Jew By Voice

A monthly column on Jewish community dynamics by teacher and scholar Erica Brown.

A Voice For Jewish Singles

04/28/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

I’m about to enter a parking garage. The static is just starting on the radio when I put the car into reverse and park. One of my favorite songs is on, and I wasn’t prepared to lose it in a car garage: Freddie Mercury’s “Somebody to Love.” I cannot actually write those words without hearing his unusual, high-pitched, magical voice singing the lyrics. Because I stopped just to listen to the song, I heard it with increased intensity.

Erica Brown

Telling The Story Of Freedom

03/31/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

The Passover table is a place of joy. It takes a lot of work to get there. And when the table is set with ritual food and tableware, it seems like an excellent platform for a great story and conversation to unfold. We’re all ready. We’re equipped with texts that share the majesty and miracles of our ancient days. We powered our way to freedom as an underdog against a large and tyrannical force that sought to destroy us. We know the plot lines all too well. It’s not hard to say, “In every generation a person is obligated to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt…” It seems that sadly and happily, it is always a relevant theme, either for our people or for someone else under the hand of oppression, on the brink of liberation.

Erica Brown

A Matter Of Trust

How lack of trust and civility can seriously injure Jewish leadership.

03/03/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

This article is sponsored by the letter “C” — actually by two words that begin with “C”: conspiracy and context. The more you work within the Jewish community the more you realize that Elvis and JFK are still alive. Evidence of this, you ask? We Jews love a good conspiracy theory.

Erica Brown

Where’s The Outrage?

02/03/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

It’s been a long and tiring month. The new year did not start off well for us — not as Jews, not as human beings. The news out of Paris was staggering. It brought to the surface issues of hatred, racism, freedom of speech, freedom to protect and express religion, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and even, for us, some strange anti-women weirdness. When a few high-ranking females, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, were airbrushed out of a photo of the Paris protest in an Israeli ultra-Orthodox newspaper, satirists mocked the publication by creating a photo that airbrushed out all the male politicians. Needless to say, there weren’t many people left in the photo.

Erica Brown

Not Another Video, Please

Bat/Bar Mitzvahs should celebrate the Jewish people, not any individual child.

12/30/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

As we start a new calendar year, we mark off dates that will require our presence: school dinners, graduations, weddings, family reunions and birthdays. Let’s circle one such occasion and offer the challenge of 2015: changing the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony.

Erica Brown

A Better Jewish Network

12/02/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

We are a global community. This means Jews live virtually everywhere in the world. It also implies something about peoplehood. We may not be one in language, citizenship, ideology, politics or religious commitment, but we all carry a travel gene that tells us a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. There is a certain baseline that ties us powerfully and profoundly together, so that when we discover Jews in New Zealand or Patagonia, we don’t see them as strangers. They are distant cousins we just haven’t met yet.

Erica Brown

Kindness Matters

11/04/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Back from a shiva visit to a family who had lost a 20-year-old son in a freak accident, I marveled at the mother’s capacity — even while suffering — to notice the small kindnesses of close friends and absolute strangers. I looked her in the eyes, “But it’s nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s just the smallest thing we can do. It’s because we can’t do what we really want to do, which is to bring your son back.” I felt desperate and pathetic. Running errands, bringing food or visiting felt worthless, helpless.

Erica Brown

NYC Takes The Plunge

10/13/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

When Rabbi Sara Luria talks about mikveh, you’ll want to listen.

Elicia Brown

The Yid Bit

10/01/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Jewish life is dependent on accurate weights and measures. We have minimum and maximum sizes that determine the height of a sukkah, the appropriate amount of matzah to constitute the mitzvah and the length of a Shabbat enclosure that ensures it’s kosher. We believe that articulating and being honest about weights and measures helps us have a life that is more rewarding and satisfying because it is quantifiable and, we hope, more honest. This is straight from Deuteronomy: “You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (25:15).

Erica Brown

Alone Again

Israel makes moral errors, but that doesn't explain why irrational hatred of Israel and our people goes unchallenged.

09/02/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

‘The Jews are alone in the world.” I never believed this statement growing up. It was paranoia, the mark of Jews who saw anti-Semitism in every rejection, denial or disagreement — personal or national. But I have learned otherwise this summer of our discontent, bent over American newspapers in the morning and listening to news broadcasts throughout the day. Remember Cynthia Ozick’s article in Commentary, “All the World Wants the Jews Dead?” I bristled then. I am confused now.

Erica Brown
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