Great News about the Institute's University Network

The University Network of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals reaches many hundreds of students on campuses throughout North America. We provide students with our publications, and serve as a resource to them on issues relating to Judaism, ethics, Orthodoxy etc.

We sponsor Campus Fellows who arrange programs for students on many campuses. We also sponsor regional conferences on topics that promote a grand and inclusive vision of Orthodox Judaism.

A Review of "The Crown of Solomon and Other Stories"

The Crown of Solomon and Other Stories
By Marc D. Angel
Albion Andalus Books, 2014, 150 pages

This is prolific writer Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel’s second fictional book, following his much acclaimed and enjoyed novel “The Search Committee.” Several of the nineteen tales are based on true events. Many of the stories are set within Sephardic communities in Turkey, Rhodes and the United States.

“Betrayal and Redemption,” for example, looks at the relationship between a frail thirteen-year-old girl on the Island of Marmara, Turkey, and a Greek non-Jewish girl of similar age. The two have an excellent relationship. The story explores what happens during an Easter week pogrom and afterwards.

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).

Prayer as Revolution

Petitional prayer, the parts of prayer when we ask for things, plays a central role in Judaism. Of the 19 blessings in the Amidah, the centerpiece of the Jewish prayer, 13 of them are requests.

The question on the minds of many people who pray is: Does it work? It is, after all, hard to see direct results from the requests made in prayer. This reality results in people not praying or not taking prayer seriously.

Is God a Given?

Rabbi Cardozo’s analysis rings true: Most synagogues no longer serve as the hub or heartbeat of Jewish connectivity, especially for young Jews. Many people no longer feel God in the pews, nor do they feel the “big” questions are answered in synagogues. God has left the building.

But correct as Cardozo may be about widespread disenchantment, he makes one overriding assumption that’s seems faulty: He speaks about God as if God is a given—as if every Jew accepts “His” existence. The average American Jew doesn’t talk about God, lacks the vocabulary with which to articulate what or who God is or means, or doubts whether God exists at all. Most Jews I encounter don’t know where God might be found, or even if God is missing.

Voices in Baltimore

Within a three-mile radius of my home, there are about 60 Orthodox synagogue options. Sixty. It’s a staggering number—and even more staggering that despite this number, new synagogues and minyanim are being formed on a fairly regular basis. In fact, not that long ago, I and my husband, along with about 20 other families, created a new synagogue in Baltimore: Netivot Shalom.

Why would we feel the need, in such a strong Orthodox community, to “break away” from other synagogues?

Book Review: Mysteries of Judaism, by Israel Drazin

Mysteries of Judaism, by Rabbi Dr.Israel Drazin
Gefen Publishing House, 2014

Reviewed by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

In this book, Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin offers a series of essays on a variety of topics. The early chapters of this book emphasize the rabbinic contributions to Judaism’s observance of holy days and festivals. While many think that our observances are based on biblical teachings, Rabbi Drazin makes the case that the Talmudic sages shaped our understanding and experiencing of these days. Especially after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, it was imperative for the rabbis to reinterpret and reframe basic elements in Judaism.


A. Inspiration for Prayer

One of the classic debates in the Talmud concerns the basis for the three daily prayers of Shacharit, Mincha and Arbit. [1] According to Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Chanina, these prayers were instituted by our Patriarchs, whereas according to Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi, they were instituted by the Men of the Great Assembly in order to correspond with the daily tamid offerings.

Don’t Give Up the Shul: Reorienting Our Synagogues

The question is whether we move our synagogues to where God is now dwelling. Will we, the religious, live up to the expectations of the young people in cafes and discussions groups who have preceded us? Will we apologize to them and join in their discussions, creating a real religious experience out of our synagogue service? Or will we, as usual, stay put, fight the truth, and then be put to shame?
—Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cordozo