It is no secret that Jews like a good debate. It’s a deeply ingrained part of our culture. I once heard Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz say that as much as the Talmud (a repository of disagreements and debates) is a product of Jewish culture, it has as much of an influence in shaping Jewish culture. We call an honest debate in Judaism a machloket l’shem shamayim, a disagreement for the sake of heaven. In other words, we don’t have to agree with someone’s opposing viewpoint, but we do have to respect the person.
Matt Abelson, a JTS rabbinical student, recently completed his year of study in Jerusalem. Perhaps one of the most challenging years in rabbinical school for a whole host of reasons, it is nearly impossible to return from the experience unchanged. Abelson wrote a post in which he slams the Encounter program for encouraging students to disengage from traditional Zionist ideology when it comes to their relationship with Israel. This is a “problem” that has been gaining increased attention in the last few years. It is a tense subject for many. As I have mentioned at other times on this blog, there were figures who sought to end my own career before it even began because, despite not even knowing me in real life, they decided I was anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic. I responded to Rabbi Daniel Gordis here when he brought up the issue last year.
I do not have a problem with the fact that Matt Abelson has a problem with Encounter. I do have a problem with how he misrepresents their program. I won’t go into those details here, because I already responded to his blog post there (I included my comment below the fold). I also have a problem with the notion of shirking the responsibility for responsible debate because an issue elicits strong emotion. However, I do want to pose the question, is it an acceptable response to “opt out” of a difficult discussion because it makes you uncomfortable? Go and check out his post and come back here to comment. More »
David Berger (weightlifter)
Ze’ev Friedman (weightlifter)
Yossef Gutfreund (wrestling referee)
Eliezer Halfin (wrestler)
Yossef Romano (weightlifter)
Amitzur Shapira (track coach)
Kehat Shorr (shooting coach)
Mark Slavin (wrestler)
Andre Spitzer (fencing coach)
Yakov Springer (weightlifting judge)
Moshe Weinberg (wrestling coach)
Eddie Long, a Georgia based mega-church preacher, has been crowned king… Yup, you read right. Crowned king. King of what? Damned if I know. He was crowned king by “Rabbi” Ralph Messer, a self-indulged so-called Messianic Jew (but even the Messianic Jews have disavowed him, now that takes talent) led this obscene ritual at New Birth Missionary Baptist in Lithonia, GA. Videos abound on the web, I didn’t want to give one another view.
Long has claimed ignorance and that he meant no offense. Eddie Long was in the news a couple years ago accused of sexual abuse.
The “rabbi” who conducted this grandiose show claimed that the Torah scroll used to enwrap Long in during the ceremony was saved from Aushwitz-Birkenau; an unlikely factoid considering how difficult it would have been to hide a Torah scroll in those circumstances, but that does not prevent him from abusing the memory of those who perished in the Shoah, claiming that “the dust” may still be on the scroll. The whole thing just reeks of showmanship, grandiosity and the worst forms of appropriation.
Bill Nigut of the Anti-Defamation League took Messer, Long and the whole affair to task calling it a “fake Jewish ritual.” That is generous, IMHO. Others have chimed in with their own condemnations.
One cannot help but be reminded of Shabbtai Tzvi and other false messiahs.
On the one hand, it’s hard not to laugh at this kind of nonsense; on the other hand it’s hard not to vomit.
The following is a sermon I delivered to my congregation, this last Shabbat, on the published remarks in the Atlanta Jewish Times by Andrew Adler calling for a US President to be assassinated by Mossad agents.
Parashat Bo – 5772
As Napoleon waged war and sent French troops into Russia in 1812, the rabbis of the shtetlakh were faced with a serious political dilemma – who should receive the support of the Jewish community; Napoleon or Czar Alexander I? On the one hand, the experience of the Jews of Russia and Poland had been incredibly challenging, to say the least. Starting in 1791with Catherine the Great, the Jews of Russia were relegated to what was known as the Pale of Settlement, a swath of land comprising of modern-day Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and parts of Western Russia. Jews in the Pale were very poor and the Cossack cavalries made life generally dangerous for them. Life for Jews under Napoleon was very different. Once Napoleon took the helm in France in 1804, Jews were given full and equal rights under the spirit of the French Revolution. However, this came at a cost – part of Napoleon’s grand plan was to allow for the recognition of the Jewish religion while working hard at eliminating its practices. Once the Jews received full rights in France, anti-Semitism grew in French cities. Napoleon is quoted as responding to the rise in anti-Semitism by saying:
This is not the way to solve the Jewish question. I will never accept any proposals that will obligate the Jewish people to leave France, because to me the Jews are the same as any other citizen in our country. It takes weakness to chase them out of the country, but it takes strength to assimilate them. More »
The following is a sermon I delivered to my congregation last week for Parashat Vay’ḥi on the travesties in Beit Shemesh and Mea She’arim — a little late, but still important.
