Jerusalem Press ● Hana Levi Julian
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski, z”l Passes and The World is a Darker Place
The world is a darker place tonight with the passing of a Torah luminary whose gift was in keeping Jewish people alive even with they themselves no longer had the will to live.
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Joshua Twerski z”l passed away Sunday (Jan. 31, 2021) at Laniado Hospital in Netanya at age 90 after being hospitalized last week after contracting COVID-19.
A world renown Torah personality, “Rabbi Abe” was a shochet, a mohel, a composer of niggunim, a talmid chacham, an ordained rabbi and a medical doctor — a psychiatrist — specializing in addictions.
The son of the Hornsteipler Rebbe, Rabbi Twerski received his own smicha at the age of seventeen, and then assisted his father as assistant rabbi in his birthplace of Milwaukee.
Although he is best known for his psychiatric knowledge and activities, Rabbi Dr. Twerski z”l was also a tremendous Torah scholar, widely respected for his deep devotion to the Chassidut of his ancestors and the breadth of his learning.
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Shira Hanau ● Times of Israel
Henkin’s status as a Jewish legal authority lent weight to his support for expanded female roles, while his moderation helped the changes take root in the mainstream communityContinue reading “Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin, zt”l”
You are cordially invited…
The Life of Ludovit Feld
Presented by AJC New Jersey and the Consulate General of Slovakia in New York
Featuring Silvia Fishbaum, Author of Dirty Jewess
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Join us for a fascinating look at the life of renowned artist, Ludovit Feld. Born in Kosice, Slovakia in 1904, Feld was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 where, as a person with dwarfism, he was subjected to the experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, and forced to become Dr. Mengele’s personal artist. Having survived the Holocaust, Feld moved back to Kosice where he lived until his death in 1991.
Silvia Fishbaum, author of Dirty Jewess and a student of Ludovit Feld’s, introduced by Ladislava Begec, Consul General of Slovakia in New York, will share wiht us his incredible life story and her experience of studying under him in postwar Communist Czechoslovakia, Silvia will also speak about current efforts to keep Feld’s memory and the memory of the Holocaust alive in Kosice.
Talli Rosenbaum on love and marriage and the joys and challenges of intimacy.
“Sex is not something you ‘have’ but rather an expression of an intimate and erotic energy that a couple mutually shares.” This quote, from the recently released book, I Am For My Beloved: A Guide to Enhanced Intimacy for Married Couples by co-authors Talli Rosenbaum and David Ribner, reflects the theme that a passionate marriage is about cultivating a loving, emotionally intimate relationship.
In this episode of Intimate Judaism, Rabbi Scott Kahn interviews co-host Talli Rosenbaum, and her co-author Dr. David Ribner about the book, which helps couples improve both their emotional and physical intimate lives. Join Rabbi Scott, David, and Talli, as they discuss the challenges of writing a book about sex for Orthodox Jewish couples, the topics they chose, and the book’s relevance for Jewish couples, regardless of their background.
Finally, listen here as Talli and David offer suggestions for sustaining passion in a long term, monogamous marriage.
Elliot Resnick ● The Jewish Press
A professor at Harvard, a chassidishe Rebbe, and the son-in-law of a Litvish gadol. The combination is unusual, to say the least, but it accurately describes the late Rabbi Dr. Isadore Twersky.
Rabbi Twersky (1930-1997) was the Talner Rebbe of Boston, a professor of Hebrew literature and philosophy at Harvard University, and married to the older daughter of Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik of Yeshiva University.Continue reading “The Talner Rebbe – interview with editor Rabbi David Shapiro”
Vijeta Uniyal ● Jerusalem Post
New book tells the unsung story of Israel’s humanitarianism
‘State of the Heart: Stories of a Humanitarian Israel’ puts focus on individual inspirational stories.
