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.
by Shlomo Greenwald
Rabbi Maurice Lamm, a major presence in the American Orthodox rabbinate in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as a teacher to hundreds of thousands through his immensely popular Jewish books, died last week. He was 86.
Rabbi Lamm authored The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, on the laws and practices of burial, shiva and mourning, which has sold over 750,000 copies since its first printing in 1969.
Additionally, he wrote The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, The Power of Hope, Becoming a Jew, and Consolation. Each of these was also a best-seller in the Jewish world.
From 1972 to 1985 Rabbi Lamm served as head rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif., one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in America. He also connected with and influenced the Orthodox community at large through his affiliation with the Rabbinical Council of America, the journal Tradition and several other boards and organizations. He was also recognized as a first-class orator, lecturing abroad and overseas, from Israel to Australia to several countries in Europe.
Continue reading here.
By Ben Rothke, The Times of Israel
There’s a famous Yiddish expression men shtarbt nisht fuhn ah kasha, roughly translated as “no one ever died from a tough question”. Judaism views doubt and questions as positive, as they can be mechanisms that lead a person to greater spiritual growth.
While that saying is true in certain contexts; when it comes to dealing with contradictions and challenging questions in the Bible, many people unfortunately haven’t taken the time to determine what the true answers are. Often these unresolved questions or unsatisfactory and unfulfilling answers will lead them to abandoning any future interaction with the sacred text.
In a fascinating new book, Between the Lines of the Bible: Genesis: Recapturing the Full Meaning of the Biblical Text (Urim Publications ISBN-13 978-9655242003), author Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom has written an engaging work that provides significant new insights and a fascinating approach to the Biblical text. The book is a pleasure to read and the reader is certain to come out with significant insights to the text. Continue reading “Review of Between the Lines of the Bible: Genesis“
by Ellen Share, Librarian, Washington Hebrew Congregation
Meditations at Twilight on Genesis is a commentary on each parsha (chapter) in the book of B’reshit (Genesis). Rabbi Granatstein provides his own insights and wisdom along with a wide range of traditional sources, including the Talmud; Midrashic classics, such as B’reshit Rabba, Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, and Midrash Tanhuma; Jewish philosophical works, such as Rambam’s Moreh Nevukhim (Guide for the Perplexed) and the Zohar; as well as the commentaries of Rashi, and Ibn Ezra, to name but a few. This book by an Orthodox rabbi is not about ritual, rather it has universal appeal for all Jews. The chapters are short and provide a good supplementary commentary to the parshot in the Chumash (Torah) and ideas for discussion at the Shabbat table. For example, In Parashat Vaychi, which is the final chapter in Genesis, Granatstein cites the story of Joseph as to show how our ancestors strove to maintain their Jewish identity and how we might learn from them. Thus, Joseph, who had become second in command in Egypt, made the Israelites promise that he would be buried in Canaan. Joseph never forgot that he was a Hebrew and of the land that God promised our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Recommended for any synagogue library.
This review appeared in the AJL Reviews February/March 2016 issue.
Urim Publications is honored to announce that After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring is the winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Biography / Autobiography.
After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring
by Joseph Polak
Foreword by Elie Wiesel
Hardcover, 141 pages
“Another book on the Holocaust? Yes and no; this book is about a different Holocaust—the one that survivors of concentration camps endured after April 1945. That is when survivors began to experience the horrific and persistent memories of what they had lived through, according to Joseph Polak, who entered the camps when he was just a toddler.”
-Eleanor Ehrenkranz, Jewish Book Council
“As one of the last witnesses to the Shoah, certainly one of the youngest, Joseph Polak has written a memoir that is an essential contribution to the body of Holocaust literature….This is a must read for anyone not afraid of grappling with the unfathomable.”
“Joseph Polak has written a memoir that begins where Anne Frank’s diary leaves off…. We don’t have many books like this one, books that tell what Hell was like for children who were too innocent to understand where they were, and too young to remember it clearly afterwards. So read this book and absorb what it has to say. And take some comfort from the fact that its author grew up to be a teacher of Torah and a counselor of young people on campus, hard as that is to comprehend.”
-Jack Reimer, South Florida Jewish Journal
“The story is so fantastic that, as Polak himself says, it goes against what we know of the Holocaust and the concentration camps. Every page teaches the reader something new, in language that is fresh and original.”
-Alan Rosen, PhD
“It is haunting and melancholic, unforgettable and poignant. Polak is a wonderful writer, proffering a terrifying truth while speculating about the wisdom of the Torah and the apparent absence of God.”
-Charles Weinblatt, NY Journal of Books
By Beverly Geller, The Frisch School, Paramus, NJ
Knowing how often the teachers in my school request Rabbi Nachum Amsel’s The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, I was eager to see his new volume. It does not disappoint. This book is an extremely valuable reference work for learning the Jewish view on numerous topics, including some for which I was not even aware there was a Jewish view (i.e. self-esteem in Judaism). It provides a source for in-depth essays on classic moral and ethical issues, such as anger, jealousy and revenge, as well as other important topics that confront our generation, such as cloning, stem cells, the ethics of downloading films and songs, and many others. Rabbi Amsel includes over two hundred pages of source material, Biblical and Talmudic selections quotes from works of Jewish philosophy, so that the reader can follow up on the essay. This volume is highly recommended.
This review appeared in the AJL Reviews February/March 2016 issue.
by Alan Jay Gerber
The literary work that is my subject for the next few weeks is entitled, “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values” (Urim Publications, 2015), a series of essays on some of the most provocative subjects of contemporary interest, by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel.
Rabbi Amsel is graduate of Yeshiva University, ordained a rabbi by HaRav Joseph B. Soloveitchik,zt”l, whose career centered for over 30 years on the enhancement of Jewish education all over the world. This book goes a long way in helping us to understand issues that confront us in our daily lives and are regularly discussed and debated in the public arena (including gun control and legalized gambling and the use of lotteries, will be my focus in upcoming columns).
This week I will focus on my interview with Rabbi Amsel wherein you will get a measure of his intellectual prowess.
Continue reading “‘The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values’ a must-read”
One of the very serious questions that faces every posek is what degree of flexibility does he have in determining his decisions, whether in the direction of stringency or that of leniency. Is he inexorably bound by the rulings of the Shulhan Arukh, for example? Or may he take a position which is more stringent than that of the Mehaber ? (It is generally agreed that he may add stringencies to his own private practices.) Conversely, can he take a position of leniency, which would seem to contradict the standard rulings?
We know that there are certain well-defined areas of halakha where the posek is given considerable leeway and personal freedom, and may even be encouraged in the direction of koah de-heteira adif (favoring the position of leniency). For example, the Talmud declared that mi-shum igun akilu Rabbanan, i.e., in the case of agunot one should lean toward a permissive path. So too, bi-khdei hayyav, mi-pnei kevod ha-beriyot, hefsed merubbeh, shaat ha-dehak, mi-shum tzaara, etc. On the other hand, in certain cases one may rule more stringently, in accordance with the principle of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din. Continue reading “On How to Lean toward Leniency: Halakhic Methodology for the Posek”
Congratulations to The Soul of Jewish Social Justice and On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker, both finalists in the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards.
The Soul of Jewish Social Justice by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is a finalist for Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice.
On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker by Daniel Sperber is a finalist for Modern Jewish Thought and Experience: the Dorot Foundation Award in Memory of Joy Ungerleider Mayerson.
You can read more about the Awards and other finalists here.