— Glenn (@onhuronia) March 27, 2015
Recently I engaged in an interesting Twitter conversation on the ability to confirm a religion’s biblical veracity. My editor, David Swindle, had been approached by Mormons a few days prior and was seeking out further explanation to understand how the Book of Mormon confirmed or contradicted the Word of God. The gentleman he engaged could not answer his question, so I stepped in with Deuteronomy 18:17-22: The Spirit of God does not contradict the Word of God. That is the test of any faith, religion, or spiritual leader claiming to represent the God of the Bible. God is One, He cannot contradict Himself. If a person claims to speak for God, their words better match His, plain and simple.
This concept has been tailored over time in Judaism due to the horrors of diasporas, invasions, and Temple destructions. The scholarly culture that began codifying the oral law that would become the Talmud eventually proclaimed themselves the inheritors of the gift of prophetic interpretation. In a bureaucratic coup, these ancestors of today’s rabbis took command of the prophetic role from God’s hands. Hence, today’s Judaism is informed by the concepts that the biblical manifestation of the prophet died with the second Temple, and the Talmud (Rabbinic oral law) is the equivalent of the Torah, leaving religious authority within the realm of the rabbis.
Yet, Torah teaches us that all human beings fail and that spiritual leaders schooled in this truth are held to a higher standard of behavior, because of their willful acknowledgement of and commitment to this truth. Knowing this, we are to be even more vigilant when it comes to scrutinizing our teachers and their teachings. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are free to judge each other in the process. Being human, we are far too susceptible to getting caught up in the cult of leader-worship, leaving us vulnerable to criticism when our leader fails.
Take, for example, the Forward’s Jay Michaelson questioning why adherents of disgraced Rabbi Barry Freundel didn’t come forward with their suspicions sooner:
How can some of our community’s leading (if self-appointed) cultural sages lionize and valorize someone who, in fact, they didn’t really know that well? …I also wonder what criteria we use to evaluate our spiritual leaders when a serial sex offender can sneak past them. …There are questions that should have been asked, suspicions that should have been raised. But the self-reinforcing loops of elite power — X likes him, X is powerful, therefore I should like him — blinded those entrusted to keep watch.
One of Freundel’s converts, Bethany Mandel, treats Michaelson’s observation as a criticism of her own ability to judge Freundel’s character, while illustrating that as a convert she was the one being judged in turn:
To be clear, Freundel had a great deal of power over us, but while he could sometimes be controlling and manipulative, he could also be our greatest defender. I will never forget the evening when my then-boyfriend and I agreed to host another couple for a meal…. Upon learning of my status as a convert-in-process, the couple refused to eat my food without hearing directly from the rabbi that it was safe according to the laws of kashrut. My then-boyfriend, a friend and the husband literally ran from Dupont Circle to Georgetown to knock on Freundel’s door to ask about the status of my food.
This dangerous cycle of judgment and blame makes us all victims of one another instead of family, friends, or event compatriots. We become so caught up in the opinions of others, whether they be rabbis or fellow Jews, that we lose sight of who God is and our true purpose in being a part of the Jewish world.
In the wake of Israel’s elections we are being baited once again by this cycle of judgment and blame. Rabbis now feel compelled to preach politics from the bench to congregants pressured to question their allegiance to the concluding line of the Passover Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem!” Instead of finding unity in our eternal freedom as Jews, we’re squabbling over political leaders who will come and go. Instead of taking joy in one another, we’re seeking authoritative approval of our political opinions. Instead of rejoicing in our freedom, we are being bound by the threat of destruction. And when we succumb to the fear we transition from freedom to slavery. This victimhood propels our judgment of and separation from one another.
The rabbinic claim to prophecy should motivate us as a community to engage with the Word of God firsthand, not with the goal of disproving one another, but with the aim of being the people God has chosen us to be. When it comes to religious leadership, it is our prerogative to “trust, but verify.” We cannot be blamed for the failings of others. But we are answerable to God for our own actions, and judging one another is not in His playbook.
Anita Sarkeesian, self-dubbed “social justice activist,” details that, had she not engaged with the sphere of contemporary feminist academia, she would not have become a feminist. A convert to the faith, it was only by adopting the “systemic and institutional framework” depicted by modern feminist writers that Sarkeesian was able to “see how oppression manifests in many subtle ways under the systems of what bell hooks calls white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.”
