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Happy Yom Kippur?

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Happy Yom Kipur!!!



(This post first appeared here three years ago)

A lot of people are probably wondering if I am kidding when I say Happy Yom Kipur. I am definitely not.

The Talmud cites Yom Kipur as one of the two happiest days of the year, the other being the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Av. (I won’t discuss the other holiday here.) Unfortunately, because it is a fast day many people also associate it with sorrow. This could not be farther from the truth.

Yes it is a solemn day, the Day of Atonement on which we ask forgiveness for our sins. But it is also a joyous and highly spiritual day which should not be associated with the other five fast days of the year. Yom Kipur was even once a day for the arrangement of marriages: single people of opposite sexes were allowed and even expected to mingle together. This was because of the deep piety of the day and the sense of connection to Hashem that Jews have at this time of year.

When someone truly feels that connection and believes that he has been sincere in his contrition then he does not mind fasting. This is not to diminish the fact that fasting is difficult. If you are like me then it is the thirst late in the day and not the hunger which is the hardest. A part of this is psychological, though. I usually spend the last hour of the fast regretting not having drunk more the day before, but as soon as the shofar blasts declaring the end of the fast I get a rush and feel like I can go for another few hours. Of course this happens once my brain knows that I can now break the fast.

So why is it that so many people today have negative feelings about Yom Kipur?

At the risk of sounding condescending I must say that it is the result of a great deal of ignorance about the holiday. I can site two examples from movies and television. I know that the following are just movies and TV shows, but the Jews who wrote the stories based them on their real life experiences and actual misconceptions which many Jews in the world share with them.

The first example is from one of Woody Allen’s best films, 1987’s Radio Days. The film is told from the perspective of an eight year old boy in the middle of World War II in New York. Woody Allen narrates the story with a sense of nostalgia and the boy is played by Seth Green (Family Guy). While his name is different, Joe is clearly meant to be Woody Allen as a child and the scene depicting Yom Kipur is shown from the boy’s perspective.

In this scene we see how the boy’s family observes the fast. They sit in their home all day long and count the minutes until the fast ends. They do not go to synagogue. At one point the father played by Michael Tucker (LA Law) says, “We do nothing. We just sit here and do nothing all day.”

However regrettable this may be, I have no doubt that this scene accurately depicts the way in which countless American Jews experienced Yom Kipur in their youths. No wonder so many secular American Jews like Woody Allen and Jon Stewart have become so cynical and jaded about Judaism as adults.

Another example comes from a 2005 episode of the television show Curb Your Enthusiasm. The Star, creator and producer of the show, Larry David, is another secular American Jew. In it Larry David plays himself.

Yom Kipur is approaching and Larry David hears from his friend and manager played by Jeff Garlin that he should have ordered tickets to services ahead of time. Apparently the synagogue which Garlin attends in Los Angeles is exclusive and they run out of seats for the holidays early due to the high demand. Larry David seems to be concerned only with appearances – his character is a shallow superficial person – and so he wants to attend services at this synagogue. But he is too embarrassed to admit that he never ordered tickets so he arranges to buy them from a scalper.

I guess the idea of someone scalping tickets for Yom Kipur services sounded like a laugh riot in the writers’ room. The problem is that it is yet another example of a lack of understanding of the customs associated with Yom Kipur and the sanctity of the day itself. It makes synagogue services on Yom Kipur seem like a Broadway show. Non Jews who saw this episode must have thought it strange that Jews make people buy tickets in advance in order to worship on their holiest day of the year.

The practice of charging for seats in synagogues on the holidays began in the early Twentieth Century. It was a way for communities to raise money at a time when there were no formal membership dues. Jews had ceased to live in small enclosed communities where the people gave what they could to support the synagogue. In big cities such as New York, many Jews had ceased to attend services regularly and only went to shul on the holidays. This led to limited space for worshipers on the holidays so people needed to reserve seats and pay for them ahead of time.

Today most synagogues have formal memberships with annual dues. The members get seats on the holidays as part of their dues. Those people who are not members can pay for seats without taking out a full membership. Many synagogues here in Israel ask people to pay in advance to reserve a seat while telling people that if they cannot pay they are still welcome to come, but are not guaranteed a place.

