When I think of Torah, the first thing that comes to mind is a divine, rigorous system of laws that guides an ethical and holy way of life. The last thing I think about is whimsy and romance
In the Jewish schools of today, Jewish literacy can have new and special meaning. It calls for a refocus on the linguistic, textual and ethical dimensions of learning, which will be the legacy we leave our students.
I don't know how many times I've been in a conversation with a Christian who suddenly out of nowhere asked, "What do you think of Neusner?" They don't even feel a need to mention the man's first name, which is Jacob, assuming that as a Jew I would obviously be familiar with the rabbi and scholar who, for non-Jews interested in Judaism, is the No. 1 go-to guy.
When a Christian wants to know something about Judaism, which lately more and more do, a typical first course of action is a visit to Barnes & Noble, to the Jacob Neusner section of the Judaica shelves. His singularity is worth pondering.
Since opening in December 1958, Congregation Beth Meier has been a quiet, unassuming little staple of Jewish life near the corner of Moorpark Street and Colfax Avenue. The shul -- its name honors not Schimmel, but Mishnah writer Rabbi Meier Ba'al Ha'Ness -- has about 150 families. While Beth Meier's exterior replicates the Tomb of Rachel, its brown, wooden interior intentionally was designed to resemble the Little Brown Church in the Valley, the Sherman Oaks church where Ronald and Nancy Reagan were married. Only on the High Holidays was Beth Meier's cozy sanctuary traded for the larger Studio City Theater on Ventura Boulevard, now a Bookstar.
Letters to Dear Rabbi.