A Rabbi's World

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

Easing on Down the Road…Sukkot is All Uplift

10/02/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

The days between Yom Kippur and the beginning of Sukkot offer a welcome opportunity for a change of mood.

Lives of Quiet Desperation

10/09/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

Henry David Thoreau famously said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  I never really understood that line when I first read it many years ago, and as I was growing into maturity, it always seemed to me a bleak assessment of the human condition.  ”Quiet desperation” seemed to negate the very possibility of living a meaningful if not joyous life.  In my youth, hearing those words made me feel distant at best from what Thoreau was trying to say.

But Seriously… Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize

10/16/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry that cited my second day Rosh Hashanah sermon.  It defended President Obama from what I consider ill-advised attacks against him, caustic and often personal attacks not grounded in any reality.  As I see it, he’s a relatively untested politician in a terribly difficult job in a ridiculously difficult time, doing the best he can.  The jury is out on him, and time alone will tell.  (Yes, Mr. Safire a”h, too many clichés, but they are all perfectly appropriate!).

Noah and the 21st Century

10/23/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

This coming Shabbat, in synagogues around the world, the story of Noah will be read and discussed, as it has been for thousands of years.

The great medieval exegete Rashi famously cited a timeless discussion in the Talmud about just how virtuous Noah really was.  One sage said that it mattered not a whit what generation Noah was born in- he would have stood out as a great man regardless of time and place.  Another differed, and said that had Noah been born, say, in the generation of Abraham, he would not have been seen as exceptional.

At Home in Forest Hills

10/30/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

The title of this blog entry is an intentional riff on the charming and wonderful 

Genesis, Again!

11/06/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

I have a friend who’s a plasma physicist.  He’s brilliant- really brilliant- and divides much of his time between the finer points of cold fusion and developing alternative energy sources (may he only succeed!).

When we first met about thirty years ago, this friend, who is Jewish, wasn’t all that into synagogue.  He famously commented to my wife and me that coming to synagogue every Shabbat was sort of like going to the same play every week… same script, same actors, same ending.  Groundhog Day for Jews.

I’ve Had a Weird Day…

11/16/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

Did you ever have one of those days where you expect Rod Serling to step out from behind a building while you stand frozen in place and say something like “Picture, if you will, a man…”

I’ve had one of those days, and it’s not over yet.  And I’m trying to figure out whether there’s some larger meaning to it.

Living a Private Life in Public

11/20/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

Once upon a time, when I was a student for the rabbinate, my classmates and I shared many fears about life to come “out there,” but none more than the “living in a fishbowl” syndrome.

Lessons from an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

11/25/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

This past Sunday, as it has for many years, my congregation participated at an interfaith Thanksgiving service, held this year in a major Catholic church here in Forest Hills.

The service had all the elements common to these types of programs- responsive readings, performances by our various church and synagogue choirs, and a careful avoidance of liturgical language and hymns that would be offensive to anyone present.

Is There Not a Better Way to Say That? Same-sex Marriage vs. “Abomination Marriage”

12/04/2009
Special to the Jewish Week

A shopping excursion yesterday took me to the Five Towns, to one of the very large Kosher supermarkets off Rockaway Turnpike.  No, it’s not like Queens lacks places to shop for Kosher items.  I know.  But I had some time, and decided to take a little ride.

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