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Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

Jewish Issues Archives

The Task Is Never Finished

It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman’s post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time […]

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Some Parting Reflections

Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe […]

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Obama’s Lesson and The Jewish Community

There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack […]

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Haman, Anti-Semitism, and the Internet

It has been said that if you say something often enough and emphatically enough, more and more people will believe it. Something that at first may seem obviously ridiculous with repetition becomes accepted fact. That is why Holocaust deniers are […]

Hate Is at Home on the Internet

It is a truism that the power of the Internet is to allow for the proliferation and dissemination of information without passing through central sources (newspapers, radio, TV) that would screen or block them. The advantages are obvious: repressive governments […]

The Internet and Anti-Semitism

The other night my friend, Jewish media guru Steven I. Weiss, asked me to go with him to hear Bernard Henri Levy’s State of World Jewry lecture at the 92nd street Y in Manhattan. Levy can be very entertaining and […]

What’s Wrong with Hecksher Tzedek?

We took up the question of the Conservative Movement’s Hecksher Tzedek a few months back and I am glad Rabbi Grossman brought it up again. At the time I was taken aback by the negative comments that some had posted […]

How ‘Kosher’ Is Kosher Food?

If the term ‘kosher’ means fit, or done right, is the food we eat ‘kosher” if it’s produced using unethical practices? What if it meets all other technical requirements? Conservative Rabbi Morris Allen says, “no”. For Rabbi Allen, it is […]

True Wealth

I found Rabbi Stern’s analysis of the economy as a faith-based institution interesting. It cast Alan Greenspan’s (now Ben Bernanke’s) cryptic musings about future conditions in a new light: the high priest of economics reciting just the right words (and […]

In God We Trust? Faith and the Recession

I recently walked into my bank to deposit some money into a savings account. What a disappointment! Interest rates keep dropping as our government tries to dig itself out of what most economic observers say is a serious recession. The […]

Fair Play, Jewish Law and the Writers’ Strike

Rabbi Waxman is right that it is hard to feel sympathy for striking writers who may make millions of dollars a year. However, I disagree that the fact that many other workers in other industries are severely underpaid should prejudice […]

Writers Guild, Stop Whining

I have to admit that I was secretly thrilled when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert-–my sole pop-cultural fixes-–announced that they would be coming back on the air at the beginning of January, despite the ongoing Writers Guild strike. Now, I […]

The Writers Strike, the Political Pundits, and We, the People

With the writers on strike, Hollywood has moved away from distorting our social relationships to our political ones. We all know the typical Hollywood love story: boy pursues girl, girl pushes away boy, eventually girl falls for boy who by […]

Shul, Shabbat and Hanging Chads

Will the scheduling of Nevada’s caucuses during Saturday Sabbath services be the “hanging chad” of the 2008 election? After all, the top candidates in both parties seem to be running neck-and-neck, so much so that every state primary election counts. […]

Caucusing on the Sabbath Is a Problem

Again and again we heard it as the analysts scratched their heads and did their post-mortems of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries: “Turnout is key.” In the party primaries and caucuses, when the voting is generally confined to the […]

More Wishes for 2008

I appreciate Rabbi Grossman’s wishes for 2008 and would like to add a few of my own (in no particular order): • President Bush becomes invested enough in Mideast peace to keep pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians to talk […]

Top 10 Wishes for 2008

To paraphrase someone else who was called upon to make predictions, “I am not a prophet nor the daughter of a prophet” (Amos 7:14). Therefore I will not be joining those who make predictions, serious or otherwise, about what the […]

What Huckabee & Romney Mean for Jews

With the Iowa caucuses just two short weeks away, the candidates are all scrambling against the clock to get their message out. And with Christmas as the backdrop, it seems that several of the candidates are trying to use the […]

More Thoughts on Health Care

I appreciate Rabbi Grossman’s overview of Jewish texts pertaining to the mandate to heal. I would add Chapter 25 of Leviticus which, while not directly relating to health, speaks to the question of obligations to those in need that are […]

The Jewish Source for Universal Health Care

Rabbi Grossman has the right idea when she states, “As Jews we seldom have one position on any issue. Certainly, the idea of health insurance did not even exist at the time of those writing our great codes of Jewish […]

Is There ‘a Jewish Position’ on the Health Care Debate?

