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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘EVERY’

It’s Official: You Can Be a Non-Jewish Rabbi

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Over the past few years, Reform and Conservative Judaism have been struggling so much with the notion of ordaining women rabbis and gay rabbis, that we, the spectators (innocent bystanders?) of those struggles have completely lost sight of an even more challenging notion: can they ordain gentile rabbis?

To cut a long story short: they can and they have. The Reform movement has done, and as a result, I believe, has placed itself outside the Rabbinical Jewish tradition regarding the fundamental notion of who qualifies as a Jew.

I became aware of this complete and, presumably, final split between Jews and the largely American Reform movement after receiving a link to Seth Berkman’s piece in the Forward: Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue. The article praises Angela as an example of diversity, who “walks among the pews, greeting congregants before Friday night services at Manhattan’s venerable Central Synagogue,” where she faces “a mélange of Jewish faces, including blacks, Asians and Hispanics,” in a “diversity that reflects the emergence of an American Jewry of unprecedented ethnic breadth.”

Had I known nothing more about the above paragraph, I would have been beaming with pride over it. In the shuls I attended on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, spotting an African or a Hispanic face was always such a source of pleasure. As a tiny nation and an even tinier religious group, we prize every gentile who embraces our faith and goes through the sometimes grueling process of becoming one of us.

Except that Berkman cuts to the chase right at the opener, making clear that no such grueling effort was involved in Angela Buchdahl’s joining the Chosen People: it turns out that the diversity she so praises at that Reform gathering is “embodied” by Buchdahl, who was “born to an Ashkenazi, Reform Jewish father and a Korean Buddhist mother.”

Exactly 30 years ago, in 1983, the Reform movement in America adopted the bilineal policy: “The Central Conference of American Rabbis declares that the child of one Jewish parent is under the presumption of Jewish descent. This presumption of the Jewish status of the offspring of any mixed marriage is to be established through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people. The performance of these mitzvot serves to commit those who participate in them, both parent and child, to Jewish life.”

It should be noted that outside the U.S. the Reform moevement is yet to adopt the sweeping “presumption of Jewish descent” doctrine, but they do, by and large, offer “accelerated conversions” to children of a Jewish father.

Hadassah Magazine, which Berkman quotes in her story, featured a profile of the Korean born Angela Buchdahl, the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor or rabbi and the first woman to attain both positions.

For Buchdahl, according to Hadassah magazine, key Jewish values include “a spirit of genuine inquiry and multiple opinions; our whole method of study and nondogmatic spirit; the dignity of every person and the fact that we are all created in the image of God; the ability to know what it is to be a stranger and to have been a slave—and to force ourselves to embody that understanding in every generation.”

Far be it from me to criticize such fine and noble notions, but it is difficult to recognize in that amalgam anything uniquely Jewish. Absent is the idea of fulfilling the mitzvot as a divine agenda. It’s all about getting along with others and respecting them, not so much about applying Torah laws to one’s daily life.

Indeed, the more the Reform movement is reinventing itself, the closer it gets to Christianity. She’s been active, among other things, at Auburn Theological Seminary, “an interfaith platform to address global issues and build bridges across religious traditions.”

“Angela is an extraordinary religious leader,” Rev. Katherine Henderson, Auburn’s president, told Hadassah. At a gathering for a Presbyterian group last year, Buchdahl “led worship that was completely authentic for her as a Jew and yet completely accessible for this group of Christians,” says Henderson. “We were all able to praise God together!”

This reporter is known to be flippant, so I very much want to avoid being flippant about this story. I don’t think we should denounce people like Angela Buchdahl, or condemn the Reform movement for its straying so far out of the Rabbinical Jewish tent. But we should remain steadfast in not calling any of these people and the nice things they do “Jewish” in any way at all. We’re already not permitted to set foot inside their houses of worship. We should probably stop calling their religious teachers “Rabbi” – perhaps “Reform Rabbi” will do. And we should look forward to the time when calling someone “Reform” would simply mean a really nice non-Jew.

Israeli GetTaxi Launches New York Limo Service

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Israelis and taxis in New York — not exactly news, except that this story is not about Israelis driving taxis, but offering a hi-tech solution to taxi-starved New Yorkers.

On Thursday, GetTaxi Ltd. announced the launching of its new taxi hailing app in New York City, after many delays, partly due to resistance from the taxi union and the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The company now serves busy urbanites in London, Moscow, Tel Aviv and New York, Globes reports.

“We realized that we might not be necessary,” says GetTaxi VP marketing Nimrod May. “It’s easy to hail a cab in Manhattan. You stand at the curb and hundreds of cabs are driving around to pick you up. In contrast, at rush hour, when you need a cab, it’s hard to find one. This is where we enter the picture.”

Smart man. Anyone who spent quality time fighting over a cab at a Manhattan street corner should grab the new app.

GetTaxi, which was banned from using the noun Taxi in NYC, will operate under a special label, “G-Car,” offering a reservation service for limousines in collaboration with the city’s current fleet operators.

