Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Druze community leaders and expressed condolences on the recent deaths of two Druze police officers.Click here for the rest of the article...
Israel said on Thursday it had foiled plans by Islamist group Hamas to attack Israelis in Jerusalem’s largest soccer stadium, other parts of the city and the occupied West Bank.Click here for the rest of the article...
The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York has come out against Israel’s proposed nation-state bill, which would enshrine into law Israel’s status as Jewish state.Click here for the rest of the article...
The Argentine National Ministry of Health signed an agreement to serve kosher food to patients that request it.Click here for the rest of the article...
In his new book, ‘Rocket and Lightship: Essays on Literature and Ideas,’ critic and atheist Adam Kirsch quietly redefines the role of the American Jew.Click here for the rest of the article...
EDITORIAL: In the wake of the violence in Ferguson the saddest lesson might be how little difference it makes that we have a black president.Click here for the rest of the article...
Debate over the Keystone Pipeline has exposed differing Jewish communal priorities. Should we focus on national security, or on the battle against climate change?Click here for the rest of the article...
Sir Moses splashed his staff into the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean. After years of religious persecution, he and the Israelites would finally be free; an entire New World awaited them. The oceans parted and the group stepped onto the dry land. 40 years later, they arrived in America – at Plymouth.
But the Israelite pilgrims were unfamiliar with the agriculture of this new land and struggled to build a stockpile of food to last through the winter. Luckily, one of the Native American tribes offered assistance. They provided a type of cornmeal, called manna, that to it could be added flavorings of any kind.
The Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, an enduring American symbol of religious freedom for those inhabitants who established its existence in Massachusetts nearly 400 years ago, were lofty in their aspirations but far from perfect. The meal of Thanksgiving, which they commemorated in 1621, was meant to offer praise to God for the many blessings of their lives. And as we look back, and know our history with open eyes, to be ever mindful that in each generation, we still have some distance to travel.
Though the early decades of Plymouth Plantation included a number of fortuitous alliances as well as violent skirmishes with Native tribes, the famous meal shared between Natives and Pilgrims became, ultimately, the American institution known as Thanksgiving. That was then and this is now, a considerable distance from crowded, clouded with fossil fuel hazed highways, parades swollen with cartoon floats, nachos drenched in squeeze-cheese and pickled jalapeños consumed during breaks in bone-crushing football games, those early meals had vision. Perhaps then they could even see a reality far beyond what they knew of the prosaic day-to-day: they conjured Jerusalem.
And so it was for the authors of the Plymouth Sabbath School Hymnal, published in Brooklyn in 1858, more than two hundred years removed from Plymouth in 1620, this imagined Jerusalem was, in its own way, far away from the trouble and torture of their (and our) mundane existence. Yet its allure was so dear as to be near and beloved. "Jerusalem! my glorious home. Name ever dear to me! When shall my labors have an end, in joy and peace and thee! When shall these eyes, thy heaven built walls, and pearly gates behold? Thy bulwarks with salvation strong, and streets of shining gold?"
The early Pilgrims were Calvinists, strict in their enduring faith. The first pastor of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn was Henry Ward Beecher, a descendent of Calvinists and fierce abolitionist, who would have found the Pilgrims' yearning toward Jerusalem 200 years earlier to be totally intolerable. Though make no mistake: he yearned himself--just in the language and in the time and in the historical framework that was more suited to his generation. "There happier bowers than Eden's bloom, nor sin nor sorrow know; Blessed seats! Thro' rude and stormy scenes I onward press to you. Why should I shrink at pain and woe? Or feel at death, dismay? I've Canaan's goodly land in view, and realms of endless day."
In this yearning is a lesson. We don't have to accept the world for what it is--even its idealizations. We can always change what we inherit while giving honor to and singing the praises of those who came before us.
Last night while walking to meet a friend for a beer, my own fellow settlers on the sidewalks of Vanderbilt peered heavenward to see helicopters, like flying army jeeps, hovering overhead, tracking the protests of New Yorkers who marched in solidarity with those in Ferguson. A few wealthy enough to own slaves were able to do so in Plymouth; but seeds were planted then for an American enterprise that would capture, enslave, torture and murder countless lives sacrificed on the altar of the idea of religious freedom. It would require war, more death, Reconstruction, lynching, the Civil Rights movement and countless more lives, given up for a greater, ever expansive freedom, but a freedom no less setting its sights upon "Canaan's goodly land in view." Some of Plymouth's early inhabitants held slaves; others killed Native Americans. Still others loved the Other unconditionally. In every generation we get to decide who we want to be.
My friend and I spoke about the helicopters and the protests and the still long road ahead in overcoming the pain and woe of racism. But mostly we talked about earthly Jerusalem.
