Articles

Can We Build Bridges Both to the Left and to the Right—Simultaneously?

“Excuse me for a moment; I need to take this call,” I said to the rabbis I was meeting with at an important convention for Hareidi professionals dealing with practical halakhic issues and public policy. I had just stopped by the convention to meet some of the rabbis who had taught me and mentored me over the years. I was sitting with my main mentor—a Yeshivishe, Litvishe Rav—and his friend, a close associate of some of the Hareidi rabbinic authorities.

Bridges Across the Divide

As a child, in my formative years, I grew up on New York’s Lower East Side. I attended Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem and was privileged to know Rav Moshe Feinstein. My grandfather was the b’al koreh at the Yeshiva and a close friend of Rav Moshe, so I was blessed to have visited the Feinstein home on numerous occasions. Rav Moshe had a great influence on me. It was he who taught me how to interact with Jews of a wide range of observance, especially in the way he modeled Torah as an expression of love, patience, tolerance, and universal respect (b’sever panim yafot).

Film Review: "Ida"

The Film Ida
A review by Roger Mesznik; July 14, 2014

Today, Lynn and I saw (with friends) the film IDA, a Polish film provided with English subtitles.

I was moved and puzzled, induced to think and grieve, and left a bit cold. I am very glad to have seen it, and I recommend it.

Pew, Continuity and Conversion

The October 2013 Pew Report underscored the fragility of the Jewish future in North America and has led to anguished discussions and debates regarding "continuity", i.e., how to reduce the number of Jews relinquishing Judaism and Jewish identification in favor of other options.

But given the nature of the American religious scene, as I will present below, it is simply impossible to assure Jewish continuity by such a strategy alone. Rather, only if a strategy of easing the path of conversion is joined with current educational efforts and programs do we stand a chance of achieving continuity.

Empowering Local Rabbis: Revisiting the Conversion Issue

The Israeli government recently moved to decentralize the conversion system by allowing local courts to convert individuals on their own.

Ironically, as Israel moves away from centralization, here in America the Rabbinical Council of America is enthusiastically embracing it. The modern Orthodox rabbinical organization recently reaffirmed its commitment to its centralized conversion system, which it calls GPS (Geirus Policies and Standards). Under the system, the RCA accredits only those conversions conducted under RCA’s batei din, or rabbinical courts, using the GPS process.

Since its inception in 2008, we have opposed this centralized approach. We still do today. Here’s why.

Book Review: The Crown of Solomon and Other Stories

The Crown of Solomon and Other Stories, is a second work of fiction by Rabbi Marc Angel. His first work of fiction, The Search Committee, is a series of thirteen monologues delivered by eleven people to a search committee seeking a new Rosh Yeshiva for Yeshivat Lita, pictured as a hareidi yeshiva located in Manhattan. In it, Angel creates eleven different voices all arguing their case in favor of one of two candidates for the position, one candidate representing the history of the yeshiva, the other a candidate for change. The novel is a novel of ideas which, though of broad interest, are particularly relevant in the Orthodox community

Civil Rights Martyrs--and Their Lesson for Us Today

This week, we are commemorating the horrific murder 50 years ago of three civil rights workers, two Jewish and one African American, in Mississippi.

When I began reading up about the freedom riders, groups of mainly white young men and women from the north who spent the summer of 1964 in Mississippi working for civil rights, voting registration etc., and especially Andrew Goodman and Michael Shwerner, two amongst many Jews who were part of this summer, I had a hope.

Mourning the Three Murdered Israeli Teenagers

The Torah records the reaction of Aaron when he learned the sad news of the tragic deaths of his sons: “Aaron was silent,” vayidom Aharon. Commentators have offered various explanations of Aaron’s silence. He may have been speechless due to shock; he may have had angry thoughts in his heart, but he controlled himself from uttering them; he may have been silent as a sign of acceptance of God’s judgment.

Within biblical tradition, there are a number of phrases relating to confrontation with tragedy.

“Min haMetsar Karati Y-ah,” I call out to God from distress. When in pain, it is natural to cry out to God, to shed tears, to lament our sufferings and our losses. To cry out when we are in distress is a first step in the grieving process.