Sarkeesian’s feminism wouldn’t exist without this systemic framework, a mode of thinking that has caused her to question the individualism she sees inherent within the “neo-liberal worldview.” Therefore, “choice feminism” empowers oppression, because a choice good for one woman isn’t necessarily good for all women.
Sarkeesian believes that “choice feminism obscures the reality that women don’t have a choice.” The real question is, if women refuse to believe in the “systemic and institutional framework” preached by feminist academics, are they free to embrace the reality of having more choices than they’ve previously been led to believe? What would a feminism free of oppression look like? Could it function outside the walls of the academic temple?
Need further proof that Israeli Jews are anything but racist towards their Arab counterparts? Listen to the music. A-WA brings the Yemeni folk beats made famous by Ofra Haza into the 21st century with style. They put a new twist on classic Barbie Jeep imagery, and as far as those fez baseball caps? Yes, please.
Read more about A-WA (pronounced Ay-wa, Arabic for ‘Yes’) here.
The Wall Street Journal is covering the latest trend in rejuveniling among the Millennial set: preschool for adults, where “play is serious business.” Six adults pay anywhere from $300 to $1000 to crowd into a Brooklyn duplex on Tuesday nights from 7 – 10 p.m. and participate in everything from nap time to envisioning themselves as superheroes.
Student Amanda Devereux detailed her reasons for enrolling in the Pre-K at Cosmo:
The self-help and goal-setting aspects were new, but welcome. I can use all the help I can get in making it to the gym, even if it means creating a superhero to get me there. I’m looking forward to seeing whether the preschool experience changes me over the next month, and I’m excited to see where Miss Joni and Miss CanCan take us on our class field trip. Mostly though, I’m excited about the snacks.
Is this latest trend in seeking eternal youth another glorified self-help program, or a sign that our traditional cultural institutions aren’t filled with hope and change? Is there a solution to be found in regressive creativity, or is this just another attempt at blissful ignorance? If you enrolled in preschool today, what would you learn?
VIDEO: What’s More Sexist, Meghan Trainor Singing to Her Future Husband, or JCPenney’s Butt-Firming Jeans for Teens?
You have to admit the retro stylings of YouTube star Meghan Trainor make for some catchy little tunes. But in her latest video, Dear Future Husband, the siren dons pinup-wear while scrubbing the floor of a 50′s kitchen and warning her husband he’d better compliment her every day and buy her jewelry. Contemporary feminists are in an uproar over the classic imagery, but does Trainor have a better grip on the inherent power of her sexuality than the teenage girls who feel the need to buy “butt-enhancing jeans” at JCPenney?
The national department store catalog includes:
The “YMI Wanna Betta Butt Skinny Jeggings” boasts: “With a slight lift and shift and contouring seams, our wanna betta butt skinny jeggings hug you in just the right places to give you a firmer, more flattering look.”
“Rewind Smoothie Super Stretch Booty Buddy Skinny Jeans” features “rear-end-enhancing structure” designed to “augment your jean collection — and your backside” and comes in an acid wash finish.
Penney’s isn’t alone. Several online stores including Modaxpress, Hourglass Angel, and even Amazon offer butt enhancing denim to a teenage crowd. Where’s the feminist outrage over a wardrobe enhancement specifically targeted to those vulnerable teen girls suffering all those dreaded body-image issues? Perhaps they’re too busy in Trainor’s kitchen arguing over who gets to make the pie.
Lily James and Kenneth Branagh provided truly thoughtful, eloquent answers to the question of how Disney’s newest Cinderella embodies the reinvention of the princess in a 21st century feminist light.
Contrary to popular culture’s interpretation of sex as power through the crowning of figures like Queen Bey, the star and director of Cinderella each proffer the concept of a feminism that draws its power from a woman’s spirit rather than her body. It is Cinderella’s graceful attitude and her desire to treat others with goodness that is the source of both her beauty and ultimately her power as a woman.
The real question is, in a world full of Dunhams and Kardashians, is feminism ready to go spiritual to find the purpose it so desperately needs?
