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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Re-imagining Orthodoxy

Orthodox Judaism in the ideal is very different from Orthodox Judaism as it is today.

In the ideal, Orthodoxy is a beautiful way of life that inspires an abiding spirituality and an ethical lifestyle. It links us to thousands of years of Jewish texts and traditions, to time-honored mitzvoth and customs. At the same time, it allows us—and encourages us—to develop ourselves as thinking, feeling and creative human beings. At its best, Orthodoxy provides a worldview that is intellectually vibrant, compassionate, and inclusive. Torah and mitzvoth provide us with a framework for developing ourselves as full and vibrant human beings, drawing on the wide range of our talents and propensities.

ESSAY CONTEST: Making Orthodox Synagogues More Meaningful

We thank all those who shared their ideas on how to make Orthodox synagogues more meaningful. We've chosen SEVEN winners. Their suggestions can help our synagogues and communities be stronger, more creative, more engaging. The winning essays are from Pam Ehrenkranz (Stamford, Connecticut); Yael Kassorla (Atlanta, Georgia); Dr. Alan Krinsky (Providence, Rhode Island); Rabbi Arnold Samlan (West Hempstead, New York); Barbara Mendes (Los Angeles, California); Leonard Stein (Beer Sheva, Israel); and Hinda Bramnick (Boca Raton, Florida).

We hope that you discuss these suggestions among friends and congregants.

Let us work together for an intellectually vibrant, compassionate and inclusive Orthodox Judaism.





Conversion to Judaism: Halakha, Hashkafa, and Historic Challenge

The Jewish community underwent cataclysmic changes during the course of the nineteenth century. While most of world Jewry was religiously observant in 1800, a large majority were no longer devoted to halakhic tradition by 1900. Nineteenth-century Orthodox rabbinic leadership had to cope with the rise of Reform Judaism, the spread of Haskala, the breakdown of communal authority over its members, the defection of Jews from Torah and mitzvoth-and from Judaism altogether.

Megillat Esther:What They Didn't Teach Us in Day School

Rabbi Hayyim Angel, National Scholar of our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, recently gave a fascinating lecture on Megillat Esther, at the Kingsway Jewish Center in Brooklyn, NY. This lecture is now available on our Institute's website, by clicking the Online Learning link at the top of the home page at jewishideas.org You can enhance your experience of the Megillah reading on Purim if you gain important insights into what Megillat Esther is actually all about--what it says, and what it doesn't say.
Best wishes for a happy Purim.

In Appreciation of Mr. S. Daniel Abraham

When our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals was established in October 2007, we knew we wanted to publish a journal--but did not know how we could make this happen.

But then we met Mr. S. Daniel Abraham.

Mr. Abraham immediately understood the need for an Orthodox journal that was high quality, open to new and diverse ideas, and challenging to readers. He promptly "invested" in our Institute, and became the founding "angel" of our journal, "Conversations."

The first issue of "Conversations" appeared in spring 2008. Thanks to Mr. Abraham, we were able to publish and circulate thousands of copies to readers throughout the world. The reception was so positive that we expanded the format of "Conversations" so as to include more articles and generate more reaction.

Women and Tefillin: a blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Several Modern Orthodox High Schools have recently allowed female students to don tefillin during the morning prayer services at school. This decision has generated much controversy, rancor and name-calling. On one side are those who think this is an outright break with halakhic norms, and on the other side are those who think this is a wonderful step forward for halakhic Judaism.

This article is not going to pass halakhic judgment on this issue. Halakhic cases can be made on both sides. This article, rather, will deal with the larger question of the nature of prayer and the mitzvah of tefillin.

The goal of prayer is to come closer to God, to bring God into our lives, to experience in some way the reality of the Divine Presence.

Institute Update from Rabbi Marc D. Angel, January 2014

Update from the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, January 2014

NEW PUBLICATION: The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals has just published “A Synagogue Companion,” by Rabbi Hayyim Angel. This 350 page volume is being sent to Institute members in lieu of Conversations 18. The book includes thoughts on each of the weekly Torah portions and Haftarot, as well as insights into prayer and liturgy.

We offer a special price of $50 per box (24 copies per box) to Congregations and organizations. For more details, please email mdangel@jewishideas.org

Institute members should be receiving their copies of “A Synagogue Companion” within the next week or so. New members of the Institute will receive a copy upon their joining the Institute.

Poisoning the Soul of Judaism

I first visited Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi Haim David Halevy, of blessed memory, in the summer of 1984. I was then a 15-year veteran of the American Orthodox rabbinate serving a large congregation in New York City.

At our meeting, we discussed the increasing authoritarianism and extremism that were spreading relentlessly within the Orthodox world. With sadness in his eyes, he asked me: “Have you heard of the mafia? We have a rabbinic mafia here in Israel!” A small clique was arrogating power to itself and marginalizing those who held opinions that differed with them. Instead of viewing halakha in its remarkable diversity, this clique was advocating a halakha that seemed to have only one answer to every question, one view on every issue.

End-of-Year Campaign: An Opportunity to Make a Real Difference

December 2013

THE INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH IDEAS AND IDEALS NEEDS YOU! Thank you for your support and encouragement. You have helped the Institute in its work to foster an intellectually vibrant, compassionate and inclusive Orthodox Judaism. PLEASE KEEP THE INSTITUTE IN MIND WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR END-OF-YEAR CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS.

***We have an active and informative website, jewishideas.org, reaching many thousands of readers throughout the world
***Our National Scholar has been giving classes, lectures and programs to many communities and on college campuses
***We have published 17 issues of our journal, Conversations, read by many thousands

Online Lecture by Rabbi Hayyim Angel, on the Roots and Meaning of Hanukkah

Rabbi Hayyim Angel recently gave a lecture at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, New York, giving insight into the history and nature of Hanukkah. You can access his lecture, as well as his source sheet of texts, at The Books of the Maccabees and Rabbinic Thought: Getting to the Roots of Hanukkah- You can click on the Online Learning link at jewishideas.org and then click on to the link for this fascinating lecture.

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