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Utah Jews enter High Holy Days with high-minded goals: to better themselves and the world

09/05/2021 08:43:51 PM


Bob Mims

Listen carefully during the daylight hours of Tuesday and Wednesday, and you may hear the blasts of the shofar rising from synagogues along the Wasatch Front.

From a twisted ram’s horn come tones both alarming and plaintive, at the same time triumphant and hauntingly like the sobs of a lost child for its mother: This is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which begins Monday evening — a two-day observance as rich in millennia-old traditions as it is in how 21st-century Jews in Utah and across the planet understand and experience the holiday.

“Rosh Hashana has so many different meanings to it,” Rabbi Samuel Spector of Salt Lake City’s Congregation Kol Ami acknowledges. “In Judaism, we say that this was the day that God created humankind. There is a big focus during Rosh Hashana on togetherness, on seeing the holiness and humanity and one another, and in coming together as a community.

“It’s a time for us to really reset. Ten days later is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement,” Spector says. “We learn that, leading up to Yom Kippur, we are supposed to do an accounting of our souls and think about how we can be better, how we can both make our world better and be better ourselves, and make our world better in the new year.”

Last year, COVID-19 restrictions truncated — and in some cases canceled — the in-person celebrations of Rosh Hashana as well as other Jewish holidays. Pandemic fears have eased enough this year to allow a measured return to more traditional congregational gatherings, though vaccinations, masks and social distancing — along with livestreaming of services — will once more be offered to worshippers.

At Kol Ami, 2425 E. Heritage Way (2760 South), proof of vaccination will be necessary for attendees 12 years and older, with masks required for all ages 3 and above.


Fighting Antisemitism and Islamophobia

06/07/2021 02:08:00 PM


Rosie Nguyen

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – During a time when a wide variety of issues are creating division, violence, and hate among our community, leaders of two local organizations collaborated to show unity and condemn hate.

They wanted to show that despite the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza, their communities could still “extend a hand in love and friendship with one another.”

The act of solidarity came after a vandal carved a swastika into the glass door of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah synagogue in Salt Lake City last month. Rabbi Samuel Spector of Congregation Kol Ami wanted to find a way to alleviate the pain, fear, and isolation that his congregants and community members were feeling.

Thinking that those belonging to the Muslim community may be feeling the same way due to the uptick in islamophobia, he reached out to Luna Banuri with the Utah Muslim Civic League. Together, they rallied nearly two dozen other local organizations, both Jewish and Muslim, to sign off a joint statement of support and unity with one another.

In the statement, they wrote, “This is painful, personal, and emotional for our communities on many levels. However, it is important to remember that local Muslims and Jews are not combatants nor enemies, rather they’re our neighbors. We resoundingly reject any acts of violence or destruction towards Muslims, Jews, or their places of communal gathering and worship.”

Read more and see the video

‘We are friends and we are neighbors’ — Utah’s Jewish, Muslim communities unite against antisemitism, Islamophobia

05/26/2021 04:29:48 PM


Kaitlyn Bancroft

Battles in the Middle East and vandalism at a Salt Lake City synagogue prompt rabbis and imams to issue a joint plea for peace.

Rabbi Samuel Spector remembers when, in the summer of 2006, a gunman walked into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

Israel was at war with Lebanon, and the man shouted out his anger at Israel. He then shot six people, killing one.

Spector said one of the saddest outgrowths from that deadly encounter was a rise of Islamophobia in his community. Conversely, one of the most powerful occurrences came when a Muslim imam ventured to an area synagogue to condemn the attack.

Spector, who now leads Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City, thought about that imam as he recently weighed how to promote solidarity between Utah’s Jews and Muslims in light of the recent escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza.

The tension hit closer to home when someone scratched a swastika onto the glass door the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah synagogue in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood.

After the vandalism, Spector repeatedly heard from his congregants about what a painful, lonely time they were experiencing. His Muslim friends, he thought, must be feeling the same way.

So the rabbi reached out to Luna Banuri, executive director of the Utah Muslim Civic League, about creating a joint statement from Jewish and Muslim communities condemning the violence and expressing their solidarity with one another. 

The two then turned to all of their other contacts, Spector said, and were thrilled when “pretty much everybody” wanted to sign the statement.

The result: 23 Utah organizations — 10 Jewish, 13 Muslim — released a joint statement Tuesday expressing “horror and sadness” over the current violence in the Middle East and “resoundingly reject(ing)” any acts of violence or destruction toward Muslims, Jews or their places of gathering and worship.

The statement invites “all children of Abraham/Ibrahim” to join area Jews and Muslims in “praying for peace,” and asks communities to “extend a hand in love and friendship to one another.”


Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy holidays converge in the week ahead

03/27/2021 06:04:16 AM


Genelle Pugmire, Daily Herald

Beginning Saturday evening at sundown and through the next month, millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims will celebrate their most high or holy holidays.

The holidays all reflect a time when individuals look introspectively and outwardly in service as they remember and reclaim their devotions to their beliefs and deity.

Passover is from Saturday through April 4; Holy Week begins Sunday and ends on April 3, with Easter on April 4. The month of Ramadan is from April 12 to May 12.

The worldwide pandemic has changed up a bit how certain traditions are being played out, but devotees are certain a pandemic won’t stop them.


“More Jews serve Seder dinner (including non-practicing Jews), and Passover is the most widely observed holiday and the most strict of all the Jewish holidays,” said Spector.

Rabbi Spector worships in the tradition of reformed and progressive Judaism. The modern traditions are a bit more lenient that Orthodox Jewish traditions.

“The ritual takes place in the home in kind of a Thanksgiving-esque atmosphere,” Spector said.

“There are two big messages from Passover. One is being grateful for what we have. Food isn’t something we’ve always had,” Spector said. “We connect with the idea that tomorrow will be better than today.”

Spector said the second message is social justice and advocacy work.

“We ask who is still in Egypt, who isn’t really free,” Spector said. “The modern Jews have worked hard for Syrian refugees, for China and Myanmar.

“Who needs to be liberated from their bondage?” Spector said. “I ask in my counseling, ‘Where are you in your journey?’ ”

The Passover helps Jews to think of their journey, their walk through the wilderness of despair, pain and vulnerability and then the joy of entering their promised land.

“Next year in Jerusalem is a metaphor,” Spector added. “It means ‘may we find our freedom.’ ”

Read the full article...

Utah Finds Itself At The Center Of A New Legal Battle Over Israel Marriage Rights

03/22/2021 11:49:26 AM


Lauren Bennett,

Two Utah rabbis joined an administrative petition this week filed against the Israeli Interior Minister and the country's population authority in an effort to lift an order that does not recognize civil marriages for Israeli couples completed through a Utah online system.

In 2020, the Utah County Clerk's Office began offering online marriage license services that later became crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, the marriage license office has helped hundreds of couples get married virtually. In the fall of 2020, Israeli couples began to utilize the system and get civilly married online to avoid the travel usually required to get civilly married in another country.

"You can be standing anywhere in the world and get married, so long as your officiant is standing in the state of Utah and it is a legal wedding inside the state of Utah," Rabbi Samuel Spector of Utah's Congregation Kol Ami explained. Rabbi Spector and Rabbi David Levinksy of Park City's Temple Har Shalom Congregation, have both joined the petition.


Tue, October 26 2021 20 Cheshvan 5782