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Rice and Beans OK for Passover for First Time Since 1200s

A 13th century rule has been reversed

(Newser) - Foods like rice and beans may be on the Passover tables of some Jews for the first time in 800 years thanks to a ruling by a committee of rabbis in the Conservative movement, Smithsonian reports. Those foods, along with corn, beans, and peanuts, which belong to a category called... More »

The Surprising Traditions of Jewish Christmas Eve

Toilet paper, abstinence, and persecution

(Newser) - For many people—religious and non-religious alike—Christmas Eve means hot cocoa with family, watching Love Actually, or furiously wrapping last-minute gifts. But for centuries of Jews, Christmas Eve was all about abstinence, tearing toilet paper, and the occasional poker game. Slate has a fascinating look at the little-known—even... More »

Vatican to Catholics: Stop Trying to Convert Jews

Help them fight anti-Semitism instead: new report

(Newser) - The Vatican is taking steps toward fixing its long-troubled history with the Jewish faith with the Thursday release of a 10,000-word document that instructs Catholics to help Jews fight anti-Semitism instead of trying to convert them, Reuters reports. The Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews explained that Catholicism... More »

Zooey Deschanel Converts to Judaism

Sources say she made the move for husband Jacob Pechenik

(Newser) - Zooey Deschanel is now Jewish. Sources tell Us she converted to Judaism for her Jewish husband, Jacob Pechenik. Prior to that, she didn't feel strongly about religion: Her mother is Roman Catholic and her father is Quaker, and she once explained, "I don't attach myself to any... More »

Israel Thinks It's Cracked Mystery of Maccabees' Tomb

Scholars and archaeologists have pointed to this site for 150 years

(Newser) - For 150 years, scholars and archaeologists have sought the final resting place of the Maccabees, a band of rebels who established a Jewish kingdom in the second century BC, in one of the great mysteries of Jewish history, reports the AP . Now the Israeli Antiquities Authority says that it may... More »

Church, Synagogue, Mosque to Share One 'House'

Berlin project will cater to Christians, Jews, and Muslims

(Newser) - A pastor, a rabbi, and an imam walk onto an empty lot, and ... bury their shoes. Why? Because they plan to build what may be the world's first interfaith facility with separate houses of worship for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the BBC reports. Dubbed the "House of One,... More »

Scholar Finds 9 More Dead Sea Scrolls

Experts will unravel, analyze the tiny parchments

(Newser) - They may be small, but they're still Dead Sea Scrolls—and no one knows what they contain. An Israeli scholar has discovered nine tiny parchments amid the thousands of world-famous scrolls and scroll fragments that date back to the second century BCE, the Times of Israel reports. Dr. Yonatan... More »

Christmas Is for Jews, Too

Two Jewish writers say they celebrate the holiday

(Newser) - People often try to tell Charlotte Alter that she shouldn't celebrate Christmas because she's Jewish. Her response? "First, mind your own business and leave my gingerbread house alone," she writes at Time . For many, this holiday is about Santa, not Jesus—and who's to say... More »

American Jews Losing Their Religion

22% now consider themselves non-religious Jews

(Newser) - America has by far the world's largest Jewish population of any country save Israel, but the proportion of them who consider themselves non-religious Jews has surged to 22%, according to a new poll. Around two-thirds of those interviewed did not belong to a synagogue and a third had a... More »

Oldest Torah Scroll Found

Researcher in Bologna, Italy, finds it in university library

(Newser) - An Italian researcher has found what is believed to be the oldest scroll from Judaism's most important text, and he didn't have far to look. The professor at the University of Bologna found the 850-year-old Torah scroll in the school library, where it had been mistakenly labeled a... More »

World Growing Less Tolerant of Muslims, Jews: Report

State Dept says anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic sentiments growing

(Newser) - Anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic sentiments are growing in many countries around the world, according to a new US State Department report. Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran in particular are singled out for anti-Semitism—the report says the Egyptian media engages in Holocaust denial and glorification, while the Iranian government regularly denounces Judaism,... More »

10 Women in Israel Detained for Wearing Prayer Shawls

One is Sarah Silverman's sister

(Newser) - Ten women, one the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, were detained today for wearing prayer shawls at a holy site in Israel. The Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City is under Orthodox ritual law, which only allows men to wear prayer shawls, Reuters reports. Susan Silverman was there as... More »

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis Lose Draft Exemption

Leader warns of 'civil war' if devout conscripted

(Newser) - The draft exemption that ultra-Orthodox Jewish men have enjoyed since Israel's founding ended last night, and defense minister Ehud Barak has given the military a month to prepare for the change, reports AP . A law granting exemptions to religious scholars has expired and Israel's Supreme Court has ruled... More »

Prophecy Drives Firm to Dig for Diamonds in Israel

And it thinks it has found evidence that it's on the right track

(Newser) - All it took was a prophecy. That was enough to launch Shefa Yamim, an Israeli mining firm that has spent more than a decade combing the hills and valleys around Haifa for diamonds, something no one ever expected to find in Israel. "It's a mission," CEO Avi... More »

8 Celebs Who Switched Religions ... for Love

Drew Barrymore, converting to Judaism, is the latest

(Newser) - Drew Barrymore is getting married , but first she's—reportedly—converting to Judaism, the religion fiance Will Kopelman practices. She follows the tradition of these seven other celebrity spouses (or not-quite-spouses) who did the same thing, notes The Frisky :
  • Isla Fisher: Converted to Judaism for Sacha Baron Cohen.
  • Jesus Luz:
... More »

Rabbis' Wives Advise: 'Don't Date Non-Jews'

Diatribe against Arab men raises charges of racism

(Newser) - A letter in Israel signed by 30 rabbis' wives offers clear-cut dating advice to young Jewish women: Stay away from "non-Jews," and especially Arab men. "There are no few Arab workers who use a Hebrew name," warns the letter, as recounted by AOL News . "Yusuf... More »

Israeli Rabbi Blesses Spies' 'Honeytrap' Sex

Sleeping with the enemy has Biblical precedent

(Newser) - It's kosher for women working for Israel's spy agency to trade sex for national security, according to an Israeli rabbi. Rabbi Ari Shvat's study concluded that so-called "honeytrap" sting missions, which have repeatedly been used by Mossad, don't violate Jewish law, ABC reports. The rabbi noted that similar missions... More »

Why I Allowed My Sons' 'Brutal' Circumcisions

It hurts, but it's a necessary comfort in an uncertain world

(Newser) - Taffy Brodesser-Akner believes that circumcision is “brutal” mutilation. So why did she subject her sons, and herself, to the traditional Jewish bris—even as she suffered “self-loathing” for what she was putting them through? She traces her Jewish upbringing, denouncement of religion, and eventual return to the faith... More »

Bishop: Vatican Abuse Uproar a 'Zionist Attack'

Italian priest allegedly blames Jews for sex abuse scandal

(Newser) - Jews are fanning the flames of the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, an elderly Italian bishop has allegedly claimed—and American Jewish groups aren't too happy about it. A Catholic website quotes Giacomo Babini, 81, as saying the "powerful and refined" nature of criticism of the church suggests a... More »

White House Renews Seder Tradition

(Newser) - Among the families around the world gathering tomorrow to celebrate the beginning of Passover with a dinner, or seder, will be a high-profile group: the Obamas. The White House seder tradition started on the campaign trail in 2008, when then-senator Barack Obama surprised three staffers by showing up for their... More »

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