Orthodox rabbis are pledging to take action in confronting the reality of sexual abuse in their midst.
The nation's main association of centrist Orthodox clergy, the 1,200-member Rabbinical Council of America, has passed a strongly worded resolution committing the organization and its members to report acts or suspicions of child abuse to the police: a watershed break with longstanding practice in the Torah-observant community of protecting errant rabbis rather than reporting them to civil authorities.
Being the first isn't a new experience for Rabbi Janet Ross Marder, the newly elected president of the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis. Twenty years ago, just four years after being ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, she became the first rabbi to lead Los Angeles' predominantly gay and lesbian congregation, Beth Chayim Chadashim. While there, she established a federation-funded AIDS education program for the Jewish community.
Never has a nickname been so fitting. Benjamin "Yummy" Hirsch is sitting in his sliver of an office, squeezed in between the retail operation and the production end of his bakery like frosting in a layer cake. The red-haired Hirsch, his beard close-cropped, looks at the near-chaos swirling around him and politely instructs a visitor to move so that an employee dusted with matzah flour and smudged with icing can push by with a tall metal cart stacked with a dozen sheet cakes.
In a Trenton, N.J., courtroom last week, Rabbi Juda Mintz, a charismatic Orthodox champion of Jewish pluralism, stood before a federal judge, his fate in the balance. He faced Federal District Court Judge Mary Cooper, charged with downloading child pornography onto his synagogue computer. The rabbi and his followers hoped the judge would allow him to serve his time at the Los Angeles residential Jewish addiction center he moved to a year ago.
Feeling a little lost as the service in your Conservative synagogue moves ahead?
Your movement has something for you: Or Hadash (New Light), a new commentary on the Conservative movement's prayer book, Sim Shalom. It's a book within a book, a commentary wrapped around the prayer book. It's a kind of beginner's service in print, but deeper, with historical context and contemporary commentary running along side the prayers.
When Reuben Zellman was a girl, he didn't know that he wanted to become a rabbi. But since he began identifying as male four years ago, his Jewish involvement has become more intense and, with the support of his synagogue community, he realized that he wanted to become a leader of the Jewish people.
Zellman has recently been granted his wish with admission to the Reform movement's rabbinical school. He will begin his studies next summer. Sources say that Zellman will be the first transgender individual ever to study in rabbinical school.
Who'd have ever thought that the type of shoes one wears would become a dating issue for anyone but a foot fetishist?
But that's what it has come to in the centrist Orthodox world, where pre-date interrogations of a young man or young woman's rabbi and loved ones have become the norm. It's part of the influence of the right wing on Modern Orthodoxy, say those involved.
In a dusty warren of offices on 42nd Street near Grand Central Station (where a plastic-covered album of yellowing client photos sits on a desk and there isn't a computer in sight) 80-something Dan Fields and his 35-year-old grandson Joseph Speyer are talking about that most elusive of elixirs: the chemistry of love.
Bella Zuzel is Sabbath observant but plans to break tradition to march in Saturday's rally against the war in Iraq.
"For me this is pikuach nefesh, with many lives at stake," she said, referring to the Jewish provision allowing one to break Jewish law in order to save a life.
In a first for an Orthodox-in-practice American synagogue, Kehilat Orach Eliezer in Manhattan has voted overwhelmingly to permit both men and women to read from the Torah at the same worship service. And despite synagogue leaders' efforts to make clear that the decision is applicable to their community alone, others say the move could have a far-reaching impact.