In a few weeks, Eric Garcetti might become Los Angeles’ youngest mayor in more than a century. When Eric was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University from 1993 to 1996, we were close friends and he was a regular at my L’Chaim Society.
What was G-d thinking when he sent Hurricane Sandy and what could have been its purpose?
In the summer of 2008 I received a phone call from the Obama campaign asking me to serve as national co-chair of Rabbis for Obama. What prompted the call? First, an article I had written praising the senator for using his name Barack — which he said his father had told him means blessing in Hebrew — rather than the more generic Barry.
The patriarch Jacob, my namesake (Jacob Shmuel) of whom we have read the past few weeks in the Bible, is the most maligned of all the patriarchs.
The number of public men destroyed of late through sexual scandals is simply staggering. Within 48 hours of each other we heard that IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who many believed would be the next President of France, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, until a few weeks ago the Governor of the most populous state in the Union, self-destructed with sex scandals.
The New York Times article last week about the explosion of anorexia and eating disorders in the orthodox community highlights a tragedy that has long been buried. About four years ago I published a column about an eighteen-year-old girl my daughter knew at seminary in Jerusalem who died of anorexia. The seminary denied it was the cause and cited some other illness, even though the girls at the seminary watched her wasting away with the administration seemingly oblivious.
The past few weeks I have seen a revolution. On a lecture tour that took me to Sydney, Australia and Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, I hardly found a major mainstream synagogue without a Chabad Rabbi. Shules that once swore they would not invite in Chabad are now attracting large numbers of new members under the helm of young and charismatic Chabad Rabbis. Many are the biggest Shules in their respective countries. In Sydney, Australia I spoke at Central Synagogue, where Rabbi Levi Wolf has transformed a synagogue on the decline into a renowned powerhouse; for Rabbi Benzion Milecki whose years at Southhead Synagogue have made it one of the most vibrant in the Southern Hemisphere; and for Rabbi Motti Feldman, creator of the vibrant Dover Heights community.
Hearing about a bomb going off in Jerusalem is entirely different when you have two daughters living there. You scramble for your phone. You search out your kids. Any potential delay in their answering their cells is painful. You finally get through. Thank God, they’re all right. But what of those who aren’t? Those maimed and killed who were also someone’s daughters, sons, mothers and fathers?
The advent of Passover and Easter, which always fall around the same time, beckons a deeper discussion about one of the principle differences between Judaism and Christianity. In essence it is the difference between a values system based on struggle and a values system based on perfection.
This coming Friday night, Sept. 25, NBC will air a one-hour, prime-time “Dateline” special hosted by Meredith Vieira, featuring a book I am publishing on the 30 hours of conversations I conducted with Michael Jackson. The book, “The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Private Conversation,” contains the most insightful, raw, painful and authentic conversations for public distribution that Michael ever had.
It’s become pretty rough being a rabbi in New Jersey, where your friends call you up to ask not what you’re planning to talk about in your Saturday sermon but whether you have a phone in your cell.
It’s become pretty rough being a Rabbi in New Jersey where your friends call you up to ask not what you’re planning to talk about in your Saturday sermon but whether you have a phone in your cell.
What blow against Western decadence were they striking by targeting a Chabad house, whose entire purpose it is to spread spirituality to people whose lives lack it?
About a year ago I wrote a column about how the word "shvartza" must be retired forever. It is an insulting, offensive, and derogatory term that has no place in the mouths of people committed to ethics.
The extreme practice of ostracization was justified by the belief that only by completely cutting off those who married out would we be making a sufficiently strong statement as to the extent of their betrayal, thereby dissuading those who might follow suit.