A Rabbi's World

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

What Is The Definition Of 'Survivor'?

04/17/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

In the mid-1980’s, just a few years after I began my rabbinate at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, I traveled to Poland with a UJA-Federation Rabbinic Cabinet mission. It was shortly after my two older children were born, and from the moment that I entered the gate of Auschwitz and saw a display of clothing stripped from infants and toddlers who had been brought there for extermination, I was forever changed. Before that visit, the harsh reality of the Holocaust had been an abstract set of numbers and grainy images. When I returned, I had gained what I now understand to be an intuition of an infinitesimal fraction of the horror of what had transpired. I was shaken to the core.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

From Redemption to Despair, and Back Again

04/09/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Although the transition from the High Holidays to Sukkot certainly brings with it more than a little cognitive dissonance, going from the solemnity of Yom Kippur to the joy of Sukkot, it pales in comparison with the cycle of Passover, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and then Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). These communal observances fall but a few days from each other, and take us from the exhilaration of redemption to the utter despair of the Holocaust and then back again to the redemptive joy of the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Zamir Choral Foundation: Finding Harmony Amidst the Noise

03/26/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

My work in the pulpit rabbinate is, of course, centered on the synagogue that I serve in Forest Hills. It has been my family’s community, and my professional home, since 1981. But it is equally true that my rabbinate extends beyond the parochial walls of my congregation, involving me in many causes and projects that impact not only my community, but also the Jewish world at large.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

What Do We Learn From The Israeli Elections?

03/19/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Those conversant in the vernacular of Talmudic Aramaic will know that, following a legal or aggadic teaching, the Talmud will often ask “Mai Ka Mashma Lan? Loosely translated, it means, “What is this coming to teach us,” or, the more frequently used “what do we learn from this?”

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

It’s Not Just About Race

03/13/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

With the news this week that the city manager of Ferguson, Missouri has resigned following a scathing Justice Department report that accused his police department of systemic racism, and with a fraternity on the University of Oklahoma having been thrown off campus for an ugly, alcohol-driven (evidently) racist incident, it is clear that race relations in America remain in crisis. As President Obama said quite eloquently at the ceremony marking the fiftieth anniversary of what came to be called Bloody Sunday in Selma. Alabama, we have indeed come a long, long way from where this country was at its worst. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

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Remembering Leonard Nimoy, A Serious Jew

03/05/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

I can only imagine that, after everything I’ve written the past few weeks about Bibi, Barack, and the “Situation,” and having just come back from the AIPAC Policy Conference, you might expect me to write about all that … And you’d be completely justified in assuming that I would.

Courtesy of Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Shabbat Zachor, 2015

02/27/2015

The Shabbat immediately preceding the festival of Purim has long been referred to as Shabbat Zachor– literally, the Shabbat of Remember (exclamation point!). It takes that title from the opening word of the special Maftir – a supplementary Torah reading in Deuteronomy– read from a second scroll. It  commands us­– the Jewish people­– to remember the ancient treachery of Amalek, and never to forget it.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

'Dear' Barack, It Wasn't Random

02/12/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Dear Mr. President:

Over the past two weeks, to the consternation of a good many of my colleagues and friends, I have strongly defended both the integrity of your office and the legitimacy of your dismay with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu by publicly, and unequivocally, calling upon him to cancel his forthcoming address to a joint session of our Congress. For a wide variety of reasons, chief among them the insertion of Israel as a wedge issue in American politics and the public contempt being shown for you and the material support that you have shown Israel throughout your presidency, I believed the Prime Minister to be making a serious mistake.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Haters Gonna Hate

02/05/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

I am not, as a rule, bothered by people who disagree with me, either publicly or privately. Were I to be, I would not have lasted for thirty-three-plus years in the pulpit rabbinate, and certainly not in the same synagogue. Almost by definition, rabbis who take strong positions on the issues of the day, be they moral/ethical or political, related to their own synagogues or to the world at large, will generate disagreement from those who look to them for guidance but see the situation differently. That is entirely the way it should be.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

'Dear' Bibi, Don't Do It

Your acceptance of the House Speaker's invitation to speak before Congress as unconscionably arrogant.

01/30/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

The news of your impending visit to deliver an address to a joint session of our Congress, at the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boehner, has generated a major controversy here in America, both within and outside of the Jewish community. I know that it is a subject of much discussion in Israel as well. My reason for writing is simple. I am, with the greatest of respect for your office and your responsibilities, asking you to reconsider your visit, and not deliver the address.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik
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