First Person

In Charleston, At The Corner Of Pain And Hope

A rabbi's view from the ground in post-Massacre South Carolina.

06/24/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

Charleston, S.C. — In last Shabbat’s Torah portion, we read the last words recorded in the Bible uttered by the people of the first generation that left Egypt but did not reach the Promised Land. After all of the struggles and challenges and the sins and death and destruction, they plaintively ask, “ha-im tamnu ligvoah?” — “Have we come to the end of our dying?” or, left unspoken, will such tragedies continue and continue?

Barbara Owens leaves a message on a tree in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Getty Images

Reunion At Kibbutz Lavi

06/16/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

Driving around Israel with my husband is always a journey into his life before we met, since Aryeh was born and raised in pre-state Palestine and I’m third-generation American. But this time was different as he pointed out places that were going to take on new meaning as the weekend progressed.

Sura Jeselsohn

A Rabbi Learns From His Mistakes

06/09/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

During my first week as a rabbi 45 years ago, even before I had a chance to shelve my books in my office, I was visited by a middle-aged husband-and-wife whose tears and tone suggested death and bereavement. Indeed, they were mourning, but not the physical passing of a loved one. Their grief was for their son — I’ll call him Sam — who was educated in our synagogue’s religious school and who celebrated his bar mitzvah on its pulpit. He had lately committed both his spiritual and material assets to an Eastern sect and its guru. Would I talk with Sam and persuade him that Judaism could nurture him more than his newly found faith?

Gerald Zelizer

No Cavalier Decision

05/26/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

Although I have rooted for the New York Knicks since the 1970s, this year I become a Cleveland Cavaliers fan. My attraction to the team stems from an even deeper connection than the childhood bond I formed with the Knicks. 

Ben Krull

Brand Name Jewish Education

05/12/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

It began with a Facebook posting. Hesitantly, this past Chanukah I joined the ranks of millions who participate in “Throwback Thursday,” the day when people post a nostalgic photo. The response caught me off guard. 

Malka Margolies

Toward A Radical Empathy

05/05/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

The First Temple was destroyed [in 586 BCE] because of three sins committed by the Jews of that period: idolatry, sexual immorality and murder. The Second Temple was destroyed [70 CE] because senseless hatred was prevalent. This teaches us that the offense of senseless hatred is the equivalent of the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and murder.

David Bryfman

Finding Death And Life In Poland

04/15/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

We came to Poland expecting to find death. And death we found in the death camp of Majdanek. It was situated with prewar homes and parks all around it, as if it were just any business in full view of the town’s population, which could never claim innocence.

Hugh Pollack

The Cousins I Never Had

04/07/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

On a trip back home to Ireland where I grew up, I was thinking less about the modern bustling country of today and more about some letters of 77 years ago that recently turned up in my childhood family home.

Gideon Taylor

A Seder In ‘Paradise’

03/24/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

Recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I first came to Bonaire, a Dutch Caribbean island near Curacao, more than 30 years ago. I was treating myself to a vacation where no one knew me and I was far away from the stressful life in the “big city.”

On The Front Lines

03/17/2015
Special To The Jewish Week

My son recently finished two-and-a-half years of service in the IDF’s Golani Brigade. While I have written several essays about my experience during this time, permit me to share yet one more. 

Andrew Kane
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