The dramatic highlight of a debate held Saturday night in Toronto on “The Changing Role of Women in Judaism” – really, Modern Orthodox Judaism -- came when Rahel Berkovits, a Talmud scholar in Israel, tearfully recounted the utter failure of her efforts to engage several leading Israeli rabbinic authorities in discussing with her halachic issues of female participation in wedding ceremonies and other rituals.
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.
In that spirit, I prepared hot tea for them, and switched mental gears, relishing the opportunity to have a relaxing talk with one of the great Jewish minds of modern times rather than posing deep questions, especially since The Jewish Week’s Steve Lipman had written a major piece on the Jerusalem-based rabbi on the occasion of his having just completed a monumental, 45-year project to translate the entire Talmud into modern Hebrew, complete with vowels, punctuation and his own original commentary. (‘The Longest Translation,” Nov. 5)
Not surprisingly, David Simon’s recent and highly public remarks critical of the funding priorities of Baltimore’s Associated Jewish Charities did not go down well with that Federation or its parent group, The Jewish Federations of North America, which gave the TV writer and creator a platform at its recent General Assembly in New Orleans.
New Orleans -- Vice President Joe Biden was the ideal Administration representative to address the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America at its opening plenary here on Sunday, and he handled the role with enthusiasm.
The speaker who followed him didn’t fit the Federation-cheerleader mold, offering a careful blend of support and critique in his presentation.
Conventional wisdom has it that young American Jews are leading the trend toward innovation in Jewish life through entrepreneurial start-ups. There is also the widespread belief that European Jewry is on its last legs, the victim of an aging and shrinking population, and the rise of anti-Semitism, primarily from Arab Muslim immigrants.
But a survey of new Jewish initiatives in Europe concludes that per capita, young Europeans are even more active than their American counterparts in these social, educational, cultural and historical ventures.
I didn’t know whether to smile or cringe on receiving an invitation to an upcoming book party for Abe Foxman, the national director of the ADL, on his new book, “Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype."
The party is being hosted by Jack Rudin, a major real estate magnate in New York, and will take place at The Four Seasons, a restaurant associated with wealth, if not lavish wealth.
That was the motion of a fascinating, highly charged debate last Wednesday night at NYUs Skirball Hall sponsored by Intelligence Squared, whose series of topical debates with experts in the field are always timely, lively and thought-provoking.
Don’t you have anything more important to do today, on the eve of the last days of the long Sukkot holiday -- at the end of a month of two-and-a-half day work weeks -- than read blogs?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have you here, just a little surprised, that’s all. I wasn’t really expecting anyone. Thought I would just vent in private about how tough this month has been in terms of keeping up with work responsibilities.