13 Things Clergy Don’t Want You to Know

Dear Rabbi, I just finished a Reader’s Digest book called the 13 Things They Won’t Tell You. The “They” are specialists in a number of fields. Sadly the book doesn’t include clergy. What are the thirteen things clergy won’t tell us? While I’m sure different clergy will come up with different lists, here’s mine: 1. Religion is rooted in fear, especially fear associated with the afterlife. Every religion has a horrible vision of the afterlife (either some hell realm or… Read more

Jews are News

Dear Rabbi, I just read a post on The Guardian newspaper website (theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/07/gaza-coverage-rise-antisemitic-attacks-europe?) that asks the question “Why is there so much coverage of Israel in the media?” The answer: “Jews are news.” That isn’t a real answer, and it begs the question, “Why are Jews news?” Can you answer that question? Jews have been news for thousands of years. Why? Because Jews are God’s Chosen People. What started out as a jingoistic mantra of tribal self–promotion has become a… Read more

Are You an Atheist?

Dear Rabbi, I have just read your Rabbi Rami’s Guide to God and I think you are an atheist. Care to comment? If your God is Zeus, Odin, or Thor—I’m an atheist. If your God is Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva—I’m an atheist. If your God is Amun, Anubis, or Isis—I’m an atheist. If your God is Ahura Mazda, Mithra, or Apam Napat—I’m an atheist. If your God is Xiuhtecuhtli, Tlaltecuhti, or Chaichiuntlicue—I’m an atheist. If your God is the Father, Son, and… Read more

Are we seeing the end of religion?

Dear Rabbi, I just saw this survey that shows religion is in steep decline in the United States with over 80% of Americans saying religion mattered to them in 1962 while less than 60% say it matters to them today. Is this the end of religion in America? No, I don’t think so. Human beings are innately religious. I don’t think that changes. What changes are the religions that help us articulate that innate religiosity. When I say human beings… Read more

Hope For Peace?

Dear Rabbi, Do you think there is any hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians? “Any hope” is setting the bar quite low; we can all entertain some sliver of hope, so the answer to your question “is there ANY hope for peace” is “yes.” But I doubt peace will come the way our pundits and politicians imagine it. They still talk about a two-state solution as if this is possible, but I have little hope that it is. Israelis and… Read more

Jew-Hatred

Dear Rabbi, Does the mounting anti-Semitism in Europe surprise you? What does this say about the long–term future of the Jews? Isn’t this proof that we need a strong and secure State of Israel? First let me suggest we stop using the word anti–Semitism and start using Jew–hatred instead. Jews are not the only Semitic people, but an anti–Semite hates Jews explicitly. We need to make this clear. Anti–Semites hate Jews, so lets call them what they are: Jew haters. Second,… Read more

Cafeteria Jew?

Last night during an interfaith event in Nashville two criticisms were raised that deserve wider attention. The first came from a woman who asked if my Judaism was equivalent to what she called Cafeteria Christianity: picking passages from the Bible I liked and interpreting them in ways that I found meaningful. From her nervous tone of voice I suspect she thought I would disagree. I didn’t. I happily and unabashedly pick and choose texts and teachings I find meaningful, and… Read more

Context, Pretext and the Future of Israel & Gaza

Dear Rabbi, Every spokesperson prefaces his or her remarks on Israel and Gaza with “let me provide some context.” What is this context they keep talking about? And what is going to happen? “Context” is a way of excusing what you are doing and condemning what the other is doing. One person’s context is another person’s pretext: Israel does what it does because Hamas does what it does, and Hamas does what it does because Israel does what it does…. Read more

What is Zionism?

Dear Rabbi, Is there a difference, or can we make a difference between being Zionist and Jewish? Are all Jews Zionists? Do they all support Israel right or wrong, or can they even imagine a “wrong” when it comes to Israel? Terms like Zionist and Zionism often carry a lot of emotional baggage. If we are going to use these terms we need to define them clearly. For me Zion, Zionism, and Zionist refer to the unbroken 2500–year Jewish longing… Read more

What to Do about Israel and Hamas?

Dear Rabbi, What are we to do about the horrors taking place in Israel and Gaza? As a Jew I am furious at Hamas and horrified by Israel. Is this merely a case of a pox on both their houses? The reason why this and every other conflict around the globe continues is simple: people want it to. We humans are innately violent. We divide ourselves into warring camps because war is what we do, and doing it alongside like-minded… Read more


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