With anti-Israel activism sweeping Western educational institutions, and antisemitism raising its head again – this time cloaked as hostility toward Israel – there was never a better time to reacquaint one’s self with the benevolence and altruism that have propelled the Jewish state into a humanitarian superpower. Be it the tiny Caribbean islands devastated by a hurricane, or giant India hit by an earthquake, Israelis and the Jewish state are among the world’s first responders. Fortunately, a newly published book by Israeli educator and entrepreneur David Kramer tells us this very story. State of the Heart: Stories of a Humanitarian Israel is a collection of more than 50 stories, each celebrating the unsung Israeli heroes that today’s busy news cycle seldom cares to note. Written in short-story format, State of the Heart introduces readers to the selfless and courageous men and women behind Israeli non-profit organizations, charities and voluntary groups who are making a difference at home and abroad.Continue reading “State of the Heart”
Yonah Jeremy Bob ● Jerusalem Post
Rabbi Avi Weiss has been running one campaign or another for decades.
Journey to Open Orthodoxy is likely his ultimate work, not only summarizing many of the issues where he has made a mark as the founder of open Orthodoxy, a spin-off of Modern Orthodoxy, but also showing his personal evolution along the way.
In this book, which traces his development from earlier writings, Weiss hits a veritable checklist of hot-button issues that virtually all Jewish denominations are struggling with in one way or another, but also seeks to present a unifying vision for his approach.
“My understanding of Open Orthodoxy goes well beyond such controversial issues as women and Halacha, interdenominational and interfaith relations and LGBT+ inclusion,” he writes.
He continues, “For me, Open Orthodoxy is holistic, all-encompassing, embracing the whole of Jewish spiritual, religious, halachic and national life.”
Walking a tightrope, Weiss said that he professes “an unequivocal commitment to the truth, validity and eternal applicability of the halachic system,” but that he disagrees with the Orthodox Right who view chemistry, language, medicine” and other areas of study as profane.
Rather, he says that “all disciplines are potentially aspects of the Torah. In a word, there is nothing in the world devoid of God’s imprint.”
Regarding gender issues, he explains that “Open Orthodoxy parts with the non-Orthodox community, as Halacha is not fully egalitarian.
However, he also pushes the envelope from his right flank, defending his ordaining of women with the title “rabba” (a feminine variation of rabbi).
This goes even farther than the title “maharat” (an invented title that gave women leaders recognition, but avoided called them rabbi), which is slightly less controversial in Orthodox circles, where women have traditionally not served as clergy. He states that the “rabba” title maintains female clergy within the role that Halacha permits them, but denotes “more dignity and respect” than other female clergy titles.
Fleshing out the difference between an Orthodox rabba and a non-Orthodox female rabbi, he writes: “In Conservative and Reform Judaism, a woman’s role is identical to a man’s role. In Orthodoxy, the roles of men and women in spiritual leadership overlap in 90% of areas, but there are distinctions.He explains that a rabba can conduct a wedding ceremony, including the reading of the ketubah (a form of a prenuptual agreement), but cannot sign the ketubah (which only men can do.) Moreover, he says that women can manage religious services in
ways permitted by Halacha, but do not count for the quorum of 10 required for a prayer service.
Another area where Weiss engages in a difficult balancing act is in addressing the homosexual community. On one hand, he does not conduct gay weddings. On the other hand, he writes that “to demand that gay people not have a life partner is, for many, akin to a death sentence,” stating that “we must do all we can to find a way for Halacha to help guide gay couples to live in loving partnerships.”
His vision of inclusivity is always broader than a specific issue. In the book, he says: “At its core, inclusivity sets Open Orthodoxy apart. This means interfacing with the nonaffiliated, other streams of Judaism and other faith communities… the elderly, and the physically and mentally challenged.”
Entering this minefield of pushing the envelope on so many contemporary issues, Weiss writes defensively at times as one who has already been attacked and is anticipating being criticized further.
Anticipating his critics, he says: “Open Orthodoxy is not simply about promoting particular views on cutting-edge issues; it also seeks out ways to achieve greater spiritual heights.”
He goes on to connect some of his trailblazing views to the Torah, remarking that, “like the Torah from which it emerges, Halacha is an eitz hayyim, a tree of life, and a living organism,” which is never afraid to confront “the needs of the day.”