According to an article in this Sunday’s Washington Post, “The debate over how to overhaul the nation’s health-care system is underscoring a dramatic chasm between the two parties, as Democrats battle over which candidate will most quickly expand health insurance […]

When Soldiers Pay for the Sins of Those Who Send Them

In memory of our valiant soldiers who gave their lives in this travesty of a war in Iraq, in honor of all those who have come home wounded in body and spirit, and in mourning for the destruction of lives […]

There’s No Jewish Position on the Iraq War

I don’t think Rabbi Waxman meant to say as much, but just to be clear: there is no Jewish position on the Iraq war. There are good wars, bad wars and complicated wars but there are few if any Jewish […]

Reflections for Veterans Day

Today many schools and government offices are closed in observance of Veterans Day, a time to honor and thank those who have so bravely served their country. Veterans Day is always a solemn occasion–and never more so than when members […]

Is Poverty a Jewish Issue?

There is a growing gap between rich and poor in this country, which should concern us, as Jews and as Americans. In the olden–i.e., Biblical–days, the gap between rich and poor was regularly realigned. Every seven years, during the sabbatical […]

Parents: The Reason Hebrew Schools Fail

In theory Hebrew schools are a great idea. A heavy dose of secular subjects in the morning and a nice light sprinkling of Jewish wisdom in afternoon sounds like a fine balance for the well-rounded Jewish child. But, as we […]

Rethinking Our Religious Schools’ Missions

I found Rabbi Grossman’s stories of the successes in her synagogue’s religious school inspiring, even as I found the criteria she used to evaluate success perplexing. Our synagogue’s religious school–a thriving and engaging school run by a dynamic education director–has […]

Can Hebrew Schools Be Saved?

Like most rabbis, I get frustrated at what I wish we could accomplish in our religious school. I wish I could get parents to let the students use the skills they are learning in school–like kiddush and Havdallah–more regularly in […]

The Life-Giving Power of Questions

posted by akornfeld

When blogging “for the sake of heaven,” it’s easy to get the last word in when you post right before Shabbos! However, even though a new week has begun, I’m hoping my generous hosts at Beliefnet–and my colleagues who’ve graciously […]

Torah: The Original Self-Help Manual

I haven’t had a chance to read Rabbi Jen Krause’s book yet, but I agree with her that the rabbis were the first self-help coaches. I would add that was so because they had the first self-help manual: the Torah. […]

But What About the Answer?

Rabbi Jen, I wish you were right about your description of Jewry but the facts on the ground seem to say otherwise: As many have noted there are two sides of Jewry. Rabbi Jen nicely described one side. But in […]

Asking Is Our Way of Saying ‘Game On’

posted by akornfeld

When I learned how to study the work of the prolific medieval commentator Rashi from the wonderfully prolific Nechama Leibowitz, of blessed memory, in her tiny Jerusalem living room, she would always ask, “What’s Rashi’s question?” (or, more colorfully, as […]

The Blessings of Insularity?

What a pleasure it was to read Rabbi Jen Krause’s new book The Answer. Make no doubt about it this is not your regular self-help book. “The Answer” is more about realizing that ultimately life’s greatest challenge is coming to […]

Self-Help & Updating Judaism

Rabbi Krause writes that she is not scared of new influences coming into Judaism–that bringing in new ideas and perspectives helps keep Judaism dynamic and relevant. This assertion is central to Reconstructionist Judaism’s approach to understanding how our religion works. […]

Guest Blogger: Self-Help–Is Judaism Enough for Jews?

posted by akornfeld

Improving the self–whether through books, magazines, prayer, meditation, or study–has always been a Jewish enterprise and the rabbis were among history’s first “life coaches.” Today it is the same. I do not have one doubt that Judaism continues to offer […]

The Environmental Crisis and Free Will

The connections Rabbi Stern and Rabbi Grossman have drawn between the story of Noah and the modern environmental crisis are, sadly, very much to the point. One of the salient points of the Biblical story is that the crisis is […]

Al Gore, Our Modern Day Noah

Last Shabbat we read about how God commanded Noah to collect an ark load of the Earth’s biodiversity and ride out the mother of all storms, which cleansed the earth. When Noah and his family finally emerged from the ark […]

The Environment & the Noah Story: Lessons for Today

In Judaism we tend to think that God’s promise to Noah after the flood means that the world will never be destroyed. But all God says is that “He” will never destroy the world through rain. “We” on the other […]

What Exactly Is a Christian Nation, Anyway?

