A Rabbi's World

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

Morality and the IDF

Special to the Jewish Week

The disclosures last week about alleged abuse of civilians by Israeli troops during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza must give us pause.  The allegations, if true, are serious.  To be sure, the kind of casual disdain for human life- even of one’s enemy- that is reflected in the anecdotal evidence, even in the t-shirts that some soldiers were seen wearing, should cause alarm bells to ring in the IDF’s Central Command.  And indeed it has.

Shopping for Passover, 2009

Special to the Jewish Week

Yes, it’s that time again.  We can no longer hide from the 800-pound gorilla in the room.  Passover is less than a week away, and there is no avoiding the inevitable hysteria that it generates.  I remember how, as a young child, this was my favorite time of year.  Ah, youth…

Lurching Through Nisan

Special to the Jewish Week

In what was, in retrospect, a striking metaphor for this Hebrew month of Nisan, a congregant asked me at services last night whether it was permissible to distribute special memorial candles for Yom Hashoah- Holocaust Commemoration Day- during these concluding days of Passover.

To phrase his question another way- can we disturb the sacred obligation to celebrate our ancient redemption with a jarring reminder of contemporary exile and destruction?

Such an interesting question, and so very Jewish…

Israel: Sixty-One, with No Apologies

Special to the Jewish Week

The State of Israel celebrates its sixty-first birthday this coming week.  I find myself wondering whether there exists another country in the world that has to apologize for its existence in order to celebrate, as Israel does.

Hearing What It Sounds Like

Special to the Jewish Week

For those of you who follow this blog, I ask that you allow me an “excused absence” for not having posted last week.  I was in Israel, having left on very short notice to join my sister in attending to my critically ill mother.  She remains extremely critical as of this writing, and I expect to have to return to Israel within a few days…

Thinking About Penitence

Special to the Jewish Week

I can hear you saying “what is this guy talking about?”  After all, it’s two weeks before Shavuot, and penitence is a high holiday theme.  Not yet, rabbi, not yet!!

Finding Comfort Where It Is To Be Found

Special to the Jewish Week

When last I wrote, I had recently returned from Israel and visiting my very sick mother.  Since then- just a little over two weeks ago- she died.  I flew back to Israel for the burial, sat shiva with my sister for a few days, and then returned here to complete my shivah in my own community in Forest Hills.  The day after I got up from shiva was the eve of Shavuot… It’s been a very long, and very exhausting few weeks.

Walking that Fine Line: Obama and Israel

Special to the Jewish Week

Now that both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have issued significant pronouncements on the prospects for (and path to) Middle East peace, American Jews are scrambling to figure out how to make sense of it all.  We are, quite obviously, no longer dealing with an American president who will write Israel a “blank check” as regards its policies, a la George W. Bush.  But many of the people I’ve spoken are struggling to figure out whether or not, in the words of the classic joke, this is good or bad for the Jews.

In the State Senate: little new under the sun

Special to the Jewish Week

Watching our State Senators compete with each other for who can act more childish has been quite the exercise this past week.   On more than one occasion, I found myself wondering how it could be that they could be so blissfully unaware of just how infantile they look to their constituencies.  And, of course, how sweet it will be to replace them when the time comes.

Camp in the Season of Swine Flu

Special to the Jewish Week

Just when you think that you’ve seen most of what there is to see, life throws something new at you…

It’s camp season, that wonderful time of year when our children get away from the grit and grime of a city summer to find fun and growth in greener settings both near and far.  My own children have, for many years, been regulars at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, both as campers and as staff.  That camp has been a part of my life since the early 70’s, when I worked there, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

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