Peter Beinart is no stranger to the accusation that for a self-proclaimed passionate supporter of Israel, he treats the Jewish state too harshly.
I’ve spent many hours with Monty Hall over the past two months. It’s work related, so I’ve gotten to know him in a way I never did when I was a kid. Back then, I’d come home from school and watch him on “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Apparently, there are smart people out there who still believe it’s up to Israel to revive the dead Middle East peace process.
Are you one of those Jews who got offended by Seth MacFarlane's "Jews control Hollywood" shtick at the Academy Awards last Sunday night? And do you agree with Anti-Defamation League (ADL) leader Abe Foxman's statement that MacFarlane's attempt at humor was "sad and disheartening" because it "reinforces stereotypes which legitimize anti-Semitism"?
How can a dubious and unoriginal Israeli movie become the darling of the film world and even get nominated for an Academy Award?
I don’t often write about the same subject in consecutive weeks, but because my “Birthright Shabbat” column last week elicited an unusual amount of feedback, I thought I’d share some of it with you, as well as build on the idea.
When David Suissa wonders “If Hamas had the ability to murder thousands of Jews, wouldn’t they?” he is letting stereotypes get in the way of helpful analysis (“Pogroms Interrupted,” Nov. 23). He is also, in effect, arguing that Hamas is not an organization with which peace and order can be reached.
As the missiles were flying last week between Israel and Gaza, verbal missiles were flying between two prominent Jews: Rabbi Sharon Brous in Los Angeles and Rabbi Daniel Gordis in Jerusalem.
As I’ve been watching images of Hamas rockets falling on Israel, I’ve asked myself: If Hamas had the ability to murder thousands of Jews, wouldn’t they? And if Israel didn’t have a strong army, wouldn’t we surely witness another pogrom?
Is it possible to be religiously not religious? That question came to me the other day when I asked a friend what his synagogue plans were for the coming Holy Days.
How many of us have been going around during these Days of Repentance apologizing to those we have wronged during the past year? Be honest. Have you made your list of the people you have hurt and the offenses that have hurt them? When you have apologized, have you settled for the classic cop-out: “If I have hurt you in any way, please forgive me”? Or have you simply asked for mechilla — forgiveness — and moved on?
Is it possible to take a holiday like Rosh Hashanah, which focuses so strongly on human affairs, and apply it to a nonhuman thing, like, say, a community paper? On the surface, this doesn’t make sense: Everything about Rosh Hashanah is about what we do as humans — taking stock of our behavior, repenting for our sins and renewing ourselves for the coming year.
How do you talk about Judaism in a way that’s not too “Jewish”? How do you convey Jewish ideas to Jews who might get turned off by religious ideas? Is it possible, in other words, to talk about the Jewish religion in a nonreligious way?
One of the most moving letters you’ll read this year was written by Irwin Cotler, a Canadian member of parliament, to the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, imploring him to hold a minute of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists 40 years ago at the Munich Olympics.
When it comes to criticizing Israel, liberal supporters of Israel routinely quote the Jewish value of self-criticism. Try telling a pro-Israel critic the following:
As I was reading about how America is now borrowing $250 million an hour just to stay afloat, I thought of something that my 79-year-old mother did recently at the Pico Glatt Mart. She had just flown in from Montreal, and when I told her we were expecting 20 people the following night for Shabbat, she suggested we go right to the market and not waste any time.
In case you haven’t heard, Orthodox Judaism has pretty much taken over Jewish life on U.S. college campuses. I say this not because I’m smug and happy about it, but as a wake-up call to the Conservative and Reform branches to get their acts together.
It’s tempting to look at the latest crisis in Israel — over whether the Charedim should serve in the military — as pitting religion against the state. Just look at some of the comments from both sides. On the fervent religious side, Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef has declared a state of emergency. In his weekly sermon on July 7, as reported in Ynet, the rabbi is quoted as saying.
