Some time ago, I had a long talk with Dr. Jacques Lopes Cardozo, my only brother, age 66 and two years my junior. We spoke about our early years, growing up in our parents’ home in the Netherlands. Although we were children of a mixed marriage (Jewish father, non-Jewish mother), we took a keen interest in Judaism. Our father was a very proud Jew, and our mother was raised in a strong Jewish cultural milieu in Amsterdam where she felt completely at home. If not for her “Jewishness,” my father would probably not have married her.
One of the great problems any religious person must struggle with is whether or not it is actually possible to be religious. What, after all, is the essence of genuine religiosity? It is no doubt the cognizance that one lives in the presence of God and feels and acts accordingly. To do so, however, is nearly impossible. Avraham Joshua Heschel once made the profound observation: “Religion depends upon what man does with his ultimate embarrassment” (1).
While we may not agree with Heschel that embarrassment lies at the root of religion, we agree it is unpretentiousness combined with deep humility that moves genuine religion.
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It was only a short while ago in America that there were those predicting the death of Orthodox Judaism in this country. A large segment of Orthodoxy included the generation of survivors ravaged by the trauma of a Holocaust they had barely survived. They were learning to adapt to a new society, a new language, and a new culture. The children of those survivors, Baby Boomers of today, were opting out of Orthodox Judaism in droves to join the fast-growing Conservative and Reform movements. The more liberal movements offered much to attract first-generation native-born Jews: services in regal and refined English, a rabbi whose only accent inflecting his sermons was a
When I graduated Rambam Torah Institute, a Los Angeles Orthodox High School, in 1978 (Rambam closed in 1979, giving way to the opening of YULA and the Simon Wiesenthal Center), I was about to enter UCLA with a schizophrenic approach to my own Jewish identity. On the one hand, I had grown up in the Sephardic-Ladino community where I was about the only one to receive a formal Jewish education from middle school on. Being “shomer shabbat” was very old-country and unheard of in “Rodesli-L.A.” (the community of Jews descended from the Island of Rhodes who established the Sephardic Hebrew Center in L.A., where we were members). The only ones who admired or understood why I chose a more traditional path for myself were the senior citizens born in Rhodes, toward whom I tended to gravitate.
I must admit that I was taken aback when called upon to argue the case of the Bible. It has always seemed patently obvious. The Book of Books has stood the test of time for thousands of years, continuing to inspire multitudes irrespective of race, color or creed.
June 26th, 2015, marked the triumph of the LGBT community over political detractors in a drawn-out battle for social liberty. This victory was ushered in by what is arguably one of the most consequential decisions of social reform since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Constitutional right to same-sex marriage. As a 23-year-old observant Jew living in the United States, this ruling has deep ideological implications. A profound paradigmatic conflict has risen to the surface. Torn between two opposing philosophical perspectives, I have become the generational victim of a cognitive dissonance that I cannot simply slough off, and in the absence of an existential ecdysis, I am forced to confront the discord of my beliefs.
The Jewish Ideas Campus Fellowship Spring Semester has begun! We are happy to welcome three new fellows joining us this month. From New York University fellow Danielle Panitch, from University of Texas Elan Kogutt and from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Eli Yoggev. Each brings a unique brand of Modern Orthodoxy and we wish them success in their important work.
On Thursday, July 30, 2015, a Haredi former convict named Yishai Schlissel stabbed six marchers in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade; a few days later, one of his victims, 16-year-old Shira Banki died of her wounds. Schlissel had been released from prison only three weeks earlier, having served for 10 years for committing a virtually identical crime in 2005. Although the stabbing made headlines, it was soon overshadowed by the murder of a West Bank Palestinian family, which was quickly attributed to radical settlers.