Judaism

Amid Pandemic, Jewish Religious Traditions Packed into DIY Kits

September 10, 2020

It's a religious obligation for Jews: affixing a mezuzah on their door post. It's a sign those inside live a Jewish life. 

"These are the mezuzah, which are from Israel, written by scribes. It’s hand-written,“ said the Chabad Mitzvah Society Director Mendy Ceitlin. 

The Chabad Mitzvah Society in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, created these do-it-yourself kits, providing a step-by-step guide for putting up a mezuzah. 

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Staying spiritual, safe: Campus religious groups adapt to social distancing

September 9, 2020

The Hillel Jewish Student Union used to pack hundreds of students into its Forbes Avenue building almost every Friday evening. Although students can no longer gather in crowded rooms, they’re still spending their Fridays with a few friends and a whole lot of challah.

From socially distant Shabbat to virtual Bible studies to international pen pal programs, students of various religions are solidifying their faith and their communities while following public health guidelines. Faith...

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Rent and religion: Young Jewish girl inspired to help others during bat mitzvah

September 9, 2020

While balancing parenthood alone during a pandemic can challenging, adding eviction to the equation can be heartbreaking.

“My heart dropped for the simple fact that I was homeless before with my four kids,” Mary Ratchford-Bass said after losing her job as an office cleaner.

“Once the pandemic hit, they went to working from home and that left us with little to no work to do,” she said.

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Shofar lessons are becoming a pre-holiday necessity in the age of coronavirus

September 4, 2020

In the biblical account, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down after Joshua commanded seven priests to blow their ram’s horns or shofars.

This year, it will take a lot more than seven priests for the plaintive wail of the shofar to penetrate the walls of Jews sheltering in place for the Jewish High Holy Days.

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JewBelong Makes Rosh Hashanah Observance Accessible

September 1, 2020

Archie Gottesman, one of JewBelong’s principal founders, understands if her organization isn’t quite the right fit for someone. JewBelong’s “disclaimer” states: “JewBelong’s mission is to welcome people to Judaism with Jewish readings and rituals that many people can relate to. And guess what, JewBelong isn’t for everyone. This should not be shocking. Hell, Jews have a hard time agreeing on anything, you really think they are all going...

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Amid virus lockdowns, prison ministry groups had to adapt

August 31, 2020

Normally Teresa Stanfield spends her days in prisons talking with inmates about how she changed the course of her troubled life, and how they can do the same. But the coronavirus has locked her on the outside.

“When COVID came and shut down programming, I was extremely disappointed,” said Stanfield, Oklahoma field director with Virginia-based Prison Fellowship. “But I also knew that God had a plan and we were going to do everything we could to continue to encourage our returning citizens and keep our volunteers connected.”

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6 months into pandemic, Jews prepare for a High Holiday season of rupture and resilience

August 31, 2020

For many Jews, a high point of services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, which wonders who will live and who will die in the year ahead.

This year, that question will take on added resonance, as the High Holidays fall six months into a global pandemic that has reshaped lives, battered institutions and killed hundreds of thousands of people, including many in Jewish communities.

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Torahs packed and synagogues on high alert as fires bear down in North Bay

August 21, 2020

When the evacuation orders came Tuesday night, Guerneville resident Sonia Tubridy and her daughter packed the car and left, joining a caravan of vehicles fleeing the North Bay area and the fires that threatened to engulf them.

Tubridy, cultural director of the Russian River Jewish Community, was among the thousands of people ordered to evacuate from fires burning 46,000 acres across a vast area covering five counties and stretching from Vacaville north to Lake Berryessa and out to the Sonoma County coast. Dubbed the “LNU Lightning Complex” by Cal Fire, the danger zone has...

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Synagogues are bringing shofar to the Jews who can’t attend services

August 20, 2020

With the High Holidays fast approaching, Jewish congregations and communities are rethinking how to fulfill the commandment of hearing the shofar blown at a time when the COVID-19 crisis has scattered so many worshippers.

The loud blare of the shofar is meant to inspire awareness, inciting greater self-reflection and attention to God during the High Holiday season. Hearing the cry of the shofar is so closely tied to the fundamental purpose of Rosh Hashanah that the holiday is referred to as the day of shouting — “Yom Teruah” — in the Torah.

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Back to School 2020: Local Jewish Day Schools Have Plans for Both Distance and In-Person Learning

August 18, 2020

Most local private schools, including Jewish schools, resume at the end of August. But this year is anything but normal. Principals and administrators have spent much of the summer ironing out multiple plans to return, whether in-person, online, or some combination of the two. That’s because no one knew whether kids would be back in school; in school but in smaller groups; in ‘pods’ as they are known; or ‘distance learning’ from home. 

As of press time, it was expected that all students in first through 12th grades would start the year at home. (Kindergarten students are...

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With Synagogues off-Limits for the High Holy Days, Attention Is Turning to Jewish Practice at Home

August 17, 2020

In Montreal, the boxes will include apple or honey cake mix. In New Hampshire, they’ll include bird seed. And many synagogues will distribute apples and honey, the snack that symbolizes a sweet new year.

The packages are among many that will start to land soon on the front steps of Jewish homes: deliveries of prayer books, art supplies and gifts meant to make a High Holiday season spent at home a little less lonely and a little more spiritually fulfilling.

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