The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines legacy as: a gift by will or something which is transmitted by or received from an ancestor. It is especially interesting to me that the word choice of the Mirriam-Webster dictionary is to use the language of transmission because the Hebrew word we use for tradition, מסורה, literally means ‘transmission.’ This idea, of something which is transmitted by an ancestor, is incredibly significant to the Jewish tradition. It is significant, mainly, because we take immense pride in our tradition and we take immense pride in the success we have had in passing down our traditions from generation to generation. This pride we take in transmitting our traditions is not new, quite the contrary, it goes back to our very foundation and to our very origins. Sure enough, when we received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai we were instructed, as we read daily in the words of the first paragraph of the Shema, וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם – and you shall teach these words to your children and you shall speak about them. Now, that is truly significant, but it goes even deeper into our origins than our covenant with God at Mount Sinai, rather it goes to our very first foundations, to Avraham Avinu, to Abraham our Forefather, of whom the Torah tells us לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו, וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה – such that Avraham commands his children and his household after him and they will guard the way of God. What we impart to our children, what we transmit to them, the legacy which we leave them, is a huge part of the Jewish tradition. More »
Hilarious and amazing. This might be one of the greatest things I’ve read in quite some time. Apparently, there are just under 3000 Jews in the Czech Republic; however, according to the most recent census data, those in the Czech Republic who voluntarily filled in their religion as “Jedi” numbered over 15,000.
I hate to have to ask this, but would a Jewish Jedi be a Jew-di? Terrible, I know — forgive me.
Scholars of religion have a term for the common practice of adherents to a religious tradition that do not always perfectly fit into the doctrinal teachings of that religion — folk religion. This is in contrast to the normative doctrinal teachings of a religion often dubbed “state religion.” This is most often noted in Jewish history as the drive by the ancient Jewish monarchy of the 6th century BCE to centralize worship in Jerusalem with an organized Temple worship and priesthood. The ‘folk religion’ of the time, however, preferred a sort of blending of local pagan customs and the normative priestly cult. If people were not worshiping idols or eating non-kosher food there would have been no need for the Torah to repeatedly warn against worshiping idols or eating non-kosher food. It’s as the old adage goes, society does not develop laws people are already following.
Since becoming an ordained rabbi, I have rarely been faced with needing to fulfill the role of mar d’atra (Aramaic for, literally, “master of the place”). In that role a rabbi acts as a posek (Hebrew for, literally, “arbiter”) and makes halakhic decisions for her or his community. However there is one topic about which I have been asked repeatedly by numerous people in my congregation — Mourners’ Kaddish. To contextualize this, let me say a few words about my congregation.
The average age in my community is probably around 65-70. I have regular attendees who are in their 90s and older. Needless to say, it is an aging congregation. To give you an idea, I recently buried three people in one week. My congregation is made up of many transplants — people who moved to this community from somewhere else. However, many of my congregants are 4th or 5th generation in this community. That being the case, almost everybody who is actually born and raised in this community is related to everybody else even if just as distant cousins. Even though halakhah dictates that people only say Kaddish for one one of the seven relatives whom they must mourn for — parents, children, siblings and spouses — people in my community will often come to shul to say Kaddish for their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Kaddish has become so important in this community that during daily prayer services the names of those who left the world that day throughout the 120+ year history of the synagogue are read aloud and if someone knows who the person was and their story, that story is shared. On Shabbat, the names of those for the entire coming week are read aloud. Most days, although we try, we do not make a minyan — unless someone is observing a yahrzeit. Kaddish is truly the ‘folk religion’ of this little community. More »
In an op-ed piece reworked from a speech delivered at the Jewish Federations General Assembly in Denver, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer of Mechon Hadar writes that:
Jews, like all people, are searching for meaning, substance and connection. The more we are inundated with e-mails, status updates and tweets, the more we want to go deeper. Our souls are calling out for engagement; our hearts are crying out to be opened.
