Jewish Journal

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder

  • I am ashamed of the URJ’s Iraq resolution

    March 22, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    I don't embarrass easily. But the Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) recent resolution calling for an "expeditious withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq" did the trick.

    Personally, I would have preferred the URJ to stay out of the Iraq debate, beyond urging each and every Jew...

  • Washington, D. C.: Progress on both sides of the aisle

    February 1, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    The partisan atmosphere surrounding the president's State of the Union address will only get nastier as we approach the 2008 presidential race. So now might be the best time to take a moment and reflect on the greater good that is served by Jewish activism in all political parties....
  • Mr. President, Thank You for Standing by Israel

    August 10, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Dear President Bush:

    I never preach or write about politics. I think it is inappropriate for the rabbi of a large congregation to do so.

    Firstly, I am a rabbi not a political scientist. I do not presume to know more about matters of state than my congregants. I know they can read...

  • The Way of Madness

    July 21, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    The idea of one Jew killing another is shocking. Most of us think it never happens -- but the truth is that it does. It happens this week in the Torah with Pinchas. After seeing a Jew apparently enticed by a Midianite prostitute, Pinchas runs them both through with his spear.


  • Dead Right

    February 24, 2005 | 7:00 pm


    I met Bob and Susie at the end of a float plane trip deep in the Alaskan wilderness. Most of the year they live on a 40-foot boat surrounded by nothing but forest and water. There are no roads and it's 100 miles by plane to the nearest neighbors. Occasionally, fisherman will fly in...

  • Father’s Day

    June 13, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    "Rabbi, do you make house calls?" the man named Mike on the other end of the phone wanted to know. "My dad was never religious, but he said he'd like to see a rabbi before he dies. He's living with us now, and he can't get out any more. Please?"

    The address was on a winding, urban,...

  • Learning From Cancer

    May 10, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    This week's cancer phone calls:

    Susan, my wife's best friend, age 47 -- husband, two children 9 and 12 -- stomach cancer, chemo, husband really scared. As she helps Susan choose a wig, my wife remembers her own cancer. She is really scared, too.

    Julie, age 40 -- husband, two...

  • Torah Truths

    April 19, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    Defending a rabbi in the 21 century for saying the Exodus story isn't factual is like defending him for saying the earth isn't flat. It's neither new nor shocking to most of us that the earth is round or that the Torah isn't a history book dictated to Moses by God on Mount Sinai....

  • Only Way Into the Promised Land

    June 29, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    After Fred Astaire's first screen test, the memo from the Casting department at MGM said: "Can't act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." Astaire framed the memo and kept it above his fireplace. Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He didn't become prime minister of England until he...

  • Happy Mother’s Day

    May 11, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Dear Mom,

    I write to you again this Mother's Day. But this time, a little wiser and more grateful for you; more grateful because now I have two children of my own. Watching each of our babies emerge, seeing how they passed through Betsy to the waiting world in a sheer, painful,...

  • Being Perfect

    March 23, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    Consider the lyrics of Cheryl Wheeler's song "Unworthy":

    "I'm unworthy -- and no matter what I'm doing I should certainly be doing something else.

    And it's selfish, to be thinking I'm unworthy. All this me, me, me, me, self, self, self, self, self.

    I should learn how to meditate and sew...

  • An Acquired Taste

    February 3, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    A friend told me about a scene he witnessed recently at a delicatessen. There was a woman who apparently was not Jewish standing in line at the bakery counter. When they called her number she pointed to the prune and poppy seed hamantaschen and asked for a dozen.

    "No, you want...

  • Narrowing It Down

    December 16, 1999 | 7:00 pm

    The grocery store used to be a painful place for my 10-year-old son. He has trouble making decisions when there are too many choices. Hence, when in search of an after-school snack, Ralph's became his private, post-modern, market-driven hell. "Okay Aaron, what's it gonna be?" I'd...
  • In Abraham’s Shoes; and Julie’s, Too

    July 22, 1999 | 8:00 pm

    Isaac submits without struggle to the twisted leather straps that bind him. He is a helpless partner in this odd dance of death. Abraham reaches for the knife to slit his son's throat when mercifully, an angel calls out to stop the slaughter. A ram is to die instead of the boy.


  • Dear Dad

    June 17, 1999 | 8:00 pm

    From "The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things," by Rabbi Steven Z. Leder (Behrman House, Inc.)

