Judaism

Image via RNS/Reuters/Brittany Greeson

The American Civil Liberties Union collected more than $11 million and 150,000 new members. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Twitter account gained 9,000 followers. And the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and other bigotries, saw donations increase fiftyfold.

In the days since Donald Trump won the presidency, these spikes, in support for groups that defend religious and other minorities, speak to a fear that the president-elect will trample on their rights — or at least empower those who would.

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What’s your number?

It’s not a pickup line. At least, it wasn’t at the pre-conference portion of an event called “Why Christian?,” which was back for its second year at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

No, this inquiry is actually just a standard part of the Enneagram, an ancient personality typing system that recently has exploded in popularity in Christian circles.

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The study comes in the same year that Larycia Hawkins — Wheaton College’s first black, female professor to receive tenure — parted ways with the evangelical flagship school after she posted on Facebook that both Christians and Muslims worship the “same God.” The controversy stirred fresh debate among evangelicals about whether all religions worship the same God, and whether God accepts the worship of all religions.

David Van Biema 09-27-2016

Image via RNS/The Trustees of the British Museum

In Jerusalem, Boehm said, there was a “very thin membrane” between the earthly and metaphysical.

That porousness is the origin of all the show’s marvelous art and of many of the city’s troubles, past and present. Almost lost on one wall of the show is a photograph of a glorious pulpit that stood in the Al-Aqsa Mosque from 1188 until 1969, when a delusional Australian torched it. He was trying to destroy the mosque so that the temple could be rebuilt to facilitate Jesus’ return.

Image via REUTERS / Kacper Pempel / RNS

Pope Francis on July 29 paid a silent visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he spent intense moments in prayer, embraced Holocaust survivors, and met those who risked their lives to help Jews persecuted by the Nazis.

But while Francis made no speeches during his time at the notorious camp, where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died during World War II, he left a simple written plea in the guest book: “Lord, have mercy on your people! Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty!”

Noah Leavitt and Talia Kim-Leavitt with their kids Ari and Talia. Image via Kim-Leavitt family / RNS

Noah Leavitt and Helen Kiyong Kim’s marriage is one of an increasing number of Jewish-Asian pairings in the U.S., a trend evident in many American synagogues. The two Whitman College professors have just released the first book-length study of Jewish-Asian couples and their offspring.

Though JewAsian is geared toward social scientists, the chapters in which they excerpt and analyze their interviews with 34 Jewish-Asian couples will interest any readers curious about intermarriage in general, and the evolving American-Jewish community in particular.

The words "No Jews" with a swastika spray-painted on a sidewalk in Pico-Robertson, Calif. Image via Anti-Defamation League / RNS

Violent anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. rose 50 percent last year. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were a total of 56 against Jewish victims.

“And we know that for every incident reported, there’s likely another that goes unreported,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, which produced the study and calls the trend “very concerning.”

Image via REUTERS/Hannah McKay/RNS

Swastikas found in a children’s playground in London are the latest sign of anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe.

The hand-drawn swastikas appeared on four consecutive days, June 14-17, in a park in the Stamford Hill neighborhood, The Guardian newspaper reported June 20. A home for British Jewish veterans is nearby.

Prizren, Kosovo. Image via Berat Hoxha [CC BY-SA 3.0] / Wikimedia Commons

Three years ago, Joshua Stanton was walking around Peja, a Balkan city where the skyline is punctured with the dainty minarets of three historic mosques, when he decided to put on his yarmulke.

“I am Jewish,” he thought. “I want to put it on.”

Ulrich Rosenhagen 06-03-2016

Image via REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch - RTX2533D / RNS

While many countries in Europe have sealed their borders to refugees, Germany has done the opposite. Last year, the country registered over 1 million asylum seekers, including 425,000 from ravaged Syria.

No other country in the European Union has accepted as many. For Syrians and others who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea in rubber dinghies, Germany has become a beacon of hope.

Fred de Sam Lazaro 05-25-2016

Image via RNS

A nearly 900-year-old synagogue recently held its first Sabbath service in decades in one of the diaspora’s farthest flung places: the coastal Indian city of Cochin.

Congregants came from four continents for what could be the last such observance in a region whose once-thriving Jewish communities have mostly migrated to Israel.

Brandon Ambrosino 02-22-2016

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Imagine a test on world religions that asks this question: “Who founded Christianity?”