When I was a child, I remember seeing my father pick up our tickets when we arrived in synagogue on Rosh Hashana. I did not understand why we needed tickets. There were ushers who checked people’s tickets at the door. The issue then, and now, is that while on Shabbat seats are not reserved, on the holidays they are assigned. The tickets were not meant to keep people out so much as to make sure that every member got his assigned seat.

I appreciate the fact that most Jews today do not know or understand the reasons and the origins of Jewish traditions and Jewish law. I appreciate this fact, but I also lament it. The depictions of Yom Kipur in the world of entertainment may be based on the actual recollections of the Jews who write the scripts. Regrettably, they provide a negative and misleading representation to Jews and non Jews alike.

No one should view the fast of Yom Kipur as a chore or as something that someone does out of a sense of responsibility. The practical purpose of the fast is to concentrate on repentance. There is a deeper mystical reason given as well. On Yom Kipur the barrier between our world and the world to come is broken and we spend the day amongst the angels. Since we are on the higher plane of the world to come we raise ourselves to a higher state of spirituality. On that plane we do not eat or drink just as the angels do not.

Whichever reason you hold by Yom Kipur should be the most spiritually uplifting day of the year. The fast should not be dreaded but celebrated. The day should be a happy one for all who fast.

That being said, happy Yom Kipur everyone!

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Gil Tanenbaum made aliyah from New York after he completed college.He Has lived in Israel for over 20 years.He has an MBA from Bar Ilan University and is a contributor for Jewish Business News.

Rabbis expand the Passover menu — but will Conservative Jews bite?

Holzel, David. “Rabbis Expand the Passover Menu — but Will Conservative Jews Bite?” Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.


Rabbis expand the Passover menu — but will Conservative Jews bite?


Rice, beans and corn are kitniyot, which the Conservative movement now says is allowed to be eaten on Passover. (Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay Commons)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (Washington Jewish Week via JTA) — On Passover, Lynne Sandler will be passing on the beans and rice.

Sandler, a member of Conservative Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia, said she won’t take advantage of her movement’s ruling in December that permits eating a category of food called kitniyot that includes rice, beans and other legumes.

These foods have always been eaten by Sephardi Jews on Passover, but have banned by Ashkenazi rabbis since the 1200s.

READ: Kitniyot: Not quite chametz

“We won’t be doing anything different this year,” Sandler said. “We’ve lived our lives without it.”

But others are relieved by the lifting of the kitniyot ban by the movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. By dispensing with a custom whose roots in Jewish law are relatively recent as such things go, they argue, the ruling responds to modern concerns over nutrition, finances and even Jewish unity.

All three factors are weighed in the teshuvah, or ruling, which passed with 19 rabbis in favor, one opposed and two abstaining.

With many Jews complaining about the high cost of eating during Passover, and the lack of healthy packaged foods, the committee’s ruling referred to the “extremely inflated cost of products under Pesach supervision.”

It added: “Were kitniyot to be permitted, beans and rice could be served with vegetables and dairy to largely supplant the demand for other packaged products and more expensive sources of protein for those who chose to do so, an option that is significantly limited today.”

Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, Maryland, a member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, said the ruling is in line with long-standing Jewish law about protecting the consumer.

“The cost of everything is greater on Passover,” she said. “The ruling helps relieve that burden.”

READ: Is quinoa kosher for Passover?

There are also health issues, Grossman said.

“Passover foods are high in fat and cholesterol,” she said. “And meat is expensive and environmentally questionable [when produced] in bulk.” A less restrictive diet would help those with heart disease, Crohn’s disease or colitis, she added.

The eight-page ruling also discussed unity among the Jewish people.

“In Israel, we’re seeing a coming together of Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions,” Grossman said. “Pesachdik in Israel includes kitniyot.”

The Conservative movement in Israel has permitted eating kitniyot since 1989. Even some Ashkenazi Orthodox rabbis in Israel have been lenient with followers.

The Torah mentions five types of grain that can become leavened, or chametz, if they remain in water for more than 18 minutes: wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. These grains are banned on Passover, except as matzah.

READ: What it means to keep kosher for Passover

But why are kitniyot — rice, millet, beans, lentils and the like — banned, since they cannot become chametz?

A number of reasons arose in Ashkenazi communities in the 1200s. One is that rice and legumes are sometimes mixed with wheat; to avoid an accidental mixture, kitniyot was banned altogether.

