At a time when we are keenly aware of the deep divisions within the Jewish community on issues from religious practice to the policies of the State of Israel, along comes the festival of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, with the most unifying theme in Jewish life: the giving of the Torah, the central, foundational text of our history and people, at Mount Sinai.
Nasty battle in Chicago between federation and a campus Hillel underscores widening clash in ideology.
Editor And Publisher
The ugly public battle between the University of Chicago Hillel and its parent organization, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, merits attention because it transcends the immediate issues of funding, independence, governance and power. (See Editorial, “Showdown At Chicago Hillel,” April 27.)
The conflict speaks to a wider struggle between younger and older approaches to sustaining meaningful Jewish organizations, and to the future of innovation in communal life.
OK, so there are these three guys in the hospital, and they’re very bad off, and the doctor is making the rounds. He goes over to the first patient, a Catholic, and explains that there’s nothing more he can do medically for him and asks him his last wish.
“I’d like to see a priest and make a confession,” the man says.
The doctor says fine, and moves on to the next patient, a Protestant. And when the doctor asks him his last wish, the poor guy says, “I’d like to see my family and say good-bye.”
Did you chant a Haftorah at your bar or bat mitzvah?
Do you remember what it was about?
Have you chanted any others since then?
Rabbi Joy Levitt, executive director of the JCC in Manhattan, believes that the heavy emphasis on teaching youngsters to chant a Haftorah on their special days is a sign of “wasted training and the wrong message” for bar and bat mitzvah youngsters.
“We’re not preparing them for Jewish life” with such rituals, she says. “On the contrary, we’ve sabotaged their Jewish life.”
Israelis who leave their native country to settle in the diaspora have long been known as yordim, those who go down. It is a disparaging term, and one in contrast to those diaspora Jews who make aliyah, or ascend, to live in Israel.
The two concepts – going up to or down from Israel -- are anchored in a moral equation that harks back to classical Zionism, which negated the diaspora and insisted that Jewish survival depends on the imperative of aliyah.
Let me make clear at the outset: I don’t know what Israel plans to do about the Iran nuclear threat, and I don’t have any new advice for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about what actions he should or should not take as he and his government face an impossible dilemma.
But I do know that the mainstream press (and especially The New York Times) has had a steady drumbeat of reports these last few weeks characterizing Israel unfairly in the delicate diplomatic dance of Jerusalem, Washington and Tehran.
A proud Jewish newspaper’s hard times, and what it portends.
Editor and Publisher
Starting in the mid-1970s and for the next three decades or so, the Baltimore Jewish Times, with its annual awards in journalism competitions, extensive local, national and international reporting, and hefty volume of advertising, was the leader in its field and the envy of communities around the country.