Judaism, at its core, is a response to that yearning, an answer to that call. What are we “continuing” with our calls for “continuity”? Why does Judaism need a future? Because Judaism offers a system, a covenantal language, a heritage and tradition that responds to the human need for meaning, substance and connection. It is our system, our language, our heritage; it is relevant, and that is the reason that we need a Jewish future.
We Jews have a word for the pathway to meaning, substance and connection. It is called Torah. I don’t just mean the Torah scroll that sits alone in the ark, or even just the words of the five books of Moses. I mean the sum total of Jewish sources and texts — the wisdom stored up in our textual heritage.
Truth be told, not the biggest hiddush (original insight) but seriously brave considering the original audience. The Federation pretty much wrote the book of Jewish continuity for continuity’s sake. I was, however, especially happy to read this article after an experience this last Friday night which speaks loudly toward what Kaunfer is getting at. More »
Hazon has created two new scholarships for the Food Conference. The Haas Foundation has funded a scholarship for LGBT folks and their families, and Pursue (a project of AJWS and Avodah) have funded a “Food Justice Cohort” for folks in their 20s and 30s who are passionate about food justice.
In addition, there are scholarships for Rabbinical Students, Teens, people from Boulder and Colorado, and…
...anyone who needs a little extra financial assistance and who is willing to volunteer while at the conference!
Complete Scholarship info is available here.
Money need not be a barrier to attend the Food Conference. Please consider which friends, co-workers, cousins and other networks you can invite to the Food Conference and share these great opportunities with. Deadlines are approaching very soon.
Additionally, prices are rising on June 7. So now is a great time for someone to register for the Food Conference!
Farmers, Rabbis, Nutritionists, Chefs, Vegans, Omnivores…
2011 Hazon Food Conference
at UC Davis, California
August 18 – 21, 2011
Use code “summer11″ for $50 off registration – expires 6/7
Join the thinkers and doers of the New Jewish Food Movement
for four days of learning and celebration!
Dr. Oran B. Hesterman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO, Fair Food Network
Chef and author of dozens of Jewish cookbooks, including her most recent
“Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France”
2011 Highlights include:
- Tours of the UC Davis Student Farm, Dairy and Brewery
- Hands-on food workshops: chop, saute and ferment!
- Classes on the 2012 Farm Bill, Writing Recipes, Urban Farming, Intentional Community, Jewish texts and more….
- Programs for kids and families; childcare available
- Dozens of vendors at the Sunday Eco-Fair and Shuk
- Bike rides, pool & fitness center available
See the Food Conference Video
Contact us at email@example.com
Hazon creates healthy and sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond.
For at least two millennia (maybe more?) people have felt as though the end of the world is upon them. Apocalyptic literature appeared on the scene around the 2nd century BCE and continued in the Jewish world until the middle of the Middle Ages and continues to this day in the Christian communities. Certain streams of contemporary Christianity are so immersed in eschatology that the Left Behind series are still the best selling novels in the United States.
It is no wonder then that radio host and self-styled biblical scholar, Harold Camping, has made so many headlines in the last few days. Starting a year ago or more, Camping, who runs a number of Christian radio stations and two television stations, spent millions of dollars advertising May 21, 2011 as the beginning of the End of Days–needless to say, May 21 came and has almost gone. No word has yet been heard from Camping, who had previously predicted the apocalypse would commence in 1994.
Many have called him a false prophet, and I think that is too generous. There are two possibilities, in my opinion, as to what’s going on with this man. 1) He is an utter fool and a moron; 2) he is a brilliant marketer who has set himself up to increase his personal wealth from over $17 million to God only knows how much he might make. There is a difference between a false prophet and someone who is just plain wrong or an idiot. Unfortunately, there are far too many idiots out there. More »
The following is a recipe I just threw together inspired by Greek Haroset.
soak dried dates and apricots in water for about an hour; strain and save soak water
chop dates and apricots into mush (I like to do it on wax paper for easy cleanup)
put into a large mixing bowl
in a dry, hot pan toast fennel seed, coriander seed and white peppercorn–once you smell the amazing fragrance and hear the seeds pop, remove from the heat–grind according to your desire (i smashed it with a glass bottle between wax paper)
mix the spices in with the fruit and mix well, adding splashes of the soak water if necessary to ease mixing.
chop walnuts, fold into the mixture
add in finely chopped fresh dill (yup, fresh dill–and it HAS to be fresh; mint will work too, but dill is better)
add in a splash or two of red wine, mix it up really well
and there you have it, a sweet, spicy sticky haroset that your bubbe wouldn’t recognize!
