Tag Archives: Judaism

Happy 73rd Birthday, Israel!

Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut, otherwise known as Israeli Independence Day.

Though no country is perfect, I find it astonishing that in a little less than three-quarters of a century, she has become a vibrant, thriving democracy. Out of the desert and the memory of a thousand generations in exile, a modern country has risen. Through blood, sweat, tears, and the belief in a higher power, she has become the vision that has kept Judaism alive.

It was prophesized in the Book of Ezekiel via Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones that a modern day Israel would arise.

In his vision, the prophet sees himself standing in the valley full of dry human bones. He is commanded to carry a prophecy. Before him, the bones connect into human figures; then the bones become covered with tendon tissues, flesh, and skin. Then God reveals the bones to the prophet as the People of Israel in exile and commands the Prophet to carry another prophecy in order to revitalize these human figures, to resurrect them, and to bring them to the Land of Israel.

Happy Birthday Israel, may you live to see another 73 years and many more after that.

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Opening Israel to non-Orthodox Converts Should Have Happened Long Ago

There are some religions in which converting new members is written into the doctrine. But Judaism is different. While we welcome new members of the faith with open arms, we do not seek out possible new converts.

In Israel, the Law of Return has been written into the cultural and legal system for 70+ years. But not everyone agrees with the specifics of the law. According to traditional Judaism, a Jewish person is defined by the faith of their mother. If the mother is Jewish, either by birth or conversation, the child is Jewish. But if the father is Jewish, but the mother is of another faith (or no faith), the child is not Jewish.

Earlier this month, the High Court finally recognized that Reform and Conservative conversions carry as much weight as Orthodox conversions. This hopefully also extends to the marriage ceremony. Civil marriages do not exist in Israel. The only marriages that are recognized are those performed by Orthodox rabbis. More than a few couples have left the country to get married.

This change is fifteen years in the making and frankly, should have happened a long time go. It shouldn’t matter how one converted. It should only matter that they are as committed to the Jewish faith as those who were born into it.

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Was the Joke About Israel on SNL Satire or Anti-Semitic?

Satire is a beautiful thing. But it can also cross the line.

During the Weekend Update portion of last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, anchor Michael Che made a joke about Israel. To say that it did not go over well is an understatement.

The question I have to ask, is it satire or antisemitism?

I get that it was a joke. Weekend Update is not your serious local weeknight news. It is supposed to be funny and perhaps bordering on not exactly being 100% politically correct.

That being said, I can’t help but agree that it did have a slightly anti-Semitic undertone. My people have been persecuted and murdered because of the lies that have been told about us.

Unlike other countries (ahem, United States) on which the the rollout of the vaccine programs have been unnecessarily complicated or messy, the Israeli government got their shit together. As of February 4th, US News & World Report put out a story that all Israelis over the age of sixteen were able to get the vaccine. The important word in this headline is all. There was no mention of any specific group that was either pushed to the head of the line or denied access because of their religious or cultural background.

I’ve been a fan of SNL for more than twenty years, this program is usually the highlight of my weekend. I can usually laugh at anything. But this joke, I cannot and will never be able to laugh at.

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Two Years Cannot Dull the Pain of the Pittsburgh Shooting

One of my favorite quotes from Star Wars the following:

“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Those were murdered that day (Z”l) because they were Jews.

Unlike the America that my parents and grandparents were born into, my early years were free of antisemitism. I lived in multi-cultural world that respected everyone, regardless of labels or ancestry.

October 27th, 2018 changed all that. It was a slap in the face, a cold reminder that antisemitism is still alive and well in the United States. It has been said that time heals all wounds. But time can never take away the pain of that day.

But even with the heartbreak, there is still hope.

Our people and our faith has been threatened countless time over the millennia. But we are still here and we will always be here.

While we carry on as we always have, the memory of those killed that day will live on forever, in spite of the heartache that comes with that loss.

May their memories be a blessing.

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Filed under Movies, National News, Star Wars

Don’t be a Freier, Vote for Joe Biden

P.T. Barnum is supposed to have once said for following:

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

In Yiddish, the term for sucker is freier. On Thursday, an article in The Jerusalem Post stated that those who believe you know who (especially those of the Jewish faith) are suckers.

I couldn’t agree more with the article. We need a President who sees beyond himself and his needs. We need a President who is compassionate, open and is willing to make tough decisions. We need a President who genuinely believes in reaching across the aisle to those of the opposing party.

