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Jewish Ideas

Men, Women and the Language of MInyan: Guest Blog by Alan Krinsky

Men, Women, and the Language of Minyan

"How many more people do we need for a minyan?" An apparently innocent question, posed daily in Orthodox synagogues across the United States and Canada. Or, in another context, "Despite the fact that there is no explicit mitzvah to cover one's head, it has been the universal custom of observant Jews to wear yarmulkes or kipot." What could be objectionable?

Especially for those of us men who identify ourselves as Modern Orthodox Jews, we ought to make a sustained effort to become more sensitive, beginning with understanding why such seemingly routine statements are problematic. Even as men who advocate for expanding the roles available to women in the synagogue, we subtly betray long internalized and damaging biases.

Thoughts on the Latest Rabbinic Scandal: Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

We have all been shocked and saddened to learn of the immoral and illegal behavior of a prominent Orthodox rabbi who was recently arrested for voyeurism, i.e. for planting a hidden camera in the mikvah of his community. This behavior is reprehensible beyond words, and the women who used that mikvah are understandably indignant over this breach of their privacy. They came to the sacred precincts of the mikvah for ritual purification—but now learn that their trust has been betrayed by their own rabbi.

In Search of Torat Hessed: A Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

From time to time I receive comments from Institute members about new “humrot” (stringencies) which are being introduced at their synagogues. In one case, the congregation engaged a new rabbi who promptly raised the mehitza, forbade women’s hakafot on Simhat Torah, and took a “black hat” approach to other issues. A group of congregants became so fed up that they quit the shul and started their own modern Orthodox congregation.

In another case, a new rabbi discarded long-established practices with the claim that he wished to “raise halakhic standards.” Although this has caused grief among some congregants, others simply go along with the changes thinking that there’s nothing they can do to alter the situation.

Attending Synagogue Services, Yes or No? A blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Here is an excerpt of a letter I received from a young person who was raised in an Orthodox home.

The Holy Day season is approaching and I dread it. Year after year, I’ve attended services with my family, sometimes at one synagogue and sometimes at another. We are supposed to feel awe and religious uplift during this season but I only feel frustration and discouragement.

In our shul, the lay leaders strut around like peacocks. The chazen doesn’t pray but only sings to show off his voice. The rabbi tells stories and jokes, and kisses up to the rich, and his sermons never make me feel closer to God. The Holy Day services are a charade of prayer, but not prayer.

What can I do? I don’t want to go to synagogue on the Holy Days…or maybe never.

Dr. Jose Nessim: In Memoriam

We sadly record the passing of Dr. Jose Nessim, one of the very impressive Jewish leaders of our generation. A medical doctor in Los Angeles for many years, Dr. Nessim devoted the time and energy to found the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Through his tenacity, generosity, and grand worldview, he established this center in historic buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem. Thousands of students and visitors have benefited from the programs of the center in Jerusalem, as well as programs sponsored by the Sephardic Educational Center held in the diaspora.

Dr. Nessim thought big. He wanted to revitalize Sephardic life and to connect new generations of Sephardim to their heritage. An ardent lover of Israel, he wanted young Jews to experience Jerusalem and the land of Israel.

Perfect moral clarity in Gaza--by Charles Krauthammer

Israel accepts an Egyptian-proposed Gaza cease-fire; Hamas keeps firing. Hamas deliberately aims rockets at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them, actually telephoning civilians in the area and dropping warning charges, so-called roof knocking.

“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.”

Message from an Embattled Jerusalem from Rabbi Daniel Landes

Response to American Friends
Rabbi Daniel Landes

I wish to thank you all for writing and expressing your worries and concerns about us, particularly after the last round of sirens in Jerusalem just several minutes ago. All of you wish to know how we are “holding up” and what is our emotional and spiritual situation.

This is a traumatic moment for the Jewish people. But this moment could very well be a long period. The tragic deaths of the three Jewish teenagers and shameful murder of the Arab boy, and now rockets falling all over Israel and Israel’s determined response… these have jarred us all. Is there a context in which we can put this?

Responding to the Immoral Calls for Boycotting Israel

Shalom, we received the following responses relating to our emailing about fighting the boycotts of Israel. None of the following should be construed as business advice or recommendations, only as information that may be useful to readers.

Spanish Passports for Sephardic Jews? a Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Spanish government has indicated that it will offer Spanish passports to individuals of Spanish Jewish/Sephardic heritage. The ostensible motive for this gesture is the desire to redress a historic sin: Spain’s expulsion of Jews in 1492. Now, more than five centuries after this nefarious expulsion, Spain wishes to reach out to descendants of those Jewish victims and welcome them back “home” in Spain.

Some have praised Spain’s gesture of atonement. Others, though, have seen this new policy as a pragmatic move by Spain to attract Jewish business, investment and tourism.

Among Jews, some have been genuinely pleased with this show of Spanish friendship and reconciliation. Others have seen this as an opportunity to gain access to European markets and business.

The Met, "Klinghoffer", and Moral Turpitude: A Blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

The Metropolitan Opera of New York is planning a performance of “Klinghoffer.” In a recent column, Ben Cohen has written: “As readers doubtless know, "Klinghoffer," an opera that was first introduced to a New York audience in 1991, will enjoy yet another outing, courtesy of the Met. Most of the arguments around the opera now surfacing are, in fact, far from new. There is the accusation of anti-Semitism – shrugged off, as usual, by partisans of the work—in the way that American Jews are portrayed.