Archive by Author

Is Kosher Kosher?



I recently had occasion to extract from my bookshelf a well-used and falling apart 1977 paperback edition of Elie Weisel’s Messengers of God.  The book was inscribed as a holiday gift to the teachers of the religious school where my wife has been teaching for decades (not the congregation to which we belong). Then, as […]

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Hey, Beth Tikvah: What Are You Hoping For?



A highlight of my trips to Kiev has been visiting the Progressive synagogue, Congregation Hatikvah. It was hardly necessary for Rabbi Alex Duchovny to explain their hope (Hatikvah): upgrade their small, shabby facilities, to help make Progressive Judaism attractive as a religious force in Ukraine, where Orthodox institutions, even if not Orthodox lifestyles, are dominant. […]

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Mayor Mish-Mash: Remembering Ed Koch



The New York Times published an interesting story this week on late NYC Mayor Ed Koch, a Jew. Apparently the mayor’s rabbi, Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue (Modern Orthodox), tried to take His Honor cemetery shopping, but Koch was bound and determined to be buried in Manhattan, and so he will spend eternity in […]

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Machpelah – Why (or if) it Matters



Our parashah the last week of the secular year was Va-y’chi, whose major components are Jacob’s blessings, first of Manasseh and Ephraim, and then of his own sons, but especially the concerns of both Joseph and Jacob that they not be buried in Egypt. This preoccupation with the place of burial particularly haunted me, because […]

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Va-y’chi: Thoughts about Our Own Machpelah



We have reached the last Shabbat of the secular year, reading the last parashah of the Book of Genesis. To add to that double harbinger of finality, we also read, first of the death of Jacob, and then of the death of Joseph. Ironic, but not unique in Torah, Va-y’chi, “And he lived,” is mostly […]

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A Sleeper Has A-Wouk



I read Herman Wouk’s new novel about Moses in a single sitting, a tribute both to his skill as a storyteller and the absence of any need to give much thought to the substance of the tale. I guess that, deep in his nineties, Wouk is entitled to the privilege of self-indulgence, but certainly The […]

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Remembering Dan Schechter, z”l



What will the Reform Movement remember former URJ board member Dan Schechter for? In the category of “What have you done for me lately?” I suppose it will be for his role in the generation of Mishkan T’filah, the siddur he facilitated from its early idea stage, including securing the research grant from the Lilly Foundation […]

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Welcoming the Congregation on Rosh HaShanah



It was the tradition in the congregation of which I was once president to begin Erev Rosh HaShanah services with a few words of welcome from the congregation’s president. I suspect that the tradition had its origin when one of my long-ago predecessors had a desire for the spotlight. But our great sage, Elijah, the […]

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Shabbat and the Law of Unintended Consequences



Arguably, the most important step the Reformers took in bringing Judaism into modernity was the institution of egalitarianism, never reckoning with the grave damage they were inflicting on our greatest treasure, the Shabbat. By creating the expectation that women would join their husbands at Shabbat services, the focus of celebrating Shabbat moved from the home into the synagogue, including even the lighting of candles.

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Confirmation: Past, Present, and Future



Confirmation and b’nai mitzvah have been front and center on this blog for the past few weeks, what with Rabbi Carole Balin’s post on the 90th anniversary of the first bat mitzvah, Barry Shainker’s appreciation of the role of confirmation in Reform Judaism, and then the thoughtful comments on Shainker’s post by rabbis Fred Guttman, […]

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God and the Nominating Committee



The URJ’s iWorship listserv is a forum where laity and clergy hold online discussions on matters of worship, ritual, liturgy, and the governance issues and administrivia that pertain to life in the synagogue sanctuary. Truth be told, we sometimes digress and find ourselves cluttering our colleagues’ inboxes with subject matter that is off-topic, until one […]

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Dayenu – Let’s Stop Mistranslating Sacred Texts



I’ve purposely waited until the Haggadot have been put away for the year to comment on issues that emerged in the discussion of the highly touted New American Haggadah (NEH) produced for Pesach 5772 by the wunderkinder editor Jonathan Safran Foer and translator Nathan Englander. I have seen NEH, which is not truly a new […]

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Gefilte Fish

Mah Nishtanah? How is Your Seder Different from All Other Seders?



Recent seasonal discussion on the URJ’s iWorship list-serv has centered, naturally, on Passover rituals, and certainly for no other holiday do we give so much ritual attention to food Bob Korngold got the conversation started with his reminiscences of a seder he conducted in Japan when he was in the military, for which the Jewish […]

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Whose Name is on the Door – and How Did It Get There?



The first temple, in Jerusalem, was built by King Solomon, after God deemed his father, King David, unworthy of the task. Nonetheless, a dozen member congregations of the Union for Reform Judaism have deemed King David worthy enough to name their temples after him (although none explains on its website the reason for their choice). […]

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