When we talk about Jewish values, we usually refer to things like justice, compassion, generosity, humility, honesty, faith, wisdom and so on. We rarely talk about beauty.
Hollywood is not heaven. People give up their lives to move to Hollywood and try to make it big, and 99 percent of them fail.
" . . . Some people might think that you would never find a Jewish symbol on The Journal cover on a Jewish holiday, but they would be wrong . . . "
The Republican Party platform endorses positions at odds with those of most Jewish voters -- but not when it comes to Israel.
Then I asked Çakirözer, from Turkey, what he liked best about America. He said it was something he had never seen in his country, and never seen in all the countries to which he'd traveled. Yet it was something that said a lot about the core values of a rich and prosperous nation.
While many children of bar mitzvah age are unable to grasp all that their newfound responsibilities entail, each one recognizes the occasion as an important turning point in their lives as Jews.
We all instinctively identify and label the heroes and villains in our lives, and Judaism supports the need for iconic heroes.
Synagogue membership that is diverse in background, knowledge, experience and interest also challenges synagogue leadership to be teachers of Judaism. That teaching must be guided by the conviction that Jewish literacy is not simply about book learning but also Jewish heritage and life.
"Therefore" connects all our fine sentiments and deep wisdom with the reality of the world. "Therefore" binds us to bring our values out of the vague realm of our subjectivity and into the hard objective world of work, family, politics and power. "Therefore" tests all our spiritual aspirations and visions against the limits of our courage, imagination and resolve. "Therefore" makes religion real. Every day, someone confesses, "Rabbi, I'm a deeply spiritual person."
"I realized that if you have the ability to help other people, you're in a pretty good place," says Debbie Tenzer. "It's not always easy, because basically, we're selfish creatures, many of us struggling every day. We have to make a choice, and it starts by doing just one nice thing."
Any organization's program and operational decisions should stem from the philosophy, beliefs and vision that are its reasons for being in the first place. These basic values, however, are often assumed, yet rarely articulated.
Fewer than one-fifth of non-Jews who marry Jews convert to Judaism, according to a new study distributed by the American Jewish Committee.
For more than 30 years, the settlers' dream has choked the dream of free Israelis. The dream of the whole land of Israel and a messianic kingship drains daily the hope of being a people free to build a just society.
Each year, The Los Angeles Business Journal uses legwork and a little guesswork to discern who's worth the most in Los Angeles. Once the list comes out, as it did this week, I like to run it through the old "Who's a Jew?" detector.
It's not that glitz, glamour and secular themes at b'nai mitzvah are inherently problematic, like in the soon-to-be-released one-upsmanship film, "Keeping Up With the Steins," but when they're inadequately balanced with Jewish values we can be left with an empty shell of a party that undermines the entire point of these meaningful milestones.
Boteach enters the picture on a mission, although we are not sure from the outset what it is. He introduces himself as having counseled thousands of families and being the author of a best-selling book on family life.
The subject of women in their late 30s and early 40s deciding to become pregnant through artificial insemination isn't new. Feminist writer Wendy Wasserstein, who died in January, had a baby that way in 1999. And Lori Gottlieb, The Journal columnist whose words appeared in this very space, chronicled her artificial insemination journey in "The XY Files" in September's Atlantic magazine. (Mazal Tov to Lori, who gave birth to a boy in December!)
Avigdor Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu, became the fourth-largest party in Israeli politics Tuesday, winning seats in the next Knesset from a strong base of Russian-speaking voters as well as tens of thousands of veteran Israelis.
My act of civil disobedience -- refusing to consume the flesh of once-living, breathing animals -- has virtually no effect, perhaps none whatsoever. Agribusiness decides far in advance how many cows to raise and then slaughter without regard to my individual case.
Some Torah portions lend themselves very easily to sermons. Yitro, which contains the giving of the Ten Commandments has lots of material about which to talk. Others are more challenging, like Tazria-Metzorah, which has extensive discussions about skin diseases, inflammations and rashes.
Having an open dialogue -- about things like rap music, Xbox games or Polly Pockets -- is essential for raising moral and ethical children. Creating the stage begins in infancy. There are no guarantees about the results of our parenting efforts, but there are ways we as parents can tilt the odds in our favor.
After 25 years of dieting, this is what I know: There's more to me than the sum of my parts, no matter how much they weigh.
"J-ated," as in "jaded," might be the best way to describe the ennui that has set in among many JDaters these days, singles tired of the merry-go-round of endless possibility and disappointment.
In spite of that, or because of it, new dating Web sites seem to pop up every day.