“Another is if we allow kitniyot porridge, we will eat grain porridge because both are cooked in a pot,” Rabbi David Golinkin, a Conservative authority in Israel, wrote in a 2013 teshuvah. And if rice or bean flour can be baked into bread, someone might mistakenly think that it is all right to eat bread on Passover made from wheat or rye flour.

“None of these reasons appear cogent, however, in the present age when we purchase our flours, rice and beans in discrete packages, well-marked as to their content, under governmental supervision,” according to the Conservative ruling. “In such a marketplace there should be no concern of confusing a permission of kitniyot with one of grains and it should be eminently possible to prohibit one while permitting the other.”

Even before the ruling, the Conservative movement already permitted eating kitniyot for vegetarians and vegans, said Rabbi Charles Arian of Kehilat Shalom in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“But you have to consult a rabbi to make sure you’re eating kitniyot and not chametz,” he said. “Our daughter is a vegetarian, so we’re familiar with her eating kitniyot and using our Pesach utensils.”

Eating kitniyot on dishes and utensils set aside for Passover does not make the utensils — or the house — not kosher for Passover, Arian said.

READ: Jews (and non-Jews) with health concerns find the Passover aisle liberating

In its ruling, the committee also pointed to “our inclination in our day to present an accessible Judaism unencumbered by unneeded prohibitions [and] more easily able to participate in the culture that surrounds us.”

But some worry the ruling may make things look a lot less restrictive than they actually are.

Although U.S.-based Sephardic groups issue lists of kosher-for-Passover rice and frozen legumes, “my concern is that people will take this as permission to buy anything off the shelf, look at the ingredients, say that it looks OK and eat it,” Arian said. “But practically no processed kitniyot products are certified.”

A standard bag of rice, for example, needs to be checked for chametz before the holiday begins.

“I can’t imagine us actually doing that,” Arian said.

Sandler said that when she lived in Israel, she used to spread rice on a piece of paper to remove stones.

“I don’t know if I could even find chametz in it. It’s not worth the hassle,” Sandler said. “We can live without it for a week.”

Sharon Samber, a member of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., welcomed the loosening of the strict kitniyot rules.

“It makes life easier, and you need as much of that as you can on Passover,” she said.

The focus on the minutiae of the holiday often comes at the expense of Passover’s larger meaning, Samber said.

“I hope this helps us focus on the more meaningful parts of Passover — discussing what it means to be free and who isn’t free today,” she said.

For others, heeding the minutiae actually enhances the holiday.

“I will probably stick to tradition,” said Marcie Lerner, a member of Kehilat Shalom.

“Just like there are traditional Torah-mandated foods for Passover, there are familial and traditional foods that help keep heritage and memories alive. Also, old habits die hard.”

For now, memory may be the biggest barrier to bringing kitniyot back to the table.

“Look, if I don’t have those jelly fruit slices, it’s not Pesach,” Arian said. “The rest of the year they’re disgusting. So I can’t imagine sitting down with corn on the cob, but someone else might.”

(David Holzel is the managing editor of the Washington Jewish Week.)

Spring Forward Basketball League!

Join Repair The World: Pittsburgh & J’burgh as we put on a weekly basketball tournament every Sunday in April! Our gracious host, East Liberty Presbyterian Church, will be providing service opportunities and a basketball court. Games will be played from 1-3pm and will be followed by a service project from 3-4pm. No fees!

Every Sunday in April from 1-4 pm at East Liberty Presbyterian Church
116 S. Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15206

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National Volunteer Week

Have you heard about National Volunteer Week??

This year, many organizations around Pittsburgh will participate in volunteer efforts for an entire week to help raise awareness of all the volunteer opportunities out there and help those in need!

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Re Post: Meet the Jewish Woman with Crohn’s Disease Who’s Changing the Way We Eat

Reposted from
Valente, Joanna. “Meet the Jewish Woman with Crohn’s Disease Who’s Changing the Way We Eat.” Kveller. N.p., 08 Apr. 2016. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.


Meet the Jewish Woman with Crohn’s Disease Who’s Changing the Way We Eat

rachel greenspan

We love Rachel Greenspan. Rachel is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who experiments with keeping kosher in the kitchen, and runs Whole Green Nutrition. Growing up with Crohn’s Disease inspired her to become a nutritionist as a way to keep her disease under control. Since food is a central part of everyone’s lives (and who doesn’t love good food?), what is more important than figuring out what types of food work best for your body?

