June 4, 2015

A few weeks ago I hosted a forum at my congregation. The topic was whether American Jews can have a civil conversation about Israel given the enormous divide that has developed between left and right. One of the organizations that I tried to recruit into the conversation immediately put forth its red line. Its representatives would not sit on a panel alongside advocates of boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel (aka BDS). Due to a variety of reasons, we held the… Read more

June 2, 2015

I wonder if John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel know what happened at King David’s tomb on Monday morning? From Haaretz: A violent confrontation broke out Monday morning on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem’s Old City when a group of Jews tried to prevent some 100 Greek Orthodox worshipers from praying in the complex housing the tomb of King David. The building is located on Mt. Zion outside the southwest corner of the Ottoman-built wall surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem. It… Read more

June 1, 2015

Taffy Brodesser-Akner is an entertainment writer who contributes to GQ, The New York Times and, on Jewish issues, to The latter, by the way, now charges readers to comment. This is either an interesting way to avoid trolls or one really stupid business model. Speaking of stupid, let me get back to Ms. Brodesser-Akner, specifically her recent piece for Tablet, “I Probably Won’t Share This Essay on Twitter:  Some thoughts on being Jewish in contemporary polite society.” Not sharing… Read more

May 28, 2015

Yesterday I had an interesting meeting with a young scholar who is about to go to work at a conservative Washington think tank. When our far-ranging discussion turned to same-sex marriage, he asked me why – as a gay man – I would not be willing to accept a civil union in place of marriage. He elaborated on his question, explaining that he favors the elimination of all religious entanglement with governmental recognition of couples; government should simply register civil… Read more

May 27, 2015

I just started reading Jerry Coyne’s new book, Faith vs. Fact and I’m finding it to be quite good. Last year he wrote a piece for The New Republic in which he addressed an issue that always frustrates me: the so-called sophisticated theologies. For those of you who haven’t spent years and years studying religion, these are notions of “God as Ground of Being” or the many varieties of process theology. They veer away from an interventionist God, sometimes even… Read more

May 25, 2015

On Friday night at my congregation we celebrated Shavuot (see my previous post about the holiday itself). My presentation was entitled “V’zot Ha-Torah – This is the Torah,” a line taken from the traditional Jewish liturgy. It is chanted after the Torah reading when the scroll is opened and raised high for all to see its words: “This is the Torah which Moses brought before Israel, given by the mouth of Yahweh and delivered into Moses’ hands.” They sing this in… Read more

May 23, 2015

Last night we celebrated Shavuot (archaically known as “The Feast of Weeks”) at our congregation. Talk about a difficult holiday for Secular Humanistic Jews! This one’s got almost nothing to offer. There are very few rituals that merit any kind of modern application or re-interpretation. The main theme of “receiving the Torah at Sinai” is not exactly inspiring for people who openly acknowledge that no Torah was received at any place called Sinai (or Horeb, for that matter). The Torah… Read more

May 23, 2015

View image | Sure and Begorrah…it means “Sure and by God.” Probably not the most appropriate thing for an atheist to say. But it’s a big day in historically Catholic Ireland where gay marriage has been overwhelmingly approved by voters, so it just seems somehow right. I’m not really into granting rights by referendum. But that’s my American prejudice. In Ireland they have different values and history and this seems like a great way to show the world how… Read more

May 22, 2015

View image | I always hesitate before blogging about something that’s already receiving widespread coverage. No one needs me to fill in details on events that are flying around the internet at lightning speed. But there’s something about this Duggar situation that’s really chapping my you-know-what. (If you don’t know about the Josh Duggar story, you can find all the ugly details here.) Maybe it’s the fact that these people are not just stars of some stupid reality show, but… Read more

May 22, 2015

In the genre of “de-conversion” books, there is a Jewish sub-category of “OTD” memoirs. “OTD” is the English acronym for “Off the Derech [the path or the way]” and refers to Orthodox Jews who leave traditional observance behind. Not all of them love that appellation, but it is what’s generally stuck. There have been many fine memoirs from formerly Orthodox Jews, most of them written by people reared in one of the Haredi varieties. One of the best is Leah Vincent’s… Read more

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