November 8, 2007
Authors explain Jewish influences on their works
(Page 2 - Previous Page)He was the one who sent me to Sydney, Australia, and Oxford, England, which was the period of the formable years of my life. The modern State of Israel is flourishing and fills me with inspiration, wonder and awe. I also admire the Israeli soldiers, who work so dedicatedly to serve the Israeli people for so many centuries, and I seek to emulate service to the people of the Holy Land.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is an ordained Chabad Lubavitch Orthodox rabbi and an international best-selling author of 18 books, most notably, "Kosher Sex." He hosts the national TV show, "Shalom in the Home," which airs Sunday nights on TLC at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.shmuley.com.
When I was 7 years old, my mom wanted to take my sister and me to where she vacationed as a kid, so she took us to the Concord Hotel in the Catskills. We went to see the comedian whose name was Mal Z. Lawrence, and I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. I bought his album in the lobby and tried to remember all the jokes to tell my friends at school. Twenty years later, we went to see a Broadway show called, "Catskills on Broadway," and Mal Z. Lawrence was in the show, and I thought it was so cool to see him again, and he was still hysterical.
That's the earliest memory I have of a Jewish influence on my sense of humor. I always connected with it, even at an early age, since it's in my bones and who I am. The crazy thing is, Bryan Fogel, my "Jewtopia" writing partner, was brought up practically Orthodox, while I was brought up Reform, and yet we still had all the same cultural experiences in our Jewish households growing up, which I think is why our stuff seems to appeal to Jews of all denominations.
Sam Wolfson is a comedy writer and co-playwright of "Jewtopia," Los Angeles' longest-running comedy, with Bryan Fogel. Their book, based on of the play, was one of Time-Warner's major releases for fall 2006. They are currently in preproduction on a film adaptation. For more information, visit http://www.jewtopiaworld.com.
Rabbi Elliot Dorff
What inspired me to write "The Way Into Tikkun Olam (Fixing the World)"? In part, it is what inspires me to be a serious Jew in the first place. Camp Ramah has had a major influence on my life, for it was there that I learned that Judaism is not only emotionally compelling but also intellectually challenging and morally astute. You do not have to turn off either your mind or your heart to be a committed Jew; in fact, Jewish sources from Abraham to our own time require us to wrestle with God and with the problems of the world.
I have ... written books on Jewish medical, social and personal ethics.... This book is an attempt to bring together many of Judaism's moral lessons about fixing our society and fixing our families, so that we can come closer to attaining the ideal world that Judaism would have us strive to attain, as described in the last chapter of the book. It describes, in other words, nothing less than the Jewish mission in life, one that makes life both challenging and meaningful.
Rabbi Elliot Dorff is a professor of philosophy at American Jewish University. He is an expert in the philosophy of Conservative Judaism and bioethics. In his book, he provides a comprehensive introduction to the roots of the beliefs and laws that are the basis of the Jewish commitment to improve the world.
What I love about Judaism is that it's a system built with rules and patterns, while at the same time offering opportunity for personal expression.You may daven the same words every day, but you invest those words with feelings and emotions that can change from one prayer to the next. You have the weekly regularity of Shabbat with its many observances, but you can experience different nuances of holiness based on your personal practices.
I also love the fact that Judaism embraces a respect for nature -- the Jewish calendar is built around the cycles of the moon and sun; we demonstrate our desire to live in harmony with nature through Tu B'Shevat observances.
Finally, I appreciate the fact that Judaism is limitless. You can spend your entire life studying Jewish texts and continually discover new insights and find new ways to apply Judaism to your life.
My love of origami (from the Japanese word for paper folding) is very much interconnected with my feelings about Judaism. I love the challenge of being creative within a system that imposes certain limits or constraints. Like Judaism, paper folding has constraints, not governed by halacha [Jewish law] but by principles of geometry and physics -- a piece of paper only has two sides; it can be subdivided only so many times without tearing; the most natural kind of fold is a straight line.
Yet despite these constraints, there is no limit to the kinds of things that can be represented with origami -- animals, people, plants, natural forms, abstract figures. And when folded by a master, origami models manifest a stirring harmony with the natural world, exhibiting the texture and vitality of living beings.
Joel Stern, author of "Jewish Holiday Origami," has published two books on Origami, as well as "Washington Pops!," a collection of do-it-yourself pop-up cards of famous buildings in Washington, D.C., which have been exhibited in the United States, Japan and Israel.
Rabbi Steven Greenberg
People inspire me. People like Wilhelmina Perry, an African American lesbian who lived in a 30-year relationship, and then when her partner died, lost her home and half her income because there is no marriage equality in this country.