Here you will find questions that the Rabbi's Assistant asks to help gain a better understanding of Jewish life and culture.
Born March 11, 1903, in New York, Dorothy “Dolly” Schiff was the daughter of Mortimer & Adele Schiff; theirs was a prominent family. Ms. Shiff’s grandfather, Jacob Schiff, who had come from Frankfurt in 1865, was a director of Kuhn, Loeb and Co., and was a founder of Temple Emanu-El (which your correspondent will be […]
Your correspondent refers to it as a “Torah schmatte,” but what do we call that fancy cover we put over the sefer Torah in the middle of reading it while we are doing other things? It is called a bein gavra. As those who sell them say, “the flat Torah cover is an ornate covering […]
A ḥevrah kaddisha (חֶבְרָה קַדִּישָׁא, literally “holy society”) is a group of individuals who collectively tend to the bodies of our deceased, preparing them for burial and tending them until funeral and burial rituals take place. They cleanse the body and dress it in a shroud, all a part of the ritual of tohorah (טׇהֳרָה) […]
Our member Alan Steckel has generously placed on indefinite loan to Congregation Beth Shalom a sefer Torah which has been in his family for approximately 100 years. It was commissioned by Alan’s grandparents, Jacob and Hannah Kruger Steckel, on the occasion - family lore has it - of their daughter surviving polio. It resided at […]
The first yahrzeit of Stephen Sondheim (z”l) (22 Kislev) will be December 16, 2022 , and so we remember him here, singing a few of his songs: “Another Hundred People,” “Somewhere,” “Ladies Who Lunch,” “That Dirty Old Man,” “Comedy Tonight,” “Send In the Clowns,” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid.” Stephen was born in […]
Since we suggest that anyone concerned about the manner of being called to the Torah consult the gabbayim ahead of time, we thought we would reprise the information below. Generally speaking, a gabbai (feminine: gabba’it) is appointed to serve to distribute honors for a service and to conduct (stage manage) some of the ritual, in […]
What Influential Jewish Fellow Was Born November 27, 1874? Originally Published November 25-26, 2022.
Here is a hint to the answer to our question for those who have heard the story over morning minyan breakfast: this person was first cousin to the mother of our friend Joe Charny. Dr. Chaim Azriel Weizmann was born in Motol, Belarus, to Ozer & Rachel Leah Weizmann. He would study biochemistry in Switzerland […]
Here we address a few questions we have received whose answers do not necessarily require a full column. When do we begin counting sheloshim, the 30 days after someone passes away? The day of the funeral (the day of burial) is Day 1. This is also how we count shiv’ah, the seven days of mourning. […]
We have already discussed how study can elevate the soul of a lost loved one, doubly if we say the Kaddish DiRabbanan after studying since the Mourner’s Kaddish is embodied therein. Some say that a similar path toward elevation is fond remembrance of time together. This year, your correspondent has been remembering the eleven we […]
Last week we mentioned the sparsely living and greatly studying Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai whose mysticism was carried forward through the Zohar. He was one of Rabbi Akiva’s precious few disciples who survived the revolt (or the plague), and it is said that later, after continuing to rail against Rome, he had to flee and […]