“When we founded the company, we dreamed of offering our users an app that would work in every territory and in every language in the world, and we’re pleased to see our vision materializing. We’re pleased to bring GetTaxi’s innovative technology and good, convenient, and state-of-the-art user experience to the residents of and many visitors to New York,” GetTaxi cofounder and CEO Shahar Waiser told Globes.

My Week in Israel with Dr. Oz

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Everything over the past week was memorable and magical as Dr. Mehmet Oz, America’s foremost daytime TV host and the world’s most famous doctor, toured Israel. From dancing the horah outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, to dancing Friday night at the Western Wall with Israeli soldiers and thousands of worshippers, to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu for ninety minutes of substantive conversation about Israel, Turkey, and the United States, Dr. Oz and his family showed the Jewish state extravagant love and admiration.

Mehmet is a remarkable man and seeing him up close reinforced the high regard in which I have always held him, ever since we started working together for Oprah at her radio network. First there was his attention to his children, all four of whom accompanied him, along with his son-in-law. Mehmet would go nowhere without them and pulled them in to hear every last explanation about Israel’s ancient and modern history.

Then there is his dedication to his wife Lisa, a remarkable and brilliant woman in her own right, and vastly knowledgeable of the Bible. Lisa was correcting me constantly on Biblical quotations (I purposely got them wrong so she could feel superior). Mehmet is a man who honors his wife at every opportunity.

Of course, there were the legions of fans – Jews and Arabs in every part of Israel – that pleaded for a picture and he turned noone down.

But more than anything else there was his attachment to the Jewish people on display at every moment. Mehmet is a Muslim, perhaps the world’s most famous Muslim who is not a head of state. He is a righteous and proud Ambassador of his faith and feels an innate kinship and brotherhood with the Jewish people.

He praised Israel constantly, from lauding its treatment of its minority citizens at our joint lecture at Rambam hospital in Haifa, to noting Israel’s phenomenal medical breakthroughs at several news conferences, to highlighting his amazement at Israel’s capacity to turn deserts into thriving cities.

In Hebron, at the tomb of the patriarchs, we prayed together publicly for peace and understanding between the children of Abraham. At the tomb of Maimonides we noted the role reversal. Maimonides, a Jew, was the world’s most famous physician, and he served the Muslim ruler Saladin. Now, a Muslim doctor – the world’s most famous – was visiting his Jewish brothers in the Holy land 900 years later.

Joined with Natan Sharasnky at the Jerusalem Press Club for a public discussion, the three of us debated whether there was an obligation to hate evil. Mehmet maintained that hatred harmed he who harbored it, even for the best of reasons. On this Sharasnky and I disagreed. Natan spoke of the evil he encountered in the KGB. I spoke of Hamas’ genocidal covenant and Hezbollah’s commitment to annihilating Israel. Terrorists deserved our contempt. Only by truly hating evil are we prepared to fight it. In the end we compromised in agreeing that hating evil should not be obsessive and internal but rather externally directed at neutralizing those who slaughter God’s innocent children, whoever they may be.

As I walked Dr. Oz and his family through the old city of Jerusalem on Friday night, we passed through Zion gate, still riddled with bullet holes from the heavy fighting of 1967 that liberated the city. At Shabbat dinner at the home of Simon and Chana Falic, my friend Ron Dermer, Israel’s newly appointed Ambassador to the United States, explained to Mehmet that even after Israel conquered the Temple Mount in the Six Day War it left control of Judaism’s holiest site to the Muslim waqf and that such an action had no precedent in all human history. Ron said that there could no greater illustration of Israel’s desire to respect its Muslim citizens and seek peace.

At the Christian holy sites, like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and Muslim Holy Sites like the Dome of the Rock and the vast Muslim crowds that filled mosques for Ramadan, Dr. Oz saw first hand how Israel is a country of thriving religious liberty.

But the highlight of the visit was the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu where Ambassador Dermer joined Mehmet and me as we heard the Israeli leader deeply engage Mehmet about Israel’s search for peace and the challenges it faces with the destabilization of Syria and Egypt on the one hand, and the changes in its relationship with Turkey, on the other.

The Second Time Around

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

 

Have you ever asked yourself-or anyone else: If you could live your life all over again, what different choices would you make?

 

            Most people-myself included-would answer this question with a slew of situations, big and little that we would handle differently a second, more mature time around. From possibly exchanging the individual they married (ouch!), to choosing a different career path (I always wanted to be an astronaut), from the city or country where they live (Honolulu has fantastic, sunny beaches), the list of things that people would do differently are many.

 

Once, I heard a wise person respond to this question with a slant that caught me totally off guard. “What changes would I make? None. I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

 

Huh? Was he in denial over all his past mistakes? Or was he one of those previously-thought-to-be-non-existent individuals who lead that elusive “perfect” life? Or was he simply too arrogant to learn from his own setbacks to make better choices?

