To Be A Holy People – New Review

Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins

Eugene Korn has written one of the most inspiring, stimulating, ground-breaking books on Jewish ethics and practice that I have seen in a very long time. Anyone looking for an in-depth study of how inner conscience, personal morality and individual judgment can be applied to traditional halakhah and tradition, will find mounds of evidence in this well-written, well-documented study.

Can Jewish tradition face our modern understanding of justice, equality and human progress? Can mitsvot survive modernity’s deep critique of authority and culture of personal autonomy? To Be a Holy People: Jewish Tradition and Ethical Values addresses ancient and modern moral questions. Building on biblical and rabbinic traditions, it analyzes how Jewish ethics relates to Jewish law, justice, equality and compassion, as well as the challenge of violence in the name of religion. It provides food for thought on subjects ranging from gender, freedom and military ethics to Jewish particularism and contemporary universalism.

Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn holds a doctorate in moral philosophy from Columbia University and Orthodox rabbinic ordination from Pirchei Shoshanim in Israel. He was founding editor of The Edah Journal. His books include Jewish Theology and World Religions; Plowshares in Swords? Reflections on Religion and Violence; Covenant and Hope; Two Faiths, One Covenant?; and The Jewish Connection to Israel. His English writings have been translated into Hebrew, German, Italian and Spanish. He and his wife, Lila Magnus Korn, live in Jerusalem.


State of the Heart

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”

State of the Heart – new review

Jack Reimer ● Boston Jewish Advocate

There are many miracles involved in Israel. The first, and the most obvious, is that it somehow still exists. The newspapers announced this week that Egypt—which is just one of the hostile countries that surrounds Israel—recently reached a total of a hundred million people! Hezbellah, which is a rabid foe of Israel, now has control of both Gaza and Lebanon. Iran, whose leaders have pledged to destroy Israel, continues to strive to become the dominant figure in the Middle East. And yet, Israel somehow survives.

When you count the population figures of Israel’s enemies, it is hard to understand how Israel has survived. There was one Zionist leader—I don’t remember which one it was—who said “that you do not have to believe in miracles to be a Zionist—but it certainly helps.”

And there is a second miracle that characterizes Israel and that is the one that this book tries to describe. It is true that there is corruption in the country. It is not a state composed of angels or of saints. It is true that there has been a coarsening of the discourse, not only on the floor of the Knesset where politicians berate each other with unseemly language, but on the crowded highways of the country, where impatient drivers yell at each other when they find themselves caught up in bottlenecks.

This is understandable in a country that imports a quarter of a million cars each year and that does not have the infrastructure to support this much traffic.

But what is hard to explain is what this book records: the amount of volunteerism in Israel, and the number of people who not only come to each other’s rescue in time of trouble, but the number of people who are ready to travel to any part of the world where people are coping with hurricanes or floods or tsunamis and need help.

You would think that a country which is constantly condemned in the United Nations would turn inwards and be concerned only with its own welfare and its own defense. You would think that a people that has so few allies in the world would become cynical and would not care when other nations are in distress. And yet, as this book documents, this is not so. Let there be a hurricane in Greece, or a fire in Australia, or a disaster at a public school in America, or a typhoon  in the Philippines, and Israelis are on the way.

Syria is one of Israel’s most implacable foes, and so you would think that Israelis would rejoice over the fact that it is caught up in a brutal civil war. You would think, to paraphrase what Henry Kissinger once said about the Vietnam War: “It is too bad that there can’t be two winners”. And yet Israel for years maintained what was called ‘a good fence’ on the border with Syria and took in thousands of civilians who were in need of surgery and urgent medical care. And it even sent doctors into Syria to set up emergency care facilities and to bring in medical supplies.

David Kramer records the experiences of some of these Israeli soldiers and civilians who have gone to places all around the world—some under the official sponsorship of the Israeli government and some as volunteers with ngos. Some of them are even in China right now, helping the scientists there cope with the Coronavirus, and helping the therapists cope with the traumatic stress that so many of the civilians are enduring there.

Will this book do any good in changing the attitudes of those countries that are hostile to Israel and who believe the stories that demonize Israel that are so widespread in the world today? Probably not, for many people think only once, and then repeat their points of view over and over again. But perhaps there are some people who understand that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

And even if this book does not influence the rest of the world, we hope that it will influence Western Jews—especially those on college campuses—and help them to see the real Israel—which is a mixture of callousness and generosity, or corruption and kindness, which ought to be a model to the world.  

