In the good old days, Forest Hills, New York - where I grew up between 1939 and 1951 - was a shtetl for assimilated American Jews. Like my parents, all our neighbors were American-born offspring of Eastern European immigrants. A generation removed from their identity conflicts, we children knew that Forest Hills, liberated from Judaism, was our promised land.
Miami Beach was certainly a fitting choice as the site for this month's reunion of passengers from the ill-fated SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees that sailed from Nazi Germany in May 1939. As children, they gazed at the lights of Miami as the St. Louis hovered off the Florida coast, hoping desperately for permission to land.
It is difficult to remember the last time the United States was wracked with such dissension, discontent, protests, and economic hardship.
The place that holds the record for murders in a day – even over such ghastly places as Auschwitz and Treblinka – is Babi Yar. A ravine on the outskirts of Kiev, it is today incorporated within the urban, inhabited sector of the Ukrainian capital. The events described here took place seventy years ago, in 1941, on Rosh Hashanah.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations show no sign of abating and the voice of collective dissent now echoes well beyond lower Manhattan. During the past few weeks, the movement has spread nationally, as protesters across the country came together in a leaderless association that rails against corporate greed and social inequality.
In March 1978, at the conclusion of the Litani Operation in South Lebanon, five Israeli soldiers and a civilian jumped into a car and decided to go on an outing. The group took to the road in defiance of army regulations and somehow got waived through a forward checkpoint. Moments later they found themselves surrounded by heavily armed Palestinians. Four of the five soldiers were killed instantly, while the civilian miraculously made it back to Israeli lines the next day.
One night, a man was shot as he tried to break into the settlement from a nearby Arab city. His family did not say, "We are so sorry that our son tried to break into your community and commit violence." Quite the opposite. There was a prolonged, noisy demonstration in his city against the Israel Defense Forces.
The newborn is far from shy about letting its feelings be known as it is thrust, against its will, into a frigid and foreign world. With flailing hands and pitiful wails, its displeasure is made amply clear. Which raises the question: Since the soul does not choose to spend time on this planet, is it fair that it is held accountable for the way it goes about living its life here on earth?
Does teshuvah apply only to individuals and not to their relationships? Only to individuals and not to communities?
Every Jew’s soul is a piece of the Divine essence, hewn from beneath the Throne of Glory.
“Overnight,” The New York Times reported, Vienna’s Jews “were made free game for mobs, despoiled of their property, deprived of police protection, ejected from employment and barred from sources of relief.”
The president held 82 press conferences in 1933 alone. The subject of Hitler's persecution of the Jews came up on only one occasion – and not because Roosevelt raised it.
Where children are emotionally and socially when they are not in school is a matter of growing concern for educators, especially in Jewish schools and other religious institutions.
“You who cling to Hashem, your God, are all alive today.”
All societies survive through the retention of customs and traditions. If ritual law, halacha and Torah observance are the keystones of Jewish existence, the customs and traditions of Israel are the chain that has kept Israel bound to the Torah and its laws and values. The rabbis called the customs and traditions of Israel "the lessons of your mother" - in contrast and at the same time complementing "the teachings and disciplines of your father."
If the UN should decide to recognize a "State of Palestine" in the biblical homeland of the Jewish people it would endorse a bizarre irony. Why?
The traumatic shock experienced in Norway is in many ways similar to the enormous, numbing sense of pain the residents of Jerusalem felt in the days and weeks leading up to the churban of our Second Temple.
Recently I had the opportunity to hear about those effects firsthand from a group of Jewish women who were willing to share their stories.
Not many Jews lived in Baltimore during the eighteenth century; by 1796 the entire Jewish population of the city consisted of about 15 families. As late as 1825, Solomon Etting, one of the first Jewish residents of Baltimore, estimated the Jewish population of Baltimore to be about 150.
Are we created in the image of God or are we grasshoppers?
Legends are necessary for nation building and community cohesiveness. Legends of holy and pious people and legends about villains and the wicked are often subject to fabrication and gross exaggeration, but they leave no doubt in the minds of later generations as to who was the holy and pious person and who was the villain.
“Palestine” was defined as the land east and west of the Jordan River, now comprising Jordan, the West Bank and Israel.
It is late at night. There are four of us on the hospital ward. Two are young men, a religious Ethiopian Jew and a young Arab computer "techie" who spends his days working on his laptop. I am one of the two elders in the room. The other is an Arab from a village in the Galilee. The two younger men complain about the horrific snoring coming from us geezers, but they're not sure who is the worst offender. The nurses offer them sympathy and sleeping pills, to no avail.
The rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799 as first counsel and later, in 1804, as emperor, heralded new opportunities for French Jewry.
Although gazing skyward is for most a spontaneous daily activity, looking up at the heavens as one begins to pray is a prescribed approach intended to enhance one’s kavanah.