Rabbi David Wolpe and Elon Gold speak at the 2013 Jewish Funders Network Conference.
One night some years ago, two powerful Jewish men in media, one from New York and one from Los Angeles, were walking together through the streets of Jerusalem when they hatched a little idea.
During a recent candidates’ forum at Sinai Temple, Los Angeles City Councilman and mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti began his opening statement by thanking his hosts, the audience, and the moderator, Rabbi David Wolpe.
Lance Armstrong proved surprisingly poor at backpedaling. His stone-faced, reluctant regret made many who watched the interview wonder if this was an illness. Why did this man mow down associates, besmirch employees, lie, cheat and bully his way to the top of a sport he is now insouciantly tearing down around him?
This year, we return to the wisdom offered by our rabbis during the High Holy Days in years past. What follows are excerpts from some exceptional sermons and High Holy Days writings; many more voices could have been included, of course, but we hope this will inspire you to revisit your own synagogues’ archives.
We are grateful that our nation is founded on the highest principles of freedom and resourcefulness and creativity and ever renewed strength. And we understand that those worthy ideals stand alongside the commitment to compassion, to goodness, our sacred covenant to care for those who are bereaved and bereft, who are frightened, who are hungry, who are bewildered and lost, who seek shelter from the cold.
This week David Wolpe, senior rabbi of Sinai Temple, delivered one of the invocations at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Even for someone used to and deserving of such honors, this is a big deal.
Surely the most unpromising premise for a film ever conceived is this: Nine and one half hours of people speaking in languages you do not understand about mass murder. Yet “Shoah” offers an experience unlike any other film, and its creator has written a memoir introducing us to the extraordinary man responsible for its existence.
Announcing his new book in a hucksterish email to J street members, Peter Beinart details the truths vouchsafed to him and his fellow enlightened acolytes. A brief sampler:
Is there an afterlife?
Benjamin Disraeli was born Jewish, baptized as a boy but (mostly) considered himself to be Jewish. He famously proclaimed to Queen Victoria -- who began by hating him and ended adoring him -- that he was the "blank page" separating the Old and New Testaments.
The start of the event was running late -- did I mention it was a Jewish event? -- and midway through our green room conversation, Hitchens pulled out a small bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. He emptied it into a 16-ounce clear-plastic cup and drizzled in some Crystal Geyser spring water. And he began sipping.
In Jewish tradition, the act of seeking forgiveness from someone we have harmed is clear and specific.
Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple informed his congregation by letter this week that he was recently diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma; Anna Krakovich survived a suicide bomb attack to become a response team leader for SELAH; Salman Rushdie speaks out as pro-Israel Muslim; Israeli and American staff and campers at the Union for Reform Judaism's Camp Newman collaborated on recording a song titled "Kol Yisrael (We Are All Connected)."
"Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity": Traditional Judaism feared and distrusted this child of the enlightenment. Although prominent Jewish thinkers, from Moses Mendelssohn to Solomon Maimon to modern Zionists, have claimed him as their own, every deliberation on Spinoza wonders -- is he a Jewish thinker?
Rabbi David Wolpe has removed himself from consideration for the job of leading the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York. Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Westwood, had been widely considered a front-runner for chancellor at JTS, the central institution in Conservative Judaism.
Rabbi David Wolpe has removed himself from consideration for the job of leading the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York. Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Westwood, had been widely considered a frontrunner for chancellor at JTS, the central institution in Conservative Judaism.
Letters to the Editor.
Rabbi David Wolpe keeps the hundreds of "Exodus letters" he's received in two piles on his desk: for and against. And given the still-swirling controversy over his speech on Pesach, even he is surprised that the grateful and congratulatory letters outnumber the negative ones 20 to 1.
A month after Passover, the winds have not yet died down from the "Wolpe Hurricane."
Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood caused a stir when he asserted, in earshot of a Los Angeles Times reporter, that the Exodus story can still inspire us even if, as some archaeologists assert, the story of the liberation from Egypt is not true. Rabbi Wolpe's remarks ended up on the Times' front page during Passover and became grist for sermons and Torah study all over town.
It's a well-known fact that millions of Jews have doubts about the literal veracity of Bible stories. On April 8, 9 and 15, I gave a series of sermons that emphasized the following point: faith is independent of doubt. I wanted the millions of doubting Jews to know that they can still be faithful Jews and live a life of meaning and mitzvahs.
Today you die. No one pronounces that horrible sentence on Yom Kippur, but it is true. Yom Kippur reenacts death. We wear white, like the shrouds we will one day be buried in. We do not eat, wash, procreate; we are as corpses. We recite the "Unetaneh Tokef," filled with graphic, even gruesome images about our death.
When painful loss occurs in our lives, we want to make some sense of it: Why did she get so sick? Why did I lose my livelihood? Why can't we conceive a child? Why did he die? In his new book, "Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times" (Riverhead Books, $23.95), David Wolpe, author and rabbi of Sinai Temple in Westwood, begins by asserting that during periods of great pain, we tend to ask the wrong questions. Whether consciously or not, we search in vain for an answer to the plaintive "why" in order to gain some measure of control over what has made us so powerless.