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Often, peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have gotten stuck on the status of Jerusalem. Debates over the future of this holy city are often informed by deeply held views of history, religion, and politics. We are left wondering whether or not a compromise can be made that will take into account the political desires of both Israelis and Palestinians and safeguard the freedom to for people of all faiths to visit their holy sites.

For millennia, Jerusalem has been a focal point for Jewish life. At Passover seders, Jews around the world intone, “Next year in...

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I had always thought of Jewish cemeteries as solemn places – but that was before going to a hilloula (festivity) 30 years ago in the Moroccan town of Ouazzane on Lag BaOmer, the Jewish holiday that falls on the 33rd day between Pesach and Shavuot.       

In the town’s Jewish cemetery, more than a thousand Jewish pilgrims from inside Morocco and abroad pitched tents around the tomb of the venerated Jerusalem-born sage, Rabbi Amram ben Diwan, who died in Ouazzane on Lag BaOmer in 1782. They came not to mourn but to party and to pray for good fortune.

Rabbi ben Diwan was a...

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I’m not going to lie: Walking into that first Introduction to Judaism class, I was nervous.

For the last five years – since falling for the love of my life, a beautiful Jewish girl named Felicia – I’d become increasingly immersed in Jewish culture, attending High Holiday services with her family, exchanging Hanukkah gifts, reading books on Judaism, and consulting “Rabbi Google.” 

Still, I felt like an outsider – self-conscious and keenly aware of my “other-ness.” 

Though I’d decided I was interested in conversion, I worried that, on some level, I’d always be thought...

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What could the actor John “Duke” Wayne, the very exemplar of cowboy culture and advocate for conservative politics, and Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the very exemplar of “prophetic Judaism,” renowned for his decades of service on behalf of progressive causes, possibly have in common?

In two words: Iwo Jima.

“Iwo” as some call it, is now an essentially uninhabited Japanese volcanic island about eight square miles in size. In February and March of 1945, it was also ground zero for one of the most devastating battles of World War II, resulting in the deaths of close to 27,000...

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You resolved that this year, you would keep the Counting of the Omer all the way from Passover to Shavuot – and then somehow, somewhere, you realize that you’ve lost count.

Perhaps it’s just a single blessing. After dinner one night, you go to say the blessing and the number suddenly brings the awareness that you forgot it last night.

Or perhaps you see something about it online (like this post?) and realize that, in fact, you don’t even remember when or how you lost count.

What to do? Give up? Sigh and think, “I’m a bad Jew”?

Never!

I would like to...

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