I was riveted by the recent story of an Orthodox Israeli young woman, Ophir Ben-Shetreet, who sang beautifully on the Israeli talent-search program, “The Voice,” and as a result was suspended from her Orthodox school for two weeks because of the prohibition against women singing in public if men are present. Ophir’s performance and evident charm inspired people around the country. The judges praised her as “modest” and “pure,” and she could serve as a role model for young Orthodox women who feel the desire to express themselves and develop their talents. Instead, she was condemned.
Founder of Tel Aviv's secular yeshiva, also a Knesset member, leads Israel's parliament in study and prayer.
Editor’s Note: Ruth Calderon, founder of a secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv, spent several years living in New York recently, teaching at the JCC in Manhattan and other venues. This was her inaugural speech in the Knesset this week as a member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.
The sage Hillel is one of the heroes of Jewish tradition. He is the author of pithy quotes like “If not now, when?” and “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others; the rest is commentary — go learn it!” He was willing to accept converts that his rabbinic interlocutor and foil, Shammai, rejected.
As another case of alleged rabbinic impropriety emerges, I am most concerned with how the community moves forward. Our focus at this point in time should not be on the individual; rather we should focus on collective responsibility. What could we have done? Where do we go from here?
The mikveh scandal underscores the need for regulating the rabbinate.
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It’s been a rough post-Yom Kippur for Jews in DC. What shook me most about the Freundel scandal – our 'Water'gate – is how many people said, “I’m shocked but not surprised.” Really? Rabbi Barry Freundel, who was arrested for voyeurism this past week, is an articulate scholar with a reputation as a forceful leader who put down other rabbis and congregations and could be fierce about institutions and practices he did not like. A friend who heard the news observed, “Beware the rabbi who protests too much.” If the allegations are true, this was not a crime of intimacy. It was a crime of power. Crimes of power happen when power is unchecked. Another friend said, “The problem is that the rabbinate is still a deregulated industry.”
Editor’s Note: An article in the New York Post, “Bubba’s Kosher Sex” (Oct. 11), reported on one of an estimated 10,000 documents released last week by the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark. It was a memo written by a senior Hillary Clinton aide in January 1999, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, seeking to use Jewish law to defuse calls for President Clinton to be impeached. The memo referred to an oped piece in The Jewish Week at the time written by Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth, noting that King David in the Bible is condemned for committing adultery with Batsheva “but was never thrown off the throne of Israel” and is still “exalted” in Jewish history.
As Americans and as Jews, we have a special relationship to slavery. As Americans, we know our country fought a terrible civil war to end trafficking in humans. And we know that it took another 100 years to ensure basic civil rights to those freed from bondage in 1865, but denied basic human rights until the 1960s.
The opening words of the Bible, “In the beginning,” evoke wonder and expectation, as they set the stage for action, for the beginning of all beginnings. What projects — big ones at work or something more modest at home — will you begin in this new year of 5775? And what can you learn from the Creation story about how to approach them?
My husband tells the story of being taken by his father as a young teenager to the Bobover Rebbe’s “tish,” or Friday-night dinner table. His father came from chasidic ancestry, although the family did not follow that path. During the meal, the rebbe tore at a roasted chicken, and passed pieces to the dozens of surrounding chasidim, who basked in the honor of eating from his hand. When he reached my husband, the young boy, repelled by the greasy chicken in the rebbe’s fingers, turned away, mumbling, “I’m not hungry.” The stunned assembly stared at him in silent disbelief, while his father quickly whisked him out, humiliated that his son had refused the rebbe’s bounty.