Let's face it. Every marriage between two Jews is an intermarriage. I'm not talking about the obvious ones, like a marriage between an Orthodox Jew and a Jew-by-birth who is not at all religious. Clearly if one spouse davens three times a day and the other spouse uses Mapquest to find her way to synagogue on Yom Kippur, a silver anniversary is not in their future. I'm talking about the rest of us.
Betty Friedan, who died last weekend at age 85 at her home in Washington, D.C., was both universal woman and particular Jew. The word Jewish does not appear at all in "The Feminine Mystique," her seminal work, yet every heartbeat was a Jewish one. Once, in her 50s, after fame, fortune and independence had filled her life, she asked one favor of friends -- to find her a nice Jewish husband.
Attending the North American Association of Jewish High Schools' (NAAJHS) leadership conference last year awakened me to the great possibilities of Jewish pluralism. NAAJHS was founded as a forum for Jewish community high schools to exchange ideas and work toward the betterment of Jewish education.
Were Spielberg another too-left Hollywood type who cavalierly flirted with the tough issues posed by "Munich" with no previous record of involvement or concern about Jewish matters, one might begin to fathom the nastiness of the attacks and the gratuitous personal barbs. But he comes to the movie with a distinguished, if not unparalleled, track record of achievement vis a vis the Jewish community, Israel and its image.
"David Karp made it possible for us to have this program," said attorney Yacov Greiff, scoutmaster of Troop 613 at Shaarey Zedek. "Aside from personal kindness and modesty, exemplary menschlichkeit and tireless efforts on behalf of the Jewish community, he deserves particular recognition for going out of his way to reach across sectarian lines."
One thing that stands out is this: Hollywood is making Westerns again, but this time, the Indians are Arab.
I'm not talking about the early Hollywood Indian -- a cartoon bad guy or buffoon who spoke pigeon English and was played by a white guy.
Scholars-in-residence Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Steven Leder and Dr. Bruce Powell will address teaching children values and ethics at Brandeis-Bardin Institute's family weekend Nov. 19-21. Sponsored by The Jewish Journal, the weekend will explore how ethics interface with spirituality, social justice, education and consumerism. Renowned child development specialist Dr. Ian Russ will address how kids learn ethics, and an expert from Merrill Lynch will discuss saving for your children and grandchildren.
The goal of shaping high-quality people is especially foremost during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's recent indictment and arrest on charges of wire fraud involve an already notorious individual.
When Mark Firestone was searching for a shul to join, he didn't look for a shul that had a nursery school or Hebrew school attached. Nor did he fret about the services he'd be getting for his membership fee. Instead, he wanted a shul that was quiet.
"I wanted it to be very quiet, so you can hear yourself daven, and hopefully Hashem can hear it," said Firestone, a Pico-Robertson life insurance salesman who belongs to Aish HaTorah. "I have been to other shuls where you can barely hear the Torah reading, because people are talking so much. Aish has zero tolerance for people talking in shul."
For many Jews, the High Holidays is a time when they consider joining or renewing their synagogue memberships. However, what attracts them to synagogues, and what rabbis feel is important when choosing a synagogue, is not always the vast array of services that synagogues and temples provide.
Many members and rabbis feel that it is the intangibles -- the atmosphere in the shul or the feeling of community that really attracts people, not the Hebrew school, youth program or adult education that is offered.
Lately, I've been thinking about two novels I recently enjoyed: "The Other Shulman" by Alan Zweibel (Villard, $23.95), and "Joy Comes in the Morning" by Jonathan Rosen (Picador, $14).
Professor Ron Folman leads me down a few staircases of the science building of Ben Gurion University (BGU) in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva to show me his million-dollar, state-of-the-art nanotech laboratory.
It feels like we're descending to some basement bomb shelter of an old Israeli building. Actually, we are. Very recently, the laboratory was a bomb shelter. And despite the double doors leading to a white, clean room with an air-pressurized system to keep the expensive equipment immaculate, there is still a feel of the makeshift here, in the wall coverings, in the tiled ceilings, in the fact that it was formerly a bomb shelter before Folman came along.
"Building a lab was the condition for me to do my high-tech here," said Folman, a scientist in his 40s who is darkly handsome in a 1970s professorial way. Sometimes it's "frustrating," added the head of the Atom Chip Laboratory, to make do with a lab that's been improvised into a basement bomb shelter, "but in the big picture we're doing more than science. We're helping the Negev and making a difference. These are not just words for me."
As the big talkers started in, Ort reminded them about Steven, a fictional character who showed up in a scenario during their seminar on sexual ethics. Ort reminded the 20 boys what they'd said about Steven, who had boasted about his experiences and tried to push a pal into also going "all the way" with a girl.
