heard. Today, by voting, we as Reform Jews will be able to stand up and be counted and tell the world that we are a strong and vibrant movement, and that we care deeply about shaping the State of Israel to become one that exemplifies our values.

By voting today you are exercising your only democratic opportunity to have a say in what happens in Israel, and you are helping to ensure that our movement is strong and continues to grow. The whole Jewish world is involved in elections this season and that means that the whole world is watching. A tremendous amount is at stake, including political influence, essential funding, and a chance to renew the vision and purpose of our Zionist institutions.

The Talmud cites the following passage: This is the generation and those who seek its welfare.” (Psalms 24:6). Rabbi Judah the Patriarch and the sages differed in this matter. One opinion was that the character of the generation is determined by its leader. According to the other opinion, the character of the leader is determined by the generation. –Talmud, Arachin 17a

Our generation has tremendous power to affect change. We are responsible for standing up as a community and as a Movement to vote in the leadership of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the World Zionist Organization, and the Jewish National Fund. These national institutions provide the essential funding for our Movement and influence policies in Israel. They fund the initiatives that are most important to Reform Jews, Jewish identity and education, and our work towards gender and religious equality. We desperately need to reinvent and re-imagine what Zionism means in today’s reality. This election is our chance to say that it’s possible to both love Israel and be critical of it; to both live in the U.S. and take an active role in shaping and molding the character of the Jewish State. While we are always concerned for the well-being of Israel’s body, this is a vote for her soul.

What we do, or don’t do, from today on will define the character of the Jewish State and will show the world what it means to stand together as a Movement. That is why each individual vote is so important, and each person we reach out to share this important message will help us impact the future.

Today matters: make us count. Vote – www.reformjews4israel.org

Rabbi Josh Weinberg is president of ARZA.

Israel Bans 3 Islamist Groups From Temple Mount

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 16:54

Israel shut down three local Islamist groups on Monday, accusing them of stoking tensions at a contested shrine in occupied East Jerusalem that has seen increased visits by Jews.

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Victims of supermarket attack remembered at Paris synagogue

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 17:09

PARIS (JTA) — Hundreds gathered with the leaders of France and Israel to remember the victims of an attack at a kosher supermarket near Paris.

French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined several hundred members of the Jewish community at the memorial Sunday night at the Grand Synagogue of Paris, also known as the Synagogue de la Victoire. Hollande did not deliver remarks at the synagogue.

The sister of attack victim Yoav Hattab, one of four Jews killed in an attack Friday at the Hyper Cacher market, urged those gathered at the memorial to light four extra candles each Shabbat “so they may remain etched in our hearts.” The sister, who asked not to be named, also played a recording of Hattab singing the Modeh Ani prayer.

Netanyahu called on Europe and the rest of the world to support Israel’s fight against terror as supporters chanted his “Bibi” and “Israel will live, Israel will overcome.”

“Like the civilized world stands united with France, so it needs to stand with Israel in its fight against the same enemy exactly: radical Islam,” Netanyahu said.

“It’s a short distance between the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, to the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, to the attacks on Jews in Israel, to the murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher,” he added.

The gathering Sunday evening was organized by the Consistoire, the body responsible for religious services for the French Jewish community. It was held immediately after a march in which hundreds of thousands walked through the heart of Paris in support of democratic values.

The march was originally scheduled as an act of public protest following the slaying of 12 people on Jan. 7 by Islamist terrorists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly which published many items lampooning Islam.

But organizers later expanded it to commemorate the victims of attacks at the supermarket and a police officer slain in Paris on Thursday.

Netanyahu commended the “remarkable bravery of French law enforcement” during the terrorist attacks and praised the actions of a Muslim employee of the kosher supermarket who helped several Jews escape into the refrigeration room without the shooter’s knowledge. He also reiterated his call to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

“We need to acknowledge that we are facing a global network of radical Islam of hate. I believe this threat will grow when Europe sees the return of thousands of terrorists from the killing fields of the Middle East, the danger will be graver and it will become a grave threat to humanity if radical Islam gets nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “So we need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. We need to support each other in this fateful struggle against radical Islamic fanatics wherever they are.”

Cherif and Said Kouachi, brothers in their 30s, perpetrated the attack at Charlie Hebdo. They were killed Friday when police overtook the printing shop where they were holed up north of Paris. That same day, Amedy Coulibaly, an associate with whom the brothers had been recruited as jihadists to fight in Syria, took more than 20 people hostage at Hyper Cacher and killed four. Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the shop.

