Interview with Richard Schwartz of Who Stole My Religion

January 17, 2017
Aliya Stories: Making Social Activism Spiritual
By Abigail Klein Leichman

On August 3, 2016, Richard and Loretta Schwartz stepped off a Nefesh B’Nefesh group flight into the embrace of the families of their two daughters, who had eagerly awaited this moment for years.
The Schwartzes are greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport by their two daughters’ families in August. (photo credit:Courtesy)

On August 3, 2016, Richard and Loretta Schwartz stepped off a Nefesh B’Nefesh group flight into the embrace of the families of their two daughters, who had eagerly awaited this moment for years.

It wasn’t that they were opposed to aliya; in fact, in the 1950s, Richard Schwartz thought about joining a kibbutz because he so related to the ideal of communal living and cooperative efforts. The couple had long been considering joining their daughters, Susan Kleid and Devorah Gluch, who have raised their children in Israel.

It was just that the retired professor of mathematics still had so much he wanted to do before leaving the country of his birth.

But eventually he came to realize that he could not only continue his longtime environmental, social-justice and vegan advocacy work in Israel but also perhaps make an even greater impact.

“I plan to be actively involved in Israel. It is an ideal place to be an activist – a small country with many synagogues, yeshivas and other Jewish cultural and spiritual centers, ” says Schwartz, author of hundreds of articles and the books Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet.
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Review of Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist

January 16, 2017

A Collection of Light-Hearted Autobiographical Stories
By Martin Lockshin

The State of Israel appropriately takes pride in its many achievements. In technology, science, research as well as militarily, Israel’s success seems unprecedented, especially considering its small population. Advanced Jewish studies and many varied forms of Jewish culture thrive. Historians say that never before in history has such a high percentage of Jews had expert-level knowledge of Jewish texts.

On the social level, however, the picture in Israel is far from rosy. While Israel’s raison d’être is the ingathering of exiles to build a new society together, serious tensions abound between Jews who are Ashkenazi and Sephardi, religious and secular, and haredi (ultra- or fervently Orthodox) and non-haredi. Women’s rights are more fraught than in most western democracies, because of the religious-secular divide and the lack of separation of religion and state. Israeli supporters and opponents of the settlements often do not even talk about their differences – it’s just too painful. Tensions between the 80 per cent of the population who are Jewish and the 20 per cent who are Muslim or Christian are part of everyday existence. Read the rest of this entry »