Jesus, right? Wrong.

Ryan Hammill 02-10-2016

Image via CJ Hanevy / Shutterstock.com

Bernie Sanders’ primary victory in the Granite State Feb. 9 made him the first-ever non-Christian to win a presidential primary in U.S. history. In addition, depending on whether you count Barry Goldwater as Jewish (his ancestors were Jewish but he identified as Episcopalian), Bernie Sanders could be considered the first Jewish primary winner in history as well.

Kim Hjelmgaard 01-27-2016

Auschwitz-Birkenau near Oswiecim, Poland. Image via REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/RNS

Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the date the United Nations has chosen to commemorate victims of the Holocaust during World War II. Six million Jews were murdered by Germany’s Nazi regime, along with 5 million non-Jews who were killed. The anniversary, marked each year since 2005, falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland by the Russian army in 1945. One million people died there.

Image via REUTERS / Andrew Medichini / Pool / RNS

The Vatican has said that Catholics should witness to their faith but not undertake organized efforts to convert Jews, a significant step forward in the once tense relations between the two faiths.

The document released on Dec. 10 by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews also pushed for greater efforts to fight anti-Semitism.

In its most explicit commentary on evangelization regarding Jews, the document said Catholics should take a different approach to Judaism than to other religions.

Caroline Barnett 11-24-2015

As October quickly turned to November, jack-o-lanterns and costumes were replaced by Christmas carols and Internet outrage over holiday cups. Every year we go from Halloween to Christmas with little space carved out for Thanksgiving.

There is no question that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Many times I have remarked that Thanksgiving is one of the greatest days of the year, that I cannot wait to go home, that Christmas needs to wait until December. Come every November, I begin my internal countdown, growing more excited each day closer to this holy holiday.

We often reserve the word “holy” for holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but for a multi-faith family such as my own, a holiday grounded in something more substantial than – let’s say trees for Arbor Day – while still allowing everyone to come with their own religious identity is not only a privilege, but a gift.

Image via Eric Thayer / REUTERS / RNS

Women who would be Orthodox rabbis were handed a major setback Oct. 30 when the highest religious body for Modern Orthodox Jews ruled against their ordination.

The Rabbinical Council of America officially prohibited the ordination of women, or the use of the term “rabbi” or “maharat” for women, in what it described as a direct vote of its membership.

The prohibition comes six years after the founding of a yeshiva, or religious school, for women in New York City. The school, Yeshivat Maharat, has ordained less than a dozen women who use the honorific “maharat” instead of rabbi and has placed graduates and interns at 17 Orthodox synagogues in the U.S. and Canada.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Image via Blake-Ezra Photography / RNS

Religious zealots fill newspapers and screens with bloody images of bombings and beheadings. They kidnap children and make them into soldiers. They pray before they rape women.

But “not in God’s name,” says Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, who just published a book by that title.

“The greatest threat to freedom in the post-modern world is radical, politicized religion,” Sacks writes. Religion News Service asked Sacks how people can kill in the name of God, and how religion can counter religious extremists.

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My rabbinic colleague, David Saperstein, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, issued a “glass half full” report earlier this month, noting that “… over the last several years there’s been a steady increase in the percentage of people who live in countries that … have serious restrictions on religious freedom.”

At the same time, he noted, “we’ve seen enormous expansion of interfaith efforts on almost every continent to try and address the challenges.”

Much of that “enormous expansion of interfaith efforts” can be traced to the historic Nostra Aetate (Latin for “In Our Time”) Declaration that the world’s Catholic bishops adopted 50 years ago at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.

Yossi Cohen. Image via Michele Chabin/RNS

Yossi Cohen was shocked when city inspectors warned him last month to close his downtown convenience store during the Jewish Sabbath or else be socked with fines.

“For 20 years I’ve been open during Shabbat (the Hebrew for Sabbath) and suddenly the city decides I have to close?” said Cohen, one of eight convenience store owners ordered to shut down from sundown Friday until Saturday night.

“The message is clear: The municipality doesn’t want non-religious people in this city.”

The closure order, which faces a court hearing Sept. 16, was part of a compromise that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently struck with ultra-Orthodox city council members who threatened to block a movie multiplex from opening on the Sabbath in a secular part of the city unless the convenience stores were shut on the Sabbath.

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