In thinking about Senator John McCain’s comments in his interview with Beliefnet– that America is a Christian nation–I spent some time online trying to figure out what the substance of the label is. Certainly ‘Christian nation’ sounds like it should […]

McCain, Is Religion Your Blankie?

John McCain 2000: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate. They distort my pro-life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters. Why? Because I don’t pander to […]

Is America a Christian Nation?

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain caused quite a stir recently when he stated–in a video interview on Beliefnet–that he believes the Constitution establishes America as a Christian nation. His comments should have caused a stir for a number of reasons. […]

What Does AIPAC Have to Do with God?

Before I get shrill about Christiane Amanpour’s “God’s Warriors” let me just put a few things on the table: I am vehemently opposed to the continuation of the Israeli settler project. I find those Jews who live in Hebron to […]

‘God’s Warriors’ Flunk Out

Honest Reporting gives Christiane Amanpour and CNN a C- for her reporting of the six-hour series “God’s Warriors,” in which she looks at religious fundamentalism in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, I would give her and her producers an F. […]

Why Be Jewish? Here’s Why!

That there is a need to convene the sort of conference called “Why Be Jewish” that Rabbi Stern recently did points to precisely how poor a job the institutional Jewish world has done at providing meaningful answers to why we […]

The Purpose-Driven Jew

There are many reasons to be Jewish: religious reasons, family reasons, emotional reasons, communal and historic reasons. Rabbi Stern’s summary of a conference he co-hosted for the Bronfman Foundation came up with four good answers to the question “Why Be […]

Why Be Jewish?

Recently, Adam Bronfman and I co-hosted “Why be Jewish?” a gathering of leading Jewish rabbis, writers and thinkers sponsored by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation. The gathering was driven by the need for the Jewish community to take a step back […]

Intermarriage: Why Be Jewish?

Rabbi Waxman nicely explains the dilemma facing rabbis today with regard to the intermarriage issue. He highlights just how torn many in the liberal movements are regarding intermarriage. But the intermarriage question is part of a much larger discussion that […]

Intermarriage, Expectations and the Feldman Factor

I feel sorry for Noah Feldman, but not for the reason he wants us to feel sorry for him. Feldman is important: a Harvard law professor who helped shape the Iraqi Constitution. Nevertheless, the Orthodox community in which he was […]

Intermarriage: No Easy Answers

It’s one of the most challenging situations that faces many American rabbis today, especially in the progressive movements: a young couple approaches a rabbi and asks about officiating at a wedding. One partner is Jewish and one is not. The […]

The Way Forward for Our Youth

It’s interesting to see the tension between Rabbi Stern and Rabbi Grossman’s posts–the former portrays himself as the purveyor of substance and the latter as the purveyor of sizzle. What we need, of course, is both. It goes without saying […]

Retooling Our Mission to Our Youth

For all the efforts that are going into attracting and retaining the next generation of Jews, one step is sorely missing: adequate and effective training for youth leaders. Most congregations hire staff for youth groups who are self-taught. Perhaps they […]

Outreach and Real Spiritual Growth

I love Jewish outreach, I support it all the way. But sometimes, in the hope of pleasing and bringing someone into the fold, it can become hurtful to that person. Recently, I was having a conversation with a “leader” in […]

Jews, Money and the Military

When I lived in New York, the only congregants I knew in the military were veterans from World War Two and a few from Korea and Vietnam. However the demographics are very different where I now live, in the greater […]

A Legacy of Service

I’m sitting at my computer following our local Independence Day parade, where veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam all received well-deserved recognition and applause from the onlookers, myself included. On a day when we stop to appreciate the […]

Support the War…from Your Home?

The Orthodox group Agudath Israel recently released a statement expressing their strong and continued support for the Iraq war. The statement comes after consultation with its rabbinic leadership. Excerpts of the text read as follows: ….Agudath Israel of America believes […]

Earth to British Academics

Earth to British academics: Who are you and who cares what you have to say? My fellow blogger rabbis, Rabbi Waxman and Rabbi Grossman, along with Tom Friedman of the New York Times have already done a good job at […]

Boycott the Boycotters

Thirty eight reporters are arrested in Iran. The most-watched independent television station in Venezuela is shut down. Palestinians kidnap two FOX journalists and a Palestinian radio journalist. Who does the British National Union of Journalists vote to boycott? Israel: the […]

Boycotting Common Sense

Two weeks ago, the British University and College Union (UCU), the union of university academics, passed an absurd and deeply offensive resolution calling on all union members to “consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic […]

Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »

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