Bar & Bat Mitzvahs: Spending Ourselves into Oblivion

Bar Mitzvahs typically are foolishly extravagant to a degree that is Jewishly unjustifiable. Nothing about being a boy becoming 13 or a girl becoming 12 justifies the insanity of turning it into a wedding, replete with a 20-minute film retrospective on the kid’s life, as though it were the Biography Channel reviewing the life of Abraham Lincoln.

In this time of massive economic crisis, it must be quite a spectacle for many to behold Jewish profligacy in spending $15,000-$50,000 on ...

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A Mitzvah Resolution

We all have favorite mitzvot: slowing down the pace on Shabbat, building a sukkah, frolicking at Purim, studying Jewish texts, praying to God. With Rosh Hashana at hand, my New Year’s resolution is to share the amazing experience we call hachnasat orchim. It means opening one’s home to visitors, sometimes even to utter strangers. It frequently is marked by inviting friends and guests for Shabbat meals.

During the early years of my marriage, we hosted friends for Shabbat meals in ...

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Yeshiva Education Matters — More Than We Realize

In California, people (not necessarily Jewish) who home-school also have a network that connects them. So, for example, twenty parents home-schooling thirty kids connect through the network, and consequently arrange among themselves to meet at the local park each day from 1-2 pm for all their kids to play. That way, they home-school, family-by-family unto its respective self, while still enabling the kids to interact socially with other kids rather than emerging in isolation.

If there were an Orthodoxy culture ...

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Contrasting cultures

The single largest gathering in American history in honor of Torah study will take place at the New Jersey Meadowlands (“MetLife Stadium”), home of the New York Giants football team and the New York Jets. It will be beamed by satellite to local gatherings the world over.

(New Jersey is a suburb of New York City although, for some reason, it has a governor, two U.S. senators, and some electoral votes.)

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On the Obsolescence of “Orthodoxy” and the Timeliness of “Observance”

We in the Observant community – my preferred term – historically have reflected, to our shame, a reduced sensitivity to the use of English language for transmitting values, ideas, and goals. “Colored People” started insisting on “Negro” as a transition to acknowledging a Peoplehood and abandoning an absurd term; they are not green, blue, or orange. Later, preferring to abandon the Spanish sobriquet for an American English term that paralleled the majority “White” culture, they moved to ...

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Rosh Hashanah — The Next Thing on My List

With Rosh Hashanah on the horizon, we pause to take stock: What is a year?

We do not get many of them in a lifetime. According to Moshe Rabbeinu, in Psalm 90, we typically may look to seventy – if with strength, to eighty – of them, and most of our years are about toil and pain, struggle and “what-not.” That is a year.

For us, we use the calendrical marker to look ahead, partly by looking back. What did I ...

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Running Interference: Hank Greenberg as Mixed Metaphor

When a Torah-observant rabbinic figure participates in a Church service honoring a newly elected American President, the episode creates an interesting problem for other Rabbonim in the future, who choose not to do so. When I have faced that situation in the past, I have explained the situation gingerly to my political sponsor, who always has respected the halakhic position. I would in the future, too. The situation becomes more awkward if asked on the rebound: “But wasn’t there some Orthodox ...

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Jews and American Conservatism

Last year, when voters in the Queens-Brooklyn Ninth Congressional District of New York elected Bob Turner, a solid Republican conservative, to the seat abandoned by disgraced Anthony Weiner, it marked a watershed moment in American Jewish history, as Orthodox Jews finally flexed some muscle alongside Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. That seat had not left the Democrats since 1923, and it seems that Jewish voters have been liberal Democrat as long, if not longer.

Alongside African-Americans, Jewish Americans ...

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Always the Jews — not: Give the maniac credit for what he is

The search for truth and understanding is not helped by searching endlessly for a Jewish angle in every cockamamie and outlier news event

In the aftermath of the tragic and evil shooting of United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, American Jewish news sources have entered the conversation by noting that Rep. Giffords is Jewish and that her attacker, Jared Lee Loughner, has associated with extremist hate groups. The suggestion: her tragedy is an act of anti-Semitism. I ...

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Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Billy Mays: Counting the Stars and Numbering the Days

Last week’s news was dominated by the deaths of three celebrities: Ed McMahon, who entered our homes as Johnny Carson’s sidekick, and later – we wished – as the man bearing the big check from Publisher’s Clearinghouse. Farrah Fawcett, whose pin-up poster sold 12 million copies and appeared in the dorm rooms of a generation, and whose hairstyle literally sent millions of American women to stylists asking to “look like Farrah.” And Michael Jackson, who was performing as a ...

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