Posted on December 26, 2010 by Tamara Frankel
Dear Friends, It’s hard to believe how the winter months are passing and in particular, that the ‘holiday season’ is upon us. In Israel, you don’t really feel that it’s almost Christmas — there are no colourfully decorated trees in front yards, no “Jingle Bells” playing in the mall. Being in a dominantly Jewish society Continue Reading »
Posted on December 22, 2010 by David Bogomolny
“I’m spending this year in Jerusalem, learning how the Rabbis of the 1st and 2nd centuries endeavored to build a just society, and how Jewish tradition has built on their vision.” After graduating from Brandeis University, Julie entered into the field of interfaith organizing through the Jewish Organizing Initiative Fellowship Program. Her many conversations with young Continue Reading »
Posted on December 19, 2010 by Emma Sevitz
Posted on December 19, 2010 by Tamara Frankel
Dear Friends, Last week I was reading through the parsha and was struck by very familiar words, namely those of Jacob when he blesses Joseph’s sons, Efraim and Menashe. Sensing his death is near, Jacob beckons his grandsons to receive his blessing. יד וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-יְמִינוֹ וַיָּשֶׁת עַל-רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם, וְהוּא הַצָּעִיר, וְאֶת-שְׂמֹאלוֹ, עַל-רֹאשׁ מְנַשֶּׁה: שִׂכֵּל, Continue Reading »
Posted on December 17, 2010 by Barer
This week at Pardes we looked at issues of separatism in Judaism, from the extremely current issue of the letter banning rental of apartments to Arabs to the more theoretical ‘how should Judaism treat those outside of its (exclusive) community?’ We also had a guest speaker talk about how Jews have viewed other religions in previous time periods, specifically how Rabbi Jacob Emden (1697-1776) views Christians in relation to the Jewish community.
The key takeaway from our discussion of the story that took over much of the news during the end of Chanukah was not just that the halachik basis on which the rabbis who signed the letter based their arguments was spurious. More importantly, we must remember that no one has the right to make a claim on behalf of Judaism as a whole. The tradition is too complex, too multifaceted and containing too many values that can be put into tension with each other for there to be a single voice on almost any topic that represents all of Judaism.
Looking more theoretically at the same set of issues, it is clear to me that there is a serious ‘conflict of interests’ for many young North American Jews today being exposed to texts that purport that Jews are somehow special and deserving of recognition for that uniqueness, either by themselves or even by the wider communities in which they live. I have commented previously about my views on Jews being “a light unto the nations.” How one relates to that question says a lot about how one will think that Jews ought to treat non-Jewish populations, both locally and abroad. An more positive way to look at spreading wisdom is that Jews should try their best to improve the world, which hopefully would encourage others to do the same, rather than implying that others do not have as much to offer. The fact is that, for most of us, we will always be part of many overlapping and sometimes contradicting exclusive communities, and that is simply part of the struggle of living in the modern world yet maintaining deep ties to the Jewish community.
Finally, I learned a little bit about the work of Rabbi Jacob Emden for the first time, and was struck by two things. First, the concept of a renaissance man seems like a forgotten ideal for the most part – or just simply impractical given the depth of knowledge that would be required to become an expert in more than one discipline – but I think that it should be reinvigorated when it comes to religion. We lack today religious leaders who are truly well read in religions other than their own. Second, I was intrigued that I, nor anyone else who attended the lecture, had never heard of Rabbi Emden. The Jewish tradition has so many gems, even just talking on a textual basis, which are rarely discussed or studied. But I couldn’t help but wonder if his views on Christians – that they should be respected and thanked for helping to spread ‘morality’ much more effectively than Judaism ever did – have played a role in his not being included in the traditional Jewish ‘canon’ of rabbis and thinkers that the mainstream of Jewish students are exposed to.
Special thanks to Meesh, Rabbi Wayne Allen, and David Bookbinder, for teaching me (and others) about all the topics mentioned in this post.
Posted on December 11, 2010 by Tamara Frankel
Dear Friends, I hope you are all recovering from the oil-filled foods from Channukah. I know that I’ve had more than my share of those miraculous treats! Late last week, I was learning the parsha with a dear friend of mine, Chippy, and we were reading small sections and asking questions, reading further on and Continue Reading »
Posted on November 27, 2010 by Pious Antic
This is a cross-post from my personal blog. Earlier this week, in Judy Klitsner’s Bereshit class, we were looking at the issue of Noah’s naming. When he names him, his father Lemech explains the name, saying “this one will give us relief from our work and the toil of our ands from the land which Continue Reading »
Posted on November 25, 2010 by David Bogomolny
Although they both hail from Los Angeles, Kara and David only met in college at UC Santa Barbara. As a child, Kara attended Christian Science church every week with her mother, but she became skeptical about religion as a teenager, and came to identify herself as culturally Jewish. David was raised in the Conservative Jewish movement, Continue Reading »
Posted on November 22, 2010 by David Bogomolny
R. Baruch Feldstern showed us this video during Chumash class, saying that these little bears could be representatives of Rashi and Rashbam 🙂
Posted on November 21, 2010 by Tamara Frankel
Dear Friends, Today, I am inspired to write by two of my dear friends and beloved chevrutot (learning partners): Merissa Nathan Gerson and Dana Adler. Thank you Merissa and Dana! Last week’s parsha, Vayishlach, is filled with a lot of difficult questions and interactions. To name a few: Yaakov wrestles with an angel and is Continue Reading »