Judaism

Muslim civil liberties group to represent inmate denied kosher food in Michigan jail

July 9, 2020

 

An Islamic civil liberties and advocacy organization will represent a man who has been denied kosher food in a Michigan jail.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said in a statement issued Monday that it would appear as legal representative for Brandon Resch, an inmate in the Macomb County Jail, in his lawsuit against the county.

In November 2017, Resch was transferred from Oakland County Jail, where he was receiving a kosher diet. He requested a kosher diet in Macomb and had an interview with its chaplain...

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As COVID-19 rages at San Quentin, a prison rabbi and activist offer comfort and support

July 8, 2020

 

Kat Morgan led her last Shabbat service inside San Quentin State Prison on March 13. At one point during that service, and her co-leaders divided the congregants into small groups to share things that bring them joy during darker moments.

“These people are experts in resilience,” she said. “They shared gratitude for things like prayer, meditation, and eating a cookie. Some of them said that even waking up is a joy that they’ve made it to see another day. It was profoundly moving, given the context.”

Now, that resilience is being sorely tested, as...

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In Seattle’s protest zone, rabbis at chaplaincy table create new rituals to heal

June 24, 2020

 

On Sunday, June 7, a 31-year-old man attempted to drive his car into a crowd of protesters in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. In the ensuing scuffle, he shot one protester before surrendering to police, who were stationed behind barricades in front of a precinct building that had become a protest flashpoint.

The traumatic experience was the culmination of a week of intense protests over the May 25 murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police office. It was a week that saw police deploy tear gas, pepper spray, and flash bangs on multiple...

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Young Hasidic Jews protest in support of black neighbors, challenging history of racial tensions

June 22, 2020

 

On a recent Sunday, about 200 young Hasidic women in long skirts and wigs and men with wide-brimmed black hats and free-flowing beards parked their baby strollers along the tree-lined boulevards of Crown Heights in Brooklyn.

They picked up their bullhorns and raised their homemade posters, some in Hebrew and Yiddish.

“The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference,” one sign read, quoting Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Elie ­Wiesel. The young families chanted “Black lives matter!” and “Jews for justice!” as they...

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Amid a National Reckoning Over Race, Jews are Embracing Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

 

After the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic this spring delayed the launch of the website for TribeHerald, a new media company for Jews of color, founders Yitz Jordan and Rabbi Shais Rishon settled on a perfect alternative: the evening of June 18.

After all, it would be “erev Juneteenth,” Jordan said — a mashup of the Hebrew word denoting the eve of Jewish observances and the name of the holiday commemorating the day...

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I Officiated A Zoom Funeral. Here’s What I Didn’t Expect.

June 18, 2020

I have officiated at funerals for 16 years in my community of West Bloomfield, Michigan. As a busy working mother, I am loving and patient, organized and a wizard at time management. As a rabbi, I am serious, focused and available to families around the clock. Real life doesn’t have office hours. Hospice work is my niche, so I spend a lot of time with grieving families. Usually I am the calm presence in the room, the one who isn’t shaking. 

Not now. This time, I was all by myself, in my home office, a wreck.

A kind and gentle 70-year-old man named Saul had...

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Milwaukee faith leaders reconsider every element of the religious experience as they make plans to reopen facilities

June 16, 2020

 

Replacing prayer rugs with disposable paper placemats. Holding Sunday services on church lawns. Buying a carriage to transport caskets in place of pallbearers.

Milwaukee’s faith leaders have had to reconsider every element of the religious experience as they make cautious plans to reopen facilities. While state and local restrictions on gatherings are easing, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means it’s not back to business-as-usual right away.

And while each religious organization needs to find creative solutions to their unique faith traditions,...

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Clergy on the Front Lines

June 11, 2020

 

As Rabbi Benyamin Vineburg chanted the moving words of the vidui, the Jewish confessional prayer, to a COVID-19 patient dying in the intensive care unit, the family was there, too. But this was different from the countless other times he’d said the vidui. Vineburg, a chaplain resident at the University of Michigan Medical Center, sat in his home in Oak Park, Michigan, miles away from the Ann Arbor hospital. The family was home, too. A nurse clothed in protective gear held the phone to the patient’s ear, the timing carefully coordinated to conserve equipment....

