iOS app Android app

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
GET UPDATES FROM Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Yonah Bookstein is rabbi of Pico Shul, a newly formed unconventionally traditional community in Los Angeles. He is an Oxford educated, Fulbright scholar who has dedicated his life to helping Jewish communal renaissance in Poland and the United States. He is a leading voice of the next generation of American Jewry, the founder of the Jewlicious Festival. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiYonah.

Entries by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

A Broken Heart Can Be the Highest Place

(1) Comments | Posted April 4, 2016 | 9:10 AM

2016-04-01-1459539381-4309641-heartinhand.jpgThe Midrash tells us that Aaron was ashamed to approach the altar for he saw the image of the Golden Calf, his sin, on the altar. He was filled remorse and his heart was broken. Aaron was thinking, "After what I...

Read Post

Saying Psalms in a Mosque: A Jewish, Muslim, Christian Collaboration

(1) Comments | Posted March 30, 2016 | 5:37 PM

Pictured from left to right: Father Eamon Kelly, L.C., Vice Chargé at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Pico Shul and Rabbi-In-Residence at USC Hillel, and Mahomed Khan of King Fahad Mosque.

In an era...

Read Post

A Guaranteed Way to Get a Raise

(0) Comments | Posted March 9, 2016 | 10:21 AM

2016-03-08-1457424141-7914496-unnamed4.jpgImagine you have a job and you work hard. After some time you think to yourself, "I deserve a raise!" You have been a loyal and valuable employee, and you feel the time is right. Do you barge into the office of the...

Read Post

God's Business Advice to Moses

(0) Comments | Posted March 1, 2016 | 3:31 PM


This shall they give...a half Shekel. (Parsha Ki Tisa: Ex. 30:13)

God showed Moses a coin made from fire, teaches the Midrash, showing him the amount that everyone must give towards the mishkan, tabernacle. Based on this Midrash, the great...

Read Post

5 Ways to Keep the Spiritual Momentum of the High Holidays

(0) Comments | Posted October 12, 2015 | 9:19 AM


The High Holidays and Sukkot have ended. This marathon of Jewish Holy Days earned many of us an increased spiritual awareness, sensitivity and commitment. But how can we maintain that growth throughout the year?

Here are five suggestions for maintaining the momentum...

Read Post

Dwelling in Divine Providence: A Introduction to Sukkot for 2015/ 5776

(0) Comments | Posted September 29, 2015 | 5:01 PM


The roof of our sukkah is made from specially woven bamboo mats, and we adorn the walls and roof with lights and other decorations. Every sukkah is holy, from the most elaborate to the simplest.

As the sun sets on Sunday, September 27,...

Read Post

A Foodie Rosh Hashanah: Appetizers for Personal Growth

(0) Comments | Posted September 14, 2015 | 3:01 PM

Dipping an apple in honey is the most popular in a series of simanim, symbolic foods, associated with the Rosh Hashanah feast. The custom is even recorded as far back as the Talmud. There are many other simanim, some simple and some exotic, that vary by community including: fish, pomegranate,...

Read Post

Over 750 American Rabbis Call On Congress To Reject Flawed Iran Nuclear Deal

(6) Comments | Posted August 25, 2015 | 12:54 PM

Over 750 rabbis across every major denomination have signed a letter calling on Congress to reject the nuclear deal with Iran.

In our open letter to Congress, we urge members to reject the proposed deal and call on the administration to return...

Read Post

Lead by Fear, Jewish Leadership Fails

(26) Comments | Posted July 24, 2015 | 8:55 PM


Photo: Left: "Israel must be wiped off the map" (screenshot, IRINN TV, 2004); Right: "Israel must be destroyed" (YouTube screenshot, 2011) Via

"It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of...

Read Post

Making a Kosher Deal With Iran

(8) Comments | Posted June 25, 2015 | 5:09 PM


As the June 30th agreement deadline approaches, it has me wondering how the P5+1 will guarantee Iran doesn't obtain nuclear weapons. While my work as a rabbi doesn't include agreements and safeguards on nuclear nonproliferation -- though I did study that in university...

Read Post

Charleston Church Shooting is a Crime Against all of America

(5) Comments | Posted June 19, 2015 | 7:55 PM

Charleston newspaper on day after massacre featuring sticker with sale on guns and ammo.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families and community. My prayers are especially with the African American community, and their spiritual leaders and...

Read Post

Hebrew Hoops Mixes Judaism and Basketball

(0) Comments | Posted May 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Though there aren't any Jewish starters in the upcoming NBA finals between the Warriors and the Cavaliers, that doesn't mean Jews don't love basketball. One of those is a recent Jewish USC graduate, a true superstar, Sam Fein.

Sam created a summer camp...

Read Post

Don't Just Stand There -- Do Something Holy

(0) Comments | Posted May 4, 2015 | 10:51 AM

"You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow's blood. I am the Lord." Lev. 19:16

I was driving on cold morning down the highway in New Jersey and a car ahead of me suddenly veered left, went off the road, and...

Read Post

A Seder Prayer, and Seder Notes

(0) Comments | Posted April 3, 2015 | 5:33 PM


Tonight we gather to experience the redemption from Egypt as we retell the story of the Exodus. The more we get into the mindset that we are also being redeemed from slavery, the more tonight can be a time of personal and communal...

Read Post

Protecting a Life Is Always a Priority

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2015 | 12:44 AM

The Torah commands us protect our lives, and those of others. Based on the verse, "Guard yourself and guard your soul very much" (Deut. 4:9). According to Jewish law, it is a duty to take all due precautions and avoid anything that may endanger life. "Anyone who violates such prohibitions,...

Read Post

Yizkor for Khojaly: Sharing Sorrow and Hope

(2) Comments | Posted February 25, 2015 | 5:12 PM


On February 21-22, 2015, our newly established spiritual community in Los Angeles, organized a "Solidarity and Commemoration Weekend" with local Azerbaijanis and the Consulate of the Republic of Azerbaijan. These are some of my reflections.


On the world's stage,...

Read Post

Where God Is Depends On Us

(44) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 11:17 AM


When children ask us, "where is God?" We usually tell them that "God is everywhere."

It's a beautiful answer, completely true, but it doesn't help when you are older. When we see what goes on in the world, we often ask ourselves the...

Read Post

Acting With Godliness

(0) Comments | Posted February 13, 2015 | 6:38 PM

The Torah tells us in Parsha Mishpatim, that we are to "Distance yourself from falsehood." (Ex. 23:7) No other transgression, said Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Przysucha, has this commandment. What it is about falsehood that God is so concerned about us falling into?

There is the obvious problems that lying...

Read Post

Parsha Beshalach: Getting Wowed by God

(0) Comments | Posted January 30, 2015 | 3:12 AM

This week, Parsha Beshalach, we read the account of the splitting of the Red Sea. After crossing the sea on dry land, and then watching their oppressors drowned by the ocean, the Israelites broke into a spontaneous song, which is recorded in the Torah.

The compilers of the liturgy...

Read Post

It All Comes Back to Shabbat

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2015 | 4:00 PM

In this week's Torah portion of Bo, we are introduced to the deep relationship between the Jewish people and the moon. "This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year." (Ex. 12:2)

Why doesn't the...

Read Post