Hazel Homer-Wambeam, the first Jewish Miss Wyoming, stands on stage wearing a pink gown and a crown a top her blonde curly hair. Her hand is over her mouth and she is holding a bouquet of roses.

First Jewish Miss Wyoming Heading to National Stage

Hazel Homer-Wambeam hails from a small but mighty Jewish community in Laramie, Wyoming. With only 1,150 Jews in the whole Cowboy State and no synagogue in sight, the Jews of Laramie gather in a local Masonic Temple for services, meet for potluck dinners and join in dance and song. Homer-Wambeam took her deep-rooted love for dancing and singing from Laramie to the talent portion of the Miss Wyoming competition where, in June, she was named the first Jewish crown holder. In December, Homer-Wambeam will head to the national competition to vie to be only the second Jewish Miss America in the program’s history. The first was Bess Myerson, who competed as Miss New York during World War II in 1945.  “I can imagine that Myerson brought on a lot of hope for people, and sadly in the...

Continue reading

Ask The Rabbis | How Has Pittsburgh Changed Jewish Life for Your Community?

Our reaction to the events in Pittsburgh began with mourning for the victims. From mourning we moved to the legitimate fear that comes from living in a nation where easily procured weapons of mass death terrorize people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people and—as always—Jews.

Continue reading

Book Review | The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, 3 vols. by Robert Alter

The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, 3 vols. by Robert Alter W. W. Norton 2018, 3500 pp, $125 When I first learned that Robert Alter had completed the task of singlehandedly translating the entire Bible, a project he commenced around 1995, my mind went to Lawrence of Arabia. In one scene of that spectacular movie, Peter O’Toole, playing T. E. Lawrence, enters British military headquarters in Cairo, dusty and exhausted from the long trek across the Sinai, and says to his commanding officer, “We’ve taken Aqaba.” The officer asserts, “It’s impossible,” to which Lawrence replies, “Yes, it is, I did it.” And so it is with Alter’s The Hebrew Bible: What had been thought to be impossible—a complete modern Bible translation with expert commentary, not by committee, but by a single individual—is indeed possible. Unlike Lawrence, though—who,...

Continue reading

The Weird and Wondrous World of Jews and Magic

The first time I came face-to-face with Jewish magic was when I moved to Israel in my early 20s. It was the fall of 1995 and Jerusalem was beginning a 15-month celebration marking the 3,000 years since King David conquered the city and proclaimed it the capital of the Jewish people. Bright banners emblazoned with “3000” hung from street lamps throughout the municipality and the mood was festive. Along with countless others, I watched the opening ceremonies outside the Knesset and listened, enthralled, as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told of leading the Israeli Army into the Old City of Jerusalem during the 1967 War and then spoke about how the real message of the last 3,000 years was the need for tolerance between religions and love between peoples. At the end of the speech, an...

Continue reading

rabbis seder

Ask The Rabbis | Should Jews at the Seder Ask God to Smite Our Enemies?

Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that know You not, and upon the families that call not on Your name; for they have devoured Jacob, yea, they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation... May Your blazing anger overtake them. Pursue them in wrath and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.” — Passover Haggadah HUMANIST Even the seder itself appears to be of two minds about whether we should ask the Deity to smite our enemies on our behalf. On the one hand, there is a tradition to ask God to “pour out wrath and indignation upon the heathen who will not acknowledge him, who have devoured Jacob and laid waste to his dwelling.” On the other hand, we have a cautionary piece of advice from elsewhere in...

Continue reading

A History of Judaism

Book Review | A History of Judaism by Martin Goodman

A History of Judaism Martin Goodman Princeton University Press 2018, 656 pp, $28.08 Surveys of religious literacy show that, as a group, American Jews do not know very much about the history of their religious tradition. In one recent poll, for example, fewer than half of those surveyed knew that Job was the biblical figure most closely associated with remaining obedient to God despite terrible suffering. Only about four in ten recognized that Moses Maimonides, the great medieval philosopher, was Jewish. Now, thanks to Martin Goodman, a scholar of ancient Jewish history who is retiring this year as president of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in England, readers have a new way to give themselves an intensive crash course in Jewish religious history. A History of Judaism distills three millennia of religious thought and experience into...

Continue reading