The principal authority for contemporary American Jews, in the absence of compelling religious norms and communal loyalties, has become the sovereign self. Each person now performs the labor of fashioning his or her own self, pulling together elements from the various Jewish and non-Jewish repertoires available rather than stepping into an "inescapable framework" of identity -- familial, communal, traditional -- given at birth. Decisions about ritual observance and involvement in Jewish institutions are made and made again, considered and reconsidered, year by year, and even week by week. American Jews speak of their lives, and of their Jewish beliefs and commitments, as a journey of ongoing questioning and development. They avoid the language of arrival. There are no final answers, no irrevocable commitments.
During a Shabbat dinner, I blurted out the idea that maybe we ought to "marry first and date later." Not literally, of course, but in terms of how we approach both dating and marriage.
I had been on more than 200 first dates in Los Angeles.
I'd learned exactly what I was not looking for.
Premarital counseling can be a time for honest reflection and sharing, but frequently the lines of communication can get buried under layers of tulle and wedding cake.
Too-frequent weigh-ins can sabotage any diet efforts, because a woman's weight is a mysterious, jumpy, undependable thing that does not follow any known laws of nature. Over-weighing would lead to stress. Stress would slow down my metabolism, which was already prone to sleeping in late.
An observant Jew, Bleich provides a Jewish rationale for his commitment. While Judaism teaches that each individual is unique and special, it also emphasizes community, he says.
Occasionally, as I light a candle on the menorah on a dark December night, I think about my former Christmas dishes and the woman who bought them. I imagine that she lovingly sets them on her table, as she prepares her Christmas dinner, and I smile.
With the endorsement Wednesday of three conflicting teshuvot, or halachic responsa, by the movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards -- two upholding the longstanding ban on homosexuality and one permitting ordination of gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies -- it's likely that other rabbis will now begin performing such ceremonies, comfortable in the knowledge that they enjoy halachic sanction from the movement's highest legal body.
Main discussions focused on changing conditions in the Israeli immigration picture and Israel's economy, as well as issues facing overseas Jewish communities.
The resignation of a longtime leader of one of the largest Reform congregations in Ukraine has thrown the spotlight on a bitter controversy over homosexuality within the post-Soviet Reform movement.
Especially during the McCourts' first year of ownership, the Times sports section for the most part depicted Jamie and Frank McCourt, the latter known by Simers as the parking lot attendant, as carpetbaggers who have little interest in or knowledge of Los Angeles, social climbers who lack the financial resources to run the team and public relations novices.
On May 30, the United States Postal Service issued a series of new stamps honoring six career State Department diplomats who earned the gratitude of this nation for taking "risks to advance humanitarianism...[and] peace," even if their actions put themselves "in harm's way."
"John has given real leadership to the issue of Ethiopian Jewry," said Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, who earlier this year went to Ethiopia with Fishel and 100 American Jewish federation members. "He's always been the first one to speak up and stir the conscience of the federation movement."
Arnold Eisen is a distinguished scholar of modern Jewish thought and an insightful student of the American Jewish community. His work, "The Jew Within," written jointly with Steven Cohen, explores the identity of marginally affiliated contemporary Jews and illustrates the crisis that institutional liberal Judaism has in maintaining the allegiance of a new generation of American Jews.
Selecting an environmental mitzvah project is a good starting point. But consider adding eco-friendly substitutes for white plastic tableware, Styrofoam centerpieces, Mylar balloons and elaborate banners. Are your invitations printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks?
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's first state-of-the-city speech is likely to put bone and muscle on his school takeover pitch which, up till now, nearly a year into his term, has been theoretical and short on specifics. If Villaraigosa delivers what people all over town have been waiting for, a slew of interest groups will know where they stand and will begin to respond accordingly.
Corporate, private and organizational donors underwrite the day, including Temple Israel. The budget this year is $450,000. The city's participation will include providing security, busing and street closures. Additional donors are both welcomed and needed, Levinson said.
Note to Self: Do not date a man who says that he can't be in a relationship. Do not go out with him after he tells you he wants to go out with you -- but only casually.
hen it comes to marketing Judaism, especially to young adults, it is hard to imagine a program, innovation and --dare I say it -- gimmick that has not been tried. I would like to suggest one. Let's make Judaism harder.
Couples who have created a partnership and life together consistently talk of the effort involved. Yes, some relationships seem easier than others, but all say it takes time, energy and a true willingness to face whatever comes along on their journey together.
On the day our wedding was to have been, I was intensely aware of the time when we would have been standing under the chuppah, without seeing a clock or watch. My breath stopped, and I stood still, feeling the growing ache in my chest. I spent the day alone, and I cried. And I thought about cosmic meaning and why this was happening to me. And then everything was fine.
In the late 1940s, Ron Farrar's and Joan Pachtman's passion to help those in need charted the course for personal passion and lifelong matrimony. The West Hills residents met in college, when Ron was a member of a veteran's organization and Joan belonged to a service club.
It's a lot more than Kenn Phillips could have bargained for when he accepted this gig as principal. Lucky for him, he doesn't have to come back tomorrow.
That's because Phillips isn't the real principal, but merely principal for a day. Phillips is among more than 200 professionals who arranged to shadow principals as part of a Los Angeles Unified School District effort to create alliances between businesses and schools.
When it suits us, we refer to Israel as "the only democracy in the Middle East." When it suits us, we refer to Israel as "the Jewish state" or "the state of the Jewish people." And now and then, we describe Israel as "a Jewish democratic state."