Recently, Rabbi Daniel Gordis published an article making allegations of a seeming tidal wave of anti-Israel sentiment in rabbinical schools. This is my reaction.
Dear Rabbi Gordis,
Before I proceed, let me preface this letter with the following disclaimer: I write this with great honor and respect. While you and I have never met, we do hold mutual friends amongst whom I count some of my dearest rabbis and teachers and family members. The dedication you have given to the Jewish people holds special significance for me as you were the founding dean of the rabbinical school which will soon be ordaining me as a rabbi. Therefore I am indebted to your vision and determination. Your words have, at times, been a source of inspiration for me and whether I agree or disagree with any given viewpoint you share, I am always duly impressed by your command of the written English language. I do hope that our paths cross one day, as I would be honored to have the pleasure of meeting you in person. I also want to make clear that it has been at least two years since I have shared my own personal views on Israeli society, the conflict with Arab states and the Palestinians or any other similar matter in a public forum because of fear of being made into a pariah. I am making these statements here, publicly, because I feel it to be incredibly important. I write in my own name, and not in the name of the institution which will be ordaining me, nor in the name of the movement with which it affiliates. Again, I write only in my own name.
I read your recent article, Of Sermons and Strategies, with great interest, as it is a topic near to my heart–both as a rabbinical student and as a person who has been erroneously dubbed “anti-Israel.” I was even accused of being one of the students referenced in your article, which I assure you I am not. That is not to say I would be ashamed to be, I would not be ashamed, but the truth must be told that I am not responding to your letter as one of the selected few whom you wrote of. More »
In the great tradition of Jewish lawyers defending Nazis and Nazi sympathizers (such as the infamous Supreme Court case involving neo-Nazis marching in Skokie, IL in the late 1970s), turns out that the most recent source of drunken and/or drug induced anti-Semitic rants (in the great tradition of Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen), fashion designer John Galliano, has got himself a Jewish lawyer–to be fair, according to the interview linked below, he has been his lawyer for the last seven years.
YNet has published an interview with the Galliano’s lawyer, Stephane Zerbib, who has apparently received threats because representing the former top designer of Christian Dior. You can see the video of the clearly drunken and rather despicable rant at the HuffPost.
My favorite gem from the interview comes right at the beginning.
Your client is accused of making rather harsh anti-Semitic comments. What is your explanation for this?
“I have no explanation. It could happen to any one of us. Anyone can go to a bar, drink a little and get into a fight with someone.”
Yes. It could happen to any one of us. You walk into a bar, become obliterated drunk while under the influence of prescription drugs and then tell the people next to you that you wish Hitler had killed them… Happens all the time.
My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is that Galliano’s comments are unforgivable and despicable. Not to mention, in the greatest sense of irony, as a homosexual and self-proclaimed “gipsy” (apparently very publicly) he too would have fallen victim (twice) to the egregious and murderous crimes of the Nazi regime. However, I also think it wrong for people to be threatening his lawyer. Justice is justice, and lawyers take an oath to uphold justice; not to pick and choose which parts of the law to uphold. All the more so I find it acceptable for Zerbib to represent Galliano if they have had a professional relationship for nearly a decade.
Ultimately, anti-Semitic sentiment (drunken or sober) will not be eradicated because Jewish lawyers refuse to represent anti-Semites. Again, justice is justice and in free and democratic societies all people have the right to fair representation in court. Plus, if Galliano’s lawyer is going to make arguments in court such as the one quoted above–that any one of us could, in a drug and alcohol induced state, proclaim our love for Hitler–well, I think we can feel comfortable in how this case will go.
Have you never been able to attend a Hazon Food Conference because they have always happened in December? Are you in need of a fun, educational and possibly life changing experience this summer? Then you are in luck because the date and venue of the 2011 Hazon Food Conference has been finalized and registration is now open.
From August 18-21 educators, rabbis, farmers, policy makers, chefs, nutritionists, Jews of every shape, size and walk of life will all join together in Davis, CA to explore the connections between Jewish tradition, food, the environment and our lives.
Just to whet your appetites, here is a look at the tracks that will be offered–each featuring dozens of programs and sessions:
Do It Yourself (DIY) Food
Food Justice & Tikkun Olam
Jewish Tradition & Food: History & Culture
Food Systems and Policy
Health and Nutrition
Text, Values and Tradition
So head over to register now!
Hazon has created an amazing resource for Tu Bi’Shvat where anyone can register for free and download a haggadah or customize your own, a leader’s guide and even a song book! It’s an incredible source for information and resources for running your own Tu Bi’Shvat seder or supplementing one which has become a tradition. Definitely head over and check it out because it really is something special. It’s all digital and it’s all free!