— ElderOfZiyon (@elderofziyon) March 20, 2015
We Jews squabble enough when it comes to religion, but when it comes to Israel the gloves are off. Nothing is a greater testament to this than the vehement rhetoric coming from the Jewish Left in the wake of Netanyahu and the Right’s landslide victory in this past week’s elections in Israel. Whether it was Peter Beinart calling on the Obama Administration to “punish – yes, punish – the Israeli government” the virulent musings of Max Blumenthal, the anti-Israel Jewish Left came out in full condemnation, not just of Netanyahu, but of Israel at large.
The Forward jumped on the “Bibi is racist” bandwagon, reprinting Jeffrey Goldberg’s Tweet-condemnation of the slanderous tale embraced by Obama and his minions. If you are Jewish and have friends on the Left, I guarantee it didn’t take you longer than 10 minutes after Bibi claimed victory to get at least one Facebook post or Tweet claiming “he stole the election like Bush.” My PJ colleague Ron Radosh wisely diagnosed both the Obama Administration and the mainstream media as having Bibi Derangement Syndrome (BDS). And unfortunately, we Jews are not immune.
This BDS, with all its sound and fury, has not brought the diaspora one ounce closer to understanding or relating to their Israeli counterparts. In fact, with the Obama Administration trumpeting the effort to turn Israel into another Ferguson, the dual loyalty accusations will be held over Jewish American heads, both Left and Right, now more than ever. But we Jews don’t see that. All we see is Obama versus Bibi, Left versus Right, “hope and change” versus “despair” and whatever other hot air blown into an otherwise lifeless, meaningless campaign. From the comforts of a “two legs good, four legs better” America we don’t have to force ourselves to look behind V15′s green curtain, let alone consider that Israeli Jews may have very good reasons for having opinions that differ from our own.
When I had the wonderful opportunity to march in New York City’s Israel Day Parade a few years back, I did so under the banner of an openly progressive Labor Zionist summer camp. My husband, a third generation member, had worked his way up from camper, to counselor, to business manager. Now as an alum he was excited to show me, his then-girlfriend, what he loved about his summers and give me the chance to revel in my Zionist pride. He’d worked the camp too long not to see past the politics, but had too many fond memories to be jaded by a lack of logic. In the end we were there to celebrate Israel, celebrate our freedom, and have fun with friends.
Or so I thought, until more than one angry parade-goer spat at me. “You are evil! You anti-Zionist pig! You’re killing us! You Leftists are killing Israel!” How were a group of teens and twenty-somethings, most of whom had been to Israel, many of whom were either pursuing or had obtained citizenship, and some of whom had or were serving in the IDF possibly killing Israel? These kids weren’t doing anything more than holding a contrary political opinion, yet that was enough to accuse them of being murderers. “Wait a minute,” I thought, “isn’t that what the Left is always accusing us of doing?”
I smiled at the crowd and wished them love through their gritted teeth and rage. Only two days earlier I’d been called a “conservative pig” by another camp alum who would later growl at me repeatedly, “You need to change your politics.” I came wanting to celebrate Israel. I wound up embroiled in a hot, angry mess.
Israel awakens our passions as Jews because Israel is a reminder of our responsibilities to God and to one another. If Israel fails, Holocaust awaits. No one but a Jew could understand the weight of that burden. Yet, instead of recognizing that we, Left and Right, are motivated by these same concerns and fears we allow the real haters of Israel to craft our opinions about one another. Suddenly everyone is an Obama, a Beinart, a Blumenthal. Anger morphs into rage and crafts summer camp teens into the next generation of hardened, bigoted, miserable adults, some of whom will then be motivated to become the next Beinart or Blumenthal in our midst.
King David writes in the Psalms, “be angry, but do not sin. Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still.”
We’ve never lost Israel to an outside force before first disparaging each other to the point of destruction. I walked away from that parade choosing to shed my ideas of Left and Right and see the political battle for what it truly is: A fight between good and evil. My job, then, is to focus on what God commands me to do: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him without fear. I’m here to help sustain a great nation, not destroy it. It is time my fellow Zionists, Left and Right, see past the propaganda and agree to do the same.
