A Year Of Advances For Orthodox Feminists

01/13/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

This past year was a good one for Orthodox Jewish feminists, and the years ahead hold great promise. Last June, Yeshivat Maharat, which ordains women as spiritual leaders and religious authorities, graduated its first three “maharats,” as they are called. (“Maharat” is a Hebrew acronym for “manhiga hilchatit ruchanit toranit,” a female legal, spiritual and Torah leader.) More than 500 people, from all branches of Judaism, turned out for the ceremony in New York. In December, JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) held its eighth international conference, attended by more than 1,000 people in an atmosphere of exuberance and optimism.

Francine Klagsbrun

When Conversations About Israel Turn Sour

01/09/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

In German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s fable of the porcupines, a group of animals were huddling together to shelter from the cold. Finding that they were pricking each other with their sharp quills, they moved apart, only to feel the cold again. And so on, back and forth, until they found it best to be a little distance from each other – not too close, and not too far away. Yet, notes Schopenhauer, a prickly character himself, “by this arrangement the mutual need for warmth is only very moderately satisfied.” That distance, transposed to human interactions, “is the code of politeness and fine manners, and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance.” In order to avoid each other’s barbs, in other words, we compromise on the intimacy we crave.

Welcome To Our World: The Rabbinate Rejects Orthodox Jews, Too

01/08/2014 - 19:00

It was inevitable. Once they came after Reform, Conservative and other progressive Jews, it was only a matter of time until the Chief Rabbinate turned on other Orthodox Jews.

Rabbi Steven A. Fox

Israeli Chief Rabbis Do Not Serve The People

01/07/2014 - 19:00

Rabbi Avi Weiss is an unabashed iconoclast. Understandably, this makes some people uneasy, and others downright fearful. However, given the current state of the institutions that govern Jewish religious life, I would like to suggest that a little iconoclasm might not be such a bad thing.

Daniel Raphael Silverstein

Edgar M. Bronfman: A Modern Talmudic Jew

01/06/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

A legend in many realms, Edgar M. Bronfman lived a rich and varied life, embodying many facets in his work and personality.

Yet while Jews the world over marked the loss of a leader to whom they owe much, for our community, the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, it is a personal loss. We “Bronfmanim”— as we call ourselves — have lost our founder and our inspiration, but truly, we have lost the person who invited us to live talmudically in the modern world.

The late Edgar Bronfman valued Jewish learning and ethical traditions above strict religiosity. Getty Images

It’s Jewish Education, Stupid

01/06/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

The recent controversies over the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli universities, and Swarthmore Hillel’s rejection of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines, are but two recent examples of how small groups can steal the limelight and divert attention from the most important Jewish issue on our campus and communal agenda: Jewish identity-building.

Jeff Rubin

Why Recognition Of Jewish State Is Fundamental To Peace

01/06/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has apparently bought into Jerusalem’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state — not as a precondition to peace negotiations, which are well under way again, but as a necessary outcome of them. A senior Palestinian official reportedly dismissed this position cavalierly, comparing it to recognition of America as a state of white Christians. Usually, one hears a more sophisticated and nuanced response from Palestinian leaders, namely, that it is not up to them, but rather up to the Israeli people to define the nature of their state.

Martin Raffel

Why I’m A Conservative Jew, Hopeful About The Future

01/06/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Liberal religion is having a hard time these days.  Mainstream Protestant Christianity is a graying movement with significant numbers of its churches closing.  Pope Francis expressed his fears that in emphasizing issues of social justice the Catholic Church not suffer the same fate as these Protestant churches have. The daughters of Moslem women who gloried in uncovering their hair are succeeded by their daughters who insist on headdresses.   In all three, the “fundamentalist” wings of these churches seem to be robust and, at least among Protestants and Moslems, ascendant.  It should not surprise us that the Pew Study has now shown that these trends are similarly true for Jews. 

The Most Jewish Thing

An American in Israel asks why, after 'Save Darfur,' we don't pay more attention to African refugees in the Jewish state.

01/05/2014 - 19:00

When I made aliyah more than two years ago, I was shocked to discover a community of Darfuri asylum seekers living in Israel. Like so many American Jews I was active in the Save Darfur campaign; I wrote letters, sent money and prayed in synagogues waving green “Save Darfur” banners. Yet to this day, I do not fully understand why I, like so many American Jews, had little awareness of the African asylum seeker situation in Israel.

Elliot Vaisrub Glassenberg

Defying The Court, Protecting The Sinner

12/30/2013 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Society in Israel and North America are different in many ways, but when it comes to understanding the dangers of sexual abuse of  children by rabbis, communities in Israel and the diaspora must find ways to cooperate in making progress on this painful and complex issue.  

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