David Suissa compellingly observes that the principal motivator of anti-Israel sentiment is the charge of “occupier”...
There is an obvious way to respond to author Alice Walker’s refusal to allow her novel “The Color Purple” to be translated into Hebrew. In case you missed it, Walker accused Israel of being “guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.”
Last week, I started writing a column about John Sullivan, a former drug and alcohol addict who restarted his life, thanks to Beit T’Shuvah. But then I got interrupted by another great story, in a documentary called “Paul Williams: Still Alive,” directed by my friend Steve Kessler. I wasn’t planning to write about the film — until I saw a packed house at the Nuart on Saturday night give it a standing ovation.
As I was reading Dennis Prager’s new book, “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph,” I found myself increasingly frustrated. The words themselves didn’t bother me; rather, it was that silly contraption I was holding in my hands, what’s known as a Kindle.
Mainstream American Judaism, in a desperate attempt to remain relevant in a wide-open and freewheeling culture, has kicked open all its doors and windows, and at least one Jew is not happy. Jack Wertheimer, professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, has hit back with a stinging essay in Commentary called “The Ten Commandments of American Jews.”
One of the biggest and most obvious challenges in raising Jewish awareness and building Jewish connection is finding ways of getting your point across. Every week, across Los Angeles, there are hundreds of classes and sermons that aim specifically to do that: get a Jewish point across. This could be a Shabbat sermon on the parasha of the week, or weekday classes on raising Jewish children, improving your marriage, refining your character, connecting to Jewish peoplehood and so on.
David Suissa wants us to believe that settlements aren’t an obstacle to peace because their physical “footprint,” their built-up area, represents “only” around 1% of the West Bank.
I have a feeling that several years from now, as the movement to strengthen Jewish connection in America accelerates, the coolest night of the year will be Shavuot.
It's common knowledge that the Bible is the “greatest book ever written.” No other book can match its power or wide appeal; no other book has been as studied, analyzed or debated. It’s the literary gift that keeps on giving, the book of books, the book for all eternity.
Meirav Finley believes that she “complements” her husband, Rabbi Mordecai Finley, leader of the independent Ohr HaTorah synagogue in West Los Angeles. In her view, the rabbi is the deep, spiritual, brilliant teacher and synagogue leader, while she is the creative and practical partner who helps implement and promote his vision.
It’s fashionable to look at Passover as a universal idea. This makes sense; after all, how much more universal can you get than the theme of human freedom? Also, it’s a lot easier these days to be outer-directed and feel outrage at injustice.
After spending three days at the J Street conference in Washington, D.C., and hearing one speaker after another talk about the importance of a two-state solution, I’ve come to the conclusion that Jews are blessed with two attributes...
Whoever said that women are not leaders in the Charedi world has never heard about the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT). The college, founded in 1969 as a scientific institution for Torah-observant Jews, has 3,800 students, about a third of whom are Charedim.
I never thought I’d ever be texting with one of my kids about bombs and bomb shelters. But there I was last week, texting back and forth with my daughter, Shanni — who is studying at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya and was driving with friends to a Purim event in the south when Palestinian bombs started falling.
It’s amazing the kind of stuff you hear when you just ask. At a family wedding last weekend in Montreal, I caught up with some relatives and heard family stories worthy of a mystery thriller.
Imagine being the mother of one of the U.S. soldiers murdered last week in Afghanistan in retaliation for the burning of Korans on a U.S. military base there. First, you discover that the Korans had already been desecrated by the jihadist prisoners themselves...
I’ve always been fascinated by romantic relationships that seem to last forever. When I hear of couples who remain deeply in love after 40, 50, 60 years of marriage, I imagine the thousands of meals they’ve shared together, the thousands of shared conversations, road trips, stories, arguments, conflicts, moments of silence, even moments of boredom that must come from knowing someone so well you can predict their every move.