I’m far more of a wine connoisseur than a coffee drinker. Years ago I cut back to half decaf in order to cut back on migraines and stomach trouble. The hi-test sludge my editor prefers could never cross my lips for fear of bodily damage. The one thing I associate with brutal American coffee is brutal American stress: the need to meet a deadline, please a boss, do more, say more, be more with vim and vigor. Just as any alcoholic uses cheap trash, downing brutally burnt beans has become a lousy, albeit necessary way to get a much-needed fix. And that’s where we get coffee wrong in America.
Tel Aviv is littered with cafes and kiosks serving Euro-style coffee. I never got the hang of what to order to balance out my pathetically minimum caffeine requirement, but at Cafe Nachmani I not only learned how to order the right tasting brew, I learned how to enjoy it. I’ve never seen a windowsill in Starbucks lined with art magazines. Not Cosmo or People, literal professional art magazines you’d see in big city galleries and be afraid to touch. The Barnes & Noble cafes are filled with geeks on their laptops, chugging down brew in order to use the free WiFi. At Cafe Nachmani, patrons sipped on cappuccinos and the Israeli favorite, espresso, while lingering over literary mags heavier than half the books lining our chain’s clearance aisle.
Tel Avivans work like mad in a city that never sleeps. They’ve just learned how to enjoy a frenetic pace better than we ever could. It’s amazing how much more you enjoy life when you view it as a pleasure to be lived instead of an obligation to be fueled through.To better answer the question of what you’re drinking, you need to start with why you’re drinking it.
Want to see Girls in a PG-13 nutshell? Check out last night’s sketch from Late Night With Seth Meyers in which Lena Dunham portrays her on-screen alter-ego Hannah Horvath working a pitch meeting in the writer’s room of the late night talk/sketch show. She essentially mocks the standard tropes of Girls, horrifying her fellow writers with her weird concepts of sexual humor and turning everything into a form of feminist victimization. Think Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm only not funny. Which is probably why the best line came from a fellow female writer who requested, ”Please do not group my pitch with yours.”
The award for most obnoxious line goes to: ”Aren’t you predominately Jewish male comedy writers supposed to be stuffing your gross faces with bagels constantly?”
While the award for most ignorant observation goes to: ”Seth lets a woman or person of color host a late night talk show for the first time ever, because that’s never happened and that’s f’d up!” Tell it to Joan Rivers or Arsenio Hall. Although this line proved the most instructive of how small Dunham’s bubble truly is.
Camille Paglia sits with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to discuss the failings of contemporary feminism, specifically in relation to the contemporary feminist obsession with gender politics which Paglia dubs “gender myopia.” Tagging the culture’s current obsession with viewing the world through the lenses of “race, class and gender” (what Gillespie titles “the holy trinity”) as a “distortion of the 1960s,” Paglia, a self-described atheist, explains that “Marxism is not sufficient as a metaphysical system for explaining the cosmos.”
The powerful dialogue should be required viewing for all college freshmen and women, of course. A general in the culture wars, Paglia continues to be the only academic unafraid to conquer Marxist ideology and its subsequent theoretical fields on its own turf.
A&E’s “docuseries” Married at First Sight had its second season premiere last night. The theory: arranged marriage cultures have a radically lower divorce rate than non-arranged marriage cultures. Therefore, a group of four experts (a psychologist, a sexologist, a sociologist and a spiritual advisor) conduct thorough testing to match up couples who will literally meet each other at the altar.
With a 66% success rate in its first season, the matchmaking panel appears to have a lower divorce rate than America at large. In the era of Tinder-generated fruitless casual sex, is trusting your romantic future to a pre-arranged scenario a logical alternative to a series of dead-end one night stands?
Melissa McGrath, an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, was invited to participate in her college’s TEDx Talk, because, although not in possession of a doctorate, McGrath has “a valid story to tell, and (she thinks) that will shine through.” Her thesis: Feminism proffers salvation.
Her “valid story” plays like a tent-revival testimonial about how feminist theory, reinforced by college professors, informed her that it was not her fault that she was sexually assaulted on campus. Avoiding the details of her assault, McGrath instead focuses on feminist liturgy as a method for teaching “intersectionality” that is, how the human race is tied together in a Marxist state of oppressor and oppressed.
