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A-Wa's Unlikely Journey From Rural Israel to Global Fame

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 11:00
The A-Wa sisters grew up on an Israeli farm. Now, their hip hop beats set to Arabic folk music have them singing from clubs in Tel Aviv to European music festivals.

What 'Wet Hot American Summer' and Jon Stewart Have in Common

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 15:19
As ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ gets its prequel, Jon Stewart prepares to make his exit. But the two have more in common than just timing. Andrew Dubrov takes us down the rabbit hole.

NYC Takes Bagel Worship to New Heights

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 13:30
Now New Yorkers can worship their beloved bagels without the calories. A Swedish-born artist just unveiled nine bagel sculptures as part of a public-art project in Manhattan.

Boston College Buying 24-Acre Conservative Synagogue

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 12:11
Congregation Mishkan Tefila, whose 24-acre property in suburban Boston is one of the largest synagogue sites in Massachusetts, is selling its land and building to Boston College.

Frenchman Beaten After Waving Israeli Flag on Temple Mount Could Be Charged

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 11:57
A French Christian tourist was assaulted by Palestinian worshipers after waving an Israeli flag on the Temple Mount.

Once Untouchable, Rabbi Pinto Faces Prison as Empire Teeters

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 05:00
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto was once a high-flying spiritual advisor to the rich and famous who effortlessly wielded enormous power. Josh Nathan-Kazis reports he faces a year in prison as his once-mighty empire teeters.

For First Time in a Century, Outsider Tapped to Lead Looksteins' NY Synagogue

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 04:55
For the first time in about a century, a rabbi from outside the Lookstein family will lead New York’s storied Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun.

6 Ways to Make Everyone Feel Comfortable at Worship Services

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 09:00

How can congregations make their worship experience welcoming to prospective members and visitors? Attendees addressed that question in a recent workshop at the URJ’s Had’rachah Seminar, where lay leaders of small congregations gathered to learn to lead worship services and certain lifecycle events in order to strengthen their congregations.

Though Had’rachah participants came from congregations with either one clergy member on their staff or no clergy at all, the suggestions that stemmed from their discussion can benefit congregations of every size in making their worship services more welcoming. Here are six ways your congregation can make sure all attendees feel comfortable and included during worship services:

  1. At services, strategically seat long-time members next to guests. Jim Nallick of Congregation Beth Shalom in Bozeman, MT, suggests seating engaged members near guests during services. This way, those in the know can signal to newcomers the correct page numbers and assist them throughout the service as needed. This practice can be especially helpful during b’nai mitzvah services, when many of the people attending services are visitors to the congregation.
  1. Know who’s in the room and lead your service accordingly. Rabbi Michael Weinberg of Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, IL says that, as a service leader, he is mindful of who is in the room so that he can provide appropriate instructions for them. He explains that if only “regulars” are in attendance at a Shabbat service, he can provide only loose instructions; if, on the other hand, he’s leading a High Holiday service with attendees who aren’t typically engaged, he tries to help from the bimah by providing more detailed instructions about the order of services.
  2. Repeat page numbers at least twice. Scrambling to catch up with the service can leave any synagogue attendee feeling left out. For this reason, Rabbi Weinberg suggests that service leaders introduce a new page number twice. Upon the first announcement, most people register that they need to turn the page, but they don’t actually catch the new page number until hearing the second announcement.
  1. Lead a teaching service for your congregation. Several Had’rachah attendees note that their congregation has benefited from holding a “teaching service” designed to help congregants learn the prayers and flow of the service. This empowers members to follow services more easily because they better understand its various elements and know what is happening throughout.
  1. Introduce new melodies only at specific times. For some congregants, melodies can be the anchor to knowing a prayer. It is important, then, not to introduce multiple melodies at once, and to help members grow comfortable when introducing a new prayer. In order to allow your congregation to participate comfortably, Rabbi Weinberg recommends introducing new melodies only during special occasions (holidays, themed services, etc.)Paula Globerman of Temple Beth Ora in Edmonton, Alberta, suggests humming the new tune as attendees enter the sanctuary, which will both help congregants learn the melody and create a mental association between the new melody and the specific type of service. As the congregation grows more familiar with the melody, the humming will help them to understand, immediately upon entering services, what special occasion is happening and which types of melodies will be used during the service.
  1. Introduce new melodies with humming and repetition. In keeping with Globerman’s suggestion, Rabbi Weinberg suggests humming the new melody a few times before using it in the actual prayer. In his congregation, he sometimes hums the new melody after the silent prayer for several consecutive services, to help attendees start to learn it. Then, when the congregation has grown familiar with the new melody, it becomes easier to introduce it as part of a prayer.Leslie Schwartz from Temple Emanu-El, a 95 member-unit congregation in Rochester, NY also suggests repetition, as well as signaling. Raising your hands when the melody is higher and lowering them when it gets lower will help people follow along when they hear it for the first time.