Jack Riemer is the author of two new books: Finding God in Unexpected Places and The Day I Met Father Isaac in the Supermarket, which are both available at

State of the Heart – new review

Dov Peretz Elkins ● Jewish Media Review

In State of the Heart, David Kramer takes us on a journey of Israel’s humanitarian efforts that began more than 70 years ago and continues unabated throughout the world today.

In this extraordinary and inspiring collection of over 50 stories, personal interviews, and photographs, David describes the benevolence and altruism that characterizes the nation of Israel. He engages the reader with narratives that identify and provide a glimpse into the compassionate soul of the Israeli people. 

Featured in these accounts are descriptions of life-saving technology and innovation, helping the disabled and teens at risk, managing food collection and distribution programs for the disadvantaged, immigrant absorption and elder care, infertility programs, women’s empowerment and human rights, rescuing victims in the aftermath of natural disasters worldwide, developing and providing life-saving solutions to those in developing nations, cleaning up and protecting the environment, and so much more. 

State of the Heart captures the unique level of concern, care and uncompromising sense of mission, undertaken by Israelis, within Israel and around the globe.

David Kramer is an educator, author and social entrepreneur. He has spent the past ten years helping Israeli and global non-profit organizations tell their story through a social start-up he founded in Israel. David spends much of his time meeting with tour groups in Israel, connecting them to the reality of life in Israel. He served in the Israeli army and lives in Jerusalem with his wife Tova and their five children. 

Prophecies and Providence and Harry S. Truman

By Alan Jay Gerberprophecies web1

Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz, of blessed memory, was among the most unheralded founders of the State of Israel. Elected nine times to a seat in the Knesset, he saw met and spoke to just about every leading figure of his day. A close confidant of the Chazon Ish, Rav Shach and the Brisker Rav, Lorincz was also at ease with David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir. It was from him as well as from Yosef Berg and Rav Maimon that the secular leadership learned the religious basis for yishuv Eretz Yisrael.

In a recently published book, “Prophecies and Providence” by Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer (Devora Publishing), we learn the fascinating story that was a motivating factor for President Harry Truman’s speedy recognition of the State of Israel literally within minutes of its establishment.

“Indeed, President Harry S Truman, who hurried to issue an official statement recognizing the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the new Jewish state — and thereby angering U.S. delegates to the U.N. and top ranking State Department officials who were not notified of the decision — cited his childhood dream of repeating the benevolence of Cyrus [the Persian Emperor] as the background for his decision.”

This except was taken from an article on The Jewish Star. Click here to view the entire article.


20 Years Since the Passing of a Great Torah Sage and General, Rabbi Shlomo Goren

By Tuly WeisRabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General

There are few people that have influenced Israeli and modern Jewish history as strongly as famed IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren who passed away 20 years ago. The biography “Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Torah Sage and General,” by Shalom Freedman presents a fascinating portrait of his life and a moving description of the values that he stood for.

“Torah Sage and General” details Rabbi Goren’s life describing how he took part in some of Israel’s most crucial moments.  The cover of the book even displays perhaps the most famous photo of Rabbi Goren blowing the shofar when he was present at the liberation of the Western Wall, during the Six Day War in 1967.

Rabbi Goren was one of the first people to race to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron when the Israeli army captured it in 1967.  Pushing himself to be the first to reach these holy sites was typical of Rabbi Goren.

“Rabbi Goren was one of those people who seemed to know no fear for his personal safety.  In fact, his life is studded with heroic acts in which he volunteered to do-at great personal risk – what others were reluctant to do.  During and after the Israeli War of Independence, and in fact through a period of close to twenty-five years, he risked his life to recover the bones of soldiers for proper burial,” the author writes.

Towards the end of his life, Rabbi Goren came out against the Oslo Accords and advocated for retaining control of the entire Land of Israel.  He was not afraid to stand up for what is right, even if it put him at odds with powerful people, even people that he cared for, such as Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Continue reading “20 Years Since the Passing of a Great Torah Sage and General, Rabbi Shlomo Goren”

Charedim and Dov Lipman

By Harry MarylesTo Unify a Nation

One of the biggest assets of the Charedi community in Israel is someone that hails from a Modern Orthodox background in the United States. He is a Talmud Chacham with a fine secular education. But he has bought entirely into the Charedi mindset in Israel. I consider him a friend. And I think he would say the same about me.  But one would not know that by one angry comment (among many) he made recently on my blog (in response to my own comment to him). He calls himself Dan (not his real name). I post it here in its entirety:

I’m absolutely horrified that Orthodox people don’t give a hoot about the undermining of religious issues in Israel as defined NOT by Charedim, but by ANY Orthodox Rabbi. Laws by Yesh Atid had to be blocked time and again by Bayit Yehudi because Rabbis such as *Rav Druckman* said they are anti-Torah.