Pulling all the approved contemporary feminist buzzwords from “white privilege” to “rape culture” McGrath weaves the kind of soap box narrative trademarked by the best faith-based snake oil salesmen (and women) of the 20th century. Her’s is a speech proving that feminism isn’t just ideology, but idolatry; a religion whose places of worship are in university classrooms, whose holy texts are available at your nearest bookstore, and whose icons live on “Pinterest boards” and social media outlets.
Cover image “Female Jesus” by Juno.
In last night’s episode of HBO’s Girls, Hannah’s father came out of the closet.
Blah, blah, blah, right? At least until the end of the episode when Hannah confronts her father and says, gay or straight, she doesn’t want to know about his sex life.
Wait a minute? Is there something slightly traditionalist about Ms. Dunham after all?
No kid in her right mind wants to consider that her parents have sex. Yet for Ms. Dunham, who grew up around a considerable amount of father-generated sexual art, scripting a character who makes such a pedestrian proclamation is actually out of the ordinary.
Where is the line drawn in the progressive mind when it comes to loved ones and their sexual exploits? Could it be that the Queen of Sharing doesn’t want to share so much after all? Or is it more like others aren’t allowed to share as much as she does?
The essay is the second in a series of inter-faith dialogues, see the first from Jon Bishop on March 8, “Why I Am Catholic.”
Despite the multiple accusations I have received from my own brothers and sisters any time I’ve dared to make a critical observation about our people, I very proudly declare myself to be a Jew. This is not because I feel an obligation to my ancestors, my community, or my tradition although I respect them and their roles in the formation of my identity.
Rather, I choose to be a Jew just as Abraham did, because I choose to be free.
I missed out on the social conformity gene. Never have I managed to fit into any particular social group. At times I was hated for it, but contrary to popular opinion of what being a Jew means, it was thanks to being Jewish that I learned to love being a stand-out in the crowd. At 15 I told my teachers I was legally changing my name to Shoshana, and because of that brash declaration I became one of the coolest kids in school. Why Shoshana? Because that’s what Susans in Israel are called and Israel is the culmination and fulfillment of being a Jew. We don’t just get our own houses of worship, we get an entire nation to call our own. Land is freedom.
And when you are so different and so unique, that spatial freedom is essential to your survival. Whether prophets, cowboys, American patriots, or Zionists, the experiences that speak to me echo the Word of God:
Trust the Lord with all your heart, do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will level your path.
It felt good to stand apart from the crowd precisely because human thinking never made very much sense to me. God makes sense. And what I still do not understand remains the most intriguing mystery in all the universe to comprehend. “I want to know God’s thoughts,” Einstein said, “the rest are just details.” Ben Carson told me to “think big.” You can’t get any bigger than God. “I have broken the bars of your yoke so that you can walk upright,” God reveals to the wandering Jews. God is freedom.
God’s freedom is eternal.
Torah is a guidebook, a covenant that when undertaken agrees that we “choose life so that we may live.” Ezekiel’s dry bones rose from their graves and breathed new life in 1948. While the rest of the world amuses itself with the walking dead, we trust in the words of Isaiah:
Your dead will live, my corpses will rise: awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust; for your dew like the morning dew, and the earth will bring the ghosts to life.
I do not need to wage war or rage in desperation, wear black spikes or combat gear, raise my fist in defiance, align myself with a cause, or fence myself into the opinions of others in order to be free. I simply need to live as God intended in covenant with Him. God spoke creation into being and the word of the Lord breathed life into the dead. Tanakh is freedom.
“How did you find it in you to survive?” I asked my cantor who lived through the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz death march.
He replied, “I saw the skull and crossbones on the Nazi soldier’s belt along with the words ‘soldier of God’. They were lying. ‘This is not God,’ I thought. And that gave me the will to survive.”
I am a Jew, and I choose to be a Jew, because despite what the world may lead you to believe, being a Jew means dwelling in eternal freedom.
The UK Daily Mail has concluded that even nice guys are evil, publishing research conducted by a series of Boston academics who have discovered a new misogyny dubbed “benevolent sexism”:
If you’re the sort of gentleman who holds the door open for a lady – or the sort of woman who expects him to – then be warned.