Audacious hospitality is a key component of the URJ’s work and 2020 vision. The URJ supports initiatives that embrace inclusive Judaism through welcoming guests (hachnasat orchim), having an open tent (ohel patuach), lovingkindness (chesed), and respect (kavod). Your congregation can learn more about ways of practicing audacious hospitality by registering to the 2015 URJ Biennial and signing up for the audacious hospitality track.

The Secret Jewish History of James Taylor

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 05:00
James Taylor, whose most recent album topped the Billboard charts, has had a number of Jewish musical pals who have contributed to his music — starting with Carole King.

This Family Loves Basketball, Shabbat and Stephen Colbert

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 05:00
Rabbi Ron Fish and his family recently made the move to Sharon, a suburb of Boston. They love basketball, celebrating Shabbat — and Stephen Colbert.

The Aga Khan; The Singing Monks of Norcia

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 16:18

The spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims speaks about poverty, peace, philanthropy, and religious understanding; a chart-topping album conveys the music that is central to Benedictine monastic life.

The post The Aga Khan; The Singing Monks of Norcia appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Rabbi Barry Freundel Sentence Upheld by Judge in Mikveh Peeping

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 14:42
A judge upheld the six-and-a-half-year prison sentence of Rabbi Barry Freundel, the Washington rabbi who secretly videotaped dozens of women undressing in the mikvah.

The Aga Khan

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 13:52

Around the world there are approximately 15 million Ismaili Muslims, who belong to the Shia branch of Islam. Their spiritual leader is the Aga Khan, who traces his ancestors directly back to the Prophet Muhammad. A wealthy philanthropist, he has made it his mission, based on his faith, to fight poverty, encourage peace, and promote religious understanding. We spoke with him in Toronto, where the Aga Khan Museum, the first art museum in North America devoted to Islamic art and culture, recently opened to the public.

The post The Aga Khan appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Police Make Arrest in Attack Outside North London Synagogue

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 08:03
Police in London arrested a man suspected of accosting an Orthodox Jew outside his synagogue in what witnesses said was an anti-Semitic hate crime.

I'm Here To Perform Yiddish Music — Not Cater to Your Idea of Blackness

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 05:00
Anthony Russell loves performing classical Yiddish music. Performing his Jewish audiences’ conventional idea of blackness? Not so much.

Honoring Congregations that are Leading the Way on Disabilities Inclusion

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 18:48

The Reform Movement is exceptionally proud of Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, senior advisor on disabilities issues at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who was recently presented with the Thornburgh Family Award in recognition of her years of service on behalf of people with disabilities. As the inaugural recipient of this award, Rabbi Landsberg was honored on July 26, 2015, the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a letter read at the interfaith service at which she was honored, President Barack Obama wrote to Rabbi Landsberg,

“…you have shaped a more inclusive future for generations to come. Your leadership reflects essential beliefs at the core of our Nation’s creed: that all things are possible for all people, and that we all do better when we lift each other up. While our work to uphold fairness and equality is unending, our country is stronger and truer to itself because of the progress leaders like you have inspired.’

Indeed, “shaping a more inclusive future for generations to come” is a value central to the Reform Movement’s work as we create congregational communities that are open and welcoming to all. In honor of this momentous anniversary guaranteeing the legal rights of people with disabilities – and in honor of Rabbi Landsberg’s leadership and contribution – we want to recognize and share the exemplary efforts of our congregations who have made significant effort to become places where people of all abilities can fully participate and belong.

Accordingly, we will be highlighting the achievements of Reform congregations in the area of disabilities inclusion at the URJ Biennial 2015, taking place November 4-8 in Orlando, FL. At the Biennial, URJ member congregations that have made exemplary efforts to increase inclusion in one or more areas of synagogue life will be awarded certificates of recognition.

If this sounds like your congregation, we urge you to apply to become part of this “honor roll.” To learn more, please visit www.disabilitiesinclusion.org or contact Rabbi Edythe Mencher or Joseph Robbins.

'Rhoda' Actress Valerie Harper Rushed to Hospital

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 13:39
Valerie Harper was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday night during a performance of her musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It” in Maine.

A “Non-Zionist Synagogue”: Who Owns the Flag?

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 12:14
The term, “non-Zionist synagogue” is problematic. If there can be a “non-Zionist synagogue,” the implication is that there are “Zionist synagogues.” And although individuals may identify themselves as Zionists or not, congregations are neither; they are Jewish — and they welcome people of differing viewpoints, particularly when it comes to Zionism.

Jewish Women’s Eggs are Hot Commodity, But Are they ‘Kosher’?

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 11:24
Jewish eggs are in high demand and while some Jews seek them out to ensure that their babies are “kosher” with rabbinic authorities, most just want their offspring to be like them.

Orthodox Rabbis To Join Lobbying Push Against Iran Deal

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 07:34
The Orthodox Union is asking hundreds of rabbis to fly to Washington in September to lobby against the Iran nuclear deal.