On Rosh Hashanah in 1992, Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis stood before his Conservative congregation at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino and declared that despite the words of Leviticus, homosexuality is not an abomination. He argued that the same understanding and compassion Jews afford all human beings should be extended to those attracted to others of their own sex, and he told his congregation:
“The Vote,” the best show in town, opened at 7:45 p.m. on Nov. 29 and, after 23 acts, closed down 60 minutes later. During that one hour, speakers, actors, musicians, singers and dancers commemorated the day, 65 years ago, when the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
When the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad compares Israel to a cancer, I take it personally.
In his brilliant history of early modern England, “The Ends of Life,” historian Keith Thomas quotes a translator named George Petrie who wrote in 1581, “The only way to win immortality is either to do things worth the writing, or write things worth the reading.” Christopher Hitchens is, by this reckoning, twice immortal.
The world is rich in ability, awash in talent. But, though we use the word with abandon, genius is rare.
Last week, I took a break from all the news and cares of this life to spend a couple of hours thinking about the next one. My role was to serve as moderator in a discussion titled “Is There an Afterlife?” featuring two rabbis, David Wolpe and Bradley Shavit Artson, and two atheists, Sam Harris, author of “The End of Faith,” and Christopher Hitchens, author of “God Is Not Great.”
On Sunday morning, Dec. 12, near the end of his weekend-long stay as a scholar-in-residence at Sinai Temple, bioethicist Dr. Paul Root Wolpe was asked by Rabbi David Wolpe to give a few quick responses to some of the most challenging contemporary bioethical dilemmas. “No,” Dr. Wolpe replied, provoking laughter from the nearly 300 people in attendance. “I can’t give quick responses; I’m a Wolpe.” Dr. Wolpe is professor of bioethics and Jewish bioethics at Emory University as well as senior bioethicist for NASA and the first national bioethics adviser to Planned Parenthood of America. He had already delivered two talks to his brother’s congregation on Shabbat, so one highlight of Sunday’s breakfast was a picture-heavy PowerPoint presentation, which included quite a few photographs of genetically and otherwise engineered animals. He started with hybrids like the beefalo, the zorse (zebra-horse), the cama (camel-lama), the geep (sheep-goat) and, much to the delight of fans of “Napoleon Dynamite,” the liger (lion-tiger). Later, he showed pictures of mice, kittens, pigs, puppies and monkeys that, thanks to some genetic material from jellyfish and deep-sea coral, had been engineered to glow in the dark.
There was no clean knockout when New York Times columnist Roger Cohen faced off against some 400 members of the local Iranian Jewish and Bahai communities last week, but spectators were treated to some vigorous rhetorical sparring and nimble footwork.
" . . . The Journal, simply put, is more enamored with shallow Hollywood power, pretension and materialism than the writer of this piece is . . . "
During the past year, Wolpe, the spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, has been both vilified and lauded for his Passover sermon in which he questioned the truth of the Book of Exodus, as most of his congregants, indeed most of the Jewish world, had come to know it.