    "A parent's love isn't to be paid back; it can only be passed on."-- Herbert Tarr

    Dear Dad,

    Tomorrow is Father's Day, and we are thousands of miles apart -- apart as we are too often and...

  • God Times

    June 3, 1999 | 8:00 pm

    We buried her 13 months ago -- this flower, this light, this precious partner of his for 60 years. Everything was done in our ancient way: the funeral with its torn, black ribbons and clods of earth thunking on plain pine; the shiva, with its prayers, grief and Bundt cakes; a year of...
  • A Sabbath of Comfort

    May 20, 1999 | 8:00 pm

    Thursday was Tisha B'av -- the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av -- the day on which we fast, pray and commemorate the tragedy of our people's past. According to tradition, many of the worst catastrophes to befall the Jewish people took place on Tisha B'av: The destruction of the first...
  • Love and Marriage

    April 22, 1999 | 8:00 pm

    The midrash says that poverty is the worst of all afflictions. But I think it's something else -- loneliness. Human beings are lonely creatures, craving love. I see it in the eyes of elderly men who lose their wives of half a century or more. I see it in the longing and desperation...
  • Pass

    March 25, 1999 | 7:00 pm

    In the wake of the Littleton shooting tragedy, a nation of finger-pointers has rounded up the usual suspects: media violence, guns, video games, the Internet. But for Jonathan Kellerman, this laundry list -- inevitably brought out in the wake of such violence -- omits one major...
  • The Only Choice We Have

    March 11, 1999 | 7:00 pm

    Sometimes the same thing that got you into trouble can get you out of it. Take for example the fact that in last week's Torah portion, our ancestors used their gold jewelry to fashion a golden calf. For this act of idolatry and faithlessness, thousands were killed as God's anger...
  • Understanding Moses

    November 5, 1998 | 7:00 pm

    If Jonathan Kirsch's purpose in writing "Moses: A Life," was to offer the reader a mightily researched, comprehensive chronicle of midrashic, scholarly, secular, Christian and even some Muslim commentaries about Moses and the events immediately surrounding his life as told in the...
  • Be the Angel

    November 5, 1998 | 7:00 pm

    At least there's one good thing we can say about Abraham preparing to sacrifice his own son Isaac. When he lifts the gleaming knife above the boy's head, an angel calls out: "Do not harm that child." Jews don't sacrifice their children. It might have been the norm in pagan societies,...
  • Keeping Score

    September 24, 1998 | 8:00 pm

    Most of us do a pretty good job of keeping score. We know how to tally the insults, gossip, infidelities, meanness, foolishness and anger of the past year. We know where we went wrong. We know how to be honest and even tough on ourselves. Like the cartoonist Jules Feiffer's character...
  • Torah Portion

    June 11, 1998 | 8:00 pm

    Striking the S-Word

    By Rabbi Steven Z. Leder

    I never heard the N-word, growing up, because we were Jewish. For my parents, the S-word sufficed. Although they never would have denied someone an opportunity based on skin color, it was " schvartzes " who...

  • Torah Portion

    March 12, 1998 | 7:00 pm

    It was my third funeral of the week, and I wastired of death. I thought this one would be easier than the others,since it was an elderly woman who suffered terribly and truly wantedto die. Her name was Sarah; her only relatives left were her nephew,Harry, and his son, Joel.

    So I...

  • Climbing Our Mountain

    February 12, 1998 | 7:00 pm

    As I, at 16, traveled through Israel for the firsttime, my Jewish nerve endings were hypersensitive. Every stone, face,taste, smell, breeze, star, touch, glimpse -- everything -- moved me.Somehow, I knew I was close to God, and now I was going to be closer-- Moses closer; I was going...

  • Torah Portion

    February 5, 1998 | 7:00 pm

    Here's a story that will sadden andamaze you. It's Jean Dominique Bauby's story. In 1995, he was theeditor-in-chief of Elle magazine in France, the father of two youngchildren, a 43-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his styleand his passion for life. Until he suffered a rare...

  • Torah Portion

    January 29, 1998 | 7:00 pm

    My older cousin, Earl, was into Judaism in a bigway when I was a kid. I mean, he was cool and everything -- playedguitar, had long hair, a beard, earth shoes and his own room in theattic -- but the guy loved to daven. From what I can remember, thismade him something of an exception...