This month we celebrate Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees. Building on this ancient celebration of nature, American Jews are, increasingly, expanding their observance by honoring our entire planet. Tu b’Shvat has become a time to reflect on Earth’s fragility, its dwindling resources and humankind’s impact on water, air and land, as well as on the people, animals and plants that dwell here.
Alan S. Jaffe, Michael S. Miller and David M. Pollock
Special To The Jewish Week
Since the founding of the Jewish Community Relations Council of NY in 1976, we have worked closely with law enforcement agencies charged with safeguarding New York’s Jewish community, especially the NYPD. Over that period there have been 10 police commissioners. Without a doubt, Raymond Kelly stands above the rest. The events of the past week reinforce that opinion.
A recent wave of alleged “anti-democratic” bills is dominating much of the political debate in Israel and recently triggered U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to express her concern about the state of the Israeli democracy. This recent “anti-democratic” wave, including bills such as the donation bill (aimed to limit donation to certain political NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and the anti-boycott law, unleashed severe criticism.
Overcoming attitudes and stereotypes that pervade the Jewish community can be an uphill battle. Just ask Jay Ruderman and others who attended the recent Jewish Special Needs Funding Conference that he helped sponsor. All of them want to get past the community-created obstacles to their vision of inclusion for Jewish individuals with special needs.
Unfortunately, the philosophy of separate but equal, similar to the platform of many pre-civil rights segregationists, is stubbornly in place throughout Jewish communal life.
The ferocious battle that has been waged in the press and blogosphere over my new book, “Kosher Jesus” (Gefen Publishing House), in the weeks leading up to its publication next week, has obscured both its message and the reason for its publication.
When I invite guests for dinner, I clean up my apartment, and put the dirty laundry in the closet. But it’s usually in full sight when I’m home with family.
Jews have traditionally acted similarly regarding Israel. In public discourse, support for Israel is forceful on issues related to war and peace. Within the family, though, there often is lively discussion of fears and hopes, with recognition that choices are very difficult and outcomes uncertain.
Gary Rosenblatt’s column on foundations’ priorities in “Why Funders Need to Embrace Failure” (Jan. 6) will hopefully set off a discussion about basic community needs and how we can do better in the future. Most of the large Jewish foundations are caught up in funding “cutting-edge” or “funky” Jewish trends and social networking projects. While some are successful in building new models that have real impact, many duplicate existing efforts or, worse yet, miss the boat entirely.
A number of years ago the Agudath Ha-Rabonim, a relatively small group of right-wing Orthodox rabbis, declared that Conservative and Reform Judaism were “outside of Torah and outside of Judaism.” Much has been written to justify and rationalize their statement. I found it offensive, but for argument’s sake let’s say they are right — more importantly let’s say that in fact they are the true spokespeople for the application of halacha (Jewish law).
Remembering the inspiration Heschel and King drew from each other.
Special To The Jewish Week
One of the most remarkable friendships in Jewish history was between my father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. When they met in 1963, they felt an instant bond, despite the enormous differences in their backgrounds: Dr. King was a Baptist minister from the segregated South, trained in Protestant theology at Boston University. My father was a Jewish theologian, trained as a scholar in Germany, raised in an intensely pious, chasidic milieu in Warsaw; indeed, he was supposed to become a chasidic rebbe in Poland.