JBC News of Interest – 11/22/10


Happy Thanksgiving (if you celebrate)! This week’s news wrap up has some interesting stuff to read, so let’s jump right in…

The first piece in this week’s roundup is from The Jewish Week, where Rabbi Yehuda Gilad of Yeshivat Maale Gilboa and the Rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi, both in Israel, wrote a great essay on the implosion of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.  On this issue, Jews by Choice of nearly all stripes share common cause with the religious Zionist/דתי לאומי  community, as the Chief Rabbinate has been completely overrun by hardline Chareidi interests in all areas, including governing acceptance of conversions.

The Jewish Week also ran an interesting piece on the trend within Reform Judaism of re-engaging with kashrut. It’s worth having a look at the article to see how the Reform movement is wrestling with its past directions with respect to traditional observance.

The Schmooze blog over at the Forward Magazine site has an entry with a video link to the local news story on the move by at least a small group to ban circumcision within the city of San Francisco. The impact such rule would have on the local Jewish community is obvious…

The New York Times ran a feature on internet-based bar/bat mitzvah training, and how it is growing as a phenomenon. At least for me – I tutor b’nei mitzvah students and serve my synagogue as a gabbai and shliach tzibbur – there were some problematic elements to the story, but also some interesting ones.

The In the Moment blog on the Moment Magazine site had a post recently on “E-Judaism and the Online Shtetl” about how online Jewish environments are shaping the way modern Jews are relating to each other and to our Tradition. It’s worth a look.

My Jewish Learning offers a look at what Jewish Law says about celebrating Thanksgiving, noting varying opinions on strictures and motivations. At the least it is an interesting read, and it may be helpful for those converts who have extended family for whom Thanksgiving has morphed into a religious celebration.

For your weekly swing through Jewish Studies, have a look at My Jewish Learning’s page of book recommendations on understanding Sephardic Jewry and al-Andalus, which had in its heyday the biggest Jewish population in the world at the time.

That’s it for this week.  Please be sure to share comments if you find any of the selections particularly interesting!

Related content:

  1. JBC News of Interest – 11/09/10
  2. JBC News of Interest 5
  3. JBC News of Interest 1
  4. JBC News of Interest 2
  5. JBC News of Interest 3


  1.  Christopher says:

    Wow, Yair! This aggregation is absolutely terrific! Thanks, as always.

    A few thoughts in response to this week’s line-up.

    – As a would-be convert and a resident of San Francisco, the proposed circumcision ban is, not surprisingly, of particular interest. What’s given rise to the proposal? Some folks argue that it’s clearly impelled by Jew-hatred or low-level antisemitism. Maybe, but I believe it is more nuanced. Prejudice is part of the debate, but there are also many ideologues involved who truly believe that any body alteration/”mutilation” (e.g., tattoos, piercings, etc.) performed before a child reaches an autonomous age (say 18) should be prohibited. The United States has already adopted as law a prohibition on female genital mutilation — an act performed by various tribes and ethno-religious groups from Africa — and it receives widespread support in polls. That support for prohibitions of male genital mutilation would logically follow? Well, that’s a no-brainer. Personally, I don’t think it’s constitutionally acceptable to ban either practice. Certainly, American society can pressure and educate immigrant and minority groups about the physiological (and sometimes psychological) dangers and complications of female genital mutilation, but an outright ban seems, as my rabbi put it in this Time article about the proposed ban, like using “politics to legislate morality.”

    – I’d no idea that Thanksgiving was considered by any rabbinic authorities to be prohibited! I’m pleased that you linked this piece. I’m also pleased that the author offers a sensible, patriotic conclusion. “Halakhah permits one to have a private Thanksgiving celebration […] For reasons related to citizenship and the gratitude we feel towards the United States government, I would even suggest that such conduct is wise and proper.” Darn tootin’!

    Kol tov,


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