Sunday, December 27, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Eight Days of Hanukkah from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.
And by the way, here is the story of that most famous of Christmas songs.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Here is a rather depressing article from TNR about the simmering tensions among Palestinians and the worries about a potential third intifada. The sad and tragic fact is that Palestinian leaders continue to believe that the only way to advance their legitimate aspirations for statehood is through violence. You cannot build a nation on hatred and violence. Until Palestinians accommodate their thinking and affirm the legitimacy of the Jewish state in the land of Israel we will only see times of sheket--relative quiet and never shalom--peace. Israel can withdraw from this territory or that. Israel can halt the expansion of "settlements" or not. The fundamental issue is that the majority of Israelis have accepted Palestinian aspirations as legitimate whereas the majority of Palestinians (at least as expressed by their leaders) have yet to come to terms not only with Jewish aspirations but Jewish history and present reality. I continue to believe that if Palestinian leaders would truly affirm these and say in English, Hebrew and especially Arabic, "The State of Israel is here to stay. Its establishment was recognized by the United Nations over sixty years ago. It is built on the Jewish people's historical connection to this land that we also hold dear..." the rest of the details could be worked out at the negotiating table.
Addendum: On a more positive note read this TNR post discussing secret talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Some have suggested that the movie is self hating and portrays an unflattering picture of American Judaism, Jews and rabbis. I disagree. It is honest, perhaps brutally so. I feel the inadequacy of sitting at the other side of the table from the serious man. How can anyone really understand and answer life's mysteries? That is the essence of the Job story. Many (especially rabbis) pretend to have it all figured out. That is what the movie and the biblical Job rejects. There is more to write about and discuss: the portrayal of the relation between Jews and "goyim," the picture of Hebrew School and bar mitzvahs and of course the prominence of Jefferson Airplane. The movie is framed by two quotes. It begins with a quote from Rashi, the great medieval Jewish commentator: "React with simplicity to everything that happens to you." and concludes with Jefferson Airplane: "When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies." Somewhere, sandwiched in between tradition and modernity, and while tossed around by the whirlwind (here a tornado), we uncover our inadequate answers to life's mysteries. Rabbis can't figure it all out for you! If you would like to participate in a discussion about the film, go to our synagogue's Facebook fan page.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
1. The need to separate from the Palestinians in order to preserve the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. This need is creating a growing sense of angst because there is no viable partner with which to make peace. The vast majority of Israelis share two conflicting feelings: the Jewish imperative to make peace tugging against the fact that there is no one with which to talk.
2. The growing existential threat of Iran. Soon there will be a regime who agitates for the destruction of Israel combined with the means (namely nuclear weapons) to carry out these aims. A nuclear armed Iran remakes the region and is unacceptable to Israel. The vast majority of Israelis have little hope and faith in Obama's diplomatic efforts. A strengthened Iran continues to embolden the radicals in the region. Israelis believe that Iran must first be de-fanged in order for the moderates to emerge and for there to be serious negotiations with the Palestinians.
3. The increasing de-legitimization of the State of Israel in the international community. The legitimacy of the modern State of Israel transcends the Holocaust and the suffering the Jewish people endured during those years. The modern state is built on the foundations of the ancient state. History binds our presence to the land of Israel. Within international discourse this very connection is being systematically severed. In a bitter irony, at the United Nations, the very institution that lent international legitimacy to the nascent state, Ahmadinejad (y'mach sh'mo) is allowed to spout venom and begrudge Israel's existence. The State of Israel means far more than the amelioration of suffering.
Despite these worries and fears, Israelis continue to sing and dance, celebrate and rejoice. The economy continues to grow and the State of Israel thrives.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
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Friday, October 9, 2009
1. The joy of Torah. There is nothing more joyous than studying Torah. On Simchat Torah we celebrate the fact that we are privileged to begin again the Torah reading cycle. Simchat Torah is analogous to rebooting your computer. Even if you haven't finished all of your work, even if you haven't finished reading every story, even if you haven't finished studying every word, every once in a while you have to start all over again at the beginning.
2. You really can't dance by yourself. You need your friends. You need the swirl of others. You need your community. Celebrating by yourself is impossible. The community adds to your happiness. This is the Jewish contention. We understand this truth best when we are surrounded by others at our own simchas. This contention is truly realized when our happiness is bound to what lies at the center of our Jewish lives: Torah. Hence Simchas Torah.
On Simchat Torah, community and Torah are combined into one great song and dance.
For my YouTube video about Simchat Torah and for evidence of this truth click here. This evening's Simchat Torah/Shabbat celebration will be accompanied by a Klezmer ensemble and concert with Michael Winograd.
