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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

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

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

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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...

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Lead by Fear, Jewish Leadership Fails

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

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

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

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Making a Kosher Deal With Iran

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

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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...

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Charleston Church Shooting is a Crime Against all of America

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

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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...

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Hebrew Hoops Mixes Judaism and Basketball

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

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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...

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Don't Just Stand There -- Do Something Holy

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

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"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...

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A Seder Prayer, and Seder Notes

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

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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...

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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,...

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Yizkor for Khojaly: Sharing Sorrow and Hope

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

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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.

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On the world's stage,...

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Where God Is Depends On Us

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

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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

(0) Comments | Posted November 24, 2014 | 10:30 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.

We...

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How Are We Doing as a Planet This Rosh Hashanah?

(0) Comments | Posted September 19, 2014 | 12:29 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 | 1:38 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 | 12:34 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 | 9:49 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 | 1:43 PM

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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 | 7:55 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.

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Music "Gvria" by Adam...

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