Blogs

Will our mainstream synagogues revitalize themselves by once again becoming spiritual centers for those searching for authentic Jewish religiosity? Will they once again focus on quality of spiritual experience rather than on quantity of dollars? Will they once again become the gathering place for Jews who are searching for truth, for God?

Here are a few vignettes about co-operation and co-existence in Israel...things that rarely get covered in the media.

In the "old days", it was normal within the Orthodox world to have youth groups that included boys and girls. Day schools were often co-ed. Synagogues sponsored events where young men and women could meet and socialize. Men and women sat together at weddings and wedding banquets. Modest, religiously proper behavior was encouraged within a context where males and females could interact in respectful and appropriate ways.

On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump made it official that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel.  On May 14, 2018, the American embassy in Jerusalem was officially opened.

Many years ago, when I was still a young boy growing up in Seattle, a fund-raiser from Israel visited our home shortly before the Pessah festival. After receiving his donation, he wished us a “hag kasher ve-sameah”—a happy and kosher Pessah.  My mother was deeply offended!

The question about saying Hallel with a blessing on Yom haAtsmaut has much broader implications. Is halakha a closed system that operates solely within its four cubits? Or is halakha a system of life that responds in a living way to the realities of our lives?

Until 1968, Americans celebrated February 12 as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and February 22 as George Washington’s birthday. These commemorations were then replaced with Presidents’ Day on the third Monday of February.

Should the music of Rabbi Carlebach—or any other composer—be banned because of alleged or real private moral failings? Or should the music stand on its own merits, regardless of the personal life of the musician?

All halakhic converts must understand: they are 100% Jewish according to halakha. Their Jewishness is not contingent on “acceptance” by the Chief Rabbinate or by any Hareidi dominated rabbinic courts. Halakhic converts are Jewish, their children are Jewish, they are obligated to fulfill the mitzvoth as are all other Jews. Anyone who casts aspersions on their Jewish status is a sinner, plain and simple.

The lessons to be learned from this campaign run the gamut. And the fact that there are so many insights to be gleaned indicates that there is in fact one larger, meta lesson to be learned: Men, and particularly male educators, leaders and aspiring leaders, must listen before any of the larger lessons can be absorbed.

Will our mainstream synagogues revitalize themselves by once again becoming spiritual centers for those searching for authentic Jewish religiosity? Will they once again focus on quality of spiritual experience rather than on quantity of dollars? Will they once again become the gathering place for Jews who are searching for truth, for God?

Here are a few vignettes about co-operation and co-existence in Israel...things that rarely get covered in the media.

In the "old days", it was normal within the Orthodox world to have youth groups that included boys and girls. Day schools were often co-ed. Synagogues sponsored events where young men and women could meet and socialize. Men and women sat together at weddings and wedding banquets. Modest, religiously proper behavior was encouraged within a context where males and females could interact in respectful and appropriate ways.

On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump made it official that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel.  On May 14, 2018, the American embassy in Jerusalem was officially opened.

Many years ago, when I was still a young boy growing up in Seattle, a fund-raiser from Israel visited our home shortly before the Pessah festival. After receiving his donation, he wished us a “hag kasher ve-sameah”—a happy and kosher Pessah.  My mother was deeply offended!

The question about saying Hallel with a blessing on Yom haAtsmaut has much broader implications. Is halakha a closed system that operates solely within its four cubits? Or is halakha a system of life that responds in a living way to the realities of our lives?

Until 1968, Americans celebrated February 12 as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and February 22 as George Washington’s birthday. These commemorations were then replaced with Presidents’ Day on the third Monday of February.

Should the music of Rabbi Carlebach—or any other composer—be banned because of alleged or real private moral failings? Or should the music stand on its own merits, regardless of the personal life of the musician?

All halakhic converts must understand: they are 100% Jewish according to halakha. Their Jewishness is not contingent on “acceptance” by the Chief Rabbinate or by any Hareidi dominated rabbinic courts. Halakhic converts are Jewish, their children are Jewish, they are obligated to fulfill the mitzvoth as are all other Jews. Anyone who casts aspersions on their Jewish status is a sinner, plain and simple.

The lessons to be learned from this campaign run the gamut. And the fact that there are so many insights to be gleaned indicates that there is in fact one larger, meta lesson to be learned: Men, and particularly male educators, leaders and aspiring leaders, must listen before any of the larger lessons can be absorbed.