Lipman has had plenty of chances to explain his views, and I don’t care what Lipman considers himself. Supporting a law that allows non-Jews to adopt Jews (and that IS part of the law, for all those falsely claiming I misrepresented; it goes BOTH ways) is supporting Shmad. Period.

He is horrified?  Well, I too am horrified. I am horrified that his children (and virtually all other Charedi children) will never receive the education he did. That they will not be prepared for the outside world in the slightest. That they will be sociologically forced to sit and learn Torah for as long as possible without the slightest bit of preparation for the work force during that time.

I am horrified that the skills their own father learned in the US which affords him the opportunity for a decent job will not be available to his children for a lack of learning them. I am horrified that his children (and all other Charedi children) are being told that their first choice in life must be to abandon working for a living since there is so much Torah to learn. They therefore need every available moment of study to be geared towards that.

I am horrified that even children that are not as much suited for Torah study as they might be for some other field are being told to ignore that and continue studying Torah for as long as possible. Continue reading “Charedim and Dov Lipman”

A Hopeful Vision of Israel’s Future

by Tuly WeiszTo Unify a Nation

For those who care about the future of the State of Israel and the Jewish People, To Unify A Nation: My Vision for the Future of Israel is a great and quick read. I read the entire book this past Shabbat in which Knesset Member Rabbi Dov Lipman outlines an inspiring vision for the Land and People of Israel in just under one hundred pages.

After reading To Unify a Nation I was left dreaming about the promising potential that lies in Israel and recalling fondly why I made Aliyah in the first place.

While Lipman’s book is eternally optimistic, it deals with Israeli society’s greatest challenges. He boldly addresses racism and the dignity of man, the role of religion in society, accepting all Jews, sharing national responsibility, Jewish pride, and the centrality of the Bible in Israeli society. According to the American born Knesset Member who is also an Orthodox rabbi, these values are all necessary ingredients for creating national unity in the Jewish State.

The book repeatedly calls for Jews to exhibit tolerance, spirituality, and solidarity. Lipman explains that, “I realized that polarization caused by extremism and isolationism in the religious community may be the greatest internal threat to the future of the Jewish people. All of our classic sources and basic logic dictate that the key to our success as a nation is unity.”

Knesset Member Lipman is uniquely qualified to address his English readers having grown up in a suburb of Washington D.C. and immigrating to Israel in 2004. Amazingly, he became a member of the Knesset in 2013, only 9 years after moving to Israel, proving to be a role model for all recent American immigrants to Israel.

Continue reading “A Hopeful Vision of Israel’s Future”

Will Our Boys Fight Again?

The world has not yet forgiven the Jews for the Holocaust. Yet Israel can survive – and this is the paradox of its reality – as long as it insists on its vocation of uniqueness.For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People

By Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Throughout the centuries, historians, philosophers and anthropologists have struggled with the concept called “Israel” more than with nearly any other idea.

While attempting to place Israel within the confines of conventional history, they experienced constant academic and philosophical frustration. Any definitions they suggested eventually broke down due to significant inconsistencies.

Was Israel a nation, a religion, or an altogether mysterious entity that would forever remain unexplainable? By some, it was seen less as a nation and more as a religion; others believed the reverse to be true. And then there were those who claimed that it did not fall into either of these categories.

In fact, it was clear to everyone that “Israel” did not fit into any specific framework or known scheme. It resisted all historical concepts and generalities.

Its uniqueness thwarted people’s natural desire for a definition, which can be alarming and terribly disturbing.

This fact became even more obvious once Titus the Roman forced the Jews out of their country, and specifically after the collapse of the Bar Kochba rebellion.

It was then that the Jew was hurled into the abyss of the nations of the world, and has since been confronted with a new condition: ongoing insecurity.

While mankind has always faced moments of insecurity, it is the Jews who have been denied even the smallest share of the dubious security that others possess. Whether Jews were aware of it or not, they always lived on ground that could, at any moment, give way beneath their feet.

In 1948, Israel once again became a country – but many forgot that it was not only a country. All the other dimensions, such as nationhood, religion, mystery, insecurity and lack of definition continued to exist. The people of Israel today do not find themselves exclusively in the Land of Israel, and instead of one Israel, the world now has two.

Yet the second, new Israel has until now been seen as responding to the demands of history, geography, politics and journalism. One knows where it is; at least, one thinks one does. But it becomes increasingly clear that this new and definable Israel has already become as much a puzzling and perplexing entity as the old Israel always was.

