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Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
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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

It All Comes Back to Shabbat

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2015 | 5:00 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...

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Countering This Darkness With Light: Responding to the Jerusalem Synagogue Massacre

(0) Comments | Posted November 24, 2014 | 11:30 AM

I spent too long on Twitter trying to get CBC News to apologize over the "Jerusalem Police fatally shoot 2 after apparent synagogue attack" headline on their website. Looking back, that time could have been spent much more productively by being a first and foremost a Jewish first responder.


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How Are We Doing as a Planet This Rosh Hashanah?

(0) Comments | Posted September 19, 2014 | 1:29 PM

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, has profound meaning for the entire world and humanity. Most people familiar with the holiday think of apples, honey, shofar, and that it is one of the two days that every Jew goes to synagogue.

We understand that Rosh Hashanah is about being...

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A Guide to Going Kosher for Passover 2014

(0) Comments | Posted April 11, 2014 | 2:38 PM

Passover is a completely awesome holiday.

Going "kosher for Passover" is a cool way to do spring-cleaning, start a healthier diet, and get spiritual. While preparation requires some effort, understanding what is required can make the task cheaper, faster, and easier, giving you more time to prepare for the...

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A Kabbalist's Feast: The Tu B'Shevat Seder

(1) Comments | Posted January 14, 2014 | 1:34 PM

Years ago in the ancient city of Safed, a group of Kabbalists uncovered the mystical secrets of Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish holiday commemorating trees which begins, this year, on Wednesday night, January 15.

This group revealed these mystical secrets in a ritual ceremony patterned after the Passover Seder and...

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Will Anyone Fill Bronfman's Chair?

(1) Comments | Posted December 23, 2013 | 10:49 AM

As the Jewish world comes to grips with the passing of the legendary Jewish leader, activist, philanthropist and businessman Edgar Bronfman, who died this weekend at the age of 84, major questions arise. Is this the end of Jewish mega-philanthropists whose enormous gifts have propped up many of the leading...

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Thanksgivukkah was Instagrams's Busiest Day in 2013

(0) Comments | Posted December 16, 2013 | 2:43 PM


The intersection of religion and social media came to a beautiful crescendo this year with the double holiday of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Instagram recorded more photos that day than in any day in its history. Why? It's not exactly clear...

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VIDEO: A Rabbi's Plea: Wave Money, Not Chickens

(0) Comments | Posted September 3, 2013 | 8:55 PM

Sadly, today's travesty of kapores transgresses major torah prohibitions and needs to be changed.

When one participates in the custom of kaparos today one is actually committing the following transgressions:

1) Cruelty to animals, tzaar baal ha chaim as animals die of heat exhaustion and other ailments while crammed into small cages before the ritual is performed.

2) Creating neveila, a wasted life of an animal. As the Chayei Adam , a great Jewish religious authority of the 19th century wrote, the shochet, a ritual slaughterer often does not have the time to properly check their knives as they perform hundreds of cuts. When a kosher animal is killed with an unchecked and/or nicked knife - the animal is considered a nevaila and unfit for consumption. Worse yet, in some cases the people performing the ritual are not shochets at all.

3) Wanton wasting of resources, baal tashchis -- People go hungry in cities across American and Israel, yet we are taking perfectly good food and wasting it. The ritual is creating food which is going to waste.

4) Transgressing local laws, dina d'malchus dina - Mass slaughter of animals in densely populated areas, without sanitary conditions, may be against the law in your city, and likely in all other American cities. Yet, despite repeated warnings by local authorities, the kaporos industry continues.

In addition one is potentially the victim of unscrupulous and duplicitous behavior, gneivas daas. When one purchases chickens for use in the ritual one believes that the chicken, or money from the sale of the chicken, is going to tzedakah. In fact, here in America, these chickens are often found in dumpsters.

Today, because it is impossible to do it in a kosher way, we must perform the ritual with money. Rabbinic sources including the Chayei Adam and Mishna Berurah are clear that when the ritual cannot be performed in a kosher way it is preferable to use money.

Please wave money -- not chickens -- and donate the funds to local charities for poor families.

Music "Gvria" by Adam...

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No Justice, No Meat: Polish Parliament Reaffirms Antisemitism

(11) Comments | Posted July 17, 2013 | 1:47 PM

polish meat storesWith great chutzpah and an undercurrent of antisemitism the Polish Parliament has rejected a bill proposed by the government to permit Kosher and Halal ritual slaughter. As has been the case in other European countries that have banned kosher slaughter, the...

