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William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?” The holiday of Tishah B’Av, which literally translates to the “Ninth of (the month of) Av” is so named to remember the destruction of the ancient temples in Jerusalem (in 586 BCE and 70 CE) said to have occurred on that day. Reform practice of this occasion varies, but in many Jewish communities, the day is traditionally one of introspection and mourning. This year and next, though, something curious happens: Tishah B’Av will be observed on the tenth – not the ninth – of the month of Av.

Why is this occasion...

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Every year on the Fourth of July, my mother and stepfather host about 50 people, newborns to retirees, at a multigenerational backyard party at their home in suburban New Jersey. We schmooze around the grill, cool off in the pool or with a beer, and shuck corn on the cob. My sister Barrie makes an American flag berry cake, and my sister Cheryl makes a cake that looks like a hamburger. Fireworks light the night sky. It’s all typical Independence Day stuff.

But we also do something unique that I wish were more universal: We mindfully read aloud the Declaration of Independence.

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Israelis are used to being asked to open up their bags and backpacks for inspection almost wherever they go.  When entering supermarkets, malls, bus stations. You name it. Usually, this routine rite of passage is accompanied by the standard question "Yesh neshek?" ("Do you have any weapons?") Most people are willing to sacrifice a bit of time and privacy for the added sense of security that these checks give them. Over Passover, though, it seems that something other than security was at play at Afula's municipal park. People were asked to open their bags, but not in search of illegal...

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My Passover seder this year was spent in the company of the small Reform Jewish community in Lisbon, Portugal. Despite numbering around two dozen, they are the only option in town other than the Orthodox, which numbers around 500, as the Masorti (Conservatives) shut down a few years ago. This Reform community has not yet officially joined the World Union for Progressive Judaism or the European Union for Progressive Judaism due to some administrative issues, but the people in charge of this community are determined to become a part of the Reform world and to not only survive, but also...

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When someone asked a friend of mine what his daughter enjoys most about living in Israel, he explained that she loves the way the country’s secular rhythms synch seamlessly with religious time in a way that doesn’t happen in North America. By way of example, he described Shabbat and holidays as characterized by closed shops, quiet streets, and low-key television programming.

Admittedly, it can be more difficult to feel the rhythm of Jewish time in 21st-century North America, but it is possible – and for me, it adds a most welcome sense of grounding to my hectic life. Much of that...

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