A Rabbi's World

Weekly reflections from Gerald C. Skolnik, the rabbi of Forest Hills Jewish Center and a leader in the Conservative movement.

Arguments for the Sake of Heaven… And Not

07/27/2016 - 12:19

It is well known that the single greatest Jewish legal text, the Talmud, is built on a foundation of disagreements. In fact, those disagreements were indispensable to the eventual adjudication of the laws themselves, because the truth that was to inform the law was ultimately found in the dialectic of the dialogues of the discussants.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

A Modest Proposal on Conversion

07/15/2016 - 04:42

The recent flap over the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's refusal to recognize conversions to Judaism conducted by my esteemed colleague Rabbi Haskel Lookstein has left me feeling yet again that we are very far away—as far as we have ever been—from solving this problem, all statements to the contrary by Prime Minister Netanyahu notwithstanding.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

A Death That Impoverishes Us All: Saying Farewell To Elie Wiesel

07/07/2016 - 11:33

Jews and non-Jews from all walks of life, from the world-famous to the most humble, have already written eloquent, pained obituaries for Elie Wiesel, whose death last Shabbat came upon us like a punch in the stomach for which we were ill-prepared, despite his illness. I humbly add these words.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Deciding What To Speak About On Shabbat

07/02/2016 - 16:08

As I began to contemplate appropriate topics for my Shabbat sermon last week, it felt like that the world was feeding new and urgent things for us to worry about almost every day.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

06/23/2016 - 16:25

Come this September, my wife Robin and I will be celebrating our fortieth wedding anniversary, a relatively rare event in this era of late marriage and frequent divorce. That span of time has afforded us the precious opportunity to bring four beautiful children into this world and raise them, each different from the other, each progressing slowly but steadily from cradle to independence. It has been an unending source of stimulation, laughter, and tears. That doesn’t stop no matter how old they get.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

A Time For Honesty, and Courage

06/16/2016 - 16:05

The horrific events of this past weekend in Orlando, where forty-nine members of the LGBT community were slaughtered en masse by a Muslim terrorist and many more were wounded, have left us all stunned and bereaved. As has been pointed out by many, this was not only a hate attack against the gay and lesbian community, but also, more widely, a terrorist strike against America’s pluralistic society and the Western culture it represents.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Learning To Filter Our Speech

06/09/2016 - 14:27

Rabbis both old and new have done a pretty good job teaching about the dangers of “lashon harah,” most commonly translated as slander, or malicious gossip. The most common way this manifests itself is when the offending language is being used offstage, behind the scenes, so that the offended party is not aware of it until it comes out in a more public way.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

American Politics, Israeli Politics… Pick Your Poison

06/01/2016 - 13:58

Regarding the long simmering ill will between the governments of Israel and the United States, I am reminded of the pithy yet profound rabbinic comment on the episode of the Binding of Isaac in Genesis. In assessing whose behavior is more difficult to comprehend, Abraham, with his blind obedience to God’s terrifying command, or Isaac, who utters not a word though he intuits exactly what is happening, the rabbis commented simply “zeh lishhot, v’zeh lishahet.” “One was determined to slaughter, and the other was determined to be slaughtered.” Neither party is beyond reproach.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Post-Denominational Politics

05/19/2016 - 10:36
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Those who labor in the vineyards of the American Jewish community will readily attest to what sociologists have long known from their research: namely, that denominational affiliation among American Jews, particularly the non-Orthodox denominations, is waning.

Sanders supporters at a rally. Getty Images

Yom Hashoah Reflections 2016-5776

If the Passover Haggadah, drove our imaginations with four questions, a relatively meager text and some clever if enigmatic songs, then what might we possibly say about the Shoah that would be adequate to the task at hand?

05/05/2016 - 11:32

For my column this week, I would like to share with you the comments I made at our synagogue’s annual Yom Hashoah program on Wednesday evening. They are, in every way, what I would want to say to all of you on this occasion…

Pictures from a 2005 trip to Auschwitz. Courtesy of Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik
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