He says that these institutions have “stepped into the breach. While many were convinced we could not succeed, we’ve exceeded expectations.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Weiss effused about his successors who have taken over the above institutions as well as the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where he conducted services for decades.
At some point, Weiss swivels to controversial issues in Israel where he has staked out strong positions.
Though he said that his father revered the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, he criticizes it for “consolidation of rabbinic authority and use of coercive powers” which have “alienated much of Israel’s citizenry.”
More specifically, he rebukes the rabbinate for a situation where, “of the 300,000 Soviet émigrés to Israel who are not halachically Jewish, only 20,000 have been converted over the past 30 years.”
He accuses the Rabbinical Council of America of capitulating to what he calls the Israeli rabbinate’s unnecessarily onerous process.Weiss advocates easing the path to become Jewish and notes that the International Rabbinic Fellowship, which he founded, is a practical arm for implementing his more open approach to conversion.
Showing his character as a maverick, Weiss intersperses discussing down-to-earth controversies with a call to focus all efforts on soaring spiritually by embracing song and dance in prayer and an open-minded outlook emphasizing broader values like holiness and embracing other Jews as part of a person’s wide family.
Weiss’s book also has sections about religious Zionism, problems in the area of Jewish divorce, the Holocaust, Israel’s plight during the 2014 Gaza war and a variety of other issues he has dedicated himself to over the years.
One tension in the book is his explanation of his evolution.
For example, he says that he became more liberal on certain women’s issues after being confronted years later by a former student. The student shocked him with her explanation of why his earlier apologetics to convince her to accept parts of the prayer service which conflicted with her female identity had failed.
The arguments made by the woman were not new ones, so it appears that what changed Weiss’s view was hearing the human frustration of his former student, whom he respected.
It is not 100% clear from Weiss about where such emotional encounters should trump previously built intellectual foundations and how an open Orthodox person knows when to turn Right or Left.
But he did tell the Post that an open Orthodox approach to Jewish law serves as a bridge between past and present. It must be grounded seriously in tradition, but how a question is asked, addressing human pain and sizing up the sincerity of who is asking the question have a role to play.
In addition, to the extent there is no mathematical answer, this could also be because no one, in Jewish denominations or other faiths, really has a completely systematic answer for how to approach all of the many shocking and diverse new issues that modernity throws out at religion.
In any case, this book will be invaluable for anyone who wishes to understand the evolution of modern and open Orthodoxy and one of its trailblazers in recent and future decades.
Midwest Book Review ● Judaic Studies Shelf
“Strangers and Natives: A Newspaper Narrative of Early Jewish America, 1734 – 1869” by Ron Rubin focuses on the daily life and customs of the Jewish community and the Jewish people; the formation of Jewish congregations and organizations; and the involvement of Jews in education, literature, journalism, politics, the marketplace, the military, and history itself.
While there are numerous historical accounts of early American Jewry quoting documents, diaries and memoirs, “Strangers and Natives” is the first that uses periodicals from that time period. Using scans of the original newsprint, most from Professor Rubin’s own extensive collection, “Strangers and Natives” displays the actual written words comprising newpaper accounts (the first blush of history) in visual form.
A unique and invaluable contribution to the growing library of American Judaic 18th and 19th century history, “Strangers and Natives: A Newspaper Narrative of Early Jewish America, 1734 – 1869” is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.
Editorial Note: Ron Rubin is Political Science Professor Emeritus at the Borough of Manhattan Community College of the City University of New York. A prolific writer, Rubin has had more than 100 works published globally since then. His books include Controversies Over the Objectives of the U.S. Information Agency (Praeger, 1968), The Unredeemed: Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union (Quadrangle Books, 1968), Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: The Real and the Rational (Holmes & Meier, 2000) and Anything for a T-Shirt: Fred Lebow and the New York City Marathon (Syracuse University Press, 2004). In 2013 more than 75 of Dr. Rubin’s commentaries – focusing solely on topics relating to Israel, the global Jewish community and the American Jewish community – were anthologized in A Jewish Professor’s Political Punditry: Fifty Plus Years of Published Commentary by Ron Rubin, edited by Peri Devaney (Syracuse University Press).