Such acts of chivalry may actually be ‘benevolent sexism’ in disguise, according to researchers.
Experts say this type of sexism is harder to spot than the ‘hostile sexism’ we are more familiar with – because it often masquerades as gallantry. It is typified by paternal and protective behaviour, from encouraging smiles to holding doors open.
US researchers argue that while women may enjoy being showered with attention, benevolent sexism is ‘insidious’ and men who are guilty of it see women as incompetent beings who require their ‘cherished protection’.
Professor Judith Hall, of Northeastern University in Boston, said: ‘Benevolent sexism is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing that perpetuates support for gender inequality among women.
‘These supposed gestures of good faith may entice women to accept the status quo in society because sexism literally looks welcoming, appealing and harmless.’
Other telltale signs of benevolent sexism include frequent smiling as well as the ability to engage in warm, friendly chit-chat.
Image illustration via Shutterstock /conrado
Wayne Goss is a 37-year old makeup artist with 15 years of experience and nearly a million YouTube followers. Lately he’s been receiving a lot of requests from female clients to make them up drag queen style, in large part due to the popularity of the drag queen look on television and social media. As Goss illustrates, drag queens use makeup to create the feminine look already inherent in female faces. Essentially, he’s been asked to mask natural femininity with a false face, leading him to question how we interpret the female look and concepts of natural female beauty.
Last year the UK police refused to respond to video footage of doctors agreeing to perform sex-selective abortions that target female babies, claiming that prosecution would “not be in the public interest.” In response to law enforcement’s blind eye, MK Fiona Bruce presented an amendment before Parliament that would ban gendercide in the UK. Originally received with an overwhelmingly positive response, the amendment failed to become law this past week ironically thanks to the seemingly pro-feminist protests of the Labour Party and Trade Union Congress. The language and nature of their protests against this amendment act as yet another illustration of how contemporary feminist ethos, in this case motivated by demented multiculturalism, is actively working against the cause of women’s equality across the globe.
This afternoon, MPs are considering following Fiona Bruce into restricting abortion rights and giving foetuses more rights than people.
— Another Angry Woman (@stavvers) February 23, 2015
Breitbart London reports that the protest against the amendment was spearheaded by Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, who referenced the language of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in a letter to Labour party representatives. In the letter she claims that banning sex-selective abortions would lead to “troubling consequences” such as a limitation on abortions for “gender specific abnormalities.” She also opposed the amendment’s use of the term “unborn child” as “children” are granted more legal protection in the UK than “foetuses.”
Her pro-choice defense was so stereotypical it garnered criticisms dubbing it “at best ludicrous misinformation, and at worse pernicious scare mongering.” As to the “gender specific abnormalities” claim, the law contained a caveat permitting abortions for medical reasons, regardless of gender. For advocates of the amendment, Cooper’s preferential treatment of the word “foetus” over “unborn child” turned her argument into a pro-choice one, plain and simple. If only it were that easy.
The real perniciousness came in documents circulated by the TUC regarding the gendercide amendment that stated:
“The amendment does not attempt to address the root causes of deeply entrenched gender discrimination but rather has divided communities.” It also said that banning sex selective abortions might leave women vulnerable to domestic abuse.
Sex-selective abortion is rooted in specific cultural beliefs. That’s right: Stop everything and sound the multiculturalist alarm bells, lest we step on anyone’s toes, child, foetus or otherwise. In a 2012 report titled “Why do feminists ignore gendercide,” the Heritage Foundation details:
“Son preference is a symptom of deeply rooted social biases and stereotypes about gender,” a representative of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum said in congressional testimony. “Gender inequity cannot be solved by banning abortion.”
Jonathan V. Last, who writes about cultural and political issues, begs to differ. The choice is clear, he argued last summer in the Wall Street Journal. “Restrict abortion,” Last wrote, “or accept the slaughter of millions of baby girls and the calamities that are likely to come with it.”
