A Rabbi's World

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

Choosing Sides: The Search for Perfection in Politics

10/31/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

We are, thank God, drawing closer to that glorious day when this election campaign will be over.  It has been the longest and most intensive battering of our collective consciousnesses that I can recall, and if I feel this way, I can’t even begin to imagine how the candidates must feel.  Surely we have enough information with which to make an informed decision.

Yes We Can… We Hope

11/05/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

The election is over, and President-elect Obama has won his race in a landslide.   Clearly, American voters, across all lines, were sending a message that the last eight years were essentially a train wreck, and that they saw in Senator Obama the promise of a better future for themselves and for our country.  On the former, I think they’re right.  On the latter, I hope they’re right; I hope I was right- I hope we’re right- because I voted for him as well.

Talking About Difficult Issues and ‘Gratuitous Interdenominational Bickering’

11/14/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

In response to the blog that I posted immediately after the presidential election, in which I called on the carpet those Jews who had spread malicious and untrue rumors about Barack Obama all over the internet, someone posted an online response accusing me of “Ortho(dox)-bashing.”  I found the charge to be too glib, since there were certainly members of my own (Conservative) congregation who were both ready and willing to believe the worst about Obama, regardless of where it came from.  Also, interestingly, the editor of this paper, himself an Orthodox Jew, expressed v

Start Worrying… Details to Follow: The Economic Meltdown Hitting Synagogues

11/20/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

There are all kinds of stories, almost all of them apocryphal, about rabbis welcoming sundry physical plant problems in their synagogues in late summer/early September. The reason is obvious.  Leaking roofs and broken boilers make wonderful fodder for fundraising campaigns, which almost all synagogues engage in around the High Holidays.  That is, unless the roof falls in on you…

Of Forests and Trees…Saying Thank You in Hard Times

11/28/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

This particular Thanksgiving, my mind keeps wondering to the title of Nobel-laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel

Love in the Time of Cholera

.  What is going through my brain on a continuous loop is “gratitude in a time of economic crisis…”

The Global Village in a World of Terror

12/07/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

Last Wednesday, as Americans were easing into the familiar and welcome patterns of a laid-back Thanksgiving weekend, Mumbai was convulsing in a horrific spasm of violence all too familiar to us here in New York.  Images of senseless carnage were all over the print and electronic media, a much beloved rabbi and his wife were among the intentional casualties, and it was woefully easy to relapse into that sense of vulnerability yet again…

Thinking about Chanukkah

12/12/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

Close your eyes and think back to late October.  It was just after the end of the High Holidays and Sukkot, and after what seemed like interminable weeks of “one day on, two days off,” we all dreamed of a normal work week, and getting into some kind of saner and more predictable routine.

The Tragedies of Bernie Madoff

12/16/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

I’ve been a congregational rabbi now for almost thirty years, and I’ve learned lots of things about lots of things.  I know a lot more about human nature and the human condition than I possibly could have known when I was new to the craft, and of course, I’m still learning.

The Right Place to Talk? Sermonizing About Madoff

12/24/2008
Special to the Jewish Week

Like so many other rabbis across the world, I devoted my sermon this past Shabbat to the lessons to be learned from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal.  I talked about linking one’s actions in the “real world” to ethics and morality, and how, in the Jewish way of looking at things, there is no line of demarcation between the “real world” and one’s religious life.  When one perverts the system and creates that dichotomy, the potential for Hillul Hashem- the desecration of God’s name- is enormous.  The damage that Bernie Madoff has

Gaza, Again…

01/02/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

My family and I returned late last night from a week in Israel, visiting with my daughter, who’s on the NATIV gap year program, and my mother and sister and her family, all of whom live in Rechovot.  The hostilities in Gaza began over Shabbat, when we were blissfully not tuned in to the radio and television, although the constant drone of warplanes overhead from a nearby air force base might have been a clue…

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