July 23, 2014
By Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
MK Rabbi Dov Lipman has an amazing story. He was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, became a rabbi and educator, made Aliyah, and became the first American-born Knesset member in decades. Even more remarkable, he has quickly become a symbol for bridge building. In his early 40s, he represents a broad vision for what Israel could be.
His new book, To Unify a Nation: My Vision for the Future of Israel is a must read for all concerned with the future of Israel. Less than 100 pages, the book can be read in just an hour or two. Significantly, President Shimon Peres wrote the opening statement, and Yesh Atid party founder Yair Lapid wrote the Foreword.
While Lipman comes from an ultra-Orthodox background and is an Orthodox rabbi, he offers a breath of fresh air when he suggests that “polarization caused by extremism and isolationism in the religious community may be the greatest internal threat to the future of the Jewish people” (16). In fact, it was on the streets of Bet Shemesh that he emerged in Israeli leadership. Many Israelis were horrified in 2011 when an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl was called a “whore” and spat upon while she walked to school, allegedly because her dress was not modest enough for the ultra-Orthodox. The terrified girl said that she was “so scared…that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting.” Rabbi Lipman stood up to protect the girls against the abuse. Rabbi Lipman also speaks out against religious coercion in Israel, seeks to build bridges between the religious and secular, advocates for the Ethiopian community and for the African refuges, seeks to transition the ultra-Orthodox into the army and workforce, advocates for vegetarianism and animal welfare, speaks out against corruption, argues for women’s rights, a pluralistic society. Read the rest of this entry »
July 21, 2014
by Gad Dishi
Grumet’s new book, Moses and the Path to Leadership, joins an ever growing library of works utilizing close readings and other literary tools from the field of biblical studies to highlight the timeless messages embedded in the text. Grumet brings an array of modern sources that pertain to leadership development and success and weaves these throughout his analysis.
The book focuses on the leadership qualities, or lack thereof, of Moses and how certain leadership characteristics developed over the course of his career. As Grumet lays out in his closing timeline, the main prongs of focused study revolve around Moses’ leadership being people-focused or God-focused, the use or misuse of his zealotry and Moses’ management, leadership and vision of and for the nation.
For example, Grumet begins by noting how Moses is first portrayed as a zealot when he kills the Egyptian smiting a Jew. The negative result of Pharaoh wanting to kill him impacts Moses’ hotheadedness when he flees to Midian. There, his zealotry is moderated as Moses deals with the foreign bullying shepherds without violence. While in Midian, Moses’ zealotry is further tamed as Moses retreats from public life and shepherds Jethro’s flocks. For the reader, this clearly foreshadows his future role as leader of the people. However, for Moses, this served as an avenue to control his zealousness by quarantining himself away from anything that might flare his anger. Read the rest of this entry »
July 18, 2014
by Harriet Klausner
The senseless death of his Hertford College, Oxford thesis advisor Thornton Livingston leaves American Ph.D. candidate Keith Jessup stunned. Keith was in attendance to hear the late Early English Literature department Chair provide a lecture, “Secrets of the Milton Manuscript” based on a recently discovered document that explained the great poet’s underlying reason for writing Paradise Lost. Now at the morgue the grieving student identifies the corpse who fell from a cliff. A security guard also was killed; a B&E occurred at the professor’s office; and his lecture missing. Adding to the student’s shock is he inherited Thornton’s estate.
A few months later, now Dr. Jessup is back in New York when Columbia University Professor Stanton disappears just before presenting “The Disclosure of the Milton Manuscript” lecture. As Keith continues to search for the missing document, threats to him and his girlfriend art restorer Joanne Farnsworth mount.
This is a fabulous mystery that is at its best with the deep look into Milton, his beliefs, his era and his masterpieces. The murders of scholars and the assaults on the present day hero add action and suspense, but also detract from the incredible captivating depth into the life and times of John Milton.
This review originally appears in The Mystery Gazette.
July 17, 2014
by Nathan Lopez Cardozo 
Impartial observers of the Middle East will realize that these are extraordinary times. Tens of thousands of Jews from many different countries are returning to their national and historic homeland after thousands of years. Arab states are beginning to reconsider their attitude towards Israel now that they realize that after more than fifty years, the Jewish state is here to stay.
Many gentiles throughout the world are showing a new and keen interest in the Bible, proclaiming fulfillment of the old biblical prophecies. The continuous conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs, especially the Palestinian Arabs, is a constant focus of world attention, allotted more broadcast hours and newspaper column space than any other conflict. It is the most discussed issue at the United Nations and the perceived root of international tension. It is believed to have the potential to cause a large-scale conflict in the Middle East and even a global confrontation.
However, the truth is more prosaic. The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is something of a local affair. Looking on the world map, many larger hotbeds can be identified, with even greater issues at stake. For the religious mind all this presents a great challenge. What is the spiritual secret behind the conflict?
From a religious perspective, it seems that another, more profound point is being made. History is not made up of social, political, or economic factors alone, but also of spiritual forces that have far-reaching moral implications. As always, religious people will turn to the Torah and Jewish tradition, the blueprint of all history and reality, to seek deeper insight. It is the author’s hope that this essay might serve such a purpose. Read the rest of this entry »
July 14, 2014
by TJC staff
Two members of Knesset — Israeli Parliament — discuss their new books in English on TJC’s episode of Up Close.
First, MK Ruth Calderon, a secular Israeli who is also a Talmud scholar, talks about the new English translation of her book A Bride For One Night: Talmud Tales, in which she writes fictional accounts of some of the Talmud’s most provocative stories from her own unique perspective.
Then, MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, a fellow member of Calderon’s Yesh Atid party who originally hails from the United States and considers himself haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, discusses his new book, To Unify a Nation: My Vision for the Future of Israel. Lipman has made a goal of bringing the more extreme sectors of the haredi community back to the center though education and career opportunities.
To watch highlights from the interview click here.
To listen to the full interview click here.
July 10, 2014
by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins
The Soul of Jewish Social Justice offers a novel, intellectual, and spiritual approach to the application of Jewish wisdom to the most pressing moral problems of our time. We discover how the Jewish social justice ethos can help us address issues of education reform, ethical consumption, the future of Israel, immigration and prison reform, violence, business ethics, and many other moral issues. In this book, Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz explores how spirituality, ritual, narratives, holidays, and tradition can enhance our commitment to creating a more just society.
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz was listed in Newsweek’s America’s Top 50 Rabbis for 2012 and 2013. He is the Executive Director of the Valley Beit Midrash, the Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek, and the Founder and CEO of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute. Rav Shmuly completed a Masters at Yeshiva University in Jewish Philosophy, a Masters at Harvard University in Moral Psychology and Leadership and a Doctorate at Columbia University in Epistemology and Moral Development. He received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and is the author of two previous books: Jewish Ethics and Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century and Epistemic Development in Talmud Study.
This is a comprehensive and inspiring study of Jewish ethics as applied to moral and social problems. A book one can study and from which derive many important lessons. A major contribution to Jewish ethics.
Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, says about the author of this book: Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s name has become synonymous with the call for ethical renewal and social justice within the American Jewish community. A modern Orthodox rabbi, he fuses ancient teachings with progressive sensibilities. In this much-needed volume, he shares with readers his thoughts on central questions of our day. Our world will be a better place if his message is widely heeded.”
This review originally appeared in the Jewish Media Review.