President Bush is declaring his hope for a Palestinian state loud and clear, and no wonder -- it's almost the price of entry to the alliance with Europe that he urgently wants to revive.
Despite its fair share of controversy and assaults on its reputation, the school Jerry Friedman founded 13 years ago has established itself as an innovative, liberal Modern Orthodox high school with high academic standards, where kids for the most part really love the school.
The article "Political Activism Inspires Iranians" was very informative (Sept. 10). However, as one of the founders of the Beverly Hills Jewish Republicans, I was offended with the labeling of Jews as "Iranians."
"I want to create a place of wonder," said Lindy Lane-Epstein, who spent the summer attempting to animate her vision for a scaled-down preschool and kindergarten for members of Santa Ana's Temple Beth Sholom.
A crowd of 150 well-heeled, mostly liberal Jews paid $250 apiece to hear Cameron Kerry, Sen. John Kerry's Jewish brother and top adviser, speak about the Democratic presidential candidate's commitment to Israel and the Jewish people.
It's been six months since I relocated for work, "taking a break" from the love of my life, Los Angeles.
While on a summer vacation on the East Coast, my family and I visited some spectacular sights in northwestern North Carolina, especially near Ashville.
"Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward; instead be like servants who serve their master not for the sake of receiving a reward. And let the awe of Heaven be upon you." -- Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers)
Israeli officials are elated at the tough language in a resolution passed last week by the board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog rebuking Iran for not cooperating with nuclear inspectors.
"Why is the festival of Shavuot called 'The time of the giving of our Torah' and not the time of the receiving of our Torah? Because the giving of the Torah happened at one specified time, but the receiving of the Torah happens at every time and in every generation. -- Rabbi Meir Alter of Ger"
President Bush hugged a cantor, listened to an Orthodox high school choir, walked with an addict-turned-rabbi and heard success stories of the Jewish-based Beit T'Shuvah addiction treatment center during his March 3 Southern California visit.
Bailey Silverman and Rebecca Namm are in many ways typical teenagers. The best friends like to go to the mall, hang out with pals and talk on the phone.
But come Super Sunday, Feb. 22, the two Milken Community High School juniors will undertake the very adult mission of raising money for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and its 15 beneficiary agencies, including Jewish Family Service, Jewish Vocational Service and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. During Super Sunday, the girls will supervise a group of high school and college students in the San Fernando Valley who will call Jews throughout the Southland to make The Federation's annual fundraising extravaganza just that much more super.
Ryan and I did the L.A. supercasual thing for six or seven months. When I tried to rev up our relationship from supercasual to just plain casual, he freaked. I'm talking full-on, take-it-to-Dr. Phil meltdown:
My girlfriend wants a ring. To say that I didn't see this coming is the understatement of the century.
Rabbi Robert Gan, 63, has been senior rabbi at Temple Isaiah, an 850-family member Reform congregation on Pico Boulevard, for more than 30 years. At Temple Isaiah, Gan demonstrated his commitment to social justice, inviting such speakers as Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to address his congregation. This year, Gan begins his newest role, as president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, an agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles that brings together 250 rabbis from all denominations. Gan spoke to The Journal about his plans for his new position, and the problems facing the Jewish world today.
One of the more unusual characters in Jewish literature appears in the Book of Esther.
There are many ways to reflect on the year past and the year to come.
Its high profile -- spurred by an aggressive and media-savvy leadership -- makes the Simon Wiesenthal Center an inviting target.
"People always ask me, 'Are you still Jewish?' and I say, 'Of course,'" Nikki Schieler Ziering told The Journal over breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel. "I fell in love with Judaism because it's all about family values and having good morals. It's something I made a commitment to and that I take seriously."
When Rabbi Harvey Fields becomes rabbi emeritus on June 1, after serving for 21 years, Rabbi Steven Leder will succeed him -- a transition the two have been preparing for, along with the staff and the board, for the past three years.
Mark Karlan and other successful Jews in the business believe that realty's fealty to Jewish causes lies in factors unique to the nature of the business, which is driven by a generation profoundly connected to Jewish values and impacted by the Holocaust and the creation of Israel.
What have our military expenditures to do with the state of the states? After all, we are a long way from the guns vs. butter arguments, when we used to show how many new schools or hospitals could be built for the cost of one new aircraft carrier.
Festival Chair Itzik Glazer said he was pleased by the number of people willing to come out to the festival, despite it falling on Mother's Day.
"People have told me it's the best festival yet," said his wife, Mikki Glazer.
Renamed Big Sunday to represent the eclecticism of its volunteers, the fifth annual day of community service will take place this year on Sunday, May 4.
The self-described raconteur refuses to label herself a stand-up comedian. But Rhea Kohan's wit has, over the last decade, made her a sought-after personality in the local Jewish community, and she refuses to charge money for her humorous hostessing.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, has known Nussbaum for seven years. He said the banker's efforts to coax Wells Fargo to pay the reparations reflect Nussbaum's deep commitment to Jewish values.
Bush wants to use the road map to break the current impasse between Israel and the Palestinians, but Sharon fears that the plan may offer the Palestinians rewards without ensuring real change in their approach to Israel.
When Ahuva Goldstein attended Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn Torath Emeth in 1960, she had five students in her sixth-grade class.
The Federation raised more than $4 million this year on Super Sunday, $1 million less than last year's $5 million tally. But organizers say that a new fundraising strategy this year has rendered the single-day total superficial.
At first glance, the title of Esther Jungreis' new book, "The Committed Marriage," seems a bit redundant. After all, isn't commitment
the whole point of getting married?