Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Jews’

Tennessee Family of 12 Are Fresh Converts

June 2, 2014

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

The McJunkin family. (Photo credit: Karen Talley)

The McJunkin family. (Photo credit: Karen Talley)

In a mass conversion of sorts, Chad and Libby McJunkin and their 10 children became members of the tribe last Sunday. The formerly Christian Chattanooga, Tennessee family was converted to Orthodox Judaism on June 1 in Brooklyn. The parents, now known as Sholom and Nechama, were also married according to Jewish law the same day.

In a phone conversation with The Times of Israel, the father described his children as “sparkling” and “shining” as they emerged from their ritual immersion in the mikveh. The couple, married for 18 years, has six girls and four boys, ranging from one to 16 years of age.

McJunkin, a carpenter, said it feels wonderful to now be Jewish and embraced by the Orthodox communities of Borough Park and Chattanooga, but he admits that the road to conversion has not been entirely smooth. While avoiding giving a direct answer to a question about how his teenage children were taking to the change, he noted, “There have been ups and downs for all of us.”

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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Getting Women to the Mikveh, Snow or No

December 19, 2013

This post first appeared on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.

50392500100693408471yes1130Jerusalem residents were told to stay off the streets during the recent, highly unusual, heavy snowstorm. Only plows and emergency vehicles were allowed to get through.

And only in Jerusalem would a “Purity Mobile” count as an emergency vehicle.

Ynet reported that Taharat Habayit (purity of the home), a Haredi organization, sent a 4×4 jeep-like vehicle out in treacherous road and visibility conditions last Thursday and Saturday nights to pick up women and take them to local mikvehs so they could immerse immediately following their monthly periods of ritual impurity.

“The organization’s top priority is raising awareness to the importance of the family purity mitzvah. We see it fit to operate even with such serious conditions like rainy weather and heavy snow, so that as many women as possible adhere to purity laws and manage to reach the mikveh in the easiest and most convenient way,” said Taharat Habayit chairman, Rabbi Yehezkel Mutzafi.

Not surprisingly, news of the Purity Mobile’s making its rounds during the storm generated much discussion in the blogosphere and on social media, in particular on the Facebook page of Joel Alan Katz, who edits the Religion and State in Israel blog. Some comments were critical, others were supportive, while still others were expressions of shock that something called a “Purity Mobile” even exists.

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/189618/purity-mobile-brings-israeli-women-to-mikvehs/#ixzz2ny2D9n7G

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/189618/purity-mobile-brings-israeli-women-to-mikvehs/#ixzz2ny256zKu

Sensei to the Orthodox

December 4, 2013

This piece first appeared in The Times of Israel.

 

Rabbi Sensei Gary Moskowitz shows of some (staged) self-defense moves on the NY subway. (photo credit: Robert Kalfus/Courtesy of Gary Moskowitz)

Rabbi Sensei Gary Moskowitz shows of some (staged) self-defense moves on the NY subway. (photo credit: Robert Kalfus/Courtesy of Gary Moskowitz)

Gary Moskowitz, a rabbi and sensei teaching martial arts to Orthodox children in Flushing, Queens, thinks religious intolerance has little if nothing to do with the fact that a large proportion of recent “knockout game” attacks victims have been Orthodox Jews. As he sees it, Orthodox Jews are being targeted for the simple fact that they are not physically fit.

“Jews are literally a weak target,” he tells The Times of Israel.

Moskowitz, a 56-year-old former NYPD officer, grew up a kippah-wearing boy in the Bronx in the 1960s. He learned the only way for him to survive the mean streets was to fight back against bullies who attacked him, including one who threw his skullcap on the ground and urinated on it. Now, many years later, he believes it is still important for Jews to know how to fend off attackers.

Despite Moskowitz’s street cred, professional and educational accomplishments, and black belts in multiple martial arts, he says many rabbis and teachers find his zeal to teach young Jews self-defense rather unorthodox.

“They tell me, ‘It’s not the Jewish way,’” he reports. The martial arts master obviously disagrees. “We’re not a militant people, but we have the right to defend ourselves. How can the rabbis say that it’s not the Jewish way when we just need to look at the Bible to see how David fought the Philistines?”

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.