Both of these men have made important contributions to the U.S.-Israel relationship -- Weissman, an expert on Iran, and Rosen, a principal architect of the U.S.-Israel strategic cooperative relationship for more than 20 years.
Inherently, I knew I would end up marrying a woman with a similar worldview. But only recently, after becoming engaged to an idealistic high school English teacher named Dena Stein, do I realize how our similarities, the big ones as well as the seemingly minute ones, make all the difference.
One of the signal contributions of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) over the many years has been its stream of publications reporting on and analyzing our community.
There is no doubt that Antonio Villaraigosa is flashy. But Los Angeles has enough movie stars.
When I was in 12th grade at L.A. Hebrew High School, our Chumash teacher, Eliezer Slomovic, interrupted a lesson to share with us a little of his anger. He had davened on the previous Shabbat in a friend’s shul — I think to attend a bar mitzvah. Eliezer, as we called him, always got to shul on time and apparently the gabbai wanted to honor him with an aliyah. He came up to our teacher and asked, “Do you keep kosher?”
As he told us this, Eliezer, a learned and humble man, looked down and slowly shook his head in wonder and sorrow. The room full of 16- and 17-year-olds perked up. We stopped passing notes or flirting with the boy across the room. We sensed that Eliezer was about to impart an important life lesson.
Cecelie Wizenfeld is not alone in her efforts to find memorable ways of helping children connect with the holiday. While model seders, seder plate illustrations and handmade afikomen bags have become standard educational fare in the classroom, many Southland religious and day school teachers are finding that creative and unusual holiday projects make more of an impact.
In response to the three clerics who made the front page of The New York Times, in just one week several hundred clergy, mostly from the United States, signed on to a letter of support for WorldPride in Jerusalem, saying, among other things, that "Jerusalem, a living, holy city, a pilgrimage site for people of many faiths and many beliefs, increases in holiness when all are welcome within her walls."
What are the limits for criticizing Israel? Many condemn the Jewish community's refusal to listen to harsh criticism, while others object to the aggressiveness of the attacks against the Jewish state.
Never before had the small church in the Galilee village of Mughar held so many important visitors as it did recently. Even the Vatican's representative in Israel, Monsignor Pietro Sambi, was there.
Letters to the Editor.
A vocal and influential group is pushing for an evangelical Christian hegemony in American life, and I, for one, have absolutely no problem with that idea. That's right, bring on the evangelicals -- as long as they are all like Jim Wallis.
If you don't know Jim Wallis, you'll have a wonderful opportunity to do so by hearing him speak in Beverly Hills on Feb. 20, or by buying his new book, "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" (Harper San Francisco).
When Amy Cohen graduated from Adat Ari El's day school in 2003, her family faced a decision: Where would she continue her education?
If Jewish federations and agencies fail to forge a close relationship with this highly independent generation of Jews, Jewish charities, experts say, might struggle greatly in years to come.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says the IDF remains the most moral army he knows, but critics suggest that the relentless terrorist war has brutalized young soldiers who frequently vent their frustrations on Palestinian civilians.
On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to me, an Olympic swim cap signed by Lenny Krayzelburg, a game of Horse with the Houston Rocket's Bostjan Nachbar and a chance to be on the set of ESPN's Cold Pizza.
Thanks to the Center for Sport and Jewish Life's online Chanukah auction (www.CSJL.org), gift giving just got more interesting.
"No one likes to do it," said parent Andrea Daniels, who compares it to dating. "It's like buying a house," said Bea Prentice, director of the Early Childhood Center at Adat Shalom synagogue in West Los Angeles. "There are so many options to think about."
Jews-by-choice are one of our community's greatest gifts. They represent an ever-growing population that continues to invigorate and enrich the Jewish people.
Jakob Finci, longtime leader of the Bosnian Jewish community, took a swallow of local draft beer and gestured at the mellow crowd enjoying dinner in an upscale new restaurant not far from the city's synagogue.
For a decade their lives have been lived out solely on our turf. Now we are strangers on theirs.
We are driving to pick up our son from camp. He's been there three weeks, the longest stretch he's been away from us since his birth. In this age of e-mails and BlackBerrys and cell phones, the rule at Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley is no e-mails, BlackBerrys or cell phones.
Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, worries that multinationals are systematically whittling away our privacy, freedoms and safety. Unless society can curb big business, Court thinks we risk living in a world where profits trump all else, including individual liberty and happiness.
When we arrive in heaven, the talmudic sages wondered, what will God ask of us?