July 24, 2016
Who Stole My Religion?
I am a Jew because the faith of Israel [ Judaism]
demands no abdication of my mind.
I am a Jew because the faith of Israel asks every
possible sacrifice of my soul.
I am a Jew because in all places where there are tears
and suffering the Jew weeps.
I am a Jew because in every age when the cry of
despair is heard the Jew hopes.
I am a Jew because the message of Israel is the most
ancient and the most modern.
I am a Jew because Israel’s promise is a universal
I am a Jew because for Israel the world is not finished;
men will complete it.
I am a Jew because for Israel man is not yet fully
created; men are creating him.
I am a Jew because Israel places man and his unity
above nations and above Israel itself.
I am a Jew because above man, image of the divine unity,
Israel places the unity that is divine.
— Edmond Fleg, “Why I Am a Jew”
I fervently believe in the above sentiments and many other
positive aspects about Judaism, and I am proud to be a Jew. Judaism
has wonderful, powerful, and universal messages, and applying them
is essential to move our precious, yet increasingly threatened, planet onto
a sustainable path.
I wrote this book to urge Jews to apply basic Jewish teachings at a time
when they are needed more than ever before to the many tumultuous
crises facing humanity and all of God’s creatures. By encouraging Jews
to apply Judaism’s eternal values to current issues, I hope this book will
help revitalize Judaism and will make Judaism more attractive to many
About My Modern Orthodox Synagogue
I have been a member of Young Israel of Staten Island, a modern Orthodox
synagogue, since 1968, and I have served as Vice President for Youth,
Cultural Director, and co-editor of the synagogue’s newsletter. Over
the years I have seen the dedication of members of my congregation to
Judaism and Jewish issues. The amount they donate to charity is truly
outstanding. The acts of kindness and concern for the well-being of fellow
congregants are also remarkable, and there is always great communal
sharing at occasions of joy and sorrow. There are gemachs that provide
free wedding and other gowns, furniture, centerpieces for celebrations,
and clothing for people who need them, and there is a food pantry. There
is a unique group called Nachas (joy) Unlimited that collects money to
help cover medical expenses for ill children.
Especially commendable are the actions of the voluntary group Hatzolah,
whose members will drop whatever they are doing at a moment’s
notice – whether they are at work, taking part in a Passover seder, or just
relaxing with their families or friends – to respond to medical emergencies.
Many synagogue members make weekly visits to patients in hospitals and
nursing homes. Many of the synagogue’s young attendants work with
great compassion and dedication at special summer camps, taking care
of children with cancer and other health problems.
To continue reading this excerpt, click here.
Who Stole My Religion?, written by Richard H. Schwartz and published by Urim Publications in 2016.
This chapter was excerpted with permission by the author.
October 7, 2015
GUN CONTROL – THE JEWISH VIEW
The numerous shootings of many innocent people in the past few years, which have occurred in public places such as schools and movie theaters, have caused renewed debate and attempts at legislation regarding prevention or limitation of gun ownership, popularly known as gun control. This issue is especially acute in the United States, where the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, gives each citizen the legal right to protect himself, even with guns obtained legally and quite easily. In 2008 and again in 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States issued two landmark decisions officially establishing the interpretation that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Read the rest of this entry »
September 24, 2015
SACRIFICE ONE TO SAVE MANY
The dilemma of killing one person to save many people seems to be a simple enough concept to understand. But a classic moral dilemma always pits two different values against one another. What are the two values in conflict here? It is the ethical concept to save life versus the ethical prohibition to kill and end a life. In this case, the only way to save many lives is to do the unthinkable, and actually kill someone innocent and end his or her life. Rather than discuss this dilemma in the abstract, actual scenarios based on real-life cases will be presented. However, instead of having to decide what to do in a matter of seconds, as is the situation that occurs quite regularly in reality, this chapter will present what Judaism believes is the right action based on the myriad of ancient sources.
Click here to read more.
The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values
By Nachum Amsel
Urim Publications, 9789655241631
(Those who would like to see all of the original quotations in Hebrew can find this in the printed appendix to the book.)
Excerpted with permission from the author.
June 30, 2015
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) directed by Alan J. Pakula
Every day I pray that I will have a sense that God is always in front of me, that He is always in the room. It helps me control my thoughts, my actions, and my speech. When things irritate me, I think long and hard as to whether I want to respond to a provocation or to an unkind word. In general, I do not regret being silent, but I do regret a hurtful word that I may have uttered to someone, even when my intentions were noble.
I was reminded of the power of words as I watched the gripping political thriller All the President’s Men, which portrays in detail the intense investigative newspaper work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they painstakingly researched the Watergate burglary, eventually leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Woodward and Bernstein seem like two Talmud study partners who continually probe each other to ascertain the truth. Each questions the other and is unafraid of challenging or criticizing his friend. Their frank criticism of each other is not personal, but rather a sign that each one trusts the other to be honest and not to advance any personal agenda. Their shared mission, to discover what the Watergate burglary was all about, makes their egos subservient to the greater purpose of their work. It is this understanding of their common goal which is at the heart of their friendship and their search for truth. Read the rest of this entry »