A Rabbi's World

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

As the Nest Empties: Entering the Next Stage

01/19/2012
Jewish Week Online Columnist

After months of anticipation laden with some odd admixture of dread, pride, satisfaction, and a few other random emotions, our nest officially empties this Saturday night.  Our third child, a junior at Barnard who has already lived at school for almost three years, leaves for a semester abroad in Copenhagen- much farther away than Morningside Heights.  With our youngest in Israel for the year, our oldest in Florida, and our older daughter in Japan, we are left without children to pack up and send away. 

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

Rabbinic Moments Of Reprieve: What Makes It All Worth It

01/12/2012
Jewish Week Online Columnist

For a variety of reasons. the pulpit rabbinate is a high-stress job.

First of all, and most obvious, I would think, you have to deal with more illness, cosmic unfairness, death and dying than almost anyone else except physicians.  Being on call 24/7, and having to be strong and composed for others who are suffering and/or grieving exacts a tremendous toll in both the short and long run.  Taking care of one’s own inner life as a rabbi is an under-appreciated challenge.  The accumulated grief wears you down.

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

The Meta Idea Of Israel

01/06/2012
Jewish Week Online Columnist

There is probably no more cliché way to open a speech or article about Israel than to say something like “These past few weeks and months have been difficult ones for Israel.”  It’s cliché because one would be hard-pressed to think of a time when that was not true.  Rarely are we afforded a time to focus on the glories of Israel, which are many, and not the problems that seem to plague it from all angles and directions.

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

A Northern Jew In The Heart of Dixie

12/30/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Because my wife works in an academic setting, the end of December is usually a good time for us to get away for a week or so. Synagogue activity tends to slow down then as well because so many people are away.  It is, as I like to call it, a great opportunity to “air out.”

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

Religious Zealotry, Then and Now

12/22/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist

I love Chanukah.  I love the fact that it gives us a reason to celebrate when the days are dark and (relatively) cold, and to light a light against the darkness.  Last but most certainly not least, Chanukah also reminds us of the power of faith in God, and in the rightness of our cause, to carry us to victory in times of trouble, even against insurmountable odds.

This year, however, as we celebrate the ancient victory of the Maccabees, I am deeply concerned. 

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Chanukah: Minor Festival, Major Message

12/15/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for this paper about Pilgrims and Native Americans.  It spoke of how the legacy of the Thanksgiving story often falls prey to deconstructionists, who value historical truth over cultural myth at all cost. Rather than have children- and, for that matter, adults- celebrate a cherished American belief in a common appreciation of blessings, they would argue that historical reality in all of its messiness- or at least, the probability of its being reality- must trump exercises in feel-good nostalgia rooted in legend.
 

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

Thoughts On That Israeli Ad Campaign

12/08/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist

 

Much ink has already been spilled on the ill-fated ad campaign launched by Israel’s Ministry of Absorption, aimed at convincing Israelis living here in the United States to return to Israel. I’m afraid I’m going to spill a little more.

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

Where Are The Good Candidates For President?

12/01/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist

I am not among those who routinely dismiss President Obama’s presidency as a failure, nor do I count myself among those who see him as an enemy of Israel.  I regard him as a good and honorable man- a thoughtful man- who was swept into office on the wings of his great oratorical skills.  In so doing, he carried on his back the desperate hopes of an American people, fearful that the economic meltdown of 2008 was destroying the way of life that they had come to know, and depend on.

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

Of Pilgrims and Native Americans: The Enduring Power of Myth

11/23/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist

As I walked down the hall of my synagogue towards my office earlier this week, I was distracted by the happy sounds of young children having themselves a very good time.  I detoured into the room where our Nursery School had gathered for a “holiday feast,” and everyone- faculty and children- was in costume.  There were Pilgrims, and Native Americans, and even a few turkeys thrown in for good measure.  I couldn’t help but smile- such a sweet scene!

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

Missing Yitzchak Rabin

11/18/2011
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Falling as it did this year so close to the seventy-third anniversary of Kristallnacht, when German and Austrian houses of worship literally went up in smoke and flame, I feel as if I personally haven’t paid enough attention to the sixteenth anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. 

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