On the first day of Shavuot, we read in Exodus 19 that God declares to the Israelites assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai:
“If you obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples…. you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation… the people answered as one, saying, ‘All that God has spoken we will do.’”
To this very day, before reading the Torah, we bless God “who chose us from among all the nations.”
Yet Jews have always been somewhat ambivalent about this special distinction imposed upon us for...Read More
Today's North American Reform synagogues have increasingly begun to rethink and attempt to reinvigorate the contemporary practice of bar and bat mitzvah, a practice that may transform Reform Judaism in general. In many ways, these conversations are reminiscent of the emergence of confirmation at the beginning of the 19th century, a significant part of a broad effort to re-envision Judaism's well known adolescent rites-de-passage in communities throughout central Europe. In time, confirmation, largely became associated with Reform Judaism.
With respect to the practice of bar mitzvah...Read More
The Forward’s recent headline, “The 2 We Lost in the Philadelphia Train Crash,” piqued my interest. I was curious to know who these two of the eight fatalities were, and what the writer meant by “we.”
The May 14 story, written by Jesse Lempel, identified one of the victims as “Justin Zemser, 20, a midshipman at the Naval Academy in Maryland who aspired to be a Navy Seal.” His uncle, Richard Zemser, “had high hopes for Justin.” ‘Am I talking to the first Jewish president of the United States?’ he would ask, teasingly, when he spoke with Justin on the phone.” The only other reference...Read More
Shavuot is an ideal time to contemplate the brit (covenant) that God made with the Israelites, and its impact on the Jewish experience to this day.
Standing at Mount Sinai, our ancestors answered as one: “All that God has spoken we shall do” (Exodus 19:8), thereby entering into a hallowed contract with the Eternal to remain in force as long as this “holy nation” continued to exist.
The Jewish people has upheld its side of the deal, thanks to the loyalty of “the saving remnant” (Isaiah 10:21) – those who have withstood great pressure and sometimes unspeakable suffering to be...Read More
My colleagues and friends and I boarded a train to Baltimore on Friday, May 1, on our way to a march and rally organized by Jews United for Justice. We were once again disappointed and outraged by the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of the police. Though we were standing up for justice for Freddie Gray, we knew that we were also asking for justice in our broader criminal justice system.
In our backpacks, we each had snacks, water, and a scarf or bandana to cover our faces with in case we got tear gassed – a hopefully unlikely but certainly possible situation. When one...Read More
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