When Hurricane Sandy made landfall in late October, it left much of New York City and its surrounding communities in shambles, sending shockwaves all the way to Los Angeles. Touched by the stories of devastation, three local rabbis and their congregations pulled together to raise nearly $75,000 in one week to help residents in the Five Towns on Long Island and Far Rockaway, Queens, both areas with vibrant Jewish communities.
Rabbi Kanefsky is as passionate a Jew and lover of Israel as I've ever met. By lighting up a firestorm of passion in other Jews, he reminded me why I so passionately love my people, even -- and sometimes especially -- when I disagree with them.
Has Orthodox reggae star Matishayu severed his ties with Chabad-Lubavitch? Is he a bad influence on religious youth? And is he still frum? Blogs have been buzzing over these questions since Matisyahu appeared to distance himself from Chabad last month.
This notion of blindness is a common theme in the life of Dennis Brown, a Chasidic Jew and professional counselor in his early 60s who runs the state-certified Ness Counseling Center in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. Dennis deals with what he calls "the schmutz of life" on a daily basis -- physical and sexual abuse, drugs, marital and family problems, wife beating, pleated pants.
They were filming the third episode of "Camp Bnos Yisrael," billed as "a new DVD series for women and girls only." And the actors were all from an ultra-observant all-girls summer program called Kol Neshama Performing Arts Conservatory.
Fifteen years ago, Mordechai Naor walked to Congregation Shaarei Tefila in the Fairfax district with a handgun as his companion. Six years after moving to the Pico-Robertson neighborhood and leaving those fears of mugging behind, Naor is considering re-kindling an old relationship.
Within Jewish circles, much of the focus on sexual predators has centered on the Orthodox community, particularly its more ultra-religious precincts, where some contend that clergy sex abuse is more hidden -- and possibly more widespread -- than elsewhere. Whether or not those contentions are true, the problem in that community was spotlighted by two recent episodes in the fervently Orthodox, or haredi, community.
Dear Rabbi Wolpe,
I admit it.
As an Orthodox rabbi, I'm genuinely embarrassed at the moment.
Judging by the recent goings-on in the Jewish book publishing world, where certain Orthodox authors have been taken to task for their controversial writings and books have either been banned, forcibly censored or book tours were canceled, it would seem that we don't have our act completely together.
A man who will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court next year that his planned execution in Florida's electric chair constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" can point to a 2,000-year-old Jewish law when he pleads his case.