I was scheduling a lifecycle event with a congregant the other day and we ran into a snag having to do with his 27-year-old daughter's vacation schedule. "Oh, sorry rabbi," he said, "that weekend will be impossible. Amy will be trekking in Vietnam."
The great American bar/bat mitzvah has become a source of parody in Jewish life. The 13-year-olds are at the most awkward stage of their lives with hormones raging. Anywhere from 10 to 50 friends might be invited who then sit in the sanctuary with no interest in the service and little clue as what is transpiring. The relatives and friends of the parents are polite but often sit stoically, unnerved by the unfamiliarity of the surroundings.
Cheshvan, the Hebrew month between Tishrei and now Kislev, is famous for not having any Jewish holidays in it, and yet the New York Jewish community used it to celebrate. Moreover, the nature and scope of this celebration holds encouraging news for our community and its ability to engage its members.
A recent Opinion piece, “Exclude Me At Your Own Peril” (Oct. 26) by a fellow Columbia University student, depicted the ostensible fragmentation and dissolution of the pro-Israel movement, especially a Columbia. It described the necessity to acknowledge the conflict at home - referring to the growing division in the Jewish community concerning Israel and Israeli policy - before addressing the conflict abroad.
In recent weeks, a number of prominent Jewish intellectuals have been publicly praising Sarah Palin. This despite a recent poll, reported by veteran analyst James Besser (Nov. 26), that well-educated Jews appear to be overwhelmingly opposed to Palin. How do we explain this discrepancy?
It’s often said that after 9/11, Americans joined Israelis in understanding the harsh everyday realities of this age of terrorism. The current furor over more intrusive airport screenings suggests that isn’t entirely true. Living in a country where only a tiny minority has been personally touched by the terrorist menace, we seem to want our security but to pay no price for it.
Jonathan Pollard is entering his 26th year in prison, and there’s a minor buzz in Washington about what JTA Washington correspondent Ron Kampeas called “the biggest push in years” to free the Israeli spy (See story on page 35). That effort includes a letter signed by 39 House Democrats calling for his release and a similar statement by former Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb. There are also wispy rumors his release could be part of the U.S. incentives package offered to Israel in return for a 90-day extension of its settlement moratorium.
I got the feeling that my extended hour with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, late in the afternoon last Wednesday, was going to be more shmooze than interview when his assistant, on entering my office with him, asked if I would mind if the prolific scholar and author ate the chocolate rugelach she brought for him during our chat.
Why does the Torah suddenly tell us of the death of Deborah, Rebecca’s childhood nurse (Genesis 35:8)? Deborah dies in the course of journeying with Jacob and Rebecca, and the family buries her at Beth El. We are told absolutely nothing else of her in the Torah. So perhaps the account of Deborah’s death is intended to teach us about Rebecca.