A Rabbi's World

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

Even Paranoids Have Enemies…

03/17/2016 - 12:49

Though Auschwitz was liberated more than seventy years ago, its legacy, along with the other death camps and horrific crimes that were committed against us during the Shoah, continues to cast a pall over the Jewish community worldwide.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

On the Trump Pledge: The Optics Are Worse Than Bad

03/09/2016 - 12:29

With today’s electronic and social media affording virtually anyone the chance to share thoughts and images around the world with staggering speed, it has never been more important to take care when publishing a picture in a newspaper, or, more privately, or before hitting the “send” button on a personal message or photo. More than a few of us have had the very unhappy experience of hitting that button too quickly and wishing desperately that we could take it back, especially if we sent a private message in error to an entire listserv. When a private comment or thought goes public, terrible things can happen.

Donald Trump. Wikimedia Commons

Nothing Is More Important Than Shabbat!

03/03/2016 - 14:43

The Torah portion that we read this week (Vayakhel) features, in exacting detail, the building materials that were collected for the purpose of constructing the Mishkan, the ancient portable sanctuary that traveled with our ancestors through the desert. This much gold, that much silver, copper too, all used to create the humble ancestor of the Jerusalem Temple and its various pieces of sacred furniture.

Shabbat candles. Wikimedia Commons

How Are Communities Built?

02/18/2016 - 14:05

My wife and I traveled to Florida over the Presidents Day week to visit with family and some friends. Given the weather that New York experienced in December, we imagined that New York might wind up being the warmer of the two places, but as it turned out, we couldn't have been more wrong! The weather in Florida was spectacularly sunny and warm, and the weather in New York has been equally spectacular, but in the other direction, with record cold temperatures. Through nothing but luck, we definitely won the vacation lottery.

Skyline of Tampa, Florida from Bayshore Blvd. Wikimedia Commons

If Solomon Were A Candidate…

02/11/2016 - 09:54

Once upon a time, long before a career in the rabbinate was even a remote thought, I was a political science major in college. Politics and the political process fascinated me as far back as I can remember, and they still do. Although we all now know that the “Camelot” image of the Kennedy years was carefully constructed to hide its very real human flaws, I grew up quite entranced by its magic, believing that a life in politics was a noble calling… at least until Watergate. But the fascination remains…

Donald Trump, Left, Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik, center, Bernie Sanders.

On The Kotel Compromise: Non-Orthodox Streams Deserve Funding, Not Just Gestures

02/03/2016 - 10:21
Jewish Week Online Columnist

The decision this week by Israel’s governing Cabinet to formally approve a proposal accommodating non-Orthodox, egalitarian prayer at the Kotel – the remaining Western Wall of the ancient Jerusalem Temple – has evoked passionate, but predictable, responses.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

The Hardest Questions Are Rarely New

01/29/2016 - 10:35
Jewish Week Online Columnist

In one of the sadder episodes of my rabbinate, I officiated recently at the funeral of a young soldier in the American army who died suddenly of natural causes. The death was, to understate the case dramatically, a horrific shock to the soldier’s family, and to all of us who knew him and his family through the years. His death was a great tragedy.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

It’s All About Tradition, On The Stage, And Under The Chuppah

01/22/2016 - 11:34
Jewish Week Online Columnist

At the wedding I attended in Washington last weekend, I had a rare and precious chance to sit with my wife, among the guests, as a guest.

It doesn’t happen all that often. Most commonly, I am at weddings as the officiating rabbi. I’m worrying about who has the rings, do the bride and groom remember their lines, is there a glass to break under the huppah, and other details that people just assume take care of themselves. But in this instance, as a long-time friend of the bride’s parents, I could just sit back and watch the warmth and charm of the traditional Jewish wedding work its magic. And I was, anew, amazed at how arcane rituals that Jews have been practicing for literally thousands of years can still resonate with such rich meaning in this very different time.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

When Every Need Is Pressing: Meeting With An NYC Councilmember

01/13/2016 - 13:28
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Through the good offices of my local New York City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, I had the opportunity some months ago, along with the local Jewish leadership of Central Queens, to meet Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the Councilwoman from neighboring Corona who also currently serves as the Chair of the powerful Committee on Finance of the New York City Council. Although the meeting was not organized for the purpose of advancing individual pet projects, it nonetheless attracted, as one would expect, a great deal of interest among local Jewish leaders.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

When They Say, Don't Go To The Old City

01/07/2016 - 17:52
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Just a few days ago, my wife Robin and I returned from a brief but wonderful trip to Israel. As I wrote in this space before we left, there was no specific business, professional or family obligation that was bringing us there. We just wanted to visit the country that we love, see family and gain a more accurate sense of what it’s like to be in Israel at a difficult and stressful time for the country and its citizens.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik
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