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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Bonnie Margulis (Emerita)

Question: I want to convert to Judaism, but I've been told I should look to convert under a rabbi approved by the Chief Rabbi in Israel in order for my conversion to be considered kosher. Is this true?
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Question: I am a non-Jew who is considering proposing to my girlfriend, who is Jewish. She has said she wants to be married in a Jewish temple/synagogue. Are we able to be married there if I am not Jewish?
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Question: From a Jewish perspective, is there anything wrong with attending a Mardi Gras celebration? Administrators Note: For answers to a somewhat similar question regarding Halloween, see on the JVO website http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=319].
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Question: What is the ideal way to give tzedakah, charity?
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Question: My husband converted to Judaism (Conservative). He had a daughter from a previous marriage who was raised Christian (before my husband converted). His daughter just had twins, and we want the babies to eventually know that their grandfather, his wife and their children are Jewish. We were wondering if it would be ok to send the twins tzedakah boxes. We feel these will not only let them know they have Jewish relatives but also teach them the importance of charity. Would this be ok?
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Question: The problem of agunot ('chained' women - those who cannot get a divorce from their former husbands to allow them to move on with their lives) continues to plague our society. Why isn’t there a halachic (Jewish law) way to grant a woman a “get” (divorce decree) without the consent of her husband? Or is there? [Administrator's note: This topic has come up in past, and there are other, related questions on the JVO website that should be viewed in connection with this one for a fuller range of responses.]
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Question: Why is the Book of Maccabees not read on Chanukah?
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Question: Was it wrong for the Israel ministry of absorption to launch a media campaign with the message that Jews living in the U.S. can never live a fully Jewish life? Is this true?
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Question: What is the Jewish tradition's position on interment in a mausoleum?
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Question: Why is there a tradition to say chapters of Tehillim when someone is ill?
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Question: As a science museum with an exhibition that has a human brain in it what is our obligation to alert orthodox Jewish visitors to its presence?
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Question: It seems that often, in the Jewish community, mental illness is hushed up and not spoken about. Do we have an obligation to report to social services (or elsewhere) a member of our community that we feel needs professional psychiatric help? What is the best course of action to report a member of the Jewish community that seem to be mentally unstable? Should we report this to our community Rabbi, Jewish Family Services, public social services, the police? Where is the line between hurting someone with Lashon hara and helping to prevent tragedies?
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Question: What is the idea behind “kol yisrael arayvim zeh lazeh?” Are we really responsible for each other’s actions? How can a nation spread out throughout the world truly bear responsibility for each other?
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Question: In President Obama’s recent speech on the Middle East, he endorsed Palestinian demands for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 lines. This brings fears that Israel will be vulnerable to repeated attacks, like those that occurred between 1948 and 1967. As a Jew, how can I vote for a President that is pressuring Israel to withdraw to indefensible borders even though I support the President’s domestic policies?
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Question: If a woman has been in a coma for two years would Jewish Law permit disconnecting her life support in these circumstances? She was not given any other options when she was first admitted to the hospital, was on a respirator and gets her food from IV nutrition, and therefore, her husband feels as though he has no options other than to pull the plug. It has been two years of constant suffering and sadness for both him and her parents. What would Jewish Law say?
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Question: With all the talk about democracy vs Islamic rule in Tunisia and Egypt, I was wondering how very different our own religion was.... If our very religious extremists had their way, would Israel be a democracy? How can we reconcile the modern ideal of democracy with the (seemingly) clear preference in our own texts for autocratic rule (monarchy)?
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Question: I saw one of my 14-year-old son’s female friends post something on Facebook that I feel is very dangerous and makes her easy prey for Internet predators. I vaguely know this girl and her mother from around town. Where are the boundaries of ‘lashon hara’ here? Can I say something to the mother?
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Question: I am completely disgusted with Israel’s politicians behaving so self-interestedly. But I am afraid to say anything about it in conversations with non-Jews for fear of further tarring Israel with a bad image. How open can I be in political conversations about Israel, and does it matter who I am speaking to?
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Question: From a Jewish perspective, what obligation is there for the head of household to carry life insurance? If so, when is this obligation no longer required?
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Question: I teach my kids that recycling and saving the planet is a mitzvah, but I don’t really have any sources to base that on. Can you help me?
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Question: I am offended by non-Jews who take on Jewish rituals. Is this right? It would seem to me that non-Jews would be offended if I took on their religious rituals as some kind of cultural form.
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Question: What is the proper response of the American Jewish community when Israeli policy seems misguided?
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Question: Many of political candidates and leaders seem to have a conservative view of the role of religion in public life. What does our faith teach us about the influence of religion on public policy?
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Question: How can Jews bring Judaism into celebrating Thanksgiving?
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Question: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma from a stroke for five years, is being moved to his ranch in the Negev Desert. How should Jews decide whether to keep family members in similar medical states alive?
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Question: The Harry Potter films revolve around the struggle between good and evil. How far does our faith allow us to go in the fight against evil?
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Question: Today, in Israel, there is a question of the law as seen by the Rabbinate as opposed to the Knesset. I refer to the book, "Torat Hamelech". I believe the stated rabbinical position would be the end of Israel. What is the position of the Orthodox rabbinate of North America? The Conservative rabbinate? The Reform rabbinate?
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Question: Is circumcision absolutely necessary for baby boys?
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Question: How can I politely, yet firmly, explain to Christians that their faith does not supercede mine; the Hebrew Bible is not merely the "Old Testament" and that Jews are not simply Christians without Jesus? I am concerned with Derekh Eretz (proper behavior), but also with clearly stating the validity of my views and beliefs.
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Question: Is an "unveiling ceremony" (of a headstone in a cemetery) required by Jewish law - rather than by Jewish custom?
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Question: How strict is the Mitzvah of kavod av v'em? In other words, how much "honor" do we owe our parents?
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Question: Times are tight, and I’m trying to tighten my belt a little bit regarding my finances. Am I still required to give tzedakah when I’m having tough times of my own?
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Question: A friend of mine committed suicide. He was not Jewish; I've heard that Christianity teaches that those who committed suicide will go to hell. What does Judaism say about it?
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Question: If a person has a terminal illness what does Judaism say about that person ending their own life?
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Question: My grandmother and my grandfather were both Jews. They left Germany to escape the Holocaust and went to Brazil. My mother is not a Jew and my dad studied at a Catholic school. Am I considered a Jewish person?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on "don't ask, don't tell" and gays serving openly in the U.S. military? Does it matter that gays serve openly in the Israeli military?
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Question: What are the "theological" views of Chabad?
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Question: What is Judaism's view on the current same-gender marriage debate? Is Judaism completely against homosexual relationships? Is it for only civil unions? Is it for complete marriage?
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Question: Can Israel be both a democracy and a Jewish state?
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Question: What is the Jewish stand on women praying wearing Tefillin and a Tallit?
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Question: Why can't Jews be cremated?
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THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
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