Sarah and Michelle aren't getting married this summer; they're having a commitment ceremony. They are specifically not calling it a wedding and there will be no ketubah, marriage contract.
Instead, they will participate in a Talmudic ritual that establishes business partnerships and outline their mutual responsibilities and commitment in a shtar, a Jewish legal document.
The non-religious Jew, the secular, the humanist, the cultural Jew: in a city rich with synagogues and tradition-oriented classes, where are they to turn?
There will soon be a new haven for such folks, whose ranks, according to recent studies, are swelling.
Those in the region who describe themselves as "just Jewish" or "secular" or "having no religion" have nearly doubled in the last decade, from 13 to 25 percent, according to the recent New York population study.
Experts say the responses to surveys often depend on how the questions are asked, so the language used obviously becomes critical. How certain words are understood depends on their cultural context, and that changes over time: the way a word is understood in one decade may have changed by the next survey.
Take the new New York Jewish population study. Asked their religious identification, the overwhelming majority of respondents said either Reform, Conservative or Orthodox, and everyone pretty much knows what those labels mean.
A population shift of dramatic proportions is changing the face of New York's Jewish community as Russians and the Orthodox (many of them poor) now comprise nearly four in 10 Jews in New York City, according to the 2002 New York Jewish Community Study.
While the overall Jewish population in the city, Long Island and Westchester has remained stable in the last decade at 1.4 million, the makeup of the 643,000 households in which they live is radically different than in 1991, suggesting major changes in the city's political landscape and the Jewish community's funding priorities.
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.