According to some reports, Coulibaly had maps of Jewish schools in his car on Jan. 8, a day before the attack on Hyper Cacher, when he killed a police officer south of the city center.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said the march Sunday shows the French Jewish community “is not as isolated as we thought. For months we have been asking where is France? Today we saw France, and the France we saw was a spitting image of biblical descriptions of Jerusalem, where brothers unite.”

The synagogue rally also featured the singing of Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, followed by the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

From the Archive: A fatal synagogue bombing in Paris

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 17:08

Rue Copernic Synagogue was the site of a 1980 bombing that killed four and injured 40. (Google Street View)

Paris — and the world — is still reeling from Friday’s attack on a kosher supermarket, which came just days after the same fundamentalist Muslim terrorists murdered 12 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satiric magazine.

The fatal hostage crisis at Hypercacher was hardly the first deadly attack at a Jewish venue in the French capital. On Oct. 3, 1980 — which was both Shabbat and Simchat Torah — a bomb blast outside the Rue Copernic Synagogue, a Reform congregation, killed four people and injured more than 40. JTA described the scene:

The synagogue’s front gate was blown off, the ceilings coved in and the windows were shattered. Only a handful of people inside were injured. Most suffered slight wounds from glass shards and wood splinters.

The synagogue’s rabbi, Dr. Michael William on Englishman, asked them to remain calm and to remain indoors. Later he said that he feared a possible ambush outside the synagogue and wanted to send someone out to reconnoiter the area. On the street, eyewitnesses said they first saw a 20-meter high flame leap into the air. Immediately afterwards they heard the blast and saw cars lifted into the air by the force of the blast, windows shatter and flames spreading all over the street.

Most of those killed or injured, among them a visiting Israeli film editor, were not inside the synagogue but ” either passing by the synagogue or milling outside.”

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, authorities were not certain if the perpetrators were neo-Nazi or pro-Palestinian terrorists, but the years-long investigation, which some feared would be delayed by the sizable presence of neo-Nazis within the police force, ultimately pointed to the Arab world.

A memorial plaque at Rue Copernic Synagogue for the four people killed there on Oct. 3, 1980. (Wikimedia Commons)

Amazingly, more than three decades later, the case is still not resolved. Less than two months ago — a full 34 years after the bombing — France extradited Hassan Diab from Canada, where he had been working as a sociology professor. Diab, a dual Lebanese and Canadian citizen has been charged with participating in the bombing as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but it is not clear when his trial will take place and whether he will continue, as he did during a six-year legal battle to stop his extradition, to say he is innocent.

Whether or not Diab is culpable, the 1980 bombing — believed to be the first attack on a synagogue since World War II — provoked much discussion and finger-pointing at the time.

Independent presidential John Anderson “blamed the series of attacks … on ‘indifference’ to bigotry and hatred,” JTA reported, while American Jewish organizations “charged the attacks were a result of ‘appeasement’ by France of the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization.”

In addition to similar statements from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and other nondenominational Jewish groups, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now known as the Union for Reform Judaism), sent a cable to rabbi of the Paris synagogue, criticizing “official laxity and inattention to the violent nature of the anti-Semitic movement in France.” Like other American Jewish leaders, Schindler singled out the French government’s:

… willingness to accept the PLO as a legitimate party in the Middle East political scene, going so far as to urge that this band of assassins be “associated’ in future peace negotiations, must surely have emboldened the French counterparts of the PLO to engage in the same loathsome practices.”

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Jews marched in Paris for three consecutive days, joined by equal numbers of non-Jews:

Tens of thousands of non-Jews, trade unionists, students and politicians representing the entire spectrum of France’s political and social life, joined the Jewish demonstrators. The outpouring of solidarity and the universal rage over the attack prompted many observers to note that the French Jewish community has never been as strong as it is now and the anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups as small and as isolated.

In addition to peaceful demonstrations, French Jewish groups reacted by organizing security efforts to supplement the government’s stepped-up policing, while others ominously spoke of plans to “seek revenge.”

The interior of Rue Copernic Synagogue. (Wikimedia Commons)

Four months later such acts of revenge included two powerful rockets fired at the South Yemen Embassy in Paris by a group claiming to represent “The victims of the Rue Copernic Synagogue blast” and numerous vigilante incidents, including an attack on an 84-year-old man who shared the name of a known Nazi collaborator, also were reported.