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How New York’s Haredim are responding to George Floyd protests

June 8, 2020

 

A crowd of police in riot gear marched down Crown Heights’ Eastern Parkway one day this week to applause and salutes from some of the neighborhood’s Haredi residents.

Another day, amid another Black Lives Matter protest, a Jewish man with side curls offered the throng in Williamsburg a double thumbs-up. Over on Williamsburgh’s Bedford and Penn Streets, another Haredi Jew handed out water bottles to protesters and police officers alike.

Miles and hours apart, these scenes reflect the range of Orthodox Jewish reactions to the roiling demonstrations...

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Amid protests, US faith leaders engage racism and politics

June 4, 2020

 

As days of anti-racism protests sparked by police killings push Americans toward a national reckoning, religious leaders are stepping more directly into the politics surrounding discrimination, entering into a dialogue that cuts across lines of faith and color.

Groups from multiple denominations across Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths have publicly called for action against racism, aligning with peaceful demonstrators’ goals following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Even beyond those statements, the amount and diversity of religious involvement...

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In Minneapolis, rabbis among hundreds in silent marches

June 3, 2020

 

Over the course of seven blocks on Tuesday afternoon, nearly 1,000 clergy members of all faiths made the slow — and silent — walk from the Sabatini Community Center, along East 38th Street to the site where George Floyd died. Among that group were at least 10 Twin Cities rabbis and cantors who came to pay their respects.

“It was exactly what you would expect: Somber, respectful, and a powerful cry that until there is justice for George Floyd and other blacks in the state, peace is not possible,” said Shir Tikvah Rabbi Michael Latz.

After the march...

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John Eaves wants to be the first black and Jewish member of Congress

June 2, 2020

 

John Eaves can name plenty of people in Congress who look like him. And there’s a fair share who share his faith. But not a single lawmaker shares his two identities: an African-American and a Jew.

Eaves, who previously served as county commissioner of Fulton County, Georgia, hopes to break that barrier by running to represent the state’s 7th District in Congress.

“I’m putting forth a Herculean effort to have a voice in Congress, and I think it would be a unique space that I will fill, so I’m excited,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I’m...

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Faith leaders in 50 cities observe day of 'mourning and lament' for victims of COVID-19

June 2, 2020

 

Interfaith clergy as well as civic leaders in at least 50 cities nationwide declared Monday the National Day of Mourning and Lament for the over 100,000 people who have died in the United States from coronavirus. They also took the time to grieve the deaths of the recent victims of racial injustice.

“Today, prayers of mourning and lament are taking place around the country in over 50 cities, which have organized their own events and prayer services,” said Sojourners Executive Director Adam Taylor during an hour-long ...

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‘We ask forgiveness from the dead’: Why Jewish volunteers are washing bodies in a pandemic

May 29, 2020

 

It used to be that David Kushner would receive a call to report to one of the area's Jewish funeral homes once every few weeks. In the pandemic, his phone has buzzed every single day, sometimes more than once.

Then, Kushner, 40, must rally the other members of the Chevra Kadisha B'nei Moshe. This all-volunteer group, which is not affiliated with any one synagogue or denomination, is the largest of the handful of chevra kadishas, or burial societies, that operate in the region. Driven by faith and reverence for tradition, its members gather to carry out the...

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Shabbat online? Conservative synagogues get OK, but some were already doing it

May 26, 2020

For Orthodox synagogues, it was an easy choice: Pandemic or no, a Shabbat service cannot be streamed online. For many liberal synagogues, it was similarly easy: Meet the needs of the moment, and start streaming Shabbat services.

But for Conservative synagogues, it was a matter for serious deliberation: To stream or not to stream?

On May 13, the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards provided official guidance: Despite longstanding prohibitions against using electricity and computers on Shabbat and major Jewish holidays, prayer services could...

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