President Obama announced today that he will nominate Rabbi David Saperstein, longtime director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, as the State Department’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
Six women were detained by Jerusalem police for wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall as more than 100 women gathered there for the monthly Women of the Wall service.
The detainments Thursday, on the first day of the Hebrew month Kislev, follow the arrest at last month's service of Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman. Hoffman was not at Thursday’s service, as she was banned from the Wall for 30 days following her arrest on Oct. 17.
The detainments occurred before the service began as women were putting on their tallitot.
Religious freedom is, naturally, of great concern to Jews everywhere. That is why there has been much consternation about a German regional court ruling in May that said circumcision of boys for religious reasons causes bodily harm and is unlawful. A rabbi in northern Bavaria was criminally charged for performing a brit milah as part of his duties.
The recent Catholic manifesto for religious freedom, “Protecting Consciences” (www.usccb.org/conscience), presents a view that seems hard to contest: “What we ask is nothing more than the right to follow our consciences as we live the life of our teachings.” Yet, it cannot be that simple when one person’s conscience directs him to discriminate. Determining when our laws should tolerate religiously motivated discrimination is actually a nuanced question.
A Jewish student at a Maryland high school was asked to prove that he wore a head covering for religious reasons.
Caleb Tanenbaum, 17, was asked by the administration of Northwood High School in Silver Spring to provide a letter from a rabbi explaining that he was wearing his Rastafarian-style head covering for Jewish religious reasons. A school rule forbids all headwear, with the exception of students who verify that their headwear is religious in nature. Other students also have been asked for verification.
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) -- In November, San Franciscans will vote on a ballot measure that would outlaw circumcision on boys under the age of 18.
Although experts say it is highly unlikely the measure will pass -- very few state propositions pass, much less one this controversial -- the mere fact that it reached the ballot, and in such a major city, has caused much concern for Jews and their allies.
Religious freedom is both precious and precarious. Case in point: the circumcision ban that will be on the ballot as a referendum in San Francisco in November.
The proposed measure would make it unlawful to perform a ceremony critical to the identity of Jews; worse, it states that “no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that or any other person that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.”
Talk about blatant violations of the First Amendment.
(JTA) -- An Alaska Airlines flight crew issued a security alert after three Mexican Orthodox Jews began praying with tefillin.
The flight attendants, who were concerned by the prayers being said aloud in Hebrew and the unfamiliar boxes with leather straps hanging from them, locked down the cockpit and radioed a security alert ahead to Los Angeles International Airport.
The flight originated Sunday in Mexico City. It was met at the Los Angeles airport by fire crews, foam trucks, FBI agents, Transportation Security Administration personnel and police, according to Reuters.