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Updated: 6 weeks 2 days ago

The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure High Holidays Prayer Book

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 13:48
Can you design a prayer book that includes those who are LGBTQ, or intermarried, or disabled, or Jews of color? Sure you can — and hey, why not throw in some Walt Whitman and Grace Paley to boot!

Dutch Chief Rabbi Warned To Avoid Europe Trains

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 05:37
Dutch authorities advised Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs to avoid traveling in international trains.

Environmental Justice in Mossville; Payday Lenders; Terence Blanchard

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 16:08

A small African-American town in Louisiana has been overrun by petrochemical plants and pollution; in Alabama, churches confront predatory short-term loans at exorbitant rates that target and trap the poor; and renowned jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard talks about Hurricane Katrina, music, meditation, race, and excessive police violence.

The post Environmental Justice in Mossville; Payday Lenders; Terence Blanchard appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Yazidis Question Jewish Businessman's ISIS Sex-Slave Rescue Story

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 15:58
A group of Yazidi spiritual leaders, politicians, activists and aid workers have demanded that the Jewish Montreal businessman claiming to have rescued 128 Christian and Yazidi women and children from the Islamic State, or ISIS, provide evidence that he is saving lives.

How Synagogues Can Prioritize Disability Inclusion This High Holiday Season

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 12:02

by Jay Ruderman

With the High Holidays just around the corner, Jews all over the world will be asking themselves how they can lead more meaningful and moral lives. Synagogue communities, too, will be asking themselves how they can become more holy and inclusive communities.

In my years of involvement with disability inclusion, I’ve observed that change often occurs because a rabbi, a professional or a lay leader understands the value of inclusion of all people and makes it a priority. If there ever was a time for leaders to step up to the plate and help their synagogues become more inclusive — to welcome diverse people with varying abilities and find a place for them in the community — it’s during the Days of Awe.

Liz Offen, director of New England Yachad, an Orthodox Union-affiliated organization that works toward the inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life, said that the High Holidays seem almost designed to raise awareness of people with disabilities. “Every aspect of the high holiday experience is infused with rituals that draw on the senses,” she said. “From the food we eat, to the sound and vibrations of the shofar, we are reminded of the varied ways people experience life.”

So how can congregations take advantage of this calling to become more inclusive communities?

The obvious answer is that they can implement best practices in making their physical spaces more inclusive for people with disabilities. They can print books with larger text, embrace hearing loop technologies to assist people who are hard of hearing, train ushers to recognize and assist people with disabilities, make every part of the building wheelchair accessible, and establish an inclusion committee to continually expand inclusive practices.

The broader answer is that they can demonstrate leadership and work to create a powerful culture of inclusion among congregants so that inclusion pervades all aspects of congregational life, and thereby change basic attitudes toward people with disabilities.

Ed Frim, an inclusion specialist at United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said that true inclusion goes much deeper than making synagogue life accessible. “Inclusive congregations are mindful of everyone who is part of the community,” he said. “They establish a culture that takes for granted that all, including those with disabilities, have the right to fully participate as part of the congregation.”

“It’s not just about training ushers to be welcoming to people with disabilities and helping them find their way, it’s about turning the entire congregation into ushers, who seek to create a welcoming environment,” he said.

Just as important as building a culture of inclusion is affecting a shift in attitude about how we think of disabilities. Rabbi Noah Cheses of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation in Toronto recalls an aha moment when his perspective on disabilities changed from seeing just the disability to seeing the whole person.

A senior in high school had come to speak at a retreat Cheses was attending. The student had a muscular disorder that required him to be in a wheelchair. It was clear from the moment he began speaking that this charismatic young man was not defined by his disability.

“He asked us to take out a piece of paper and make a list of [perceived] personal shortcomings …,” recounted Rabbi Cheses. “We were then instructed to introduce ourselves to the person next to us in the following way: “Hi, my name is X, and I have such and such ….”

“For a moment, I felt what it was like to be identified by my personal limitations…as if my passions and talents were being overshadowed and pushed aside by something beyond my control.”

It was that realization, among others, that motivated Rabbi Cheses to seek change in his congregation. The congregation made physical changes — among other things, it built an accessible ark — but the rabbi also sought to make spiritual changes and help his congregants experience the same aha moment that he had at the retreat.

