Westchester Jewish Center

Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages

Posted on May 22nd, 2017
Thomas Albert Howard for Patheos

Although they were infrequent affairs, formal debates between Christians and Jews sometimes took place in the Middle Ages—even if the deck was often stacked against the Jews. For a research project, I have been reading about two of these: the Paris Disputation of 1240 and the Barcelona Disputation of 1263.

The former took place at the royal court of Louis IX in Paris in June of 1240. With assurances of protection from the crown, four leading rabbis, led by Rabbi Yehiel ben Joseph of Paris, were asked to defend the Talmud against charges leveled against it by one Nicholas Donin. A Christian convert from Judaism, Donin had sent a letter itemizing putatively anti-Christian blasphemies and other imbecilities (stultitiae) in the Talmud to Pope Gregory IX, who in turn sent letters of warning to all the monarchs of Christendom. The actual debate lasted several days, during which the rabbis presented a spirited defense against the charges. But their defeat was a foregone conclusion.


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Jewish Wedding Guide for Interfaith Couples

Posted on May 15th, 2017
By InterfaithFamily

If you or a loved one from a Jewish background is planning a wedding, you probably have tons of questions. What are the components of a Jewish wedding? How can we create a meaningful and interfaith-friendly ceremony? How do we handle the planning process and include our families? The following guide offers insight into the meaning behind Jewish wedding rituals and guidance in planning an inclusive ceremony.

If you are looking for Jewish clergy to officiate at your interfaith wedding, we can help with that too!

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Why Conversion Lite Won’t Fix The Intermarriage Problem

Posted on May 8th, 2017
Shaul Magid for The Forward

In a recent essay in The Jewish Week titled “Mikveh Can Solve Conversion Problem”, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove presented a courageous attempt to address arguably the most pressing problem of 21st century American Jewry: intermarriage.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the problem of intermarriage is that for many Millennials, it is not a problem at all. As a 2013 Pew Study showed, intermarriage has become a normative dimension of the American Jewish experience. In response, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary Arnold Eisen penned in 2014 an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in which Eisen suggested that Conservative rabbis begin a process of soft proselytizing of non-Jewish spouses of intermarriages. In some way Rabbi Cosgrove’s essay is an extension of Eisen’s proposal. In my response to Eisen’s essay [“Should Rabbis Proselytize Non-Jewish Spouses?” Zeek August 20, 2104] I challenged Chancellor Eisen on a number of fronts, one being that conversion is far too significant and intense an act, for anyone, to serve as a solution to a Jewish problem.

I offer a similar challenge to Rabbi Cosgrove.
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How to Pick a Hebrew Name

Posted on May 1st, 2017
By Anita Diamant for MyJewishLearning.com

One of the joys of being "like a newborn baby" after the conversion is that you get to pick a Hebrew name--which is easier than you may think. 


Converts have always selected Hebrew names that speak to them personally; Ruth has long been a favorite for obvious reasons. [Ruth, the grandmother of King David, is perhaps the Bible’s best-known convert.] Most converts choose a biblical name. There are 2,800 personal names in the Hebrew Bible, and although fewer than 5 percent of those are in current use, all of them are yours to consider.

Many of the names in the Bible are theophoric, meaning that they exalt God. Names with the prefixes or suffixes el, eli, ya, and yahu all refer to the Holy One: Elisha–God is my salvation; Raphael–God has healed; Gamliel–God is my reward.

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Stephanie & Dan’s Interfaith Catholic-Jewish Wedding (Complete With An Officiant!)

Posted on April 24th, 2017
From A Practical Wedding

Last year, Stephanie submitted a post to us about her struggle searching for someone to perform a Catholic-Jewish interfaith wedding, and the challenges that come with planning an interfaith wedding when both partners are practicing in their religion. Today she follows up with a grad post that answers that letter. And it’s a damn good one. In other news, can we take a moment to acknowledge that Stephanie works as a mission controller and her husband is an astronaut trainer? Space! We have the most badass readers. That is all.

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