Westchester Jewish Center


Kosher Explained: Simplifying Jewish Food Laws

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
From Jewish Food Hero

Judaism has many faces, and even among those who keep kosher not everyone observes the Jewish food laws in the same exact way. But if you’re just getting started with keeping kosher or want to know what it’s all about, this is a guide to the basics of traditional kosher laws.

The Torah doesn’t explain the reasoning behind keeping kosher and, unlike some other laws, it is not obvious. Some of the reasons suggested for kosher laws are:

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How to Lead a Tu Bishvat Seder

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 12:00am

In Honor Of Tu B'Shevat Which Is February 11, We Are Highlighting One Of The sections From Our Tu B'Shevat Resource Kit. You Will Find Many Other ideas, crafts, recipes, and videos Typical Of This Joyous Holiday. 

By Susan Silverman for MyJewishLearning.com    

The modern seder draws on elements of its mystical predecessor.

Set up your table as for Passover: white or other nice tablecloth, good dishes, flowers, wine, and juice. There is no requirement to light candles, but scented candles add a nice touch and a festive glow. Either one person can lead the seder, reciting each reading and making the blessings, or everyone can take turns. The directions concerning which fruit to locate and the mix of the wines should be read aloud. As each piece of fruit and each cup of wine is being considered and blessed, that object is held by the reader. After each blessing, the participants taste the fruit or sip the wine.

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For more great ideas, check out our board on Pinterest.

Tu B'Shevat (Arbor Day)

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:00am
From TimeandDate.com


Tu B'Shevat, also known as Tu B'Shevet or Tu Bishvat, is the day that trees come of age according to Jewish law. Jewish people mark this day by eating a symbolic meal of fruit and nuts or planting trees.

What Do People Do?


Many Jewish people make a special effort to eat a meal consisting of dried fruit and nuts accompanied by red wine or grape juice. They often share this meal with family members and close friends. Some people pickle or candy the etrog (a citrus fruit) used at the ceremonies during Sukkot and eat it on Tu B'Shevat.

Many Jewish people, particularly in Israel and on kibbutzim, plant trees or take part in activities to further environmental awareness. In this respect, Tu B'Shevat has a lot in common with Arbor Day celebrations around the world.

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To learn even more about Tu B'Shevat, check out our Holiday Resource Kit 

Also, check us out on Pinterest


The Jewish Tradition Unfolds in Fire. Here's How, and Why

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:00am

What are we to make of the fiery images, stories, and rituals that inform Jewish liturgy and Jewish self-understanding?

Stories of fire, images of fire, rituals of fire—the Jewish tradition unfolds in flames. During the Hanukkah festival, fire is central. For eight days, Jews commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by kindling the flames of the menorah and by recalling the fire of the altar, ever-present and never to be extinguished. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks beautifully describes:

Even after the Temple was destroyed more than two centuries later by the Romans, the Hanukkah lights bore witness to the fact that after the worst desecration, something pure remains, lighting a way to the future. The Hanukkah lights became one of the great symbols of Jewish hope.

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Why The Mishnah Is the Best Jewish Book You’ve Never Read

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:00am
By Lex Rofes for MyJewishLearning.com    

Why The Mishnah Is the Best Jewish Book You’ve Never Read

This almost 2,000-year-old text flies under the radar -- but it's immensely important to Jewish life.

The Mishnah, a body of Jewish legal text compiled around the year 200 C.E, has played a foundational role in the history of Judaism. As the first text of the rabbinic tradition (together with the Gemara it makes up what is known as the Talmud), the Mishnah arguably played a greater part in the re-invention of Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple than any other text.

However, many Jews have never heard of it. If you are one of them, know that you are not alone! Despite the Mishnah’s immense importance to Jewish life in the past and present, it often flies entirely under the radar, such that many Jews who are deeply engaged in synagogue life never crack open a page of its teachings.

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One of the Most Spectacular Songs of Praise in the Jewish Liturgy

Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:00am
Atar Hadari for Mosaic


Nishmat starts with the wide-open sky and the wings of eagles; it ends deep inside the recesses of the body, in our vital organs

One of the most spectacular songs of praise in the Jewish liturgy is the prayer known as Nishmat (“Soul of”), after the first word of its opening line: “The soul of all that lives shall bless Your name.” (My attempt at a translation of the poem appears at the end of this essay.) Reserved for Sabbaths and major holidays, it culminates the series of psalms and praises of God with which the morning service begins, and concludes with a blessing that marks the transition to the next part of the service. Interestingly, it also makes an appearance at a parallel juncture in the Passover seder.

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I’m wearing a kippah now — for solidarity and visibility

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:00am
By David A.M. Wilensky for JTA

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — I do not like wearing a kippah.

I grew up in a Reform synagogue where few people wore them, including the rabbi. The gendered nature of it bothers me. (Why, in some “egalitarian” synagogues, are men forced to wear them but not women?) And, quite frankly, I don’t like being told what to wear.

