Purim zaniness came early to Israel this year. Speaking at a conference in Herzliya at the beginning of February, Prime Minister Netanyahu called for the rehabilitation of Jewish heritage sites in the Land of Israel.
After receiving a recent e-mail, I found myself awash in a sea of memories. In the course of corresponding with a friend, I realized that the fourth yahrzeit of my family's rabbi - Doniel Schur, z"l - was rapidly approaching (21 Adar/March 7, 2010).
In the New York Review of Books back in 2003, Tony Judt published his view that the Jewish state should be deleted. This was the predicate of his proposal to reanimate the corpse of the one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Steeped in academic authority and writing during the overlap of the second Intifada with Bush's invasion of Iraq, Judt argued that Israel was a harmful anachronism. He was not the first to express an abolitionist anti-Zionism, but his prestige and timing led him to become the celebrity spokesman for the internationalist case against Israel.
The words are from Ari Shavit, journalist for Israel's left-wing daily Haaretz, directed to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu (who took office, actually, last March 31 and has been prime minister less than a year) naturally responded by denying the charge, saying "My vision is of an Israel that is a world technological superpower, anchored in values, reaching peace from strength . we are working to jump-start the economy, to augment our security and to strengthen Israel through inculcating basic national values."
It's been five years since I attended a symposium at Columbia University discussing the David Project's documentary "Columbia Unbecoming," a film that highlighted anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements by faculty in the Middle East Arts Language and Culture MEALC program. The film ignited a debate over the prevalence of anti-Zionism on American campuses and the dangers of advocacy teaching at universities, much of it fueled by Arab funding.
A friend of mine came to this country from China back in the eighties. China had little opportunity for people like him he tells me, especially after Chairman Mao had destroyed the country. To get anywhere you had to know people and pay them off. Everything, he adds, was corrupt and there was no freedom. America looked better and so he emigrated, married and raised a family here.
The passing of Rabbi Menachem Porush in Jerusalem on Sunday night brought to mind many memories of my childhood. He was a close friend...
Purim is the "topsy-turvy" day of the Jewish calendar - the day of v'nahafoch hu. Boys and girls wear costumes, and we expect children to make noise in shul. It is a festive and happy day. But Purim may also be the day a Jewish boy or girl takes his or her first drink and the first step toward alcohol abuse.
"Mishenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha" - with the coming of Adar simcha increases. What is the biggest simcha? When God saves us.
On their face, there could not be two more unlikely holidays to wed than Yom Kippur and Purim. Even the youngest child knows that Purim is a holiday meant for fun and celebration, for costumes and parties. Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, calling on us engage in deep, somber introspection as we search for forgiveness and atonement. How different they are!
The founding of J Street in 2008 sparked much debate in the pro-Israel community. Many were concerned that the group would be overly critical of the Jewish state and thus erode the pro-Israel consensus in the United States.
For thousands of years of Jewish history there wasn't a unique nomenclature classifying Torah-deviant Jews. Denominations like Conservative, Reform and Orthodox were non-existent. One was either more observant, less observant, or, in highly atypical cases, nonobservant.
Like millions of people around the world, I had followed the tragedy in Haiti since the earthquake jolted that country just over a month ago. But while the media portrayed a great deal of the devastation visited on this poorest of Western nations, it wasn't until I traveled to Haiti on a relief mission that I truly understood just how severe the crisis really was.
Israel's Im Tirtzu student organization bills itself as the "Second Zionist Revolution." Until a few weeks ago, that sounded like youthful bravado. But the group has raised eyebrows - and hackles - with its unprecedented grand slam in the Israeli media against the New Israel Fund.
The ideal drashah (sermon) combines science and art. There is the scientific component, where the darshan embodies deep and authentic Jewish scholarship: breadth of knowledge, methodology, and faithfulness to tradition. Equally significant are the artistic elements of the drashah: eloquence, presentation, and a penetrating understanding of one's intended audience.
Conspicuous for its absence in President Obama's State of the Union address was any mention of what is variously called the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Middle East peace process. Israeli analyst Yoram Ettinger suggests this "reflects a U.S. order of priorities and, possibly, a concern that mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict does not advance - but undermines - Obama's domestic standing."
Another month, another round of recriminations in the Modern Orthodox community. Two months ago it was a breakaway rabbinic organization established, in part, to promote decentralized conversion standards. Last month it was a public forum on homosexuality in the Orthodox community.
The news that British MP George Galloway was the planned guest speaker at a February 1 Hamas fundraiser at Boston's Palestinian Cultural Center for Peace would, in a morally coherent world, be alarming for those in the West who wonder why elected officials should be gathering support for a group of jihadist thugs whose principal efforts are dedicated to the extirpation of Israel and the murder of Jews.
I was apprised of the fact that a renowned rav and posek in Flatbush dedicated his Shabbos morning drasha to the plight of a young lady who was recently dismissed from her Brooklyn Bais Yaakov. It seems she vexed the administration because she asked her teacher incisive questions about the nature of Gan Eden. Thankfully, due to the intervention of this prominent rav, she was reinstated to her school.
Summer 1946. His high school days over, my father, Mordechai Schwartz, was faced with a decision that would affect not only his life but the lives of generations to come.
As Super Bowl weekend approaches the signs at the local takeout stores in Modern Orthodox neighborhoods (and even some haredi ones as well, but I limit my discussion here to the former as that is my community) abound with signs advertising gigantic food package options with catchy names such as the "Linebacker" or the "Halftimer."
For months now, every Friday in Zion has seen screaming and violent leftist rioters attacking Israeli soldiers, engaging in hooliganism, and breaking the law. The thugs are a mixture of foreign pro-terror "anarchists" Israel foolishly lets into the country, joined by some members of Israel's own "Leftists for the Extermination of Israel."
On his radio program last week, Rush Limbaugh touted Norman Podhoretz's excellent new book Why Jews are Liberals. As the title suggests, Podhoretz attempts to answer a question that is often asked of Jewish conservatives. Limbaugh distills his analysis down to its essentials: Liberal Jews are liberals first, last and always, and their political liberalism trumps all their other "isms," including Judaism.
As I write this, U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is here in Israel again, and it's not stirring much excitement or even interest. On Sunday he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the latter saying Mitchell had "interesting ideas" on how to get Israeli-Palestinian talks going again but not saying what the ideas were.