At a time of great concern about young American Jews identifying positively with Israel, study-abroad programs in Israel for U.S. college students should be a great benefit. But while these opportunities provide exposure to Hebrew language skills and immersion in Israeli society, they also foster a disconnect. The fact is that diaspora and Israeli students rarely meet in the classroom.
‘Don’t you understand? If there were a war in America against the Jews, I’d fight for you. The people of Sderot — they are our people. We are one people.”
Those words came from Yotam, an Israeli soldier who silenced a room of 40 Birthright participants from Long Island. Following a visit to Sderot, many were ambivalent about having to spend time in a place that had faced rocket attacks just recently.
'Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except, of course, Henry Kissinger’s publicists and strategists who decided that the slowest news day of the year was the perfect time for him to apologize, sort of, for telling Richard Nixon in 1973 that “if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”
Much has already been written about the letter signed by dozens of communal rabbis in Israel proscribing Jewish residents from renting or selling property to gentiles on halachic grounds. It is clear from the context of the controversy that the motivation behind this provocative step is the concern for the demographic makeup of neighborhoods in the north of Israel, fueled by the fear of a concerted effort to undermine Jewish majorities in those locales.
Watching “Casino Jack” on its opening weekend was the very first time I ever felt embarrassment for wearing a kippa in a movie theatre. When Jack Abramoff, played by Kevin Spacey, sponsored kosher restaurants and a yeshiva with dirty money, the woman sitting next to me let out a disgusted “My G-d!” I shrunk in my seat.
It is demeaning, 65 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, to acknowledge that Joseph Goebel’s Big Lie theory — that if you repeat a falsehood aggressively, and often enough, people will believe it — still holds true.
But when I look at the persistent, illogical and hateful charges against Israel in the Arab world and the international community, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
It seems like a no-brainer; Palestinians can attain the state they crave only through a negotiated agreement that provides Israel the security it deserves. But that isn't stopping Palestinian leaders from roaming the world, seeking meaningless recognition from feckless governments interested more in currying favor and lashing out against Israel than in contributing to an equitable solution.
When the incoming Congress and the Obama administration start zeroing in on complex, politically charged issues of taxation and government spending, there is a very real danger they will look for political easy ways out — which, if history is a guide, means heaping most of the burden on the nation's most vulnerable citizens.
The great question of why God permits evil is usually treated in Judaism less as a “why” question than as a “what” question: Given the evil in the world, what do we do about it?
We can wonder about God’s role, but it is ultimately inscrutable. We cannot know. Imagine how little a 2-year-old understands an adult. He cannot even understand what he does not know. The Jewish tradition conceives of the gap between humans and God as far greater than that between an adult and an infant. So how, ultimately, can we understand?