Blogs

(This article originally appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Ha-aretz, December 2012)

Hanukkah is widely observed as a holiday that celebrates religious freedom. The persecuted Jews of ancient Israel waged battle against their Syrian/Hellenistic oppressors, and won the right to rededicate the Temple and to restore Jewish worship and religious practices.

Religious freedom is a wonderful thing. It allows us to worship God freely, without being coerced or intimidated by others.

The Conversion Crisis

This article appears in Haaretz, February 8, 2013: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/converts-to-judaism-are-victims-of-israel-s-insulting-and-cruel-rabbinate.premium-1.502333

Reflections on the Conversion Crisis and the Rabbanut.
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

(Rabbi Angel is Founder and Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (jewishideas.org); and Rabbi Emeritus of the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City, founded 1654. Author and editor of 31 books, he is Past President of the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox), and a co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, an association of modern Orthodox rabbis.)

Several Modern Orthodox High Schools have recently allowed female students to don tefillin during the morning prayer services at school. This decision has generated much controversy, rancor and name-calling. On one side are those who think this is an outright break with halakhic norms, and on the other side are those who think this is a wonderful step forward for halakhic Judaism.

This article is not going to pass halakhic judgment on this issue. Halakhic cases can be made on both sides. This article, rather, will deal with the larger question of the nature of prayer and the mitzvah of tefillin.

The goal of prayer is to come closer to God, to bring God into our lives, to experience in some way the reality of the Divine Presence.

(This article has appeared in various publications, most recently the Jerusalem Post of April 22, 2014)

Back in 2008, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) announced a new system of conversion (GPS – Geirus Policies and Standards).

Ostensibly, their goal was to create a universal and centralized standard for all conversions.

We warned then that the GPS system would result in invalidating conversions that had been done in the past in accordance with Orthodox law and approved by the RCA (JTA , March 10, 2008, “RCA Deal Hurts Rabbi, Converts”).

The Spanish government has indicated that it will offer Spanish passports to individuals of Spanish Jewish/Sephardic heritage. The ostensible motive for this gesture is the desire to redress a historic sin: Spain’s expulsion of Jews in 1492. Now, more than five centuries after this nefarious expulsion, Spain wishes to reach out to descendants of those Jewish victims and welcome them back “home” in Spain.

Some have praised Spain’s gesture of atonement. Others, though, have seen this new policy as a pragmatic move by Spain to attract Jewish business, investment and tourism.

Among Jews, some have been genuinely pleased with this show of Spanish friendship and reconciliation. Others have seen this as an opportunity to gain access to European markets and business.

We sadly record the passing of Dr. Jose Nessim, one of the very impressive Jewish leaders of our generation. A medical doctor in Los Angeles for many years, Dr. Nessim devoted the time and energy to found the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Through his tenacity, generosity, and grand worldview, he established this center in historic buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem. Thousands of students and visitors have benefited from the programs of the center in Jerusalem, as well as programs sponsored by the Sephardic Educational Center held in the diaspora.

Dr. Nessim thought big. He wanted to revitalize Sephardic life and to connect new generations of Sephardim to their heritage. An ardent lover of Israel, he wanted young Jews to experience Jerusalem and the land of Israel.

We have all been shocked and saddened to learn of the immoral and illegal behavior of a prominent Orthodox rabbi who was recently arrested for voyeurism, i.e. for planting a hidden camera in the mikvah of his community. This behavior is reprehensible beyond words, and the women who used that mikvah are understandably indignant over this breach of their privacy. They came to the sacred precincts of the mikvah for ritual purification—but now learn that their trust has been betrayed by their own rabbi.

Men, Women, and the Language of Minyan

"How many more people do we need for a minyan?" An apparently innocent question, posed daily in Orthodox synagogues across the United States and Canada. Or, in another context, "Despite the fact that there is no explicit mitzvah to cover one's head, it has been the universal custom of observant Jews to wear yarmulkes or kipot." What could be objectionable?

Especially for those of us men who identify ourselves as Modern Orthodox Jews, we ought to make a sustained effort to become more sensitive, beginning with understanding why such seemingly routine statements are problematic. Even as men who advocate for expanding the roles available to women in the synagogue, we subtly betray long internalized and damaging biases.

Words of remembrance by Rabbi Marc D. Angel, December 17, 2014

“Thus said the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children because they are not. Thus said the Lord: refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, said the Lord; and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future, said the Lord; and your children shall return to their own border” (Jeremiah 31:15-17).

Guest blog by Lily Chapnik

Note: This account is a single author’s experience of adopting the Jewish traditional practice of tzniut, or “modesty”. She does not seek to speak for anybody else’s experience with this aspect of Judaism.  