Before those revenge incidents, in the days immediately following the synagogue bombing, Jewish anger was “so intense that”:

Jewish demonstrators yesterday tried to storm the Presidential residence, the Elysee Palace, and the Ministry of Interior, and came close to clashing with French riot police: Tourists or passersby who seemed to conform to the image of neo-Nazis — those with short-cropped hair and wearing conservative dark suits — were harassed or beaten up. Some were seen fleeing, with blood over their faces …

The demonstrators and almost the entire French Jewish leadership blamed the government, Giscard d’Estaing, Barre and Bonnet for Friday night’s tragedy.

Meanwhile, at the scene of the bombing, the area still looked “as if it had been the target of an air aid attack,” JTA noted.

Burned out cars litter the streets; buildings in a 100 meter area are wrecked, their windows shattered and their walls blackened by smoke. Local residents say that a day after the bombing they could still smell the stench of smoke and burned bodies.

French Jewish Sites Promised Extra Protection

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 15:09

Jewish schools and synagogues in France have been promised extra protection — by the army if necessary — after killings by Islamic militants in Paris.

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Hollande to Jews: Schools and synagogues will be protected

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 07:26

(JTA) — French President Francois Hollande promised French Jewish leaders that Jewish schools and synagogues will be protected.

“He told us that all the schools, all the synagogues will be protected, if necessary, on top of the police, by the army,” Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, or CRIF, said Sunday morning after a meeting with Hollande at the Elysee Palace.

“We’re wounded, we’re angry. We think substantial, urgent and serious measures need to be taken,” Cukierman told reporters before the meeting.

Hollande also said he would visit the Grand Synagogue of Paris after a solidarity march on Sunday to mark the terror attacks in France last week. He will be joined at the synagogue by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a national address Friday evening, Hollande called an attack on Friday at a kosher supermarket near Paris a “dreadful anti-Semitic attack.” The U.S. State Department also labeled the attack anti-Semitic.

“We condemn in the strongest terms ‎yesterday’s cowardly anti-Semitic assault against the innocent people in the kosher supermarket,” Chanan Weissman, a spokesman for the State Department, told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

Amedy Coulibaly, a 32-year-old Islamist who was part of the cell of brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo attack on Jan. 7, told a Paris television station during the hostage crisis that he attacked the supermarket because he wanted to target Jews.

Chabad of Melbourne CBD to light Menorah at Parliament House of...

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 02:23

Special Guests to include Victorian Premiere The Hon. Daniel Andrews, Graham Smorgon AM and Rabbi Joseph Gutnick

(PRWeb December 10, 2014)

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Paris Grand Synagogue Shuts on Shabbat for First Time Since World War II

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 22:32

The Grand Synagogue of Paris was closed during Friday’s terror attacks and did not reopen for Shabbat services, marking the first time the synagogue has not held services since World War II.

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For first time since WWI, Paris’ Grand Synagogue closed on Shabbat

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 20:23

Paris’ Grand Synagogue on Rue de la Victoire (paris-en-photos.fr)

(JTA) — The Grand Synagogue of Paris was closed during Friday’s terror attacks and did not reopen for Shabbat services, marking the first time the synagogue has not held services since World War II.

The synagogue, situated on Rue de la Victoire in the 9th arrondissement, was closed by French police during the hostage standoff at the Hyper Cache kosher supermarket, according to USA Today, despite being far from the site of the siege, which took place in eastern Paris.

The police also closed the Rue des Rosiers shopping street in the historically Jewish neighborhood of the Marais.

The Orthodox Union told the Jerusalem Post that the synagogue had not been closed for Shabbat since World War II.

Paris’ Grand Synagogue was built in 1874 by the city’s chief architect,  Alfred-Philibert Aldrophe.

“Come to Selma”

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 19:11

As the movie opens today (January 9) in theaters around the country amidst controversy over its portrayal of former president Lyndon Johnson, we speak with director Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo, the actor who portrays Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., about what it means to them to tell the story of the historic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, This weekend the film is also up for four Golden Globe awards (best picture, best director, best actor, and best original song.)

The post “Come to Selma” appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

David Cohen, Expert on Financial Intelligence, Named Deputy Head of CIA

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 14:18

President Barack Obama has chosen David Cohen, a top Treasury official specializing in terrorism and financial intelligence, to be the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the White House said on Friday.