For those in NYC, you can join Hazon and Romemu for a Tu Bi’Shvat Seder and see this amazing resource in action!
Wednesday, January 19th
JCC Manhattan – 76th and Amsterdam
Doors open at 7:00pm, Seder begins promptly at 7:30pm
Celebrate Tu B’Shvat with the Hazon and Romemu communities as we experience the “new year for the trees” with song, spirit, and supper. This seder will be a kosher dairy meal including seasonal, gluten-free and vegan options.
Green Ticket- $30 (bring your own plate, bowl, cup and cutlery)
General Ticket- $36 (plate, bowl, cup and cutlery provided)
Register Today – hazon.kintera.org/tubshvat2011
the following is another guest post by Andy Green, a student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. For another of his write-ups click here
And now… the exciting conclusion….:
Friday afternoon, I headed to Ted Merwin’s session on Jewish food in
pop culture. Those present were treated to an old Hebrew National hot
dog radio jingle, the classic yiddish song “Romania”, the deli scene
from “When Harry Met Sally”, and more. I found especially interesting,
the discussion recognizing the routine conflation of gastronomic
pleasure and sexual pleasure in representations of Jewish food
consumption in media. Also, I learned from this session that the terms
delicacy and delicatessen come from the same root suggesting that in
Eastern Europe, deli meats and dishes were consumed as rare
delicacies, far from standard fare.
Next, I hiked with a few other brave souls to the Walter Creek Ranch
Turtle Pond for a mikveh immersion in some exceedingly cold “living
waters.” The hike was about .6 miles each way and much of the trails
were muddy from earlier in the day. Before we stripped and immersed,
we paused as our certified lifeguard and fellow Hazonik Kyle Lebell
offered us some words of intention about mikveh connecting the three
traditional immersions with our experience and prayer for the past
week, present moment, and future week. However, with the exceedingly
cold temperature of the water, I was unsuccessful in retaining full
mindfulness of this intention while immersing.
If you’re interested in seeing what types of sessions are being offered at the Food Conference out in Sonoma County you can see the program here.
the following is a guest post by Andy Green, a student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and first-time participant of a Hazon Food Conference, who has shared some of his experiences at the conference currently in progress.
Yesterday afternoon, following our over seven hour carpool from Los
Angeles, we arrived at Walker Creek Ranch for the 5th annual Hazon
Food Conference West at the gorgeous Walker Creek Ranch in Northern
We were greeted by friendly Hazon staffers and participants, provided
with schedules, snacks (including outstanding pineapple ginger
kombucha), and a short amount of time to unpack before the conference
began. An impromptu mincha minyan commenced to enable a participant to
For the first session, I briefly visited the babka making class where
I picked up the babka recipe, before heading over to the Fermentation
session. The babka class is making babka that will be ready for
dessert tonight (for our Shabbat evening meal.)
They brought you the Answers in Genesis ministry. They brought you the Creation Museum, showing that humans and dinosaurs coexisted on God’s 6-day creation 6000 years ago. Now, they are bringing you Ark Encounter–an 800 acre Noah’s Ark theme park complete with life-size replica of the ark and a model of the Tower of Babel. Crazy? Perhaps. But also lucrative!
According to a report in the NYT–
The developers of Ark Encounter, who have incorporated as a profit-making company, say they expect to spend $150 million, employ 900 people and attract 1.6 million visitors from around the world in the first year. With the Creation Museum only 45 miles away, they envision a Christian tourism corridor that would draw busloads from churches and Christian schools for two- and three-day visits.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article:
“It’s our opportunity to present accurate, factual biblical information to people about a subject that they’re really interested in,” said Mike Zovath, a senior vice president of Answers in Genesis.
this one makes me laugh because if it’s accurate and factual to the Bible, it’s not accurate or factual to those pesky things called history or reality! If it’s accurate and factual to history and reality, well, then it will likely not be so much in line with the Bible…
“We think that God would probably have sent healthy juvenile-sized animals that weren’t fully grown yet, so there would be plenty of room,” said Mr. Zovath, a retired Army lieutenant colonel heading the ark project. “We want to show how Noah would have taken care of them, taken care of waste management, taken care of water needs and food needs.”
that God, always thinking about practical matters! sounds like someone needs to do a little reading of some midrash! healthy juvenile-sized animals. hilarious.