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I confess to being a bit jaded after 30+ years as a public policy activist (40+ years if you want to count my high school and college activism during the early era of the fight for Soviet Jewry).

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that you "win some, lose some." When we win, victory can be fleeting and there will be others who will try to chip away at our success – think reproductive rights and health care reform. When we lose, there will always be future opportunities for progress and we need to take a long term approach – think about the ongoing fight against poverty and...

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There is much talk of forgiveness these days, particularly in the wake of the sentencing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombing, and the arrest of Dylann Roof, the accused perpetrator of last week’s devastating shooting at a church in South Carolina. Family members of the victims of both tragedies have spoken movingly of forgiving those who took the lives of their loved ones. As Jews, when are we expected to forgive?  Should we – and can we – forgive Tsarnaev and Roof? What wisdom does our tradition offer as we consider these questions?

Repentance and...

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Mishpachah (family). K’dushah (holiness). Ahavah (love). 

These elements comprise the essence of every life event, both joyous celebrations and times of sorrow. They are the ingredients of our most treasured relationships; they lie at the foundation of any community. 

Family, holiness, and love were present in large measure in my son Adam's birth ceremony, consecration, bar mitzvah, and confirmation, and even in his graduations from elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.

All of the same elements were present when Adam got married this year, too...

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While my daughter, Mimi, was walking in a Brooklyn mall recently, pushing her baby in the stroller, she was approached by a modestly dressed girl of about 12 years old. Speaking with a slight accent, the girl asked, “Are you Jewish?”

When Mimi answered yes, the girl called out excitedly, “She’s Jewish, she’s Jewish!” Suddenly Mimi was surrounded by seven or eight Lubavitcher ’tween girls who offered her a pair of Shabbat candlesticks.

“I already have candlesticks,” my daughter said, so the girls instead handed her some money to put in their tzedakah (charity) box, saying, “...

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“So, what exactly is your background?”

“Both of your parents aren’t Jewish, are they?”

“Wait, so you’re just like a Jewish Barack Obama!”

Growing up as a half-Black and half-White person who is also Jewish definitely raised some interesting questions and responses upon “revealing” my identity to my friends.

Of course, none of these responses were meant to be hurtful, but until a few years ago, I still felt awkward and anxious telling my friends and other community members about my background and how it influences my life. However, as someone dedicated to...

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