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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Gary Pokras

Question: Are Jews outside Israel seen as part of the galut/exile, Diaspora, or a separate Peoplehood? In other words, how much emphasis is placed on Israel in defining Jews living outside it? Do you see the non-Israeli Jews and Israel as contributing to one another, independent from one another, or is Israel the center or focus?
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Question: My wife's aunt just died. I have resolved to only attend funerals of my closest family members (father, mother, sister, brother, and those with whom I have had a very close relationship). Must I attend my "aunt-in-law's funeral?
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Question: What exactly is the position of minhag (custom) in halacha (Jewish law), and when is someone bound to follow the community in something which is not purely halachic (according to Jewish law)? Where is the place of chumra (~strict interpretation) within Judaism? Thank you.
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Question: Israel's Interior Minister said that he is putting the needs of Israel first by sending back illegal African immigrants. But does Israel, of all countries, have a right to be xenophobic? Do we concentrate on our internal problems at the expense of isolating ourselves from the needs of others?
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Question: In some apartments and dorm rooms, people are not allowed to have open flames [by regulation or by law, usually for safety considerations]. I have seen many electric Shabbat candles, but not havdalah candles. What does one do to properly end Shabbat if they are not able to light the havdalah candle? Or are there electric havdalah candles available?
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Question: What kind of rules and customs do we have about ner tamid (eternal light) in a synagogue? Should it certainly hang from a ceiling or is it also kosher (acceptable) to put it on a top of the aron kodesh (Ark)?
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Question: My mother isn't/wasn't Jewish, my father is. I was raised Reform, had a bat mitzvah, [was Jewishly educated, celebrated holidays, identify as Jewish, participated in the Jewish community, did not participate in or celebrate any other faith or religion,] etc. If I have children with a man recognized as fully Jewish, how would they be seen in the eyes of Israel and the American Jewish community (particularly the Conservative movement)? How stable are Israel's laws around this -- could they change in 10 years? What about halachah (Jewish law)? I would really appreciate an answer, even if it's not what I want to hear. Thank you!
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LATEST BLOGS  view all blog entries

Is There Anything All Jews Share?

Posted on 08/21/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
We are in the middle of an age of intense disagreement. Between politics, religion, and other public topics - it seems that...

The Hate That Is Being Revived Before Our Eyes

Posted on 08/17/2017 by Carol Silver Elliott in Beliefs and Practices
My father was born in Poland, born at a time when anti-Semitism was not just prevalent, it was a fact of life. Yet while Dad...

Criticizing Critics of Biblical Criticism

Posted on 08/14/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
One of the reasons why I love the Jewish blogging world so much is that at any given time there is a whole array of topics...

Social Media and God

Posted on 08/14/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
It is easy to tell what a society is deeply worried about by the entertainment it produces. In this case, it is clear that...

National Despair

Posted on 07/27/2017 by Rabbi Ben Hecht in Holidays
During these Three Weeks which we are presently experiencing on the Jewish calendar, we are not just marking the historical...

Intermarriage: The Beginning of the End

Posted on 07/23/2017 by Moshe Daniel Levine in Beliefs and Practices
Believe me, I completely understand why a Jewish community would want to do away with the ethnocentric notion of Jewish...
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