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Rowdy Israelis Force Closing of Amsterdam Synagogue

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 07:57

The Jewish Community of Amsterdam temporarily shuttered one of its synagogues, citing misconduct, including security breaches, by followers of an Israeli rabbi.

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Amsterdam shul shuttered after rowdy conduct by Israeli worshippers

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 07:50

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — The Jewish Community of Amsterdam temporarily shuttered one of its synagogues, citing misconduct, including security breaches, by followers of an Israeli rabbi.

The Jewish Community of Amsterdam, or NIHS, on Wednesday said on its Facebook page that the closure of the synagogue on Lek Street in the south of the Dutch capital was effective Friday and that the synagogue may reopen on Jan. 23.

“Following a number of security incidents concerning the Lek Street synagogue in recent months, the board of the NIHS has decided to close the shul temporarily for security reasons,” the statement said.

A report in the Het Parool daily blamed the closure on Israeli followers of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the founder of the Shuvu Bonim movement.

The Israelis are not members of the synagogue but received permission to pray there from its board, the newspaper said.

Berland, who fled his native Israel in 2013 amid complaints that he sexually assaulted female followers, is in the Netherlands pending a request by the Israel Police for his extradition.

In the statement, NIHS cited, among other incidents, verbal abuse of volunteers providing security at the synagogue. Additionally, the entrance codes to the synagogue’s electronic lock needed to be changed several times because they “had been given to people who are not members of the community,” the statement read.

The Netherlands is among several Western European countries that saw an increase in anti-Semitic attacks following Israel’s war on Hamas in summer.

Roi Banet, a spokesperson for the community of the Lek Street, last month told Het Parool that allowing the Shuvu Bonim followers to pray at the synagogue was “naïve.” He said the followers did not abide by agreements on conduct and time sharing.

Top PR Firm Red Banyan Group Names Jarad Geldner Principal and...

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 20:58

Leading national public relations firm Red Banyan Group announced today that it has appointed Jarad Geldner Principal and Director of the agency’s Washington, D.C. office. Geldner brings more than a...

(PRWeb December 09, 2014)

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Yeshiva student stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 15:44

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A yeshiva student was stabbed in the back in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The 21-year-old man was stabbed with a screwdriver on Thursday evening near the Damascus Gate, which leads to the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and the popular Arab market. He was taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital.

He was heading to the Western Wall for evening prayers, Israel National News reported.

Israel Police said they are searching for the stabber. Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the police “are looking into this as a terrorist attack.”

Paris Jewish institutions at maximum alert following Charlie Hebdo attack

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 08:33

People circle around the Place de la Republique at midday on Jan. 8 in solidarity with victims of Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Jewish institutions in the Paris region have upped their level of security to the maximum following the deadly attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices.

More uniformed and non-uniformed police officers will be stationed outside Jewish institutions and in areas with large Jewish populations, according to Chlomik Zenouda of the National Bureau for Vigilance against anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, in response to Wednesday’s slaying of 12 people at the satirical weekly.

Also, Jewish volunteers have been asked to provide security inside the perimeters of synagogues and Jewish schools, Zenouda told JTA on Thursday.

“We are past red alert at this stage, it’s all hands on deck because, sadly, the question is not whether the French Jewish community will be targeted but when,” he said. “There are indications that this may happen in the near future.”

The attack on Charlie Hebdo, which published many satirical cartoons about Islam, was believed to have been carried out by jihadists. In 2012, an Islamist who trained in Pakistan killed four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Another French Muslim is standing trial in Brussels for the slaying of four last year at the Jewish Museum of Belgium.

Those attacks prompted a major increase in security of Jewish communities across Western Europe, where Israel’s summer conflict with Hamas in Gaza triggered an uptick in anti-Semitic violence.

Zenouda said BNVCA is looking into Thursday’s attack in Montrouge, south of Paris, in which an unidentified man killed a police officer with what witnesses said was an automatic rifle.

“One of the options being investigated is that the assailant was on his way to a nearby Jewish school when police intercepted him,” Zenouda said.

Reform Action Center's Jonah Pesner Faces Tough Task in Polarized Capital

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 06:56

The Religious Action Center has not had an easy time of it in an increasingly polarized Washington. But Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the center’s incoming leader, may have an even tougher row to hoe.

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