September 24th, 2014
12:34 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog editor
(CNN) - According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashana, God decides who will live and die during the next year. For Cantor Shlomo Glick, the holy days - which begin the Jewish new year - are particularly poignant.
Not only does Glick, who lives in Jerusalem, stand at the front of synagogues and sing solemn prayers on Rosh Hashana, but he is an EMT for United Hatazalah, a volunteer emergency service.
Glick, 36, spoke to CNN via email about his spiritual and secular roles - including a time he stopped religious services to treat a man in cardiac arrest.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: For people who might not know, can you explain a bit about the role of a cantor?
A: A cantor leads Jewish congregations in prayer. We are professional singers who have extensively studied the order and meaning of the prayers in addition to how to carry our voices. A good cantor tailors the tunes and style of prayer with the audience to ensure that everybody sings in unison and finds meaning in the service.
Q: Which job, EMT or cantor, do you think is more important?
A: I love performing and inspiring people in prayer, but there is no greater feeling than saving a life.
Q: You work closely with human frailty. Does that make the High Holy Days more poignant for you?
August 6th, 2014
08:59 AM ET
By Candida Moss and Joel Baden, special to CNN
(CNN) - Last week a video of Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan emerged in which he claimed that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to make matzo for Passover.
The translation of Hamdan’s interview with the Lebanese television station Al-Quds on July 28 reports him as saying:
When confronted about his statements by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday, Hamdan did not retract his claim or distance himself from the blood libel slur. His only defense was that he “has Jewish friends.”
Whatever “historical evidence” or “facts” Hamdan believes himself to be remembering, this is nothing more than the infamous blood libel: the most persistent and longest-lived anti-Semitic myth in history, aside from the claim that the Jews killed Jesus.
The blood libel originated in medieval England with the death of William of Norwich. William was a 12-year-old tanner’s apprentice who was killed in 1144. At the time of his death, his parents accused the local Jewish community of responsibility, but investigations revealed nothing.
June 14th, 2014
04:30 PM ET
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
(CNN) - Being gay in Chile, Andres Rosenberg Benadretti once thought he could never get married. But his family's past may help him tie the knot some day.
Spain, where same-sex marriage is legal, has been considering a law that would make it easier for Jews of Spanish descent like Rosenberg Benadretti to get dual citizenship.
"This is something that can actually happen for me – it would be a dream come true just to have the option," said the 27-year-old. "Every human being should have the option to get married."
That isn’t the only reason Rosenberg Benadretti wants a Spanish passport, though. Mainly, he wants acknowledgement of his Spanish heritage, which goes back more than five centuries.
“My ancestors would be proud of me, and if one day I get to have children of my own, I’d love to pass on this beautiful cultural baggage,” he said in an e-mail.
Centuries after Spain formally and sometimes violently prevented Jews from practicing their religion, forcing them to convert or leave the country, the proposed law would open the country's doors to the dispersed descendants of Sephardic Jews.
On June 6, the country came one step closer to correcting what one Spanish official called a 500-year-old "error."
June 12th, 2014
08:42 PM ET
Opinion by Mark Goldfeder, special to CNN
(CNN) - To the team of researchers, Eugene Goostman seemed like a nice Jewish boy from Odessa, Ukraine.
In fact, he was a computer.
In convincing some of the researchers that Goostman was real, the computer program became the first to pass the Turing Test for artificial intelligence.
The Turing Test, named for British mathematician Alan Turing, is often thought of as the benchmark test for true machine intelligence. Since 1950, thousands of scientific teams have tried to create something capable of passing, but none has succeeded.
That is, until Saturday – and, appropriately for the Goostman advance, our brave new world can learn a bit from Jewish history.
April 17th, 2014
03:23 PM ET
(CNN) - U.S. officials Thursday denounced what one called a "grotesque" leaflet ordering Jews in one eastern Ukrainian city to register with a government office, but the Jewish community there dismissed it as a "provocation."
The fliers were handed out by masked men in front the main synagogue in Donetsk, where pro-Russian protesters have declared a "People's Republic," Jewish leaders there said. The document warned the city's Jews to register and document their property or face deportation, according to a CNN translation of one of the leaflets.
Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" that a respected Jewish leader in Ukraine showed him a photograph of one of the leaflets. He called the document "chilling."
And in Geneva, where diplomats held emergency talks on the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the leaflets "grotesque" and "beyond unacceptable."
But the Jewish community statement said relations between the Jews of Donetsk and their neighbors were amicable, and the self-proclaimed head of the "People's Republic," Denis Pushilin, denied any connection to the fliers.
Pushilin told CNN the handwriting on the flier wasn't his, and the title attached to his name was not one he uses. It wasn't clear who had distributed the leaflets, but the chief rabbi of nearby Dnipropetrovsk said, "Everything must be done to catch them."
"It's important for everyone to know its not true," said the rabbi, Shmuel Kaminezki. "The Jews of Donetsk will not do what the letter says."
The reports come as Ukraine's Western-backed interim government has been struggling to contain uprisings by pro-Russian political movements in several eastern cities, with both sides invoking the historical horror of Nazism in their disputes. Pyatt told CNN that radical groups may be trying to stir up historic fears or create a provocation to justify further violence.
"It's chilling. I was disgusted by these leaflets," Pyatt said. "Especially in Ukraine, a country that suffered so terribly under the Nazis, that was one of the sites of the worst violence of the Holocaust. To drag up this kind of rhetoric is almost beyond belief."FULL STORY
April 14th, 2014
11:44 AM ET
By Joel S. Baden, special to CNN
(CNN) - Moses: the main character of the Torah, the paradigmatic law-giver and the star of multiple motion pictures.
As Passover rolls around again and Jews the world over retell the story of Moses’s big moment, it’s worth remembering that there are aspects of Moses that haven’t made it to the big screen or into public consciousness.
For example, here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Hebrew prophet.
1. Moses was probably Egyptian.
The most important piece of evidence for this is his name.
In the Bible, it is explained that his name is derived from the Hebrew word mashah, “to draw,” as in “to draw him from the waters of the Nile,” where he had been hidden as an infant.
Unfortunately, it is awfully hard to get from that verb to the name Moses, which would probably mean something like “the one who draws," which isn’t how the story goes.
March 18th, 2014
10:03 AM ET
Washington (CNN) - Flanked by Jewish politicians in front of the United Nations on a July day, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton made a forceful appeal for the United States to back Israel as the Jewish nation's forces squared off against Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War.
"We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones," said Clinton, who was an outspoken defender of Israel and representative for American Jews for eight years in the Senate.
But it wasn't always that way. She had to work hard for Jewish support in 2000 as the New York Jewish community was skeptical of her support for Israel and publicly wondered whether the former first lady was too sympathetic with the Palestinians.
But by the time she ran for president in 2008, a number of Jewish Democrats said her record with the community was unprecedented. Touting her foreign policy credentials and defense of Israel, Jewish leaders flocked to Clinton as she ran against Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries.FULL STORY
March 3rd, 2014
06:01 PM ET
(CNN) - At the American Israel Public Affairs Conference on Monday, Sen. John McCain of Arizona joked that, because of his close friendship with former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, he observed a lot of Judaism's Sabbath laws.
"I've had to go through all this all these years and I've gotten none of the benefits," McCain told the crowd. "So I'm announcing my conversion to Judaism."
He might've gone through with it, the senator said, but for one little thing...
November 26th, 2013
08:49 PM ET
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.
But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.
Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.
As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.
November 25th, 2013
12:47 PM ET
By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - Break out the menurkeys and sweet potato latkes, people, it's time to celebrate Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.
A calendrical quirk brings the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together this Thursday for the first time since 1888. Scientists say the confluence won't occur again for another 70,000 years, give or take a millennium.
Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing manager for a Jewish nonprofit in Massachusetts, is the mind behind the mashup "Thanksgivukkah."
(If you think that's a mouthful, her other ideas were "Thanksgiving-ukkah" and "Hanukkahgiving," both of which caused our spellchecker to sputter and die.)
But with the right portmanteau in place, the Thanksgivukkah idea caught fire faster than a deep-fried turkey.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.