Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Orthodox Group Expels Rabbi

03/25/2005
Staff Writer
In what may be an unprecedented move, the Rabbinical Council of America has expelled Mordechai Tendler, a prominent rabbi from the Monsey, N.Y., area, for “conduct inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi” and refusing to cooperate with the group’s inquiry. In a two-sentence decision announced last Friday afternoon, the 1,000-member professional organization of Orthodox rabbis ousted Rabbi Tendler after an investigation for sexual misconduct that took some of the twists and turns one would expect of a prime-time legal drama.

Change Agent For Women

03/18/2005
Staff Writer
Honoring Barbara Dobkin, it was clear from the start that the Jewish Women’s Archive benefit couldn’t be your typical rubber-chicken dinner. No, the sold-out fund raiser at the Copacabana nightclub Monday night was as cheeky as its honoree. Instead of solemn tributes, female comics had people laughing in their pink feather boas, which were draped over every chair. Every table was festooned with bottles of diet peach Snapple, which is Barbara’s elixir of life, chocolate-covered pretzels and cardboard fans, made of life-size photos of her face.

For Many, A Difficult Choice

02/18/2005
Staff Writer
Karen Trister Grace is a midwife who, for many years and as a matter of principle, opposed circumcision. But a few years ago, she was required to learn how to do the procedure as part of her work delivering babies at a Bronx hospital. She soon began seeing circumcision as “not such a big deal.” It became a bigger deal when she was pregnant last year. It prompted Karen to begin thinking about her Jewish identity. It also led her to reflect on how she and her husband, Peter Grace, a Catholic, would raise their new child.

Should Mohelim Be Supervised?

02/11/2005
Staff Writer
The case of the Monsey mohel who may have infected three newborn boys with the herpes virus is prompting some to wonder if the field requires greater oversight. The three boys contracted herpes simplex virus 1, the type which in adults usually causes only a mouth sore, but can overwhelm a newborn’s system. One of the babies, who was circumcised in October, died ten days later. He and his twin brother tested positive for the virus. The third is a Staten Island boy who also tested positive after being circumcised by Fischer in late 2003.

‘A Tale Of Unclear Expectations’

02/04/2005
Staff Writer
An independent analysis of United Jewish Communities’ first five years of existence, authored by two experts in American Jewish organizations, finds serious problems with the ways the umbrella and headquarters agency for 153 local Jewish federations does business. The report, titled “Predictability to Chaos? How Jewish Leaders Reinvented Their National Communal System,” includes a list of provocative recommendations intended to improve — some might say fix — one of the largest philanthropic networks in the United States.

Was God In The Tsunami?

01/14/2005
Staff Writer
The images transmitted from half a world away thrust suffering into our eyes on a scale that might have seemed like the stuff of Hollywood horror films. More than 150,000 people swallowed by the sea, many of their broken bodies spit back onto land like so much detritus, the bodies of children stacked up awaiting identification, mothers able to hold on to only two children while their others were washed away. The magnitude of the anguish has forced many to ask the eternal and fundamental theological question: “Where was God?”

Charities Anxious Over Market Volatility

03/19/2008
Staff Writer
Does the collapse this week of Bear Stearns, with its long history of strong philanthropic ties to UJA-Federation of New York, mark the beginning of a major tailspin affecting Jewish charities? Voicing concerns that parallel worries over the impact of the Bear Stearns’ buyout on the market in general, Jewish officials say it is too early to assess the impact but recognize that the coming period will be marked by uncertainty and belt-tightening.

What’s In A Name? Millions Of Dollars

03/19/2008
Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This is the second of two articles on controversies involving naming gifts in philanthropy. Last September, a Jewish day school known since its 1946 founding as Akiba Hebrew Academy changed its name to the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, after the deceased brother of a major donor, in exchange for a $5 million pledge.

A Conversion Critique From Within

03/05/2008
Staff Writer
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and recently retired head of the Ramaz Jewish day schools on the Upper East Side, is one of Modern Orthodoxy’s elder statesmen. He will soon celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination, but rather than reflecting on his accomplishments with unfettered joy — which include helping between 300 and 400 people convert to Judaism — he is feeling deeply pained about the direction the Orthodox rabbinate is taking when it comes to conversions, and conflicted about his own role in the system.

Conservative Rabbis Consider Gays’ Status

04/14/2005
Staff Writer
Differing religious perspectives on the status of gays and lesbians in the Conservative movement, from maintaining the status quo to radical alterations, were offered last week at a special two-day meeting of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. “It went well, quite well, and we finished the meeting without anybody yelling at anybody else,” Rabbi Kassel Abelson, chairman of the law committee, said in an interview.
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