"A Synagogue Companion" by Rabbi Hayyim Angel: Reviewed by Rabbi Israel Drazin

Review by Israel Drazin
A Synagogue Companion, by Rabbi Hayyim Angel
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, 2014, 351 pages

Rabbi Hayyim Angel is a scholar who writes very readable, interesting, and informative books. He presents “a vision of the Torah that is authentic, passionate,
reasonable, and embracing of people of all backgrounds.” He exposes the plain meaning of biblical texts. He raises thought-provoking questions. He shows that many biblical
books do not state what people think they state, and surprises and delights readers by revealing what the Bible actually says.

In his Synagogue Companion, Angel, the National Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, has brief essays of no more than a page and a half on the 54

The Conversion Crisis--a New Glitch

Questions of personal status are among the most sensitive issues in Judaism and thus require responsible rabbinic leadership.
That is one reason why there was such an outcry last year when Israel’s Chief Rabbinate refused to allow my teacher, Rabbi Avi Weiss, to vouch for the Jewishness of a couple marrying in Israel. While the Chief Rabbinate ultimately backed down and agreed to accept Rabbi Weiss’ word, there are still unanswered questions regarding this episode.

On Jan. 4, 2014, the Rabbinical Council of America — a leading Orthodox rabbinic association — issued this statement: “Recent assertions that the Rabbinical Council of America advised the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to reject the testimony of RCA member Rabbi Avi Weiss are categorically untrue.”

Book Review of Hillel Goldberg's "Storied Lives around the World"

Storied Jewish Lives around the World, by Hillel Goldberg

Feldheim Publishers, 2013, 228 pages

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, an award winning author who has published inspiring Jewish stories for over 45 years, and has authored five previous books, has now given us three dozen well-crafted, easy-to-read, inspiring tales of people who we will admire, people we should emulate.

“There is greatness,” Rabbi Goldberg writes, “not only in well known leaders. ‘There is no person who does not have his hour.’ I have known this person too – the ‘simple Jew,’ the poshuteh Yid – shining in his moment of distinction. I have tried to capture” the greatness of these Jews, and their contribution to those around them.

What do we expect from our synagogues?

In light of the new Pew study on Jewish affiliation, there will be a lot of hand-wringing about what the Jewish community can do to get people more engaged. My revolutionary
suggestion? Get to synagogue.

People are always telling me that they’d love to come to shul more often, but they’re just not as religious as I am. Its one of the hazards of being married to a rabbi. Strangers think they know my exact level of religiosity, whatever that means. So here’s what I’ll say. You have no idea what goes on inside my head. And I have no idea what you’re thinking, either. Even more blasphemous, I don’t care.

In Appreciation of Mr. S. Daniel Abraham

When our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals was established in October 2007, we knew we wanted to publish a journal--but did not know how we could make this happen.

But then we met Mr. S. Daniel Abraham.

Mr. Abraham immediately understood the need for an Orthodox journal that was high quality, open to new and diverse ideas, and challenging to readers. He promptly "invested" in our Institute, and became the founding "angel" of our journal, "Conversations."

The first issue of "Conversations" appeared in spring 2008. Thanks to Mr. Abraham, we were able to publish and circulate thousands of copies to readers throughout the world. The reception was so positive that we expanded the format of "Conversations" so as to include more articles and generate more reaction.

Learning to Say Thank You

There is probably no sentiment as fundamental to Judaism as recognizing the good that others do for us and expressing our gratitude to them (in Hebrew, “hakarat ha-tov”). God is reputed to have created the world in a burst of loving-kindness for which humanity and all living creatures should intuitively praise Him, and the Jewish people’s special relationship with God is predicated on His kindness in having redeemed the Jews from Egypt. The very word for Jew in Hebrew, Yehudi, comes from the verb le-hodot, to thank, and hearkens back to our foremother Leah thanking God for giving birth to her fourth son. Therefore, I was not surprised to recently come upon a poster in Har Nof (a largely Haredi, Jerusalem suburb) proclaiming that this Jewish calendar year is the year of Hakarat Ha-tov.

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

The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals has been co-sponsoring a ten-part series of weekly classes with Lincoln Square Synagogue in the First Book of Samuel (68th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan). Wednesdays from 7:15-8:15 pm from January 29-April 2. With this series winding down, we are discussing the possibility of future classes. Stay tuned for further announcements.