Now that the Russian government permits the practice of religion, I often wonder what is happening to the Jews of Russia. This past May I found out. I spent the month in Moscow teaching Talmud at the Moscow State University for the Humanities.
The American Jewish community is a large, complex group, likened to a family with many and sometimes divergent interests. We strive in our own ways to build a strong foundation for our community’s future, work to build a better America, advocate for Israel, and focus on tikkun olam, repairing the world. It is easy to see our concerns as self-contained, each occupying its own space in the communal and national discourse. We have multiple perspectives regarding the world around us and pursue different solutions.
The crisis in Israel over the so-called Rotem Bill regarding conversion practices and who should control them has been averted, at least for now. The bill was not brought to the floor for a vote because its sponsor realized he was short of the votes needed for passage.
Only the truly naïve about how these things work believe that this is the end of the story. Like a retrovirus, this issue of “who is a Jew” will surely rear its ugly head again in the not too distant future.
Who opposes Knesset member David Rotem’s proposed conversion legislation?
In Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, the Likud prime minister, who has displayed vision and political courage in rebuffing efforts to pass it in its current form this week; and Labor, Kadima and Meretz, joined by a number of Likud members. This opposition reflects something Rotem, a member of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, does not appreciate: a clear recognition of the importance of the Reform and Conservative movement worldwide to Israel and the Jewish people.
Crises are a fact of Jewish life. Some are just a product of ephemeral Jewish angst or artificial hype and pass quickly. However, others have profound and long-term consequences. How these are resolved will affect tens of thousands of individual Jews as well as the future of the entire Jewish people.
The margins have become the mainstream—and the vast majority of Jews today are not actively connected with a “temple” (a.k.a. synagogue). So it seems unlikely that a mid-summer day of mourning for the destruction of two ancient temples in Jerusalem could have much to recommend it. Throw in the prohibitions on eating, drinking, and shmoozing and the ruin of Tisha B’Av itself seems certain.
Remembering Rabbi Yehuda Amital, who helped found Meimad party and challenged religious Zionist orthodoxy.
Rabbi Yosef Blau
Special To The Jewish Week
Rabbi Yehuda Amital, who died last Friday in Jerusalem at 85 after a long illness, was a unique blend of Talmud scholar and political activist who balanced his love of Israel with his advocacy for territorial concession to save lives.
If you happen to know a child of almost any age, you probably have heard about Silly Bandz. If you don’t, you likely haven’t, even though these rubber band bracelets have taken the country by storm, following in the footsteps of the great fads of prior decades like Pet Rocks, Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids.
The State of Israel is currently facing one of the most daunting and serious challenges in recent history. There is a war against organized state-sponsored terrorism, exacerbated by increased negative world opinion, propaganda, political posturing and harsh rhetoric that threatens the physical and political reality and stability of the Jewish state.