A Rabbi's World

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

On Parashat Sh’lah Lekha And the Gaza Flotilla Incident

06/11/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

What follows is the sermon I delivered in my synagogue in Forest Hills last week. I wanted to share it with you because it is a more thorough treatment of the subject than I could do in a briefer piece, and I think it important. I hope you will as well.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

After the Gaza Flotilla: Zeh Mah Yesh- It is What It Is

06/04/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

In what is probably an epic understatement of major proportions, there is much to say about the events of the past week in Israel. In fairness to my congregants, many of whom read this column but also are waiting to hear what I might have to say on the subject tomorrow morning during Shabbat services, I shall wait until next week to put into written, published words my own take on the flotilla incident.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Of Learning and Teaching

05/28/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

I spent the past week at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international organization of Conservative rabbis. This year, it was held at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, the academy from which the overwhelming percentage of RA members were graduated and ordained.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Being Our Own Masters

05/21/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

In the religious world, there has been much discussion over the past few years, and rightly so, of the struggle between what sociologists like to call the “commanding presence” and the “sovereign self.” The “commanding presence” is an outside source of authority- in the larger religious sense, God, or in a lesser religious sense, rabbis. The “sovereign self” is the autonomous individual, who chafes at being told what to do.

What Will It Take? The Fight for Religious Pluralism in Israel

Israel is perilously close to lawlessness, at least in regard to Haredi Jews feeling that violence against Jews who are different from them is not only understandable, but also warranted.

05/14/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Just a day or two ago, a young Israeli woman named Noa Raz, a product of the Masorti movement and its NOAM youth program, was physically assaulted by a Haredi Jew in the Central Bus Station in Beer Sheva.

Were the story to stop there it would be bad enough, but it gets worse.

Why was Noa assaulted? Because the Haredi Jew, a man, saw the marks left by her tefillin straps that morning. Noa prays with tefillin in the morning, as do many women in the Conservative and Masorti movements. That was her  “provocation.”

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Who Speaks for the Jews?

05/07/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

In this period of heightened tensions between the United States of Israel, we seem to have entered into a period of "dueling ads."

Lately it seems that there has been a spate of full page advertisements in both the secular and Jewish newspapers that would claim to articulate the collective will of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Seeing Beyond the Immediate in the Synagogue

04/30/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Of the many things that I admire my wife for, one (surely not the most significant) is her ability to walk into an empty room in a house and imagine how it might or ought to look with furniture and everything else that makes up a room. The couch can go there, the rocker there, that painting over there… it’s this remarkable ability to see beyond what presents right now and have an image of what it might be.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

We Grieve as We Have Loved

04/22/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Though it is now almost thirty years ago, I still remember the first time I heard my esteemed predecessor in the Forest Hills Jewish Center, the late Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser, deliver a eulogy. In his closing comments, he said to the grieving family members that grief is the mirror image of love. That is to say, people tend to grieve according to how they have loved. The greater the love they had for the person who died, the greater the pain they feel.

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But the truth is that it’s anything but…

Remembering What Truly Matters

If the current administration in Washington is sincere in its stated goal of working aggressively to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the days and months ahead will be even more difficult and confusing than the past few weeks have been.

04/15/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Following last week's somber ceremonies marking Yom Hashoa, Israel will, on this coming Monday, observe its annual Yom Hazikaron, a solemn memorial day for her fallen soldiers. Rare is the family in Israel that does not know someone who has died in Israel's defense, or have a family member who has. And then, on Monday evening, the celebration of Yom Ha'atzma'ut, Israel's Independence Day, will begin.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Riding the Nisan/Iyar Rollercoaster

04/09/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Like some gigantic parabolic curve that exists in both time and space, the two adjoining Hebrew months of Nisan and Iyar have their way with us.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik
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