The summer's war with Gaza. The lives lost. The hardened hatreds. Stabbings. Shootings. Lynchings. Cars running down pedestrians. The total collapse of the peace process. The dreadful, fearful, irretrievable sense of lost hope.
Pilgrims of one God marching on Pilgrims of another God, each seeking to extinguish the other.
We talked and we argued and we talked and we argued; and as the night wore on we heard each other more and more. He in his insistence that the Jewish people remain a "light unto the nations" and me in my insistence that especially when we see our brothers and sisters saying and doing things that we find morally repugnant we never stop trying, never stop believing, that "Canaan's goodly land" is within our grasp. We live in the world we inherit. Where we go and what we do with it is up to us.
This is the Jewish Hymnal. This is how we do it. Words--and the deeds they breed--can break the chains of hopelessness.
Here is my Thanksgiving wish for you:
Where there is hunger, feed it.
Where there is no shelter, build it.
Where there is hatred and bigotry, banish it.
There is too much pain we are causing one another in this world.
And so, where another states his pain, listen. Reach and speak across the divide. Difference need not be mired in stasis but rather should flow, be in a constant state of change in growth: "let justice roll down like water, righteousness as a mighty stream."
Let us all be Pilgrims of Hope. Let's break bread for Peace. Now.
"Jerusalem, my glorious home! My soul still pants for thee; then shall my labors have an end, when I thy joys shall see."
A number of prominent U.S. Orthodox Jewish figures condemned Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck N.J. since 1994, for remarks posted on his personal blog.
Pruzansky commented on the terrorist attacks in Har Nof last week, writing, among other things that “the slaughter of Jews is incentivized in Arab society,” that “‘President’ Abbas should be incarcerated as a war criminal” and “perhaps the day will come in the near future when the mosque [on the Temple Mount} and the dome can be uplifted intact and reset in Saudi Arabia, Syria or wherever it is wanted.”
On Wednesday morning, Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent a small procedure to place a stent in her right coronary artery after experiencing discomfort during exercise. Ginsburg, 81, has exercised twice a week since undergoing treatment for colon cancer in the late 1990s. (Fun fact: she shares a trainer with Justice Elena Kagan.) A few years ago, she was treated for pancreatic cancer.
Last year, when asked about her health issues, Ginsburg said that as long as she can serve on the court, she plans to do so. She has not missed one day in court in the last 15 years.
Every magazine likes to think its contributors are rock stars, but we mean it literally: Dana Kessler, our correspondent to Israel’s eclectic culinary scene, is also the lead singer and bass player for Mora Mahlifa, one of the more exciting Israeli bands in recent memory.
To pin down the group’s sound, you can think of Sonic Youth or the Breeders or any of the other outfits of the indie royalty of the 1990s, but that would fall short of capturing the magic. As one Israeli critic wrote in a recent review of Mora Mahlifa’s newly released album, the band’s real sound is rooted in Tel Aviv’s music scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where American post-punk was played loudly together with melancholy British guitar rock and hard-edged German industrial music and imbibed by local kids eager to escape the airlessness of a small country with a tight cultural scene that had little patience for weirdos who liked their music loud and disharmonious. You sort of had to be there, I guess: I was, and so was Kessler, and if you listen to Mora Mahlifa, you will be there, too.
Florence Nasar remembers clearly when the synagogue she attended in Deal, N.J., changed the layout of the mechitza from dividing the sanctuary equally down the middle to instead relegating women to the back.
“That visual moment of seeing the difference,” she told me in a phone interview was monumental in her understanding of the way women are treated in the synagogue. “It changed the way we could participate” in the service.
The laws of modesty are about “covering your knees, your elbows, your collarbones,” Mushky Notik, half of the design team “Mimu Maxi,” explained to Refinery29’s Asha Leo in a video posted last month. The clips make dwelling in a modest world look so enticing, even Kim Kardashian might consider covering up. Leo had headed to Crown Heights to see how Notik and Mimi Hecht, her partner, marry fashion with mitzvah observance.
“The guidelines aren’t there to, like, shackle you down and say, don’t even think about clothing,” said Notik. Added Hecht, “We’re not about suppressing your beauty, or self-expression. It’s about doing it within the channel of Judaism.” They’re not alone in this pursuit. In a terrific follow-up, Refinery29 produced a colorful slide show profiling ten stylish young Orthodox women. The women’s fashion inspirations are wide ranging: from Mindy Kaling to Valentino.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on his party to vote against a motion in the French Parliament to recognize a Palestinian state.Click here for the rest of the article...
A growing chorus of Orthodox leaders are speaking out against the anti-Arab rhetoric of a prominent New Jersey rabbi, Steven Pruzansky of Teaneck.Click here for the rest of the article...
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday underwent a heart procedure at a Washington hospital after reporting discomfort following routine exercise, a court statement said.Click here for the rest of the article...