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Beyond The Benefit Of The Doubt

10/31/2013
Jewish Week Correspondent
Story Includes Video: 
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My family knows well that the Rob Reiner/Aaron Sorkin film “The American President” is one of my all-time favorites. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve watched it, and during particularly difficult times in this country, notably after the events of 9/11, it served as a source of comfort. 

As he would later do so magnificently in “The West Wing,” Sorkin painted a picture of politicians and government who were able to transcend the innumerable temptations to compromise principles for expediency, and actually even reach greatness.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the spiritual leader of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens, New York.

Move Over Mendelssohn: Why Everything You Know About the Jewish Enlightenment Is Wrong

Ask anyone about the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah, and the first person they’ll likely mention is Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786).  Few would disagree that Mendelssohn played a key role in the Haskalah’s earliest stages, attempting as he did to modernize Judaism in 18th century Germany and bring it in line with the broader intellectual trend of his time—that is, the Enlightenment, or what historians often call the Age of Reason.

More On Cokie & Steve's Haggadah

In the new edition of The Jewish Week, I have a short Q&A with Cokie and Steve Roberts, authors of the bestselling “Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families.” (Although it should be noted that since I put that article to bed, “The 30-Minute Seder” has bumped Cokie and Steve from the No. 1 position on Amazon.com.)

I was a bit nervous interviewing two prominent journalists, but both of them were quite gracious interviewees, and, other than the book’s two Jesus and Pope John Paul II quotes, which, I admit, made me a little squeamish, it is a pretty good Haggadah. I especially like how friendly and down-to-earth it is, how accessible it makes the holiday, and how emphatic it is in stating that it is not trying to “Christianize” Passover.

Of Surveys And Kosher Beignets

I have to admit that at least half the time that I start those online “Survey Monkey” questionnaires, I get bored or distracted in the middle and never end up finishing them.

However, thanks to my undying loyalty to The Cause and my desire to win a $100 gift certificate to Amazon.com, I just finished the Jewish Outreach Institute’s survey to assess the “needs and preferences of American Jews” (or at least the needs and preferences of those American Jews who like shopping at Amazon.com).

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