— Stop Gendercide Now (@SGNIreland) January 27, 2014
— The News Cache (@Cookiewheeler) January 28, 2015
Last week I expounded upon why my husband and I have chosen not to join a synagogue. The backlash I received, oddly enough primarily from Christian readers, essentially boiled down to accusations of selfishness on my part and an unwillingness to contribute to a community. My question in response is simple: What exactly defines “community” in terms of being Jewish? A reader by the name of Larry in Tel Aviv wrote:
I agree wholeheartedly with every one of your points and you could add a few more! Such as one wouldn’t know the first thing about anti-Semitism in the world today, the nature of the threats Israel faces and related, from the rabbis and synagogue politicos. In fact you wouldn’t know anything important about anything that matters, not from synagogue, not much from Hebrew School neither (even Hebrew is largely poorly taught, with exceptions).
Which prompted me to ask myself: Do Jews in America know how to be Jewish without institutional backing?
Based on some of the comments I received from Christian readers, it would seem that religion in America requires some kind of institutional affiliation in order to be legitimized. Whether it’s a church, temple, or yoga studio religious folks of all stripes need a facility through which to connect to one another in order to establish and reinforce their religious identity. Historically speaking, Mordecai Kaplan emulated this concept when he reconstructed the idea of synagogue as community, the physical center of Jewish life in Diaspora America. Why don’t Jews necessarily need this institutional bond today? The answer is simple: We have Israel.
As I mentioned in my last article, one of the reasons why my husband and I have elected not to join a synagogue is that we’d rather spend the money going to Israel. Some of those reasons include the reality expounded on by Larry in Tel Aviv. If you want a solid geographical, cultural, historical connection to being Jewish, you find it in Israel. If you want to understand that being Jewish is both secular and religious at the same time, you learn that in Israel. If you want to know how to establish a lasting Jewish identity, you figure it out in Israel. We were not a group of popes and monks called upon to cordon ourselves off behind incensed walls in medieval monasteries. We were and are a nation and a national identity requires more than just a religious makeup in order to thrive.
— Women of the Wall (@Womenofthewall) June 4, 2014
Everything is more honest in Israel. The rabbinate openly functions as a political entity and the population treats it as such. As many Jewish Israelis that don’t attend synagogue do profess faith in God. When they talk about religious freedom it has nothing to do with the Almighty and everything to do with the almighty rabbinical overlords who abusively claim heavenly authority to determine who is and isn’t Jewish, who can and can’t marry and divorce, and who should and shouldn’t serve in the military.
There’s a subset of Jewish culture that has so much money to blow on their kids that celebrations like Bar Mitzvahs turn into outrageous, television-worthy affairs. If you want the full story in the form of a cute, thoughtful comedy, check out Keeping Up with the Steins. If you want to skip straight to the awkward horror of the real-life version, watch the video above, posted by the UK Jewish News with the one line comment:
Usually, we’d write something here, but we are a little speechless.
Don’t let the appearance of Rainn Wilson fool you. Everett Backstrom is no Dwight Schrute, nor is Backstrom yet another take on the Sherlock trend. This smart, funny detective series walks into dark territory to examine the human desire to look toward the light. It goes against formula and against the grain manipulating authority and questioning politically correct cultural norms in pursuit of truth, justice and, even more intriguingly, redemption from evil. Here are 7 reasons why Backstrom is trendsetting, essential counter-culture conservative television that demands a place on the air.
— Andrew Getraer (@AndrewGetraer) October 1, 2014
A few years ago my husband learned that the cantor who had supervised his Bar Mitzvah was forced into retirement. More than one member was floored that the now elderly man who survived the comings and goings of countless rabbis would be sent out to pasture because he didn’t fit the board’s “youthful” marketing strategy. Over five years later that same “out with the old” synagogue is struggling for membership. Every once in a while we’ll see signs in yards throughout our area offering an inclusive experience for Jews (“especially intermarrieds!”, often code for desperation) who want to find a “synagogue home.”
For us, the irony of the cantor’s story is one of the many elements that arise during the yearly “should we join a synagogue” discussion. Inevitably, we reach a series of conclusions common among Gen-X/millennial crossovers like ourselves. However, contrary to the popular opinion that money is the bottom line, our reality is that we don’t need to affiliate with a synagogue in order to live Jewish lives. And apparently we aren’t alone.