That man is Joe Biden.

#BidenHarris2020

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Flashback Friday: L’Chayim (1979-Present)

Issues of religion and politics require a cool head and the ability to direct the conversation in a way that does not cause strife.

In 1979, L’Chayim made it’s debut as a radio talk show on WMCA, a local New York City radio station. Hosted by Rabbi Mark S. Golub, the topics discussed on the program are those of importance to the Jewish community. Back in 1990, the program switched from radio to television and presently airs on The Jewish Channel.

It goes without saying that it a very niche program with a specific audience. I’ve seen a few episodes of this show. It is one of the programs that I will watch while flipping through the channels on a weekend afternoon. While it is fine to watch while killing time, L’Chayim is not one of the programs that I would label as “must see TV”.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood Book Review

In a perfect world, we would be able to make our own choices and still be loved by our families. But that is not always the case.

Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood, a memoir by Leah Vincent was published in 2015. Born and raised in the Yeshivish Jewish community in Pittsburgh, her world as a child was bound by a long list of rules of do’s and don’ts. Everything changed at sixteen when her letters to a young man were discovered.

Retribution was swift and cold. Forced to become an outcast to her family, she moved to New York City, where she faced a secular world that was far from the ultra-religious world she knew. As a result, she embarked on a series of sexual and semi-romantic relationships that all ended in disaster. Complicating these “relationships” was her still fierce adherence to the Judaism she was raised in.

This is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Her journey at times is both difficult and universal. Most, if not all of us, go through changes when we are in our teens and early 20’s. But, we do so within the loving bosom of our families. Ms. Vincent had to go through those changes on her own.

I was stuck by several things while reading this book. The first is that the double standard is one hundred times more powerful in the Yeshivish community than it is in the secular world. The second is that she is a survivor who found her backbone. It would have been easy to crawl back to her parents on hands and knees, begging for forgiveness. But she didn’t. The third and most powerful thing is that the reader does not have to be Jewish to understand or relate to her story. If I was a betting woman, I would wager that there are many from all faiths who for any number of reasons, have walked away from the ultra-religious communities they were raised in.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, Life, New York City

Thoughts on Tashlich in 2020

To say that this year has not been easy has been an understatement.

Tomorrow night starts Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish year. On this day, we confess our sins and ask our heavenly creator to allow us another year of life.

But before we can make such a request, we must be honest with ourselves about our flaws and mistakes. That is where Tashlich comes in.

As I threw my bread in the water earlier today, I felt a sense of peace. Though the past can never be undone, we can learn from our mistakes. We can become better than who we were before. That I believe is the message of the High Holidays and Tashlich in particular.

May those who are fasting have an easy and peaceful fast and may we all be written in the book of life for another year.

L’Shana Tova.

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Unetanneh Tokef, Yom Kippur and the Year That is 2020

No one has a crystal ball when it comes to the future. We can only live in the moment.

This coming weekend is Yom Kippur, the most important day on the Jewish calendar. One of the prayers we chant is called Unetanneh Tokef. The purpose of the prayer is to ask our heavenly parent for one more year of life on Earth. The text is as follows:

“All mankind will pass before You like a flock of sheep.[38] Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living; and You shall apportion the destinies of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict.

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die after a long life[39] and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by famine and who by thirst, who by upheaval [40] and who by plague, who by strangling and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But Repentance, Prayer, and Charity annul the severity of the Decree.”

Looking back at the year that is 2020 so far, this prayer feels like a message we need to hear. Before Covid-19 hit, life seemed so sure. But between the virus, the racial inequities, and everything that has happened this year, I’m not so sure anymore.

No one knows exactly when their time will be up or how they will go. We can only ask for as much time on Earth as possible.

For those who are fasting, have an easy fast and may we all be written in the book of life for another year.

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A Very Covid-19 Rosh Hashanah

As indestructible as human beings believe we are, Mother Nature has a way of reminding us that she will always be one step ahead of us.

Next weekend is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Covid-19 has forced Jewish instuitions to rework how to approach one of the most important days of the year.

To say that it will feel weird is an understatement. Traditional holiday services will be limited and many will turn to Zoom to participate virtually. Instead of getting together with family and friends, social distancing and wearing masks will continue to be the norm.

To those who celebrate, wherever you are and whatever you do, have a sweet and Happy New Year.

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