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Podcast: 100 Blessings Brings Us Closer to the Divine

(0) Comments | Posted July 2, 2013 | 2:38 PM

By blessing God 100 times daily, we are connecting in the deepest way. Mindfulness of our actions makes us more aware of the Divine. It also serves to prevail over the forces of negativity, by attaching ourselves more closely with Hashem (God).

King David instituted 100 blessings when there was...

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Divide Over Kotel Prayer Highlights Racism of Palestinian Authority and Muslim Waqf

(13) Comments | Posted June 26, 2013 | 1:53 PM

2013-06-25-oldharhabayitsm.jpgJewish communities might be fighting about fair access to the Kotel, but what is missing from the discussion is Jewish use of holy places in Jerusalem. The Muslim Waqf and the Palestinian Authority's opposition to the Kotel compromise demonstrates their intense racism. Instead of infighting,...

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Jewish Lists: What They Say About Us

(1) Comments | Posted May 29, 2013 | 7:25 PM


Jeffrey Goldberg's recent column in Bloomberg, is a very powerful argument for canceling the recent proliferation of media-inspired "Jewish Lists." This article is a must read. It also got me thinking about what the lists that we create today say about our...

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Challah, Beer and Tattoos: The Coachella Shabbat Tent Experience

(2) Comments | Posted May 3, 2013 | 2:50 PM

Four days of dust, heat, masses of tripping festival-goers, thumping never-ending bass, welcoming random visitors from around the planet, various combinations of food, munchy snacks and refreshments, sleeping in cars, handing out flyers, swimsuits and bare feet without a beach or pool in sight, strange Coachella restrictions (more on that...

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Who is to Blame for the Doheny Kosher Meat Scandal?

(3) Comments | Posted April 5, 2013 | 3:48 PM

We are.

Let me explain.

Rav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, the current Chief Rabbi of Gateshead, England, spoke in the aftermath of a major kashrut scandal which rocked Monsey, N.Y., in 2006. He recalled the story of the Prophet Jonah that we read on Yom Kippur afternoon. The story describes a...

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10 Minute Seder, World's Shortest Kosher Haggadah

(0) Comments | Posted March 25, 2013 | 3:37 AM

Here is the dilemma. You want to do a proper Seder, but you have anxious relatives, some tired kids, or need for whatever reason to get the Seder over and done with. It's not ideal - but it happens all the time and people end up skipping essential parts of...

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Meet 'Nice Jewish Guys Calendar' Creator Adam Cohen

(2) Comments | Posted December 6, 2012 | 1:10 PM


The Nice Jewish Guys Calendar is a hit. Selling by the thousands. It might take on SI Swimsuit Calendar. Ok, maybe not. Nonetheless, this phenomenon is both serious and funny. There is a market for dating justa nice guy. I am guessing that...

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Kaparot: Wave Money, Not Chickens

(5) Comments | Posted September 25, 2012 | 11:40 AM

I don't use chickens. After witnessing years of chickens wallowing in their own feces in small cages waiting to be schechted (slaughtered) for the ritual of Kaparot before Yom Kippur, I gave up on this custom. I once was enamored of this ancient ritual whereby the sins of a person...

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Here on Earth: Parashat Nitzavim

(0) Comments | Posted September 13, 2012 | 4:40 PM

"The Torah that I am prescribing to you today is not too mysterious or remote from you. It is not in heaven ... it is something that is very close to you." --Deuteronomy 30:11-13

A great illustration of this passage is contained in the Yiddish story by I. L. Peretz...

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MSU Student Viciously Assaulted, but Was It an Anti-Semitic Attack?

(7) Comments | Posted August 30, 2012 | 12:57 PM

The vicious assault on Michigan State University student Zachary Tennen has been plastered across the Internets, HuffPost and Michigan newspapers. By the victim's account he was attacked because he was Jewish. He claims they yelled "Heil Hitler" and were skinheads.

The East Lansing Police on the other hand...

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From Burnings to Celebration: Lessons in Learning and Jewish Unity

(4) Comments | Posted August 10, 2012 | 4:15 PM

While I did not have the privilege to join the 90,000+ Jews who filled the MetLife Stadium Aug. 2, this milestone in Jewish life cannot be underestimated.

The Jews have endured countless public burnings of the Talmud over the centuries since the first recorded incident in 1242 when 24...

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