In the early 1960s, when I was about 10 or so, I was in the backseat of our family car driving somewhere in upstate New York. My parents were in the front seat and my older brother, Paul, was next to me. It wasn’t the busy New York Thruway but it wasn’t a winding country road either. In any case, we were running low on fuel and our stomachs were growling as well. My father, the driver, was never one to let the gas gauge slip too low. But as we traveled onward, we noticed there were no filling stations along the way—nothing except trees and nature. This went on until the gas gauge pointed to near empty. We all got a bit apprehensive; anxiety mixed with hunger is never a good combination. Then as we rounded a...
Beshert | Finding My Childhood Bestie—60 Years Later!
My beshert moment on that unforgettable day wrapped me in so many memories of my childhood. In the early 1940s, as kids growing up in the Bronx, New York, we walked to school with our friends and played in the streets until dark without fear or worry. We enjoyed marbles, which we kept in our fathers’ old cigar boxes; jacks on the sidewalk, chalk to draw and play games in the street and so many more inventive ways to have fun. My best friend was Bernice Goldfeder from the time I was five until moves and marriages separated us. Fast forward to the 2000s. I had left New York and relocated to Washington, DC in 2002. I made a happy life for myself there with a few wonderful new friends and the blessing of my daughter...
Are We All Hasidim?
In a world in which any Jew is a potential target of anti-Semitism, it is the most visible Jews who are most threatened. Jews with black hats, with tight curls hanging down below their ears and black coats and women wearing modest head coverings, they are the most vulnerable. Jews in synagogues. In Brooklyn, as in Jersey City and Monsey, violence against individuals in their Hasidic communities is almost an everyday event. If someone wants to do harm to a Jew, Hasidic Jews and their communities are and have become easy targets.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Discusses Career, Role Models at Moment Awards Dinner
“This latest has been my fourth cancer bout,” Ginsburg said. “And I found each time that when I’m active, I feel much better than if I’m just lying about and feeling sorry for myself.”
The Haredi PR Problem: Bad For (All) The Jews
by Ezer Smith There has been some outrage recently over an Orthodox custom known as metzitzah b’peh, and justifiably so: The custom, during which the mohel sucks blood out of the circumcision wound with his mouth, has caused 11 cases of genital herpes in newborn boys since 2005. Two have died, and according to the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, some “became seriously ill” and others “developed brain damage.” This has prompted reactions from all areas of the journalistic and intellectual spectrum: Publications such as The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast have carried articles; Cantor Philip L. Sherman (a mohel) has included a short F.A.Q. about it on his website; Christopher Hitchens condemned it with his usual brand of anti-religion vitriol; and Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in...
A New Jew?
by Kara A. Kaufman A landmark study of Jewish life released today reveals the deep and sometimes surprising changes the Jewish community has undergone over the past decade. The study, conducted by the UJA-Federation of New York and based on nearly 6,000 interviews in eight counties in New York, is the largest North American Jewish community study to date. The data help us better understand the contours of who we are as modern Jews in America, challenging popular stereotypes and pointing out the connections between trends within the Jewish world and those within broader American life. The report illustrates several clear developments over the past decade. First, the size of the New York Jewish population has been growing over the past nine years, reaching 1.5 million in 2011. The study’s authors ascribe this rise to three primary...
Not So Secular: Jews Occupy Wall Street
by Steven Philp The Occupy Wall Street movement is populated by the disaffected and anti-religious left--that is, if you ignore the Jews. A recent article by Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times argues that counter to much of American history--where faith communities often stood at the vanguard of progressive causes--this particular movement shows the widening gap “between the religious right and the not-so-religious left.” Landsberg finds evidence of this in his cursory examination of the Occupy L.A. protest, where the only signs of faith communities are a meditation tent and a sukkah. Yet Landsberg gives those short shrift, pointing instead to the lack of organized Christian involvement. He interviews John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio. Green bemoans the dearth of Christian representation. “Where...
A Shakeup in District 9
by Theodore Samets In Monday’s Huffington Post, Ed Koch, the former Democratic mayor of New York City, and an outspoken supporter of Israel, did something scandalous: He advocated that his former constituents in Brooklyn and Queens elect a Republican in the special congressional election taking place this September. Koch’s principal reason for advocating this, according to his HuffPo column, is what he perceives as President Obama’s “hostility to the state of Israel.” Koch claims that by electing a Republican, the Jewish-dominated 9th district (until recently represented by the Honorable Anthony Weiner) will send a message to the president that he must “change his hostile position on the state of Israel” if he wants to be reelected next year. Yet Koch is wrong when he claims that supporting a “Scott Brown”-style insurgency is the right tactic. Koch says he...
Jew vs. Jew
by Steven Philp In light of the fact that anti-Semitism exists within contemporary society, a large number of Jews devote their time and energy to organizations—like the Anti-Defamation League—that combat intolerance and bigotry. Yet rather than address hatred within our own community, there is a tendency toward finger pointing or—worse—ignoring the issue altogether. Every now and then a case of Jew-on-Jew violence comes to the attention of national media, such as the recent firestorm generated by the assault on Aron Rottenberg in the Skverer Hasidic enclave of New Square, NY. According to an article posted by the Associated Press, Rottenberg claims that Grand Rabbi David Twersky ordered his 18-year-old butler, Shaul Spitzer, to target Rottenberg after he started attending services at a nearby minyan rather than the main synagogue. The May 22 attack left Rottenberg with third...
Stay Salty, Smoked Salmon
by Theodore Samets Growing up, I was scared of lox. Well, at least I thought it was lox. Turned out, the slimy, pinkish orange, cold fish I abhorred—but have come to love—wasn’t lox at all, as my parents called it. It was nova. As I grew older, I fell in love with the stuff. But in rural Vermont, where I grew up, it can be hard to find anything but pre-packaged “smoked Atlantic salmon,” $5.99 for a four-ounce package. Then, a few weeks before my bar mitzvah, friends of my parents brought some fresh lox back from Montreal. It looked the same as smoked salmon, but boy was it different. I was a man; it was time to give up kids’ fish and move to the grownup version. I had been introduced to belly lox, and life would never be...