In the seven weeks leading up to the Festival of Shavuot (May 24-25), we count each night in anticipation of the revelation of Torah at Sinai, where we recommit ourselves to Jewish tradition, God, and the Jewish people. It is a time I imagine that local mikvahs (ritual baths) see an increase in visitors as the numbers of conversions are completed during this time.
Editor's Note: Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers that publicly discusses their experiences serving in the Occupied Territories, recently released a new report about last summer's Gaza campaign.
Last summer, I watched the confrontation between Israel and Hamas on TV, like someone seeing the same movie twice. The last time, it was 2009 and the operation’s name was "Cast Lead." Then, too, pillars of smoke rose from Gaza as IDF ground forces entered. When that operation ended, testimonies of soldiers who served there were published. They described a new reality within the IDF regarding its operation of weaponry.
Forty-eight years ago, on the 28th day of Iyar (May 17 this year), Jerusalem was united under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in many centuries. But the national holiday in Israel to mark the historic event – Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day – has lost appeal both here and in Israel, outside of the religious Zionist community.
Lital and I participated in the 6th "Israeli Soldiers Tour," speaking on campuses, high schools, synagogues and churches throughout the Northeast. This included John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) staged a "die-in" last semester.
The new Pew Research Center study on America’s Changing Religious Landscape shows a steep decline in Christian affiliation and a parallel increase among the unaffiliated. Some believe the study’s results suggest that we will have a more difficult time advocating effectively on behalf of Israel, as spelled out in Robert Goldblum’s article, “Less-Christian U.S. Seen Disturbing for Jews on Israel” (May 15). But this judgment is not so clear-cut.
As I heard the devastating news of the passing of Belda Lindenbaum in Manhattan this week, I recalled a leader whose presence lit up the faces of all who surrounded her. She had a profound love of Judaism and the Jewish people, and insisted that we pursue an ethical, meaningful, just, Jewish life as the most valued priority.
The conversation around legislating or limiting the practice of metsitsah b’peh, the oral suction by the mohel on a circumcision wound, has largely framed the issue as one of religious freedom, as secular government trying to unreasonably, and perhaps even unconstitutionally, proscribe protected religious ritual: the Department of Health vs. charedi and other Orthodox groups; the government against Judaism.
Every individual has the right to access and express his or her Judaism in a personal and meaningful way. This is an expansive and inclusive vision, but mere platitude unless we move to make it reality.
Ten years ago, I woke up with a terrible pain in my arm that I could not eliminate with over-the-counter medicines. After going through a full battery of tests and consulting with a number of specialists, I was told, “Although we could give you medicine to alleviate the pain, what you really need is surgery on your spine — because that is the really the source of the problem. The pain in the arm is only a symptom. If we cure only the symptom, the disease will continue to spread.”