Religion & Beliefs

Jewish News Roundup

More than 300 workers have been arrested from the AgriProcessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. The workers are suspected of being illegal aliens, and are being held at a fairground in Waterloo while Immigration officials try to work through the … Read More

By / May 16, 2008
  • More than 300 workers have been arrested from the AgriProcessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. The workers are suspected of being illegal aliens, and are being held at a fairground in Waterloo while Immigration officials try to work through the paperwork. There are also allegations of identity theft, stolen Social Security numbers, and a meth lab somewhere on the AgriProcessors property. In related news, a Modern Orthodox couple in New York turns out to be behind many of the recent investigations into cruelty at AgriProcessors’ slaughterhouses. Hannah and Phillip Schein work as undercover investigators for PETA, and are the driving force behind the push to get AgriProcessors, to live up to the exacting standards of kashrut.
  • An animated Israeli film about the 1982 massacres on Sabra and Shatila is the darling of Cannes this year. It still doesn’t have an American distributor.
  • A gay couple in Israel who adopted a son from Cambodia were able to finalize his Israeli citizenship last week after eight years of waiting. This sets a precedent for the Interior Ministry to officially recognize same sex couples in Israel.
  • 185 Jewish clergy members signed a petition urging Jewish tourists not to attend the Olympics in Beijing to protest Chinese involvement in Darfur and Tibet. The Anti- Defamation League responded to the petition the next day, calling the comparisons to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games “inappropriate” and explaining that, “China is a complicated society that is changing and opening up in many ways.”
  • An ADL poll found that the majority of Israel teenagers don’t believe another Holocaust is possible. Though Israeli teens and adults tend to agree that Israel is in danger and 52% of those surveyed even agree that “Israel is under a certain threat of destruction,” they don’t see another Holocaust on the horizon.
  • The ultra-Orthodox community is in a tizzy over whether or not live performances by ultra-Orthodox pop stars are ever appropriate, even if men and women are seated completely separately. Rabbi Motke Blau, head of the Guards of Sanctity and Education in the Ultra-Orthodox community, says: “What does it look like? Michael Jackson! Lighting, lighters, idolatry, worship. It could be that they would have an evening meant only for men, but only when there is a real reason connected with the Torah, like bringing a new Torah scroll. An event of the type they want is not suited to the ultra-Orthodox public. Period."
  • Some Jewish day schools have begun offering merit scholarships for students who have particular aptitude for things like dance and robotics, in addition to the need-based scholarships that they already offer. Some parents and educators think the merit-based scholarships are a good idea, pushing Jewish schools to be more competitive and raise their academic standards, but others think that offering financial aid to families who might not need it is a bad idea when so many families do need help covering the costs of day schools, which can be over $30,000 a year per student.
  • Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Marc Angel have launched a new group for Orthodox rabbis called the International Rabbinic Fellowship, which they hope can be an answer to the Rabbinic Council of America and its constant edging to the right. More than a hundred rabbis have already expressed interest in the group.
  • A new study done by a Brandeis professor says that there are far fewer men involved in the Conservative and Reform movements than women. Prof. Sylvia Barack Fishman’s report, called “The Growing Gender Imbalance in American Jewish Life” will be published later this month. In response, the Reform movement is working on different ways to encourage men and boys to participate more in synagogue and youth group leadership, to attend services more often, and to increase their Jewish study.
  • Alysa Stanton-Ogulnick will be the first black Jewish female rabbi when she’s ordained by HUC Cincinatti next spring. In an interview with JTA she talks about her journey to Judaism, to rabbinical school, and struggling with prejudices in Israel.
  • Israeli military officials have stopped granting interviews to the Israel bureau of Al-Jazeera, effectively cutting off a significant line of communication to the Arab world. The IDF began the boycott in response to Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Gaza operations earlier this year. Meanwhile, an Israeli expert on Arab media from Bar Ilan Univeristy, Mordechai Kedar, has taken it upon himself to be unofficial voice of Israel, and has appeared on Al Jazeera several times.
  • In the wake of several recent attacks on Jews by African-Americans in Crown Heights, some with anti-Semitic undertones, a mediation group founded 17 years ago has reconvened. Project Care was established after the Crown Heights riots of 1991, with members from the African American and Jewish communities meeting to keep the lines of communication open. Though they haven’t met much in recent years, they’ve had three meetings in the past four weeks, as tension between the two communities grows.
  • The Avi Chai Foundation awarded a $275,000 grant each to four individuals and one team of two on Tuesday. The Avi Chai Fellowship is based on the MacArthur genius grants, and is meant to “be a vehicle for investing in people with vision, creativity, courage, savvy and stamina to try new things, to think outside the conventional boxes or inside them in new ways, and to see opportunities where others see obstacles” according to Avi Chai Chairman Arthur Fried. The winners are Ariel Beery, Aharon Horwitz, Dr. Betsy Dolgin Katz, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Rabbi Dov Linzer, and Rabbi Menachem Schmidt.
  • In Modiin, Israel, the first state-funded non-Orthodox synagogue has just opened. Though Orthodox congregations routinely get funding from the government for buildings, upkeep and even rabbi’s salaries, the Yozma congregation is the first Reform synagogue to get any money from the government for its building. To do so, it went before the Israeli Supreme Court twice.
  • Last night, for the first time, a Jewish woman and a Muslim woman received masters degrees at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. CTU has expanded its mission beyond the Catholic community, hoping to foster more dialogue and cooperation in interfaith settings.
  • Jerusalem hasn’t had a chief rabbi since 2003, and no one seems to mind except for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi, who would like to see one of his sons appointed to the position.