I was at an employee leadership conference the other day, speaking from the podium and telling Environmental Protection Agency colleagues about my views on leadership. Eventually, my formal remarks were done and we opened the floor to questions. That’s when it really became interesting.
Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were in Los Angeles last month, speaking to an overflow crowd of more than 300 people at the Armand Hammer Museum – part of a speaking tour with appearances at World Affairs Councils in San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C., the City Club in Cleveland, forums at the University of Chicago, MIT and Columbia University, the Cambridge Forum in Harvard Square, and media slots on NPR, the Colbert Report, and WTTW-TV in Chicago.
It came to pass that the shamash in a little shtetl passed away, leaving an elderly widow. The community volunteered to support her, but she refused to take a “handout.” So an agreement was reached whereby she would receive a good wage for doing her deceased husband’s work of awakening the townspeople for Selichot before Rosh Hashanah. She was given the wooden gavel used for the task and set off at three in the morning to awaken the men of the community.
When in the spring of 2006 two professors from distinguished institutions, the University of Chicago and the Harvard School of Government, published a paper in the London Review of Books called “The Israel Lobby,” it raised alarm bells about the spread and impact of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in America.
Dan Rather has been out of the anchor chair at The CBS Evening News for more than two years. There is wide agreement that the story that led to his departure, a report on George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service, was based on fraudulent, or at least unverifiable, documents. CBS commissioned an extensive investigation into the matter, Rather left the network, and the affair seemed over.
Part of the standard liturgy of Jewish prayer is the pronouncement that “we were exiled for our sins.” The victories of the Babylonians and the Romans were not ascribed to the imperialist aggression of those predatory powers. Nor did our tradition assign blame for those defeats to the weakness of the Jewish forces, or even to the stupidity of both the strategic and tactical decisions made by Jewish leaders.
Let me state what is painfully obvious. Despite our most hopeful illusions, people are not really good, nor do they really practice peace. While power corrupts, absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely, and there is no safe place, neither high nor low, for the most vulnerable of our citizens.
It seems everyone is in a mighty tizzy about young Jews who fail to identify with Israel and don’t much care to visit there. How do we inspire these young folks to develop some feelings for the Holy Land, and attract them to visit Israel?
“And you shall rejoice in your festival” says the pasuk at the end of Parshas Re’ei (16:14), and this is actually a mitzvah. I suspect this is not intended to be one of the more difficult mitzvot for us to fulfill, yet for many hard-working Jews the Yomim Tovim are far greater sources of stress than joy.
In my former life as a school psychologist, I spent a great deal of time doing intelligence testing. Occasionally, I had the agonizing task of breaking the dreadful news to parents that a child was severely developmentally disabled. Whether or not I packaged the term in soft euphemisms like “cognitively depressed” or “mentally deficient,” most parents eventually caught on that I was just searching for other words to mollify that unbearable label.
Historians are both amazed and dumbfounded at the incredible saga of the Aztec nation. How was it possible, they ask, for Cortez and a relatively small number of Spanish soldiers to bring the mighty Aztec alliance to its knees?
Covering Israel, its relationship with the United States and the influential lobby that straddles the two often requires the basic skills and instincts of a cub reporter on the neighborhood beat.
In Yiddish folklore, the real-life Polish town of Chelm was characterized as a legendary community of fools. According to this folkloric tradition, Chelm’s residents were exceedingly proud of their tradition of non-wisdom and convoluted insight into the world’s problems. They viewed themselves as brilliant.
Jewish tradition teaches that the city of Tzfat (Safed), located in the north of Israel in the beautiful Galilee region, is one of Israel’s four holy cities (the others are Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron). Yet it is Tzfat that is praised for its exceptional spiritual presence.
Did you enjoy 5767? For Jews around the world, it was the usual assortment of bad – and even worse – news. Of course, not everything was awful. It was a year of recovery in Israel, as the aftermath of last year’s less than successful Second Lebanon War was followed by recriminations and political stalemate.
It wasn’t easy for me to come out with a public call to Israelis to oppose the evacuation of Jews from Hebron with passive, non-violent resistance. Hebron is Jerusalem, not Yamit.
The Passover Seder liturgy tells us that in every generation an enemy arises seeking to eradicate the Jewish people. In the last hundred years, those enemies included the Russian czar, Stalin, Hitler, Gamal Abdel Nasser and, more recently, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Well, we just marked the anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities and who pops out of his Caliphite Cave? Yup, Osama bin Laden.
Usually when disasters strike, there is no time to ask questions. With a rational approach, we spring into action and move forward with helping those in distress and repairing the damage. As mere mortals, we cannot understand why some hurricanes strike land while others veer away. Facing the uncertainty of climate change and random storms is part of the human condition, and so is picking up the pieces afterward.
On its face, it is the quintessential story of the success of American Jewish life: a public school where the teaching of Hebrew will be at the center of its core curriculum. But behind this facade, the founding of the Ben Gamla School in Broward County, Florida, has generated controversy and criticism.