If you are looking to learn more about Klezmer read this article on MyJewishLearning.com.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
1. Elliott Abrams in Saturday's The Wall Street Journal: Why Israel is Nervous.
2. Tom Friedman in Sunday's The New York Times: Free Marriage Counseling.
I am sure there will be more to read in the weeks and months ahead.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Pictured above is Robinson's Arch just south of the Western Wall. When standing here one is taken by what must have been the enormity of the Temple Mount. Today we commemorate Tisha B'Av (9th of Av), the day on which the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE (as well as a number of other Jewish tragedies). I know I am supposed to be mourning. I know I am supposed to be fasting. I know I am supposed to be praying for the Temple to be rebuilt, Jewish sovereignty restored, the exiles to return to their land... But given that nearly six million Jews have returned to the land of Israel and given that Jewish sovereignty is reborn in the modern State of Israel, I no longer mourn. I refuse to allow the burdens of history to weigh me down. There is an inherent tension when learning history. One is pulled between taking to heart the lessons of history and refusing to let history go. I for one have internalized the Zionist message. The past will not determine our future. The past will not enslave the present. I must be guided by it, but I cannot be ruled it. And so I always remember the tragedies of the past (as a Jew they are forever entangled in my kishkes) but more importantly I celebrate the present. When it comes to the choice between a present filled with hope and a past steeped in sorrow, I choose hope.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
The history of Long Island synagogue life is a history built on a shtetl model of old. Synagogues were built around town identities. Synagogues focused on their functions (specifically what services they provided) rather than their visions. Once a town's Jewish population reached a critical mass a synagogue was formed to fill the needs of the area's Jews. This shtetl model is bankrupt and will fail to guarantee the future of Long Island synagogue life. Let us instead recapture the personal connections and warmth of shtetl life without its pitfalls, namely the dependence on one town's Jewish population. Let us help our fellow Jews find a synagogue not out of convenience but rather out of commitment, where they are attracted to the synagogue's vision and mission. In our mobile society where people drive to the best store, restaurant, show or beach why should they not as well drive to the best synagogue? With a one day per week Hebrew School why should families not be willing to drive to a centrally located synagogue that is in keeping with their vision?
The JCB revolves around the following principles:
1. A community built on personal connections, warmth and intimacy where not only the rabbi but fellow members know each other in order to support one another in times of crisis and help lift each other higher at simchas. In keeping with this principle our congregation only schedules solo bar/bat mitzvah celebrations. We are also an inclusive community welcoming interfaith couples and encouraging both partners' participation in the life of the synagogue.
2. Our Shabbat and holiday services provide a respite from the world's troubles. Our services are meditative, joyful, inspiring, intellectually stimulating and participatory where music and song, teaching and poetry play central roles.
3. The backbone of our community is lay involvement. We are energized by the ideas of our members and welcome the participation of all.
4. We are a learning congregation. Our Hebrew School is built on the ethic that only learning that is enjoyed is learned well. In addition we offer a myriad of adult education programming. Jewish learning--talmud torah--must not stop at the age of 13 years. Our learning enables us to become better Jews, but also better citizens, more educated about the issues our country faces and more in tune with cultural phenomena. We are open to learning from all streams of thought, both Jewish and secular, modern and ancient.
5. We are committed to the world around us through the values of tzedakah, gemilut hasadim, and tikkun olam. We are committed to helping our neighbors, both those who live nearby and those who live in distant lands, especially those connected to us by our shared Jewish traditions. We seek to maintain a deep connection to the land and State of Israel.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Regarding President Obama's speech there is much to be said. There are positives and there are negatives. Let us first say loud and clear that Obama deserves enormous credit for traveling to the heart of Islam and speaking there words of passion and truth. Saying here is far less important than saying there words such as these. "The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer." President Bush rightly saw the world in clear, bold lines between good and evil, friend and enemy. Let us not be naive. We have enemies. Yet how we see the world is not always how we should deal with the world and so a new strategy was required. We do not know yet if Obama's new approach will produce positive results, but if the elections in Lebanon and the simmering of revolt in Iran are measures then we can allow ourselves to be cautiously optimistic. Where the speech failed was in its treatment of Israel. It was not that he called for a Palestinian state or even in the abandonment of settlements (although I would qualify settlements to include only isolated settlements--both geographically and ideologically). My disappointment was instead in his misunderstanding of Zionism. President Obama spoke of Jewish suffering as that which lends legitimacy to the modern State of Israel. I wish Emanuel had whispered in his ear the following: It is also the United Nations (remember the vote on Partition), the Bible, Jewish history, the Hebrew language. It is the fact Jewish life begins and ends in Jerusalem and the land of Israel. It has always been our focus. It was once our dream. Now it is our reality. Despite these misgivings I conclude with our prayers who wrap words of hopes in the stones of Jerusalem. Words can change worlds. Words can move mountains. Peace begins with the word shalom echoing forth from the land of Israel.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
For a poignant reflection by Rabbi David Hartman about Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) read this.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Then there is Jimmy Kimmel's take on the issue.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
As you may have read a new governing coalition has been created consisting of: Likud, Labor, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) and HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home). It appears that Netanyahu was unable to bring in United Torah Judaism because they were too steadfast in their demands to change the Law of Return (the question of who is a Jew). He had to bring in Jewish Home as a hedge against a Labor splinter group having the power to bring down the government. Barak’s decision to join the government was a controversial decision within Labor and could very well cause a split within the party, depending on the direction of the Netanyahu government. Here is an article from Yediot Ahronot about the new government which was sworn in on Tuesday. The joke in Israel is that Netanyahu had to give away so many cabinet positions that the ceremonial picture of the new government will have to be taken in Jerusalem's Teddy stadium. Let us hope and pray that Israel's new government will lead the country with courage and resoluteness. Chazak chazak v'nitchazek! And more on a recent post (Israel's Army, March 22)... If you want to read an important article regarding the controversy about Israeli soldiers' actions in Gaza read Leon Wieseltier's recent piece in TNR. Take note of these words: "In its sad way, the recent controversy about Israel's conduct in Gaza was a beautiful thing, because the truest test of the moral condition of a society is its willingness to examine its moral condition." To this I offer a heart wrenching "Amen."