A Rabbi's World

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

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.

Between Image and Reality: America’s media response to Michael Jackson

Special to the Jewish Week

There is plenty of commentary to be offered on the obsessive response of America’s media to the death of Michael Jackson.  You have to hand it to Congressman Peter King, who, albeit it in a very undiplomatic way, expressed what many are feeling.  At the very least, Michael Jackson was an accused pedophile, a bizarre caricature of a self-loathing Black man whose hatred of his own skin and features led him to multiple acts of self-mutilation, a serious substance abuser, and, to put it generously, a very, very strange version of an adult.  From whence all the adoration?

When Words Aren’t Enough: The Music of Elie Wiesel

Special to the Jewish Week

I have, in past pieces, written about the Zamir Choral Foundation and its great work with both teens and adults.  As an officer of the Foundation, I am of course a supporter of its programs and goals.  But there are those moments when even I, who first joined the Zamir Chorale forty years ago as a college freshman, am still overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring moments that its remarkable fusion of music and love of Judaism can create.

Who Thinks of These Things?

Special to the Jewish Week

Between teaching at JTS, having a daughter at Barnard, a wife who works on 91st Street in Manhattan and a daughter who lives a few blocks away, a son who goes to school just a mile or two south of her and another son and daughter-in-law (and grandchild!) who live just a mile or so north, I’ve spent a lot of time these past few years driving from Forest Hills to the Upper West Side/Morningside Heights area.  A lot.  My wife (among other, more valuable lessons) taught me that, once you get over the Triboro/RFK bridge,  it’s faster to drive west on 126th Street than

Some Books Just Shouldn’t Be Written: Kabbalah for Dummies

Special to the Jewish Week

Like anyone who accepts the responsibility of saying Kaddish seriously, I spend a lot of time running to and from various minyanim.  Luckily, my own synagogue has a daily minyan morning and evening, and when my schedule allows for it, that minyan is always choice number one.  But there are more than a few times when appointments or other commitments have me away from Forest Hills when that minyan meets, and that’s when I go a-hunting.

A Loss That Impoverishes Us All: Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Special to the Jewish Week

It feels as if we have been bombarded these past few weeks with news of celebrities who have died, all of them too soon: Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, John Hughes, and others too.  Each made a mark on our society and culture in ways more and less significant, and each left behind fans and admirers who have felt their deaths as a personal loss.

For me, the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver this week outweighs them all. As one of her grandchildren said recently, she never ran for office, but she changed the world.  How true!

Coming Around Again…the High Holidays Near

Special to the Jewish Week

It’s just about at this time of year that I begin thinking in earnest of the topics that I want to address in my High Holiday sermons.  Some years ago, in a fit of preparedness, I wrote my sermons early in July, and then Yasser Arafat and Yitzchak Rabin shook hands on the South Lawn of the White House in August and ruined every rabbi’s already-written sermons for that year.  I’ve learned!

Yet Another Sad Goodbye…Sen. Edward Kennedy

Special to the Jewish Week

It was just two weeks ago that I shared my sadness at the death of Eunice Shriver Kennedy- a great woman whose death impoverished us all.  And now we have learned of the death of her brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, after a valiant struggle with brain cancer.

Anticipating Tishrei

Special to the Jewish Week

It’s been so long since I celebrated the High Holidays as a layperson that I’ve almost forgotten what it felt like.  Truth to tell, I miss the chance to have those precious days be cathartic for me personally, as opposed to being focused on making them cathartic for others.  The pressure on rabbis and cantors to “be at their best” during this season is enormous, for all the obvious reasons.  As my nephew would say, “it is what it is.”

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