Throughout its short history, the State of Israel has experienced the most inexplicable events modern man has ever seen. After an exile of nearly 2,000 years, during which the old Israel was able to survive against all historical odds, it returned to its homeland. There it found itself surrounded by a massive Arab population that was and is incapable of making peace with the idea that this small and peculiar nation lives among them. After having suffered a Holocaust in which it lost six million of its members, it was not permitted to live a life of tranquility on its tiny piece of land. Once again, the Jew was denied the right to feel at home in his own country.
Continue reading “Will Our Boys Fight Again?”

Rabbi Dov Lipman: Attempting the Impossible

From the JN BlogTo Unify a Nation

When Rabbi Dov Lipman was growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, he attended a rally to free Soviet Jews when he was 13 years old. Each protester held a sign with a name on it; his sign had the name Yuli Edelstein.

Flash forward about 30 years, after Lipman becomes the first American-born member of the Knesset since Rabbi Meir Kehane was elected in 1984. Lipman is now an MK in the 19th Knesset; and the speaker of the Knesset is Yuli Edelstein.

At that time – when he was a young teen in Maryland and Edelstein was in a Russian prison — the idea of them both serving in the Israeli Knesset would have seemed impossible, Lipman told the attendees of a May 7 Valley Beit Midrash lecture at Temple Chai.

After Lipman became a member of the Knesset, his grandmother traveled to Israel and visited him in the Knesset building. She is a survivor of Auschwitz who entered Auschwitz in May 1944 (70 years, to the month, before the Temple Chai lecture). When she visited her grandson in the Knesset, his grandmother said that it would have seemed impossible when she was younger to imagine that there would be a Jewish state and that she would be there with her grandson serving in its government.

Lipman, a member of the Yesh Atid party led by former journalist Yair Lapid, said his dream to have Israel become a leader in tolerance, equality and the environment ­­– to truly be “a light of the nations” – may also seem impossible, but “the founders of Israel did the impossible,” too, and he is hopeful that he can help lead the country to that point.

(One thing, however, that he wasn’t optimistic about was the peace talks: The Palestinian Authority joining with Hamas makes it impossible to have peace talks, he said.)

Before entering Israel’s government, Lipman was an educator, and shifted his career choice to politics after becoming active in the 2011 haredi conflict in Beit Shemesh, after haredi men harrassed schoolgirls on their way to their Modern Orthodox school because they felt they weren’t dressed modestly enough. His new book, “To Unify a Nation: My Vision for the Future of Israel,” was published earlier this month.

Some of the issues that the party has tackled so far are proposing to legalize nonreligious marriages in Israel, with a civil union bill. Currently, all Jewish marriages are under control of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate and about 9,000 couples each year leave Israel to get married in Cyprus, Lipman said; their marriages are recognized when they return to Israel.

But “Israel has to be a place where every Jew can say, ‘This is my home,’ ” he said. The law is scheduled go in front of the Knesset this summer.

Lipman’s role seems to be an Orthodox voice in the  secular Yesh Atid party. “I feel that if we work together, we can solve many of these problems together,” he said.

Another issue Lipman’s party is working on is  a bill designed to increase haredi enlistment in the IDF and participation in the workforceNot only will haredi and secular Jews have to work together to accomplish their tasks, but such an effort would also help people get jobs and get off charity, he noted.

He said that Lapid told him that they’ll never agree 100 percent on how the country should look, but they should work together on the 80 percent they do agree on and discuss the 20 percent they disagree about. “In the end, the country will not look 100 percent like he wants it to look and it won’t look 100 percent the way I want it to look, but let’s find a way to do it together.”

Another pressing issue concerns agunot (“chained” women whose husbands won’t give them Jewish divorces, leaving them unable to remarry). Steps are being taken to change the law to state that men who won’t grant their wives a divorce won’t be able to obtain passports or driver’s licenses – and other means of coercion without violence. (The audience at Temple Chai cheered that one.)

Questions from the audience included the response the Orthodox have in Israel to the Reform and Conservative presence there (that will take time, Lipman said, because these movements are so new in Israel) and the way Ethiopians are transitioning into Israeli society (the most important thing right now is helping the children with their education, Lipman said, because their parents didn’t grow up going to school and are unable to help them).

Lipman emphasized that an understanding between Israel’s secular communities and religious communities is crucial for the country’s future.

The Temple was destroyed because we didn’t get along with each other and we can’t rebuild it unless we get along, he said.