Indeed, it is these spiritual changes — viewing all of God’s people as bringing unique contributions to the world — that can turn a congregation from a collection of people to a holy community. This time of reflection and renewal provides the perfect moment for such a shift to take place.

Jay Ruderman is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which focuses on the inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. The foundation is holding the 2015 Ruderman Inclusion Summit Nov. 1-2 in Boston. Registration information is available here. He’s on Twitter @jayruderman.

This piece originally appeared on JTA and is republished with permission.

The Wagner Opera That's OK for Jews To Love

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 04:00
It is no accident that ‘Tristan und Isolde’ was Exhibit A for breaking Israel’s ban on Richard Wagner’s music. A.J. Goldmann writes it’s hard not to like the opera that opened this year’s Bayreuth Festival.

Is the New 'Star Wars' Villain a Nazi?

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 14:42
The Star Wars franchise is chock-full of World War II allusions. Will the upcoming sequel continue in that noble tradition? Director J.J. Abrams hinted at the possibilities in a recent interview.

Matisyahu Plays Show in Synagogue Near Auschwitz

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 13:49
Three days after a performing at a reggae festival in Spain that had previously disinvited him, Matisyahu brought his music to a synagogue near the gates of Auschwitz.

Chris Christie Blasts Iran Deal With Shmuley Boteach

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 18:54
Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie at a news conference alongside Jewish leaders including Rabbi Shmuley Boteach urged Congress to block the Iran nuclear deal.

Matisyahu Flap Shows Europe Jews Are Targeted Over Israel

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 15:48
A Spanish music festival’s recent decision to rescind its invitation to the American reggae singer Matisyahu, after he declined to endorse a Palestinian state, brought international attention to a phenomenon that many European Jews have been feeling for years: that they are being targeted for Israel’s actions.

Hundreds of Rabbis Sign Petition Against Iran Deal

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 05:50
Hundreds of United States rabbis, from all major Jewish streams, signed a letter urging members of Congress to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, writing that the hope for a good deal “is not yet realized.”

Sim Shalom, the Online Synagogue, Releases a Jazz Inspired High...

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 02:09

Sim Shalom, the online synagogue, and founder, Rabbi Steven Blane, announce a new High Holiday CD that fuses the raw emotion of jazz and the traditional liturgy of ancient High Holiday prayer and...

(PRWeb July 22, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12860191.htm

Rabbis Say Reporting Child Sex Abuse Is Must for Ultra-Orthodox

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 11:47
More than 100 haredi Orthodox rabbis and teachers in the United States have signed a proclamation saying that Jewish law obligates all Jews to report suspected child sex abuse to the authorities.

Yosi Piamenta, a Virtuoso Guitarist Who Reshaped Jewish Music

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 09:55
Yosi Piamenta was as virtuoso guitarist who had a long career performing original music as well as traditional Israeli and Arabic songs arranged in his signature style.

Rabbi Freundel Victimized My Wife — But I Don't Want Him in Solitary Confinement

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 12:05
When Jeffrey Shulevitz found out that his wife was among the victims of Barry Freundel’s voyeurism, he cheered the rabbi’s imprisonment. But solitary confinement is another story.

Matisyahu Performs 'Jerusalem' in Spain Amid Palestinian Protests

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 07:47
American Jewish reggae star Matisyahu sang his famous song “Jerusalem” as protesters waved Palestinian flags at a music festival in Spain.

Washington Jewish Women Reclaim Mikvah with Mural

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 19:33
A new mural in a DC area mikveh is allowing Barry Freundel’s ‘shattered’ congregants to put the pieces back together and restore sanctity to ritual bath.

Hurricane Katrina 10th Anniversary; The Dalai Lama at 80

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 15:40

Rebuilding continues a decade after the devastating floods, and New Orleans communities of faith see hope amidst the tragedy; and old age has not diminished the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader’s role as an advocate for world peace and inner happiness

The post Hurricane Katrina 10th Anniversary; The Dalai Lama at 80 appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

He's Saying Hashem, But It Sounds Like Hare Krishna

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 04:00
Andrew Hahn, aka the Kirtan Rabbi, isn’t the first to perform the call-and-response chants known as Kirtan. But he may be the first to bring Kirtan to Jewish practice.

Matisyahu Concert Cancelers Did Us a Favor

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 16:40
A Spanish music festival’s decision to nix a Matisyahu concert may not seem like cause for Jewish celebration. But, Jared Samilow asks, what if it’s an example of BDS overplaying its hand?