What makes one a Jew? Being born to a Jewish mother? Converting to Judaism? Not really. It is living by the spiritual order of Judaism that makes one a Jew; living through the Jews of the past and with the Jews of the present and future. We are Jews when we choose to be so; when we have discovered Jewishness on our own, through our search for the sacred; when we fight the never-ending spiritual struggle to find God, realize that the world needs a moral conscience, and carry that exalted burden so as to save the world and provide it with a mission.
Stern/YU: God Save me from Your Opinion-Dec 25, 2014
Identification and Dislocation:
the Breakdown of Worshipful Expression
by Michael Haruni
One of the dilemmas we faced during the preparation of the Nehalel siddur was over the instructions, or “rubric”. For on the one hand there is, undoubtably, tremendous value in the detailed instructions appearing in the major contemporary English-language siddurim on how and where to bow in Amidah, where to kiss tzitziyot during and after Keriyat Shema, how to wave the lulav, and so forth. Baaley teshuvah especially have, since the advent of the ArtScroll siddur, found themselves able as never before to participate competently and confidently in shul procedures. The frum-from-birth users have benefited too, it must be said, filling in finer details previously eluding them.
AIDS AND CIRCUMCISION
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen (z’l)
Question: Does the current widespread occurrence of AIDS in any way affect the performance of circumcision?
Some of My Best Friends
A Journey through Twenty-First Century Anti-Semitism
By Ben Cohen
Edition Critic, 2014, 215 pages
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.
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?
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.  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.
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