Lens

12/20/2011 | | Staff Writer | Lens

Rabbi Peter Rubinstein, senior spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, has blessed uncounted congregants during his decades as a pulpit rabbi.

One recent afternoon he had the chance — for the first time — to bless some dogs and cats. And other animals.

Rabbi Rubinstein lent an interfaith aspect to the annual Blessing of the Animals at Christ Church on the East Side, sponsored by the ASPCA, Live Oak Bank and newspaper columnist/animal lover Cindy Adams.

12/13/2011 | | Staff Writer | Lens

Fifty Jewish kids with cancer spent a few days in Orlando, Fla., last week under the auspices of Brooklyn-based Ohr Meir (ohrmeir.org), an 18-year-old organization named for Meir Friedman, a child who lost his life to leukemia. Ohr is Hebrew for “light.”

But last week’s trip could be called Ohr Mickey. As in Mickey Mouse.

12/06/2011 | | Lens

The roots of the Ethiopian Jews’ Sigd holiday — it may date back to the sixth or 15th century — are shrouded in mystery, but its celebration now is contemporary. Marked 50 days after Yom Kippur in remembrance of the date, according to Ethiopian belief, when God first revealed Himself to Moses, Sigd was observed in Ethiopia with fasting and praying on a mountaintop.

11/29/2011 | | Staff Writer | Lens

Its official name is the Forest Hills Spa, but to most of the people who come to the small building on a Corona side street for a massage or a shvitz, it’s the Russian banya.

That’s Russian for steam bath.

The spa, one of a half-dozen such vestiges of the former Soviet Union in New York City, is a reminder of home for the émigrés who grew up with frequent visits to a banya, where they would lie on wooden benches while steam rose from water poured over hot rocks and a masseuse would flay away with leafy branches.

11/22/2011 | | Staff Writer | Lens

Murray Koppelman, a money manager who lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, visited the Iranian city of Isfahan recently on a “pleasure trip,” went to the city’s main synagogue for Friday night Shabbat services and photographed this scene of Iranian Jewish life shortly before sundown.

At the bima, in the traditional Iranian sanctuary of the Yaakov Synagogue, one of three Jewish houses of worship he visited in Isfahan, stands a young member of the congregation.

11/15/2011 | | Staff Writer | Lens

A college town/industrial city in western Germany, Speyer has a Jewish history that is about a thousand years old. Its Jewish community, one of the primary sites of Jewish settlement during the time of the Holy Roman Empire, experienced pogroms and expulsions, refuge and rebirth.

Last week Speyer Jewry made history again.

With the president of Germany in attendance, the city’s small Jewish community of a few score people inaugurated a new synagogue, replacing a building destroyed on Kristallnacht 73 years ago.