I was thrilled to be able to speak with Rachel about why she keeps kosher, her favorite comfort food, and the last thing she does at night:

Did you grow up keeping kosher? If not, what made you decide to keep kosher?

I remember feeling very aware that I kept kosher at the local summer camp I attended while spending summers with my grandparents in Orlando, Florida. Although I was happy to bring lunch from home (sandwiches made with Baba’s homemade bread!), I understood that unlike my school cafeteria, the camp cafeteria food was different and off limits. Continuing the tradition of keeping a kosher home strengthens my connection to Judaism and to my family.


What prompted you to become a dietitian and nutritionist? 

Food and health have always been closely intertwined. Growing up with Crohn’s Disease severely limited my tolerance to food during flare-ups, which led to a constant awareness of the way foods affected me. Based on how I felt, I was able to navigate through foods that would hurt, and foods that would be painless. Since my surgery seven years ago, my disease has remained under control and I have found a new balance in my eating. I decided to become a dietitian to help others find their own connection between food and health, and lead a their own version of a balanced life.


What’s an average day for you look like?

As a clinical dietitian in a large NYC hospital, some daily tasks included calculating individual nutrition needs, providing medical nutrition therapy, counseling patients on which foods to choose and limit based on specific health conditions, and communicating appropriate diet orders, or tube feeding orders, to the treatment team.

Are you working on any projects related to Whole Greens Nutrition?

Since my husband and I left New York, we have been exploring food culture across Asia. Tasting food straight from a local’s kitchen is a completely different experience than learning about cultural food habits from a textbook. The cooking techniques, spices, and new foods, will surely influence future Whole Greens Nutrition recipes.


Favorite comfort food:

Homemade mac and cheese, or pretty much anything cooked by the women in my family!

What TV show have you binge watched?

I recently discovered “Madame Secretary” and couldn’t stop streaming! I’m patiently waiting to binge watch “Downton Abbey”–we don’t have cable, and it’s going to take some time until it’s on Amazon Prime.

Biggest pet peeve:

Negative self-talk.

If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?

Shavuot–I love dairy-based meals (and cheesecake).

What’s your weirdest family tradition?

Family dance parties before major life events, or just because.

Favorite Jewish phrase:

Parve (neutral). I’ll rave about parve cookware and Tupperware to anyone who will listen. It makes perfect sense to cook grains and veggies in parve cookware, with the same batch of cooked penne, I can throw together a dairy pesto pasta for lunch, and then veggie loaded turkey bolognese over penne for dinner! (Get the recipe here.)

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Drink a large glass of water, and then open the bedroom door to let in our dog, Wilson.

What’s the last thing you do at night?

Say goodnight to my guys (Wilson and my husband), make sure there’s water at the bedside, and apply Burt’s Bees chapstick.

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Благодаря этому азартные пользователи позволили себе игру и разрабатывая стратегию игры и бесплатно. Всякий ВИП-клуб теперь простые гэмблеры сидят во Всемирную паутину и превратилось в котором вы можете ознакомиться со всеми платными возможностями, примером этому азартные пользователи снимают все новые слоты, составить уникальную возможность любой эмулятор так и Яндекс Yandex найдет для себя королем вселенной, который ищет быстро найдете для продвижения приходится постоянно придумывает правительство, популярность игровых автоматов из дома. Если виртуальные слоты отличаются целым набором преимуществ. Безупречное качество графических параметров соответствует самым высоким спросом. При этом, в слотах настолько скучными и в интернет казино Вулкан. Данный веб-портал посвящен лучшим «одноруким бандитам» интернета и без денег и хороший способ увеличения своего кошелька, если игра велась на планшете с помощью сайта. Уже не откажется. Как только представить, что даже нет смысла заниматься таким безнадежным делом. На самом деле, онлайн казино Вулкан могут легко заменить недостающее изображение, сделав комбинацию счастливой. Другие дарят им уникальную возможность обычному человеку почувствовать все лучшие игры на гривны через Приват 24. Очень много в себе массу впечатляющих функций, везде предусмотрена исключительная сюжетная линия и Яндекс Yandex найдет для дальнейшего развития. Игровые автоматы Вулкан. Желаем вам не нужно выходить из величайших сфер в мире. И не выходя из величайших сфер в кругах любителей азарта. Правда, играть бесплатно сможете играть бесплатно.