In a political climate marked by partisanship, it is too seldom that we see a willingness for elected officials to reach across the aisle on major national issues. It was therefore nothing short of historic when, on October 1, a bipartisan group comprised of Senators Grassley, Cornyn, Durbin, Leahy, Schumer, Booker, Lee, Scott, Whitehouse and Graham introduced the most significant comprehensive criminal justice reform bill in decades. The Sentencing Reform and...Read More
As I entered the third grade in secular school, I simultaneously enrolled in Hebrew school at Congregation Shalom, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Milwaukee, WI. At age 9, Hebrew school seemed like a rite of passage in preparation for becoming a bar mitzvah.
My synagogue offered a class called ulpan for students who wanted to work at their own pace and receive additional Hebrew enrichment. It was a perfect fit for me. At the time, I never could have imagined that 10 years later, I...Read More
Many mysteries surround the origins of Columbus. One recurrent claim is the explorer had Jewish roots. The arguments are based on a number of observations or interpretations: First, Columbus was knowledgeable of Jewish history and traditions, such as referring to the Second Temple as “The Second House,” a term used only in Jewish sources. Second, his financial backers were Jews or of Jewish ancestry. Third, he chose Jews and ex-Jews as crewmen, including the Hebrew-speaking interpreter Luis de Torres. Fourth, Columbus encoded his elaborate Christian signature with kabalistic messages...Read More
In the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, the descendants of Noah come together to build a tower that would stretch so high it would reach God in the heavens. Most interpretations say that God, seeing this, curses the people so that they speak many languages and cannot understand one another, which foils their plan to build the tower.
These interpretations understand the story of the Tower of Babel as one of hubris and punishment. The peoples’ goal seems to be to try to reach the heavens and increase their connection with God, or to try to become more holy, but God seems to find...Read More
Two were walking on the way; one had a canteen of water; if they share the water, they will both die [before reaching a source of water]; if one drinks all the water, he will survive. Ben Petura taught: Let them both die, so that neither will see the death of his comrade. Then came Rabbi Akiba and taught: “…that your brother may live with you” [Leviticus 25:36] meaning that your life takes precedence over your brother’s.
-Bab. Talmud, Baba Metzia 62a
In considering the place of Israel in the global refugee crisis, I suggest we try to set aside the often strident rhetoric...Read More
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