A Rabbi's World

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

Fear and Trembling…

12/08/2016 - 12:19

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the spiritual leader of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.

I live in New York City’s borough of Queens, what our Borough President Melinda Katz likes to call “the world’s borough.” On its own, Queens would be one of the largest and most populous cities in the United States, with close to 2.2 million residents. There are one hundred and twenty languages spoken here, from one hundred and thirty countries, and a million immigrants from all over the world.


Further Into Uncharted Waters

12/01/2016 - 14:51
Special To The Jewish Week

Much has been written, quite accurately, about post-election America being in uncharted waters. We’ve never had a presidential candidate like Donald Trump, much less a President. The traditional core concerns of long-time members of both major parties seems to have undergone some kind of tectonic shift. Old alliances are now just that—old—and little that we took for granted before this presidential election can now be assumed to be a given. Actually, we’re not just in uncharted waters. We’re in uncharted waters without land anywhere in sight.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the spiritual leader of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.

No Time to Stand Down

11/17/2016 - 11:33
Special To The Jewish Week

When the patriarch Jacob was deceived by his sons into thinking that his beloved son Joseph was no longer alive and told that he had been eaten by wild animals, Jacob became inconsolable. Joseph’s brothers tried to comfort him, but the Torah tells us Va’y’ma’en l’hit’na’hem (he refused to be comforted.) One commentary suggests that the reason why he could not be comforted was that Joseph was not, of course, dead. He had merely been sold off into slavery. The comfort extended to one who has lost a son was not going to impact his grief.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Picking Up the Pieces

11/10/2016 - 13:31


Because of the traditional Jewish teaching that, before a boy’s BarMitzvah, whatever sins he might perform are debited, as it were, against his father’s account, the practice developed that, on the morning of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, the father would recite these words: "Baruh she’p’tarani mei’onsho shel zeh." Which translated to "Praised [be God] who has freed me from this one’s (his son’s) punishment."

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Are We Done Yet?

10/31/2016 - 10:34
Special To The Jewish Week

My son Hillel, who like me is a pulpit rabbi, has a t-shirt which he’s no doubt soon to break out. “Rabbis Love Heshvan,” it happily declares. Actually, it’s Rabbis Heart Heshvan, but absent a heart emoji to insert, I’m taking the easy way out.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Not Just Another Rosh Hashanah

10/07/2016 - 12:50
Special To The Jewish Week

In the days and weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, 5777, most Jewish newspapers and more than a few secular ones featured articles on how rabbis would integrate the current American presidential elections into their sermons, if at all.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

The Bibi Chronicles, Continued

09/23/2016 - 17:43
Special To The Jewish Week

Read carefully, because it doesn’t happen too often. I’m about to express just a little bit of sympathy for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Thank You NY City Council For Standing Up To BDS

09/15/2016 - 11:41
Special To The Jewish Week


Even here in New York, where so many Jews make their home and are politically active, it takes a fair share of courage these days for politicians to take a bold, principled stand on matters relating to Israel. Criticizing Israel has become a blood sport on college campuses, and often in political circles as well. Nowhere is this more evident than with the BDS movement– the move to bring Israel to her knees via economic boycott and divestment and sanctions in international arenas and organizations


Back In The Saddle…

09/08/2016 - 15:40

For as long as I’ve been a practicing rabbi, I’ve taken most of my vacation time in the month of August. Most rabbis—by far the majority—vacation in July, feeling that August is too close to the Holidays. It makes them anxious to be away then. I’m exactly the opposite. I’m all for preparing, but since July is customarily a very slow month work-wise, I’ve never quite understood why to take vacation then. I’d rather “get out of Dodge” when everyone else is getting increasingly antsy about what lies ahead!

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Kamtza Bar Kamtza And Donald Trump

08/04/2016 - 10:43

On his show this week, Stephen Colbert said that he goes into each program wanting to talk about something other than Donald Trump, but somehow or other he’s always pulled back into the vortex. I feel somewhat the same way. I sit down to write wanting to talk about something else, anything else, but it’s hard to avoid talking about Donald Trump. Every day the story gets richer, and more bizarre.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik
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