 

Or, perhaps he was truly wiser than most of us. Perhaps he came to a realization that “From G-d, a man’s steps are established” (Psalms 37:23). His destiny was predetermined, his footsteps guided from Above. All those choices he took credit – or discredit – for, were part of G-d’s master-plan.

 

Every decision that “he” made presented him with just the opportunity that he needed. There were no “good” or “bad” choices for him. Ultimately even those situations that were challenging were exactly what he needed in his personal destiny, for his ultimate good.

 

Ever consider that? Imagine how liberating such a perspective would be.

 

But, you ask, what about those decisions you made that really were dreadful. Like the time that you finally stood up to your overbearing Aunt Beatrice and told her precisely what you thought of her advice, only to immediately regret saying what you did, but still causing her not to speak to you for the last two decades since then or the time with your boss, er, former boss-well, you get the picture Or how about regrettable decisions you made in prioritizing your time, not spending enough of it with family and friends?

 

Unlike your job, your spouse, or your city of residence, ethical choices are yours alone. You can’t chalk up those horrid choices to “destiny”-because your loss of composure and resulting behavior was a result of your personal free choice. These are choices that the Torah tells us that we must sincerely regret-that is what teshuvah (repentance) is all about!

 

But here the mystics introduce us to an interesting dichotomy: After we have made those less-than-perfect choices, there is an opportunity for us to exploit these decisions, and even their consequences, for our own benefit. In hindsight – and in hindsight only… – we accept that this is exactly what we needed, at that moment, for our individual spiritual progress. We may have chosen the regrettable path that got us into the bind, but the fact that we now are in a bind, which is ultimately part of His plan-we are intended to use this opportunities for our essential spiritual growth. When properly utilized, these setbacks, and the lessons we take from them, can propel us to incredible heights.

 

So think about your answer to this question. If you could live your life all over again, how would YOU do it?

 

Differently, perhaps.

 

But you don’t get to live life again.

 

So maybe the better question is: If you are living YOUR life today, complete with all the decisions that YOU made, how are you using EVERY one of those decision as an impetus for self-improvement?  

The Second Time Around

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

 


Have you ever asked yourself-or anyone else: If you could live your life all over again, what different choices would you make?

 

            Most people-myself included-would answer this question with a slew of situations, big and little that we would handle differently a second, more mature time around. From possibly exchanging the individual they married (ouch!), to choosing a different career path (I always wanted to be an astronaut), from the city or country where they live (Honolulu has fantastic, sunny beaches), the list of things that people would do differently are many.

 

Once, I heard a wise person respond to this question with a slant that caught me totally off guard. “What changes would I make? None. I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

 

Huh? Was he in denial over all his past mistakes? Or was he one of those previously-thought-to-be-non-existent individuals who lead that elusive “perfect” life? Or was he simply too arrogant to learn from his own setbacks to make better choices?

 

Or, perhaps he was truly wiser than most of us. Perhaps he came to a realization that “From G-d, a man’s steps are established” (Psalms 37:23). His destiny was predetermined, his footsteps guided from Above. All those choices he took credit – or discredit – for, were part of G-d’s master-plan.

 

Every decision that “he” made presented him with just the opportunity that he needed. There were no “good” or “bad” choices for him. Ultimately even those situations that were challenging were exactly what he needed in his personal destiny, for his ultimate good.

 

Ever consider that? Imagine how liberating such a perspective would be.

 

But, you ask, what about those decisions you made that really were dreadful. Like the time that you finally stood up to your overbearing Aunt Beatrice and told her precisely what you thought of her advice, only to immediately regret saying what you did, but still causing her not to speak to you for the last two decades since then or the time with your boss, er, former boss-well, you get the picture Or how about regrettable decisions you made in prioritizing your time, not spending enough of it with family and friends?

 

Unlike your job, your spouse, or your city of residence, ethical choices are yours alone. You can’t chalk up those horrid choices to “destiny”-because your loss of composure and resulting behavior was a result of your personal free choice. These are choices that the Torah tells us that we must sincerely regret-that is what teshuvah (repentance) is all about!

 

But here the mystics introduce us to an interesting dichotomy: After we have made those less-than-perfect choices, there is an opportunity for us to exploit these decisions, and even their consequences, for our own benefit. In hindsight – and in hindsight only… – we accept that this is exactly what we needed, at that moment, for our individual spiritual progress. We may have chosen the regrettable path that got us into the bind, but the fact that we now are in a bind, which is ultimately part of His plan-we are intended to use this opportunities for our essential spiritual growth. When properly utilized, these setbacks, and the lessons we take from them, can propel us to incredible heights.

 

So think about your answer to this question. If you could live your life all over again, how would YOU do it?

 

Differently, perhaps.

 

But you don’t get to live life again.

 

So maybe the better question is: If you are living YOUR life today, complete with all the decisions that YOU made, how are you using EVERY one of those decision as an impetus for self-improvement?  

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/the-second-time-around-2/2009/12/30/

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