Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
in memory of Emmet Manheim. Yashar Koach to Lisa, Jeff and all who participated.
I hope you'll be able to join us for services, hybrid on Friday night (where we'll celebrate the recent marriage of Ben Rosenthal and Stacy Newman). Mazal tov to them, and to Joan and Bob as well. And for those who might recall my sermons from a past life, in honor of the ghostly weekend of Halloween, I'll be talking about "Judaism and Reincarnation" (see a backgrounder here).
On Shabbat morning we'll be on Zoom, but don't let that deter you. It's a really loving, supportive, participatory group. "Stop by" at 10 AM, when we'll check out a new weekly Torah study packet for all ages created by Machon Hadar. It's called "Dvash" (honey), based on the old notion that Torah study should be as sweet as honey. Here is the packet for this week's portion of Hayye Sarah. For more info and to subscribe to this excellent weekly parsha magazine, click here. And to read some Torah wisdom from one of our own students, see Lolly Socaransky's recent Bat Mitzvah d'var Torah for the portion of Noah.
It's nice these days to have a spare moment to churn one of these newsletters out, and connect, given how many funerals and illnesses we've had lately. Lots to catch up on. Today I took a deep dive into the complete rupture taking place at Park East Synagogue in New York. Read about it here, What's happening there should send shivers up the spine of Jewish leaders everywhere - no schadenfreude allowed. When people anywhere see the synagogue as the place that brings out the worst in human beings, and not a place filled with integrity, warmth and trust among people who care for one another, we all lose. I know that we have fought hard to build that kind of atmosphere here. Sometimes with greater success, sometimes less so, but we have never lacked for trying. So what's happening at Park East is profoundly troubling - and it should be. But this is one train wreck that doesn't give us the luxury of averting our eyes. There are no good guys - there are no bad guys.... But good people are more than capable of making a huge mess, which is what has happened at Park East.
A very different (though no less sad) story about another old clergy-guy appeared in the NYT this week - the 100 year old priest called to leave his community after 70 (seventy!) years. Read about it here.The narrative of his final mass is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
And gone but not forgotten - last week's death of Colin Powell brought out some interesting articles about his Jewish connections - including the fact that he and Thurgood Marshall both gained their early-life impressions of the Jewish community in the same way - as Shabbos goys.
Meanwhile, Pew came out with one of it's provocative surveys this week, with the focus on church-state separation. It states, among other revelations, that 69 percent of Americans say the US government should never declare any religion as the official religion of the United States. Fifteen percent (38 million people) say it should declare the country a Christian nation. A quarter of Republicans say that the government should declare the U.S. a Christian nation. Six percent of Democrats say that. See the survey here, and below you'll find one of the more pertinent charts:
Not to be outdone, just as we read about the potential erosion of that precious wall of separation, a new survey on anti-Semitism was released by the AJC. Some key takeaways:
One in four American Jews has been the target of antisemitism—through in-person remarks, online or on social media, or by way of physical attacks—over the past 12 months.
Four in ten American Jews have changed their behavior due to fears of antisemitism over the past year, with 22% saying they have avoided wearing or displaying things that would enable others to identify them as Jewish.
While 82% of American Jews believe antisemitism has increased over the past five years, only 44% of the general public agrees—even though 41% of Americans say they’ve witnessed at least one antisemitic incident over the past year.
Most American Jews who heard about attacks on Jews in the United States and around the world during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas said they made them feel less safe as Jews in America—but most of the general public was largely unaware the attacks had even happened.
For the full results, along with expert analysis, click here.
It is hitting very close to home, what with yet another anti-Semitic incident reported in Darien this week.
And the long-awaited trial of the Charlottesville hate groups has finally begun. Click here to see how to get regular updates. Some may recall that Amy Spitalnick, who is coordinating this court battle, spoke here just one week before the murders at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh three years ago. It's hard to say if progress has bene made since then, but what's clear is that the hate groups singled out here have paid a hefty price already, and the trial is just getting underway. Click here for more background.