Free Breast Cancer Screening for Jews in Philadelphia

A team of leading experts in the fields of cancer research and genetics will soon launch the pilot phase of a new, independent research initiative in Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York: the BRCA Founder Outreach Study (BFOR), which is designed to increase access to one of the most common tests for hereditary cancer. The study  is now open to those interested in participating, with potential enrollees to be contacted by email soon.

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Time is in Our Hands: Passover Devar Torah

Zodiac – Central Europe 1631. Photo courtesy of Jewish Theological Seminary Library.

By Rabbi Albert Gabbai

We are now in the month of Nissan, the month of our freedom from slavery in Egypt. We just read in the Torah this past Shabbat about the first mitzvah and commandment, which G0d gave to the Israelites as a nation: “This month will be to you the first of the months”.
The question is why does the Torah add the words “to you,” and not simply that “this month will be the first of the months?”
Our sages of blessed memory tell us that God gave the people the right to establish their own calendars; therefore, they determine when the holidays will occur. It is up to the Jewish leadership to establish the beginning of the lunar month and, in turn, the day on which, for instance, Passover will occur. In contrast,  Shabbat is not determined by anyone except by God, who created the universe in six-days and sanctified the seventh, the Shabbat. That day is not dependent on a calendar, but will happen every seventh day.

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Professor Posts Anti-Semitic Message on an Official University Site

Sixty organizations – Jewish, Christian, educational and civil-rights-focused – have demanded an immediate investigation of anti-Semitism at San Francisco State University (SFSU). For years, the campus has been a hostile environment for many in the university’s Jewish community. Jewish students have reported numerous acts of harassment, discrimination, intimidation and suppression of speech at the hands of anti-Zionist students and faculty. But this time, the discrimination is in plain view on a university social media platform. [Read more…]

Exodus From India to Israel

Little girl from India holding Israeli flag, makes aliyah to Israel. Photo: Shavei Israel

Little girl from India makes aliyah to Israel. Photo: Shavei Israel

Over 200 new immigrants came from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur to Israel.

The state, which is on the border with Burma, is home to the largest concentration of Bnei Menashe (Sons of Manassah) in India.

The new immigrants plan on settling in the Galilee, where many Bnei Menashe immigrants have made homes. They initially will reside in Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Hasidim, where they will formally convert to Judaism.

Upon arrival, the new immigrants will immediately begin preparing for Passover. [Read more…]

Passover: Our Story of Redemption

Rabbi Gregory S. Marx.

By Rabbi Gregory S. Marx

Every faith community has a story of redemption. But what we need to be redeemed from is what divides us.

The Buddhist believes that we need to be saved from suffering. The Buddha taught that all of life is suffering, and we must figure out a way to end craving. Our Christian brothers and sisters argue that it is sin that oppresses us.  They teach that faith alone can save.

Judaism also believes in redemption and being saved.  I remember a number of years ago someone erroneously saying to me, “The Jews do not need to be saved.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. We tell a story of redemption as well, but it is not from sin or suffering. It is from oppression.

The story of Passover is not a story that resonates in an ashram or in some exotic fashion. It is a story that reminds us that there are forces of oppression all around us. They drag us down and prevent us from being fully human.  We are saved by righteous action, or mitzvoth. We can redeem the world in partnership with God by living a life of goodness and mitzvoth.

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The First of Nisan, the Forgotten Jewish New Year

By Joel S. Davidi Weisberger

The Alexandrian pamphlet describing the Seder al-Tahwid liturgy.

It is late March and the weather is still cold. The sounds of Arabic music and exuberant conversation emanate from an elegant ballroom in Brooklyn, New York. No, it’s not a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah. A Torah Scroll is unfurled and the cantor begins to read from Exodus 12:1, “And God spoke to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.’” The reading is followed by the chanting of liturgical poetry based on this Torah portion, “Rishon Hu Lakhem L’khodshei Hashanah”… Yom Nisan Mevorakh….” “The first month shall it be for you for the months of the year… the month of Nisan is blessed.” As they leave the event, men and women wish each other “Shana tova,” happy new year.

Something seems off. It is a Monday night and Rosh Hashanah, the traditional Jewish new year, is still six months away. Why the celebration and talk of a new year? This ritual is very familiar, however, to the members of Congregation Ahaba Veahva, a Synagogue that follows the Egyptian-Jewish rite. It is a vestige of a very ancient, almost extinct Jewish custom called Seder Al-Tawhid (Arabic, Seder Ha-Yikhud in Hebrew, the ritual of the unity). [Read more…]

Over 1 Million Pennsylvanians Used Online Voter Registration

With all the focus lately on Pennsylvania’s congressional district map, an important electoral milestone may have been overlooked — which is that more than 1 million Pennsylvanians have now used the Wolf administration’s online voter registration (OVR) site. The system, launched in August 2015 by Gov. Wolf, has made it easier and more secure for citizens to register to vote and update their existing registrations. The 1 millionth user was from Delaware County. [Read more…]

Changing the Conversation on Gun Violence

By Shira Goodman

Screenshot from ABC News video on YouTube.

Screenshot from ABC News video on YouTube.

Following the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., we are mourning. And we are outraged. But we are not surprised. The truth is, we’re complicit in accepting this carnage, because we’ve allowed lawmakers to pretend there’s nothing we can do to prevent such shootings. We have tolerated losing 96 Americans a day to guns. [Read more…]

A Rabbi’s Trip to the Vatican

by Rabbi Gideon Shloush

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Shloush recently attended a conference on anti-Semitism at the Vatican in Rome.

I dreaded returning to Rome. I remember being there a decade ago and I recall the unsettling feeling. After all, this is the place of our Galut (exile). Rome is the symbol of the crushing of Jerusalem and our people’s enslavement.

Nevertheless I was there to participate in a major international conference focused on anti-Semitism. How ironic. The Romans ransacked Israel, the Catholics were responsible for endless persecutions of our people, and here we were in Rome talking about anti-Semitism. [Read more…]

AJC Brings Innovative High School Program to Philadelphia

By Max Buchdahl

When Ryan Berger was about to enter his sophomore year of high school, the current University of Pennsylvania freshman watched coverage of the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas with nervous eyes. He was surrounded by people he cared about who had differing opinions on the war — and he wanted answers.

So Berger asked his mother, who is involved with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in New York, what he could do to learn more about the issues. He wanted to know how a high-schooler, with little expertise but a large desire to get involved, could advocate effectively on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. [Read more…]