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Chelsea Feuchs

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Young children gathered around watching a woman read from a Torah scroll

On a recent Wednesday, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) first-year students gathered together for Israel Seminar. One day every week we focus on a different aspect of life here, viewing the country through historical, political, and sociological lenses. That week, we focused on Haredim, traditionally observant Jews often referred to as ultra-Orthodox in the U.S.

Although many people view this group as a monolith, there is a huge variety within and among the Haredi community. Some neighborhoods are plastered with signs decrying the influence of...

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Side view of grocery cart containing produce, bread, and several other items

Thursday afternoon has become my favorite time to run errands. The stores are jam-packed on Friday mornings as people bustle around the city preparing for Shabbat, and I prefer to beat the rush. Although I still get bumped with the occasional shopping cart, I feel far less claustrophobic and can usually find someone willing to explain the difference between two spice mixes that look identical to my untrained eye.   

This past Thursday, I pulled my safta (grandmother) cart through the aisles of Osher Ad, the Israeli equivalent of Costco. I couldn’t resist the massive bottles of...

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A group of friends eating a casual dinner together

Although I have been living in Jerusalem since August, only in this past week has my schedule achieved some semblance of normalcy. This is because the fall holidays do not simply affect one day at a time in Israel, rather they impact entire weeks.

There are plenty of similarities in religious observances for Jews around the world – on Rosh HaShanah we eat apples and honey, on Yom Kippur we fast, on Simchat Torah we dance – but here the whole atmosphere of the city changes as life slows down to make room for reflection and celebration.

During Sukkot, the final push in this...

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View of the Old City and the hills of Jerusalem at sunset

To say the High Holiday prayers are intense is an understatement. Throughout Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we read texts that discuss sin and salvation, martyrdom and mortality. It is fitting that we call these days the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. We are required to engage in a full accounting of our souls and our actions, with divine judgment looming above our heads throughout this difficult process.

For many, this intensity is uncomfortable and even unwelcome. There is often an impulse to soften the imagery and language around judgment, felt most acutely on Yom Kippur. While...

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Jerusalem stone columns, each topped by a waving Israeli flag

“The Israel Reform Movement and the North American Reform Movement passionately oppose this new law because of the harmful effect on Jewish-Arab relations in Israel, as well as its negative impact on the balance between the various core founding values of the State of Israel.” (Statement from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism)

The Israeli parliament’s passing of the Nation-State bill into law this week has dominated Israeli and international news. Why is it so important, and what is its impact on Jews who don’t live in Israel? We break down the new law...

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