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Religious Life

The Conversion Conundrum The Conversion Conundrum
Monday, July 26, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Late last week, narrowly averting a looming crisis within world Jewry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a postponement, possibly indefinite, of prospective Knesset legislation making the Chief Rabbinate the arbiter of conversion in the Jewish state and thus of who may be eligible for citizenship under Israel's foundational Law of Return. The measure has stirred impassioned debate in and between Israel and the Diaspora, much of it a depressing if also revealing exercise in talking past each other.
Tisha b’Av Now Tisha b’Av Now
Monday, July 19, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Tomorrow is Tisha b'Av, the traditional day of fasting and lamentation for the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the sorrows of Jewish history.  But ours is a moment of unprecedented Jewish sovereignty and unparalleled Jewish prosperity. And so, many are asking, why bother?
The Other Talmud The Other Talmud
Friday, July 16, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

A Jewish classic known as much for its obscurity as for its great significance took another step into the light this spring with the online publication of its oldest and most reliable version. The classic is the Jerusalem Talmud, and the version is a parchment manuscript, known as the Leiden manuscript, written in 1289 by a Jewish scholar and copyist in Rome.
The Museum Life The Museum Life
Thursday, June 24, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Once consisting of simple repositories of objects, museums today have become educational, cultural, and—some say—spiritual places of their own, pendant somewhere between houses of worship and spaces of entertainment and commerce. And Jewish museums?
Why Was Moses Punished? Why Was Moses Punished?
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

It comes in the Torah portion read this Saturday (Hukat, Numbers 19:1 - 22:1), and it is unquestionably the lowest point in Moses' career. After dragging the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, giving them the Ten Commandments, overthrowing the Golden Calf, and braving their never-ending backsliding, complaints, and pleas to return to Egypt, Moses is asked by God to perform one more miracle in response to the Israelites' evidently unquenchable thirst. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod, and gather the assembly together . . . and speak to the rock before their eyes; and it shall give...
What Israel Ta-Shma Saw What Israel Ta-Shma Saw
Monday, June 14, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Among the 7,000 new titles featured in Israel's annual  book festival last week was the fourth, final, and—sadly—posthumous  volume of studies by Israel Ta-Shma (1936–2004), one of the great rabbinic scholars of modern times.
The Rebbe The Rebbe
Thursday, June 10, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The story of Lubavitcher Hasidism in our time is nothing short of astounding. Here is an ultra-Orthodox sect, deployed all over the world, exuberantly engaged with non-observant Jews and with non-Jews, availing itself of every imaginable form of contemporary communications technology. What was, for generations, the most intellectual and scholastic-minded hasidic dynasty—its other name, Chabad, is an acronym for "Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge"—has become an ecstatic mass movement. At the heart of it all is the seventh and last Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902–1994), who died childless—and whom some substantial number of his followers forthrightly regard as the messiah.
Christianity in the Middle East Christianity in the Middle East
Wednesday, June 9, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cyprus on Sunday was marred by events that cast their own, baleful light on the purpose of his mission: to unveil a Vatican position paper on the deteriorating condition of Christianity in the Middle East. Hours before his arrival, one of the document's authors, Bishop Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia, was murdered by his "mentally unstable" driver.  Padovese had only recently met with Turkish authorities to discuss the problems of that country's tiny Christian minority—and had previously extended Christian forgiveness to a Muslim youth who in 2006 murdered a Catholic priest. Three more...
The Chief Rabbinate The Chief Rabbinate
Monday, June 7, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

On May 23, Israel's chief rabbinate issued new regulations requiring prospective couples whose parents had been married by someone other than a rabbinate-approved rabbi to apply, along with their mothers, for a full inquiry into their Jewishness. The regulations provide for inquiries into the Jewishness of other couples as well. In the meantime, making deft use of its authority over conversions to Judaism, the rabbinate has acted to delegitimize other rabbis, in particular from the Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist movements, as a whole. Founded as a body that would help unify the modern Jewish state, the rabbinate (Hebrew: rabbanut) has...
Life from the Lab Life from the Lab
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Led by J. Craig Venter, genetic scientists have created a partially synthetic, self-replicating bacterial cell. According to an account in the May Science, the team built a synthetic genome from scratch and then put it into a living natural cell. Although the result does not qualify as a truly synthetic life form, Venter's achievement has been hailed as bringing us "a step closer to artificial life" and as a "defining moment" in the history of biology.
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Editors' Picks
"Frum" Week Emily Langowitz, Reform Judaism. For seven days, a Yale senior raised in the Reform movement alters her dress, her habits, and her ritual behavior to try out "a different way of connecting to God."
Why I Love "Why we Pray" Matthue Roth, Matthue. Choosing just six prayers and treating them in depth, Rabbi Barry Freundel has written today's best-conceived and most fully-realized guide to the Jewish liturgy.  
Meet the American Shul Emily Katz, H-Net. Everything you ever wanted to know about the history, the mores, and the character of "the most significant institution in the life of [American] Jews."
May a Jew Say “Jehovah”? Ari Enkin, Torah Musings. Whatever the true pronunciation of the Hebrew letters Y-H-V-H, it surely is not the first word in the name of the well-known Christian group.
Sabbath Morning, with Reconstructionists Joe Winkler, Jewcy. Although he hears no mention of God, of mitzvot, of revelation, or of obligations—limiting factors, all—a visiting Orthodox Jew does meet a group of lovely, and lively, people.
Think Again Maya Bernstein, eJewish Philanthropy. Jewish communal "innovators" need to grapple with and assimilate Judaism's own ideas, the fruits of a tradition with centuries of community-building experience.
It's a Bird! It's a Challah! Leah Koenig, Forward. Rolls shaped like birds, symbols of divine protection and mercy, are among traditional Ashkenazi foods for Rosh Hashanah and the meal before Yom Kippur.
Ties Unbroken Gil Student, Torah Musings. Although it may seem irrational, many who do not believe in all of Judaism’s truth-claims maintain deep connections to their religion—and for good reasons.
First Lady of Fleet Street Daniella Peled, Haaretz. Rachel Beer (née Sassoon) was editor of two British newspapers and exposed the forged documents behind the Dreyfus affair. So why was she so easily forgotten?
Where Faith is Weak, Life is Weak Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Chronicle. Intermarriage, assimilation, and vulnerability are not the causes but the symptoms of a transcendent malaise affecting a people once aflame with devotion.