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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Buchwald’

Atheist Birthright Founder and Rabbi Buchwald to Do Battle

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

The “Mother of All Debates” will take place next Tuesday at the National Jewish Outreach Program’s  (NJOP) 25th anniversary dinner next Tuesday at New York’s St. Regis Hotel.

The debate, which features the question of the future of Jewish continuity, will be moderated by renowned lecturer, author and thinker Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

“We have agreed to disagree on stage, in public… which may be explosive!” said Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald.

“We do not see eye to eye on many issues, but we both have a deep, unshakable belief in and commitment to the future of Jewish continuity. It will be equal parts honor and thrill to share the spotlight with Mr. (Michael) Steinhardt,” he said.

The debaters will address issues ranging from the efficacy of modern-day programs intended to engage Jews, such as Steinhardt’s Birthright and Rabbi Buchwald’s Shabbat Across America, to how the American Jewish community will look 50 years from now.

The audience is restricted to “invitation only” and will include both supporters of Steinhardt and Jewish Outreach and local Jewish community leaders.

“It was with great urgency that we founded NJOP 25 years ago,” Buchwald stated. “The entire unaffiliated American Jewish community was at risk of vanishing. Thank God, we have reached many of them, but the challenges we still face are daunting.“

He established NJOP in 1987 in response to the spiraling losses of Jews from Jewish life due to assimilation and lack of Jewish knowledge.

NJOP sponsors Shabbat Across America/Canada and the Read Hebrew America/Canada campaigns, establishes “Beginners Services” and offers the Turn Friday Night Into Shabbat, Passover Across America and Sukkot Across America programs, Holiday Workshops, as well as free “Crash Courses” in Hebrew Reading, Basic Judaism and Jewish History.

Rabbi Buchwald was a student of Rabbi Dr. JosephB. Soloveitchik at Yeshiva University, where he was ordained, and he served from 1973 for 15 years as the Director of Education at Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York.

Newsweek has listed him as on of America’s “top 50 rabbis” the last three years.

Steinhardt made a fortune as a hedge fund manager, financier, investor and newspaper publisher, and he is a philanthropist to Jewish causes.

He has been critical of non-Orthodox Jewish life and has charged that the Reform Judaism and Conservative movements have done “a poor job under-educating our next generations” by failing to distinguish Jewish values from Christian values.

Steinhardt also has asserted that that educators spend too much energy and time on the Holocaust to raise the flag of anti-Semitism in the United States, where he thinks is much less than believed.

The emphasis on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism detracts “from our ability to think about the Jewish future – because it’s hard to be focused intensively on the Holocaust and, at the same time, to think about what we want to accomplish and what we want to be in the 21st Century,” he said in an interview with Shalom TV three years ago.

Steinhardt has defined himself as an atheist but supports Jewish cultural identity.

The Diaspora “is a moribund Jewish world, continuously losing its young people, whose tzedakah has dramatically changed where only a small fraction of total philanthropy is going to Jewish causes; interest in Israel is declining; the number of American Jews going to Israel is not growing; where the culmination of Jewish life seems to be (for the young person) the bar mitzvah – and from there it is all downhill,” he added in the interview.

He founded the Birthright program, which sends young people to Israel for their first visit. Steinhardt has called Israel a “substitute for religion” but mourns the atmosphere in Israel, claiming it often is “easier to be a Zionist in Manhattan that in Tel Aviv.

However, he added, “I could forgive almost anything vis-à-vis Israel. Israel was and still is my Jewish miracle!”

His autobiography, “No Bull: My Life in and out of Markets,” notes his father, Sol Frank Steinhardt, who also was known as “Red McGee.”

“Red” Steinhardt was convicted in 1958 on two counts of buying and selling stolen jewelry, and was sentenced to serve two 5-to-10 year terms.

Important Moments In Becoming A Ba’al Teshuvah (Conclusion)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Feeling more alone than at any time since arriving in New York, I looked inside myself for anything that could anchor me to bring me back to who I was, to move away from illusions of romance to my central sticking point. Suddenly and unexpectedly, being a Jew meant more to me than anything else in the world.

I said to Susan, “Do you have these parties to try to draw people to your church?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, happy with what she was doing and with the fact that I understood her actions.

“What if a person is not interested in the Church?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said, as if she had called up a mental checklist. “I think you want to talk with our social worker.”

Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. A medical professional trained to help people realize their place in the world would obviously understand that this church isn’t for everybody.

Upon being introduced to the social worker, I was pleased to see that she looked like a level-headed person, someone I hoped would want to help people – particularly vulnerable people – get back on track.

After a little small talk, I got right to the point. “What happens when someone Jewish comes to your church, comes to you, and they’re lost, confused and looking for answers? Being a professional and a social worker, do you steer them to some Jewish organization that can help them?”

Smiling, she said, “No. Our church is equipped to help them with what they’re going through.”

A chill went down my spine. I thought of all the lonely and lost Jewish people who have come to these parties, people like me, who have been positively affected by all their kindnesses, leading them perhaps to give up thousands of years of connection to who they are. And the saddest part is that they wouldn’t even know what they were giving up.

“Can’t we just think of this as one big orchestra?” I asked her. “Each group has their own instrument to play. The Jews have their own instrument to play.”

She just looked at me and smiled, frustrating me more.

“At least let them find out what their own faith says about their issues before they would consider something else,” I implored.

Again she smiled and said, “You should really meet our priest. He’s Jewish, you know.”

This was one of those moments when you either laugh or cry.

“Sure, I’d like to meet him,” I said.

She left, and a minute later she was walking through the crowd with a 30ish man who was receiving all kinds of positive greetings from those in attendance. When introduced to the priest, I was struck by his calm, sweet demeanor.

He said to me, “I understand you have questions. Ask me anything you like.”

I blurted out, “How did you become the priest here?”

He smiled. “Good question,” he said, with eyes twinkling.

“Growing up Jewish,” he began, “at a certain point – my early 20s – I had a crisis of faith. I began to question whether there was a God in the world. I was deeply hurt by this.

“I had to do something. So I came upon the following idea: I would use Catholicism as a vehicle and an experiment to see if there was a God in the world.”

Now he was smiling broadly. He added, with enthusiasm, “And I do see Him now!”

A very obvious question came to mind and I blurted it out. “Couldn’t you have used Judaism as a vehicle to see if there was a God in the world?”

His blissful countenance was no more. He looked confused, as if he was trying to answer the question but couldn’t find the words.

No longer confused myself, I left the party and thought about what had transpired during my subway ride home.

I couldn’t get out of my mind how many fellows Jews we could be losing.

That Shabbos, at my once-a-month Beginner’s Service, I happily absorbed all that had happened. I felt like I had been deprived of water in the desert and had now come to an oasis. Perhaps it was the little I had learned at this service that helped me withstand Susan’s beauty and her friends’ warmth.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/important-moments-in-becoming-a-baal-teshuvah-conclusion/2012/07/11/

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