But two days after the election of Donald Trump, I put on a kippah. Since then, I’ve been wearing this visible symbol of my Jewishness all day, every day. I’m not wearing it to remind myself that God is above me — one of the explanations for the custom. This isn’t about God.

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Alexander Hamilton Was a Jewish Day School Boy

Mon, 01/02/2017 - 12:00am
BY LEAH FALK for Jewniverse    

If you’ve ever wondered, amid the frenzy over the musical Hamilton, “But what’s the Jewish angle?” have we got the story for you. Consider this about America’s favorite 18th-century illegitimate statesman: As a boy, he attended the Caribbean equivalent of a Solomon Schechter Jewish day school.

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9 Things You Didn’t Know About Hanukkah

Mon, 12/26/2016 - 12:00am
By Julie Wiener for MyJewishLearning.com

Lesser-known facts about the Festival of Lights.

Hanukkah, which starts at sundown on Saturday, December 24, is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays in the United States. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing new to learn about this eight-day festival. From the mysterious origins of gelt to an Apocryphal beheading to Marilyn Monroe, we’ve compiled an item for each candle (don’t forget the shammash!) on the Hanukkah menorah.

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For even more great ideas, visit our Hanukkah Holiday Spotlight Kit  

I'm Jewish and Greek. Who Do I Root for On Hanukkah?

Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:00am
Elizabeth Savage for The Jewish Daily Forward

They’ve switched on the window displays on Fifth Avenue, and the trees are for sale on the street corners, so I know I’m about to get asked the question: Do I miss Christmas? It’s a common question for a convert. But, despite a childhood full of Yuletides worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting, my answer is simple: just the opposite. I love Hanukkah and I’d trade Christmas for it in every respect. Except maybe one.

The reason is: I’m Greek. Or at least part Greek. My father’s family is from Sparta and loves the Greek Orthodox Church; my mother’s family is gingerbread-building, sugar-cookie-making WASP. To their credit, my parents have always been supportive of my choosing to become chosen, albeit a little confusedly.

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With Hanukkah just around the corner, find more great ideas in our Hanukkah Spotlight Kit 

What Is A Hamsa?

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 12:00am
By Menachem Wecker for MyJewishLearning.com

Although it may derive from Islamic or pagan culture, the hamsa today has become a Jewish and Israeli symbol.

You’ve probably seen these uniquely shaped symbols on pendants worn by Jewish women or displayed in Judaica stores.  And in Israel the hamsa — whether on necklaces, keychains or displayed on walls — is as ubiquitous as  the Star of David.

But what is a hamsa exactly? And what makes it Jewish?

This symbol of an eye embedded in the palm of an open hand has had numerous other names throughout the ages, including the eye of Fatima, the hand of Fatima, and the hand of Miriam. The form is sometimes rendered naturally and other times symmetrically with a second thumb replacing the little finger.

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Finding Healing Through Shiva Rituals

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:00am
By Marianne Novak for MyJewishLearning.com


Spiritual Medicine

My husband Noam and I began our early married life in St. Louis, MO. I took my newly minted law degree to the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, while my husband continued slaving away in his fifth year of neurosurgery residency at St. Louis University Hospital. One evening, after he came home from a three day in-house call, he related this particular story.

A badly injured young man was brought unconscious to the trauma service. My husband, his attending physician, and his other residents took him immediately to the operating room and saved his life. The young man had the dubious distinction as he was a Nazi skinhead. His mangled body was covered with a slew of racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic tattoos.

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10 Great Jewish Websites

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 12:00am
From the Coffee Shop Rabbi

Jewish Holiday Calendars & Hebrew Date Converter – If I had a browser that could go to one website, and one website only, I’d get a new browser. But if I were stuck with it, this is the website I’d set it to. It is an essential Jewish calendar, date converter, and reference.

The Times of Israel – Only have time for one source for news about Israel? The Times of Israel is as middle-of-the-road as anything you will get about news from Israel.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency – This is my go-to site for news anywhere in the Jewish world.

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Bedtime Shema

Mon, 11/14/2016 - 12:00am

By Joshua Rabin for MyJewishLearning.com

Asking God for peace and protection in this evening prayer.

The Bedtime Shema or Kriat Shema al Hamitah, is an extended version of the traditional Shema prayer and is recited before going to sleep. (Most siddurs, or prayerbooks, have the full text listed in the Weekday Ma’ariv section). The Torah prescribes that one should recite the Shema “when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7, 11:9).

Nowadays, this is manifested in the inclusion of the prayer in the Shaharit (morning) and Ma’ariv (evening) services. However, an additional practice of reciting the Shema before going to sleep developed in rabbinic times.

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How Jewish Leap Years Came to Be Calculated

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 12:00am
Philologos, for Tablet Magazine

The method, developed by the Babylonians and kept alive by medieval Jews, is known in Hebrew as the “secret of impregnation.”

The Jewish year 5777 has been slow in arriving. In fact, it has pushed things practically to the limit, since the latest date in the solar calendar on which the lunar-calculated first day of Rosh Hashanah can fall is October 5—only two days later than its occurrence this year. That’s because 5776 has been pregnant, as was 5774.

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