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Group of people holding candles in a darkened room as if at a service

Editor's note: The text that follows was adapted from an address that was presented before a live audience at the 2019 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial on Saturday, Dec. 14. 

Jersey City. Pittsburgh. Poway. Hypercacher in Paris. Halle. Crown Heights. The list of places comes tripping off our tongues with an easy familiarity – places where Jews have been subjected to murderous attacks.

We Jews belong to a strange fraternity. Even those among us who know very little about our history, our tradition in all its manifestations, know...

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Doctor holding a mouth swab

When I received the first phone call, I was confused, to say the least. I’m a potential match? For what? Are you sure? …also, how did you get this number?

The call was from Gift of Life, an incredible organization that works to give people with blood cancers, like leukemia and lymphoma, a second chance at life. Most notably, they match patients in need of stem cell transplants to donors.

Gift of Life was born of an effort by founder Jay...

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Four smiling people holding 2020 sparklers toward the camera

Superstitious folks eat all kinds of specific foods to ring in the secular New Year, hoping the items they consume – all of which are said to represent various forms of success in the year to come – will positively impact their days ahead.

Whether or not you believe in such superstitions, it can be fun to put your own spin on them! Close out the year by putting a Jewish twist on some of these traditional New Year’s foods.

1. In the American South, greens are said to represent money and financial success.

Tina Wasserman’s...

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A tray of fancy soufganiyot in Israel

Every 10 days, I get my hair cut. I don’t have much hair, and if I wanted to, I probably could do it myself. But instead of trying to see the back of my head in the bathroom mirror like a contortionist, I go to Daniel who owns a small barbershop on Azza Street – a five-minute walk from our apartment. 

It takes Daniel literally eight minutes to cut my hair – but we spend about half an hour together. Daniel understands just a bit of English, so we talk in Hebrew. He’s patient with my semi-fluent Hebrew and is pleased when he can correct me and introduce me to new words – such as “...

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View of the ocean from the deck of a cruise ship

Last winter, our family took a cruise that coincided with the first six days of Hanukkah. We called the cruise line beforehand to see if there would be a celebration aboard the ship. Yes, we were told, plans were in place for meals to include latkes, gefilte fish, and matzoh ball soup.

But, said the young woman on the other end of the phone, “We don’t have a rabbi.”

“I’m a rabbi,” I told her, and would be willing to lead the services. Also, I added, latkes and jelly...

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