For several years now, critics of Israel have been claiming that liberalism and democracy are in “crisis” in Israel. It’s what historian Gil Troy calls the “reddening of Israel, dismissing the Jewish state as a right-wing, religious, Republican project, increasingly foreign to cultured, blue-state Democrats.”
Being a weekly columnist while visiting Israel can be really stressful. Every hour or so, you get hit with a potential subject for a column. After a few days now in the Holy Land, I have no clue how to pick from this embarrassment of riches. So let’s go on a mini-tour of some of those difficult choices.
How can you defend Israel without being accused of being a tribal loyalist? You know, the type who thinks Israel is unfairly maligned by most of the world, so they’re always pushing “the other side of the story,” which includes — surprise, surprise — a lot of positive items about the Jewish state.
Negative stereotypes can be numbing. One that has dulled our senses for years is that Jews and Arabs can’t get along. Many of us simply take it for granted. Read haaretz.com regularly, and you might even conclude that Israel’s Arab population is living miserably under an apartheid-like regime.
There is a scene at the end of Steven Spielberg’s controversial 2005 film, “Munich,” that disappointed a lot of Israel’s supporters. Spielberg’s camera caresses the dramatic Manhattan skyline, pans over the East River and ends hauntingly at the Twin Towers, which were still standing at the time of the film’s events.
It’s a fight to the death: As the digital revolution marches on, and more and more people do their reading on user-friendly digital devices, the end of paper’s 500-year reign seems to be at hand.
It never occurred to me that I’d have to visit the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail to get a deeper understanding of the Charedi crisis in Israel. I call it a crisis because, in my mind, anything that makes the Jewish religion look really bad is a crisis.
What do you do when you run out of money? When you’re about to be evicted from your home, or having trouble feeding your kids, or simply can’t afford the basic necessities of life? What happens, also, when you can’t afford certain things you consider crucial — like sending your children to a Jewish day school?
"The Palestinian people does not exist,” exclaimed the politician. The audacity of the statement shocked me, because it came from the mouth of Zahir Muhsein, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, in a 1977 interview with a Dutch newspaper.
Adam Ungar was a happy kid who loved to ski and play the piano. He was a regular at his local synagogue, and he always looked forward to spending the holidays with his grandparents, who lived an hour away by train. Adam and his younger sister, Helen, would often go horseback riding while visiting with their bubbe and zayde.
“I came to see a clash!” the man bellowed from the back of the audience. “Instead, all I’m seeing tonight is two people getting along.”
One of the great human virtues is gratitude. In Jewish tradition, we are encouraged to make at least 100 blessings of gratitude a day. The very first words we say every morning are “I give thanks before you, eternal King, for having restored to me my soul.”
Few stories have shaken me up this year quite like the sexual scandal at Penn State University.
From the start, something has annoyed me about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to put my finger on it. Maybe, like much of the country, I’ve been caught up in the spontaneous fervor and social ideals of the movement. There’s something about people taking to the streets to protest injustice that seduces democracy lovers like myself — especially when you throw in colorful tents, clever slogans and drum circles.
Few things in Jewish life get a rabbi more excited than the chance to help Jews marry other Jews. One reason is the difficulty factor: It’s always been a challenge to convince young Jews, especially the unaffiliated, to limit their marriage options to the 2 percent of the population that is Jewish.
“Never mind the collapse in confidence in Europe, the Palestinian proposal for United Nations recognition and heightened tensions with neighboring Egypt and longtime ally Turkey. The Israeli economy just keeps growing faster than the rest of the developed world.”
You can say a lot about Israel, but not that it’s a normal country.
Trust the Jews to begin the holiest moment of the year on Yom Kippur not with a prayer, but with an ambiguous declaration. The Kol Nidre is not a prayer; it is a text that
I often wonder what would happen if political leaders were replaced by creative directors of advertising agencies. You see, in the ad business there’s a law against boredom.
I spent the long Sunday of 9/11 at events that had nothing to do with 9/11, but there was no way to avoid that day’s ominous shadow.