Judaism

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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Despite Green Light, Many Mass. Houses Of Worship Won't Convene In-Person

May 26, 2020

 

Episcopalians in Massachusetts are saying no church before July 1.

The United Church of Christ in the state is saying nothing before the end of summer.

The Unitarians want to wait until next year.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston expects less than 20% of its 280 churches to be open this weekend.

And the Baptists are still trying to figure out how to safely do baptisms in the age of the...

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Four young people of different faiths move into a home together, then a pandemic happens

May 20, 2020
Hadar Cohen, Ala’ Khan, Maya Mansour and Jonathan Simcosky arrived as strangers, ready to embark on a new interfaith journey.
 
The four roommates moved into a five-bedroom, five-bath house in Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood earlier this year. They come from different faiths: Baha’i, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Cohen came from Jerusalem but had already lived in the Bay Area for a few years. Simcosky made the trek from Salem, Massachusetts, to L.A. Khan and Mansour were already in Southern California.
 
They...
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The pandemic is forcing synagogues to reinvent themselves

May 6, 2020

 

The start of May means different things to different people, but for most synagogues, it means it’s time to start planning for the high holidays.

And it’s never been so difficult to make those plans.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the spiritual and communal high points in the Jewish calendar — and also the time when many synagogues earn enough from ticket sales, membership renewals and donations to sustain their activities for the rest of the year.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which it would be advisable to gather...

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Spiritual counselors adapt to serve faithful in pandemic

April 24, 2020

 

Esther Roman wasn’t even in the room when she witnessed what she describes as “probably the holiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

A doctor whose patient was suffering from COVID-19 had used an iPad to connect with Roman, a 38-year-old staff chaplain at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Morningside hospital, and members of the patient’s family. As the patient’s family told him that if they could, they would be in the room to comfort him, Roman saw – in the digital frame – the doctor reach out and stroke his hair.

“I don’t think that image will ever leave me,” Roman...

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Orthodox Jews are donating plasma by the thousands to fight Covid-19

April 22, 2020

 

Hasidic shoe wholesaler is leading an effort to get the New York City area’s Orthodox Jews who have recovered from Covid-19 to donate their blood plasma en masse, so that it can be used as a therapy by people still battling the coronavirus.

Chaim Lebovits, of Monsey, N.Y., has been working for weeks to create a network of rabbis, religious organizations, virus researchers, health professionals and hospital administrators to educate Orthodox Jews about the benefits of plasma donation, as well as testing them and receiving their blood.

So far,...

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Orthodox Jewish Women Are Facing an Impossible Choice Right Now

April 20, 2020

Around the country, Jewish communities have all but shut down, closing synagogues, canceling Passover seders, conducting funerals by Zoom. Yet one kind of Jewish public space has remained mostly open: mikvahs, or pools used for ritual immersions.

Each month, when they get their period, some Jewish women observe a time of niddah, or ritual impurity. As long as they’re bleeding, and often for at least a week afterward, they can’t have sex with their partner. Many couples won’t hug or kiss, sleep in the same bed, or even pass objects to each other. Under any...

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