A Rabbi's World

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

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

Whose History is it Anyway?

Some thoughts on the widespread use of the theme of enslavement and redemption as a metaphor for all struggles of national liberation.

04/02/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

The Passover Seders that my family has hosted for the past thirty-plus years are radically different from the ones I grew up with. In my parents' home, those attending a Seder were most often family, or occasionally a close friend of my sister's or mine. But in the relatively sheltered world of my youth, having non-Jews at the Seder, as guests, would not have been a serious option.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

A Rabbi's World: The Death of Civility

03/26/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

Those of a certain age and inclination will recognize this lyric from a great Buffalo Springfield song of the late '60's: "Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear…" That's exactly what it feels like to me in America right now. Something's happening. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it feels visceral and scary, and I'm sure I'm not making it up.

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Just What the Doctor Ordered

03/19/2010

Against the backdrop of a dramatic and very public spat between the governments of Israel and America, increasing unhappiness here in the States about still further efforts in Israel to delegitimize non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism, and a YouTube video showing Haredi men literally throwing chairs over the partition at the Kotel aimed at the Women of the Wall who were preparing to pray, something wonderful happened here in New York this past Sunday.

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