Music played loudly while the men danced. On the women’s side of the mechitzah, we tried to speak over the sounds. I leaned over the table to hear what my co-worker’s wife was saying.
The main title of my new book, From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel, may raise a few eyebrows. To what “betrayal” am I referring? Surely neither anti-Semitism nor hostility to Israel can be seen as prerogatives of leftism; and if they do exist in some quarters of the Left, is that not an example of “legitimate criticism” of Israel, a country regularly pilloried in international forums as one of the last remaining bastions of Western colonialism?
For 15 years, Egyptian-Jewish businessman Refael Bigio has been battling a goliath corporate adversary, the Coca-Cola Company. Bigio charges that Coke has been profiting from his family’s stolen property just outside Cairo.
Nearly sixty-five years ago Israel declared its independence and won the war that secured a Jewish state. But its narrow and permeable postwar armistice lines permitted incessant cross-border terrorist raids. For Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the mere existence of a Jewish state remained an unbearable intrusion into the Arab Middle East. As Egyptian President Nasser declared, “The danger of Israel lies in the very existence of Israel.”
Shavuos. How unremarkable a name for a Yom Tov that celebrates the very foundation of our existence. Actually, Shavuos is one of five names designated for this holiday, the others being Atzeres, Yom HaBikurim, Chag HaKatzir and Z’man Mattan Toraseinu.
Israel had no intention of capturing Jerusalem’s Old City when the Six-Day War began 45 years ago. Many of its government ministers, especially the religious ones, opposed the idea, warning that the world would never accept Jewish rule over Christianity’s holiest places. Although the army had numerous contingency plans regarding targets in the region, a plan for taking the Old City was not among them.
The victory of the Jewish idea is celebrated on Lag B'Omer. It fits neatly between Israeli Independence Day and Yom Yerushalayim. These three days are all driven by the same spirit: the liberation of Jewish peoplehood, the return to the land, and the reemergence of authentic Jewish culture.
Half a year after our marriage in 1997, my parents called and said they couldn’t attend the Agudath Israel of America convention and had extra tickets. Would my wife and I want to go in their place? We were newlyweds in every sense of the word and cherished the opportunity of a new experience. “Certainly,” we said and made the trek from Lakewood to Parsippany in the state of New Jersey.
By now everyone has heard of Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. The book received much more attention than it should have.
Chanukah and Purim have passed but they are not past, because Jewish history is not only ancient. The message of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, is that Jewish history is now. Indeed, some of the Maccabees are still alive.
On campuses today Israel is regularly, though falsely, condemned for being created “illegally” – through the “theft” of Palestinian lands and property – and thus has no “right to exist.”
During Pesach we experience liberation from slavery, followed by the dramatic encounter with Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea. Then we trek through the desert to the great moment at Har Sinai.
As the Seder night ebbs away – long after the Four Questions have been asked and answered, after the festive meal has been eaten and the post-feast drowsiness descends, after the evening’s mitzvot have been observed and the fourth cup of wine emptied – we raise our voices in a curious, delightful, seemingly whimsical song at the end of the Haggadah.
Much of the Israeli Left – including cultural and political leaders, journalists and academics – has in recent months engaged in hyperbolic, defamatory claims that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to destroy Israel’s democracy through proposed legislation such as that aimed at modifying how Israeli Supreme Court justices are selected.
What made the deportation of more than 80,000 Jews from Slovakia during World War II unique? It was this striking fact: In contrast with other countries, the Slovak government actually appealed to the Germans to enact deportation.
Just last week we experienced the crowning point of the month of Adar by commemorating the extraordinary events that unfolded in the ancient Persian Empire. We read the scroll of Esther, enjoyed a hearty feast, and traded gifts of goodies with each other.
On Tuesday, February 28, it was widely reported that the basketball team of Houston’s Robert M. Beren Academy had “forfeited” its place in the semi-finals of the tournament conducted by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) because it would not play on Friday night and Saturday. But a headline in Friday’s New York Times read: “In Reversal, a Jewish School Gets to Play.”
There certainly are many reasons to look forward to Purim. It is a time of feasting, joy, and merriment. We celebrate an important victory over our enemies, which was a precedent for many other such victories over the course of our history. We read one of the most moving stories in our entire tradition, and we have good fun while we’re doing it.
“Rabbi, did you ever think you would see this day?” It was 1971, and the university official who asked this question was inviting the rabbi to the dedication of the kosher dining room in Stevenson Hall on the campus of Princeton University.
There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.
Near the end of the nineteenth century, Theodor Herzl, the Viennese journalist who would wrestle with the plight of Jews amid the enticements and dangers of modernity, felt trapped. For his son’s sake he considered conversion to Christianity; to solve the vexing “Jewish Question” he even fantasized the mass conversion of Jews.
Tu B’Shevat is not just “another day.” It’s the Rosh Hashanah for trees, one of four roshei hashanah that occur in the Jewish calendar year (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1).
New York’s 9th Congressional District will forever be remembered not only for the departure of disgraced veteran Congressman Anthony Weiner but also for who replaced him. Bob Turner’s victory marked the first Republican win in that district since 1923, and his September 2011 election stunned the Democratic Party.
Barely five weeks after the Wehrmacht’s onslaught against Russia, Reich Marshal Hermann Goering issued the following directive on July 31, 1941 to Chief of Gestapo Reinhard Heydrich:
“Tens of thousands visit here – ordinary Jews, educators and their students, Knesset members and government ministers, soldiers and their officers, members of European parliaments, and U.S. congressmen. And after their visits, something happens in the minds of all of them. Even left-wing Knesset members, with tears in their eyes, have written in the visitors’ book, ‘Never again!’ ”