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(Andrew Apostolou is a historian based in Washington D.C. He has a D.Phil. in history from Oxford University and has worked on human rights campaigns in the Middle East.)

A recent New York Times article “A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel” illustrates the luxurious nature of American Jewish life. The article provides a tiny sample of self-proclaimed observant American Jews (“As a religious Jew” one of them declares modestly) who announce that they care about Palestinian human rights (a good cause that is entirely independent of religion. This just in: atheists can be for human rights too). These observant Jews support a boycott of Israel or oppose the nature of the current Jewish state.

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.

Arguably the happiest day of the Jewish year, traditionally originating in the time of the ancient Persian Empire, perhaps the fifth or fourth century B.C.E., Purim is considered an occasion so joyous that its festive atmosphere pervades the entire month of Adar in which it occurs.

In his book “Crowds and Power,” the Nobel Prize winning Sephardic author, Elias Canetti, writes of the tremendous diversity among Jews. He theorizes: “One is driven to ask in what respect these people remain Jews; what makes them into Jews; what is the ultimate nature of the bond they feel when they say "I am a Jew"....This bond...is the Exodus from Egypt.” Canetti suggests that the Israelites’ formative experience as a vast crowd leaving Egypt is the key to understanding the nature of Jewish peoplehood. As long as Jews—however different they are from each other—share historical memories of the Exodus from Egypt, they continue to identify as members of one people. We are bound together by the shared experience of redemption.

(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”).

Those of us who were in New York on that fateful 9/11 will never forget the horror of that day, the terrible loss of lives, the great acts of heroism on the part of so many who strove to help victims of the attack. None will ever forget how vulnerable we are to acts of terrorism.

(Yosef Lopez, a member of our Institute who lives in Jerusalem, recently wrote the following letter to Rabbi Marc Angel. The issue Yosef Lopez raises is very serious. What can be done to uproot religious fanaticism that masquerades as "Torah Judaism?")

With the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by terrorists, the Israeli government, defense forces and police have been working tirelessly to bring the boys home quickly and safely. People throughout the world have been praying for the victims’ wellbeing.

While there are vocal advocates of boycotting Israel, their efforts are largely failing to have any significant impact on Israel. This is not merely an economic or political issue, but a very real moral issue. Those who call for boycotting and divesting from Israel are essentially lining up with those who call for the destruction of Israel, lining up with Hamas and other terrorist operations. We must combat their immoral stance not only by arguing Israel's case in the court of world opinion, but by practically supporting Israel economically--buying Israeli products, investing in Israeli companies, contributing to Israeli institutions, visiting Israel and contributing to its tourism industry, buying Israel bonds etc.

The Metropolitan Opera of New York is planning a performance of “Klinghoffer.” In a recent column, Ben Cohen has written: “As readers doubtless know, "Klinghoffer," an opera that was first introduced to a New York audience in 1991, will enjoy yet another outing, courtesy of the Met.

(Andrew Apostolou is a historian based in Washington D.C. He has a D.Phil. in history from Oxford University and has worked on human rights campaigns in the Middle East.)

A recent New York Times article “A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel” illustrates the luxurious nature of American Jewish life. The article provides a tiny sample of self-proclaimed observant American Jews (“As a religious Jew” one of them declares modestly) who announce that they care about Palestinian human rights (a good cause that is entirely independent of religion. This just in: atheists can be for human rights too). These observant Jews support a boycott of Israel or oppose the nature of the current Jewish state.

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.

Arguably the happiest day of the Jewish year, traditionally originating in the time of the ancient Persian Empire, perhaps the fifth or fourth century B.C.E., Purim is considered an occasion so joyous that its festive atmosphere pervades the entire month of Adar in which it occurs.

In his book “Crowds and Power,” the Nobel Prize winning Sephardic author, Elias Canetti, writes of the tremendous diversity among Jews. He theorizes: “One is driven to ask in what respect these people remain Jews; what makes them into Jews; what is the ultimate nature of the bond they feel when they say "I am a Jew"....This bond...is the Exodus from Egypt.” Canetti suggests that the Israelites’ formative experience as a vast crowd leaving Egypt is the key to understanding the nature of Jewish peoplehood. As long as Jews—however different they are from each other—share historical memories of the Exodus from Egypt, they continue to identify as members of one people. We are bound together by the shared experience of redemption.

(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”).

Those of us who were in New York on that fateful 9/11 will never forget the horror of that day, the terrible loss of lives, the great acts of heroism on the part of so many who strove to help victims of the attack. None will ever forget how vulnerable we are to acts of terrorism.

(Yosef Lopez, a member of our Institute who lives in Jerusalem, recently wrote the following letter to Rabbi Marc Angel. The issue Yosef Lopez raises is very serious. What can be done to uproot religious fanaticism that masquerades as "Torah Judaism?")

With the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by terrorists, the Israeli government, defense forces and police have been working tirelessly to bring the boys home quickly and safely. People throughout the world have been praying for the victims’ wellbeing.

While there are vocal advocates of boycotting Israel, their efforts are largely failing to have any significant impact on Israel. This is not merely an economic or political issue, but a very real moral issue. Those who call for boycotting and divesting from Israel are essentially lining up with those who call for the destruction of Israel, lining up with Hamas and other terrorist operations. We must combat their immoral stance not only by arguing Israel's case in the court of world opinion, but by practically supporting Israel economically--buying Israeli products, investing in Israeli companies, contributing to Israeli institutions, visiting Israel and contributing to its tourism industry, buying Israel bonds etc.

The Metropolitan Opera of New York is planning a performance of “Klinghoffer.” In a recent column, Ben Cohen has written: “As readers doubtless know, "Klinghoffer," an opera that was first introduced to a New York audience in 1991, will enjoy yet another outing, courtesy of the Met.