We may find it jarring to come into contact with Jews who observe minhagim different from ours. We may think that their practices are quaint, or odd, or plain wrong....The hope is that through greater awareness and empathy, we will function as a stronger, happier, and more diverse Jewish community. We need a genuine recognition that in our various searches for Divinity, different Jewish communities have followed diverse—perfectly halakhic and proper—roads.
For the past several years, I have contributed postings to a number of websites on the subject of the dangerously charismatic teacher in schools. The material was based on my book on Jewish school management that was published at the beginning of 2010. The section on the charismatic teacher was entitled “The Pied Piper.”’[i]
To our members and friends,
I have a busy fall semester in my role as National Scholar, as we continue to promote the values of our Institute in communities, schools, and beyond.
On Shabbat, November 3-4, I will be scholar-in-residence at the Young Israel of Oak Park, Michigan, 15140 W 10 Mile Rd. For more information, go to their website, https://www.yiop.org.
As a young boy growing up in Queens, NY, I always knew that my family’s traditions were slightly different from those of my classmates. Halakhot and practices taught in school, generally speaking, reflected what I experienced at home, but very often my customs were different. You see, my father was born in Afghanistan and my mother in Morocco, and as such, I was raised following Sephardic/Middle Eastern customs.
I began to search for the factors that made those Sephardic Jews I met so positively different. Was it the warmer Oriental, Islamic mentality? The emphasis on hospitality in contrast to the Western Christian colder tendency to withdraw into privacy? Was it the fact that in the Sephardic world there was no denominational divide, as we had, between Orthodox and Reform?
According to psychoanalytic theory, emotional disconnection can be dangerous. When people deny their innermost negative feelings-- instead of protecting themselves from their impulses, they may be doubly in danger of acting out on them. If powerful feelings are repressed, they may burst out in a less controlled fashion at another time. Although this is a gross oversimplification, it can be understood via a simple metaphor of a boiler that has a safety valve. If the pressure builds up, it can be released in a controlled manner.
Rabbi Dr. Sabato Morais (April 13, 1823-November 11, 1897) was described by a New York Yiddish newspaper as “without doubt…the greatest of all Orthodox rabbis in the United States.” This encomium was written several years after the death of Morais, when a full picture of his life and accomplishments could be written with historical perspective.
The Talmud (Berakhot 58a) teaches that one is required to recite a special blessing when witnessing a vast throng of Jews, praising the Almighty who is hakham harazim, the One who understands the root and inner thoughts of each individual.Their thoughts are not alike and their appearance is not alike. The Creator made each person as a unique being. He expected and wanted diversity of thought, and we bless Him for having created this diversity among us.
This article discusses some cases, reflective of the educational approach of many religious schools and individuals, that are symptomatic of serious problems in the way our community transmits Torah teachings. The fundamentalist, literalist position—so vehemently criticized by Rambam—still holds sway among many Orthodox Jews.
There is a feeling among many Jews, including many Orthodox Jews, that worship in the synagogue lacks adequate inspiration and spirituality. Among the complaints: the synagogue ritual is chanted by rote; the prayers are recited too quickly; the prayers are recited too slowly; the service is not understood by congregants; people talk too much in synagogue; the services do not involve everyone in a meaningful way.