What do we hope the American Jewish community will look like in 2025? No one knows what the coming years actually have in store for the Jewish community but we can at least attempt to outline a vision for what our future can entail with focused and vigorous efforts. Before we discuss the mechanics of accomplishing our collective dreams —hundreds of leaders, thinkers, and organizations would need to do that work in very different ways—perhaps we can at least advance open conversations of where we, as the empowered and engaged in the Jewish community, are looking to go.
While packing for a trip to Ghana eight years ago, numerous observant Jews dissuaded me, arguing I could not volunteer abroad and maintain full, authentic observance. I knew that I had multiple identities and this trip gave me no pause. Since then I have worked in ten countries learning that I can be an observant Jew and a global citizen.
Jay saves lives with bone marrow in Boca Raton while Stephen conducts medical training seminars to help earthquake victims in Haiti. These are only two of the many stories of nominees for this year's Jewish Community Heroes award, announced at the General Assembly in New Orleans next week.
Living in caravans in a small settlement town during my years learning in Israel, my dream was always to settle the land. As a religious Zionist, I feel that living in Israel is a tremendous and miraculous opportunity, and all Jews can and must consider making this life transition as we are all very familiar with the halakhic obligation of yishuv ha’aretz, the religious obligation to settle the Land of Israel. I would like to suggest, however, that in addition to this well-known imperative, there is also a crucial duty to reside in the Diaspora.
Each fall after the High Holidays have passed, the Jewish people move from comfortable homes into impermanent huts in backyards, driveways and on balconies for the festival of Sukkot. By eating and living in these fragile shelters, we train ourselves to temporarily subordinate our gashmiut (materialism) to the value of ruchaniut (spirituality).
At this time of year, it is common for many of us to pick up our phones and send emails apologizing to others for the ways that we wronged them in the past year. In addition to doing personal repentance (teshuva), Rav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, explained that we as a people (Knesset Yisrael) must also do teshuva. How do we, as a nation, ask the nations of the world for forgiveness?
The month of Elul is a time in which we pause and reflect upon our past year to engage in teshuva (repentance). I often ask myself: Are we alone in our attempts to change and grow? The Talmud suggests that God actually engages in teshuva (Megillah 29a). Can this radical suggestion that God grows, evolves, adapts with the times, and experiences redemption pass as an authentic Jewish theology?
A number of years back, I attended a kiddush club gathering in the basement of a synagogue. Right when the haftarah reading began, about 8 or 9 older men snuck out the back and in a small dark room in the basement opened multiple bottles of alcohol. They drank excessively until the sermon was over and then not so inconspicuously returned back for the final portion of the Shabbat morning service. Isn’t it fair for one to enjoy a nice scotch on their weekend, I wondered at the time?
Three leading Modern Orthodox rabbis and personal teachers of mine (Nathaniel Helfgot, Aryeh Klapper, and Yitzchak Blau) recently released a statement of principles on how Orthodoxy can and must relate to homosexuals in our community.