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DNA and the Origin of the Jews

Posted on February 12th, 2018
Prof. Steven J. Weitzman for TheTorah.com


Is there a genetic marker for cohanim (priests)? Are Ashkenazi Jews descended from Khazars? Why is there such a close genetic connection between Samaritans and Jews, especially cohanim?  A look at what genetic testing can tell us about Jews.


In premodern times, the question of where Jews come from had an obvious answer: The Bible tells the story of Israel’s origins beginning with the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, moving on to Moses and the exodus from Egypt, and continuing on the conquest of Canaan, the judges, the monarchy, the exile, and so on. Modern scholars have come to challenge that narrative, however, just as scientists began to challenge the creation story in Genesis, looking beyond the biblical account for an explanation for how the Jews came to be.

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Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Prophet’s Prophet

Posted on February 5th, 2018
BY ROBERT M. SELTZER for myjewishlearning.com 


Heschel aimed, through his writing and teaching, to shock modern people out of complacency and into a spiritual dimension


Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), a descendant of two important Hasidic dynasties, was born in Warsaw. After receiving a thorough Jewish education in Poland, Heschel entered the University of Berlin, where in 1934 he received his doctorate for a study of the biblical prophets… . In 1937 Heschel became Martin Buber’s successor at the Judisches Lehrhaus in Frankfurt and head of adult Jewish education in Germany, but the following year, he and other Polish Jews were deported by the Nazis. [Martin Buber (1878-1965) was a German-Jewish social and religious philosopher. The Frankfurt Lehrhaus, an experimental center for adult Jewish education, aimed to teach marginal, acculturated Jews about Judaism.]

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Regina Jonas

Posted on January 29th, 2018
BY RABBI ELISA KLAPHECK for myjewishlearning.com 


The first female rabbi and how she was almost forgotten.


If I confess what motivated me, a woman, to become a rabbi, two things come to mind. My belief in God’s calling and my love of humans. God planted in our heart skills and a vocation without asking about gender. Therefore, it is the duty of men and women alike to work and create according to the skills given by God. — Regina Jonas, C.-V.-Zeitung, June 23, 1938.

Regina Jonas, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi, was killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. From 1942-1944 she performed rabbinical functions in Theresienstadt (also known as Terezin). She would probably have been completely forgotten, had she not left traces both in Theresienstadt and in her native city, Berlin. None of her male colleagues, among them Rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956) and the psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), ever mentioned her after the Holocaust.

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The Kurdish Immigrants Who Built Israel

Posted on January 22nd, 2018
By Lauren S. Marcus for The Forward


In Israel, there is often a singular narrative told about immigration and the creation of the Jewish state: Ashkenazi pioneers came from Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century and built the country. They established kibbutzim, moshavim, and cities like Rishon LeTzion, and created pre-IDF militias. Streets in every city in Israel bear their names: Jabotinsky, Trumpeldor, Weizmann.

The Mizrahim came later, the narrative explains, in massive waves in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Refugees arriving long after the establishment of the state, they languished in ma’abarot and development towns.

But the story of one Kurdish Jewish family disrupts this narrative.

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Why Many American Jews Are Becoming Indifferent or Even Hostile to Israel

Posted on January 15th, 2018
By Daniel Gordis for Mosaic


It’s not about what Israel does. It’s about what, to their minds, Israel is.


All told, the two Jewish communities of the United States and Israel constitute some 85 percent of the world’s Jews. Although other communities around the globe remain significant for their size or other qualities, the future of world Jewry will likely be shaped by the two largest populations—and by the relationship between them. For that reason alone, the waning of attachment to Israel among American Jews, especially but not exclusively younger American Jews, has rightly become a central focus of concern for religious and communal leaders, thinkers, and planners in both countries.

True, other concerns have lately encroached: concerns in both countries, for instance, over the Trump administration’s still-developing stance toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict and, in the U.S., over a seemingly homegrown series of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism and bomb threats against Jewish institutions (most of the latter exposed as the work of a disturbed Israeli Jewish youth). But the larger worry—American Jewish disaffection from Israel—remains very much in place, and its reverberating implications were underscored during the waning days of the Obama administration, when by far the greater portion of American Jews stayed faithful to the president and his party even after his decision to allow passage of an undeniably anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations.

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