David Suissa has been writing a brilliant monologue, telling Los Angeles Jews that Israel’s settlements are legal and Israel’s enemies are so very afraid. The problem with his monologue is that it will convince no one who is not already convinced.
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?
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.
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.
When Peter Beinart's new book, "The Crisis of Zionism," was published earlier this year, it was met with a tsunami of responses -- from reviews, to op-ed pieces and a fury of blogging.
Can you “sell” Judaism in a few minutes? This question came up in a piece in The Forward by Leonard Fein, who was commenting on a recent debate in New York City between Daniel Gordis and Peter Beinart. In the debate, as Fein quotes, they were asked this question: “Both of you have written about the tragedy of young American Jews who have no connection to Judaism and the fate of the Jewish state. So let’s say you were stuck in an elevator with one of the people from that demographic, and you had two minutes to sell them about why they should re-engage with Jewishness and Zionism and the Jewish people. What would you say?”
On Wednesday, May 16 JewishJournal.com will live stream a debate between Peter Beinart and David Suissa, "Is Zionism in Crisis?" at Temple Israel of Hollywood.
Every year around Christmas and Chanukah time, writers, commentators, pundits and many rabbis, priests and ministers exhort Americans against spending money on things. We are too materialistic, we are told every year. Happiness, not to mention a meaningful life, depends on our having non-material things, not material things.
What do you do if an annoying and exasperating friend gets in trouble and really needs your help? And what do you do if that friend is also a blood relative, like Israel? I often ask myself that question about progressive, pro-Israel Jews who are furious at the direction in which their beloved Israel is going.
One of the most ironic obstacles to peace in the Middle East is what I call the Jewish disease of “ifonlyitis.” This is the school of thought that says “if only” Israel would do this, or “if only” Israel would do that, then we finally might resolve the conflict. I suffer from the syndrome myself, and for that I blame my mother. She convinced me from a very young age that “if only” I put my mind to something, there’s nothing I can’t do.
I’m not sure, but I think I have a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or at least another way of looking at it. It hit me the other day after I broke bread at Pat’s Restaurant with some people connected to Americans for Peace Now, a leftist Jewish organization that actively promotes the two-state solution.
If your organization is having trouble raising funds for a building or a major physical expansion, now might be a good time to consider more creative and less costly ways of fulfilling your mission.
" . . .The separation of church and state is the foundation for religious freedom in our great country. Shame on you Rabbis for Obama . . ."
The U'netaneh Tokef prayer-poem (who shall live and who shall die) can be seen as ominous or beautiful, depending upon the prism of the interpreter. Rabbi Naomi Levy pointed out that the prayer was written by "one dude" and should not be seen as a divine writ.
Watch the Torah Slam in this video from our friends at the Jewish Television Network
" . . . It is the grassroots work that will, more likely than not, serve as the impetus for and foundation of whatever action our government takes in response to genocides like the one in Darfur . . ."
Last Saturday, on the Jewish Sabbath, I was attending prayer services at one of the big synagogues in Los Angeles, Beth Jacob Congregation, when something unusual happened that made me think of writing you this letter.
" . . . In Fairfax High School, I had a brilliant and wise instructor of advanced placement European History who used to say: 'Do not put all your faith in one man. For surely he will disappoint you.' And he also said: '40 million Frenchmen can be wrong' . . ."
" . . . If the phylogenetic journey from bug to man is but the beginning of the beginning of consciousness, whither goeth evolution and destiny? Personally, I believe there is intelligent life on Earth, and that some of its beings walk among us. . . . "
Is there any hope for peace in Israel? Are things getting better or worse? Does war and conflict dominate Israeli consciousness? After spending a week in the Holy Land with very little sleep and lots of Turkish coffee, talking to bright people from the left to the right, I can report with absolute certainty that I have no idea.
". . . Watching the first legal gay marriage in Los Angeles . . . between two Jewish women, with their rabbi and their Jewish lawyer, fills me with extraordinary pride as a Jew . . ."
The most important thing I can say to all my Persian friends is that before we are anything, we are all Jews. What binds us together is not just our humanity, but the collective Jewish identity we forged at Sinai some 3,300 years ago.
I think you made one faux pas, however. Religious Jews don't allow a razor to come in contact with their face when shaving, which is why Orthodox Jews use only electric shavers instead of razor blades.
Here we are, Jews in every corner of the world, awash in a frenzy of celebrations for Israel -- all because of a birthday. And not just any birthday, mind you, but one that ends in a zero.
Is there a more loaded word in the Arab-Israeli conflict than "refugee"
If you think this column is too religious, wait until you see Jewish Life. If I snorkel into observant Judaism, then it goes deep-sea diving. If this column is "the hood," then Jewish Life is the hood on steroids.
This, for me, is the Chabad genius: a knack on the deed, not the talk. They don't get turned on by grand debates that lead to more grand debates. While the Jewish world agonizes over "profoundly important" issues, Chabad agonizes over getting to Kinko's on time to get their flyers out for their Chanukah event.
Rabbi Effie's specialty is dealing with teenagers. On this night, a happy group of teens is buzzing throughout his modest but welcoming home, and they are filling its many "play areas."
Today, one of the great Moroccan sages, Rabbi Chaim Pinto of the city of Mogador, has a living presence right here in our own hood, on Pico Boulevard, just east of Robertson. It's at a little shul called the Pinto Center.
There's no question that Gino's got a thing for Jews. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that for the better part of 40 years, Jewish women have accounted for 90 percent to 95 percent of his hairdressing business.
I can see going a little nuts on Purim, when we celebrate a seminal victory that saved the Jewish people, but going bananas on a day of Torah?
The Etta Israel Center runs programs to teach Judaism to developmentally challenged children and young adults, as well as group homes for adults (its third home will open in the Valley in June) and a popular summer day camp. It helps Jewish day schools meet the learning needs of all its students, and has trained thousands of teachers in how to help all children learn through its Schools Attuned programs.
"Le Grand Role" has laughter, pathos, in-jokes, heartburn, self-caricature -- in other words, it's a really, really Jewish film, even though the characters insist on speaking French.
I want to respond to my observant friends who have asked me to answer this question: What can they take from a Jew who doesn't believe the Torah is the word of God and who feels no need or obligation to follow His commandments? What can they take from that "truth"?
A group of Sephardic, Chasidic, Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, unaffiliated, atheist, right- and left-wing Jews were gathered at a private dinner -- and no one had to call security.