Articles

Of Walls and Bridges: Teaching and Studying

I can trace the seeds of my abiding interest in the intersection of Jewish/Israeli and Arab culture to two specific events that occurred while I was a high school student on a kibbutz in the eastern Galilee. The first took place when the group of American high school juniors of which I was a part travelled to the nearby Arab town of Daburiyya, at the foot of Mt. Tabor. We met Arab Israeli youth of our age in their classroom, where we bashfully introduced ourselves to each other. From there, our hosts took us to their homes where we were graciously hosted.

GETT- The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

Israeli films receive large audiences worldwide. Many of them show the realities of life in the holy land, some with humor and some with sadness. Almost all of them demonstrate that Israel is a democratic country which is not afraid to show even its darkest aspects.

Currently one can watch such a dark story at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in Manhattan “Gett- the Trial of Viviane Amsalem”. Gett is Hebrew for divorce. This is a sad story of the difficulties, and one should say, impossibilities for a Jewish woman to obtain a divorce when the husband does not want it. Indeed the husband has to agree to GRANT a divorce. I purposely emphasize the word “GRANT” as the husband is all powerful in that procedure.

Update from Rabbi Hayyim Angel, National Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, March 2015

March, 2015 To our members and friends, Our ongoing programs for the Institute continue full throttle, including several great recent highlights.

On Sunday, February 22, I organized a symposium, “From the Academy to the Religious Community: How we can gain religious insight from academic Jewish Studies.” Over seventy people attended at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan.

Thoughts for Yom Ha'Atsma'ut

At around the time that the State of Israel was being recognized by the United Nations, the Chief Rabbis of Israel wrote a letter in Arabic to the Arab world. The Sephardic Chief Rabbi Benzion Uziel, who was fluent in Arabic, likely wrote this letter that was signed by him and the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog.

Although so many years have passed since the formal establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the message of peace conveyed in this letter has largely been eclipsed by the ongoing hostilities and warfare.

Yom Ha'Atsma'ut, Israel Independence day, is observed this year on Wednesday night April 22 and Thursday April 23. It's worthwhile to review the words of Rabbis Uziel and Herzog, and pray that the message of peace will prevail...sooner rather than later.

THE EVER GROWING TORAH MODEL: A portrait of Moses as a young man, national leader, and teaching model

This engaging monograph is a deceptively simple read. Written in a disciplined, clear diction, Rabbi Zvi Grumet writes and teaches like a High School Yeshiva rebbe, unflinchingly focusing on the received Torah’s text and message[s], as lucidly and probingly as he can, so that his student/reader may understand his content and internalize the Torah’s normative message.

The end of an era for Italy's Jews: Why young Italian rabbis are bowing to Israeli Orthodoxy

(This article, by Anna Momigliano, appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, April 27, 2015.

When Daniela Dawan’s first nephew was born, in late 2000, the family travelled from Milan to Rome to have Italy’s most prestigious rabbi, Elio Toaff, perform a giyur katan – newborn conversion – on the infant, whose mother wasn’t Jewish.

By the time Dawan's niece was born in early 2002, however, no Orthodox rabbi willing to perform such a conversion on the offspring of a mixed marriage could be found in the whole country. Toaff, the charismatic Tuscan-born rabbi who headed the Jewish community of Rome for half a century (1951-2001), had retired a few months earlier.