(This article originally appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Ha-aretz, December 2012)

Hanukkah is widely observed as a holiday that celebrates religious freedom. The persecuted Jews of ancient Israel waged battle against their Syrian/Hellenistic oppressors, and won the right to rededicate the Temple and to restore Jewish worship and religious practices.

Religious freedom is a wonderful thing. It allows us to worship God freely, without being coerced or intimidated by others.

The Conversion Crisis

This article appears in Haaretz, February 8, 2013: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/converts-to-judaism-are-victims-of-israel-s-insulting-and-cruel-rabbinate.premium-1.502333

Reflections on the Conversion Crisis and the Rabbanut.
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel

(Rabbi Angel is Founder and Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (jewishideas.org); and Rabbi Emeritus of the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City, founded 1654. Author and editor of 31 books, he is Past President of the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox), and a co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, an association of modern Orthodox rabbis.)

Several Modern Orthodox High Schools have recently allowed female students to don tefillin during the morning prayer services at school. This decision has generated much controversy, rancor and name-calling. On one side are those who think this is an outright break with halakhic norms, and on the other side are those who think this is a wonderful step forward for halakhic Judaism.

This article is not going to pass halakhic judgment on this issue. Halakhic cases can be made on both sides. This article, rather, will deal with the larger question of the nature of prayer and the mitzvah of tefillin.

The goal of prayer is to come closer to God, to bring God into our lives, to experience in some way the reality of the Divine Presence.

(This article has appeared in various publications, most recently the Jerusalem Post of April 22, 2014)

Back in 2008, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) announced a new system of conversion (GPS – Geirus Policies and Standards).

Ostensibly, their goal was to create a universal and centralized standard for all conversions.

We warned then that the GPS system would result in invalidating conversions that had been done in the past in accordance with Orthodox law and approved by the RCA (JTA , March 10, 2008, “RCA Deal Hurts Rabbi, Converts”).

The Spanish government has indicated that it will offer Spanish passports to individuals of Spanish Jewish/Sephardic heritage. The ostensible motive for this gesture is the desire to redress a historic sin: Spain’s expulsion of Jews in 1492. Now, more than five centuries after this nefarious expulsion, Spain wishes to reach out to descendants of those Jewish victims and welcome them back “home” in Spain.

Some have praised Spain’s gesture of atonement. Others, though, have seen this new policy as a pragmatic move by Spain to attract Jewish business, investment and tourism.

Among Jews, some have been genuinely pleased with this show of Spanish friendship and reconciliation. Others have seen this as an opportunity to gain access to European markets and business.

We sadly record the passing of Dr. Jose Nessim, one of the very impressive Jewish leaders of our generation. A medical doctor in Los Angeles for many years, Dr. Nessim devoted the time and energy to found the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Through his tenacity, generosity, and grand worldview, he established this center in historic buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem. Thousands of students and visitors have benefited from the programs of the center in Jerusalem, as well as programs sponsored by the Sephardic Educational Center held in the diaspora.

Dr. Nessim thought big. He wanted to revitalize Sephardic life and to connect new generations of Sephardim to their heritage. An ardent lover of Israel, he wanted young Jews to experience Jerusalem and the land of Israel.

We have all been shocked and saddened to learn of the immoral and illegal behavior of a prominent Orthodox rabbi who was recently arrested for voyeurism, i.e. for planting a hidden camera in the mikvah of his community. This behavior is reprehensible beyond words, and the women who used that mikvah are understandably indignant over this breach of their privacy. They came to the sacred precincts of the mikvah for ritual purification—but now learn that their trust has been betrayed by their own rabbi.

Men, Women, and the Language of Minyan

"How many more people do we need for a minyan?" An apparently innocent question, posed daily in Orthodox synagogues across the United States and Canada. Or, in another context, "Despite the fact that there is no explicit mitzvah to cover one's head, it has been the universal custom of observant Jews to wear yarmulkes or kipot." What could be objectionable?

Especially for those of us men who identify ourselves as Modern Orthodox Jews, we ought to make a sustained effort to become more sensitive, beginning with understanding why such seemingly routine statements are problematic. Even as men who advocate for expanding the roles available to women in the synagogue, we subtly betray long internalized and damaging biases.

Words of remembrance by Rabbi Marc D. Angel, December 17, 2014

“Thus said the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children because they are not. Thus said the Lord: refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, said the Lord; and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future, said the Lord; and your children shall return to their own border” (Jeremiah 31:15-17).

Guest blog by Lily Chapnik

Note: This account is a single author’s experience of adopting the Jewish traditional practice of tzniut, or “modesty”. She does not seek to speak for anybody else’s experience with this aspect of Judaism.