Restoring a Golden Era

Church2Perhaps it’s because I remember a world that not long ago was very different.

When I was in high school and college in the 1970s and early ’80s, American Jewry was, in many respects, in its prime. Jews were moving to the suburbs, getting rich, building enormous synagogues, feeling at home in America in a way their grandparents could not have anticipated.

The Jewish Catalogs, consciously evoking the hip Our Bodies, Ourselves and the crunchy Whole Earth Catalog, announced the arrival of a distinctly American, young, engaged, learned and searching American Judaism.

The Havurah Movement had taken off; Conservative Judaism was the largest movement in America, Orthodoxy

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Are We Like American Jews During the Shoah? (JPost)

German5It was one of those idyllic Israel moments – a gorgeous succa, spectacular food, thoughtful and well-read people talking about things that truly matter. Suddenly one of the women present posed a question that gave us all pause.

“We all criticize American Jewry for all that it failed to do during the Shoah,” she said, “and rightly so. But we see the threat to the Jewish people and Western civilization everywhere, and what are we doing? Are we any better?” “We need to awaken people to the danger,” someone responded, “because they still just don’t get it.”

“Like the sermon that Rabbi Lewis gave in Atlanta,” said another

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When the Guns Fall Silent (Jerusalem Post)

sad3Last Sunday night, my wife and I decided to go to dinner with friends. We made reservations for 8 p.m., when the restaurant should have been packed. But when we arrived, not another soul was there. As we were shown to our places, I kiddingly said to the waitress, “It’s good we made reservations.” “It’s wartime,” she said, not smiling back. “This is what happens.”

She was young, probably in her late 20s, professional enough but undeniably sullen. Yet who could blame her? Who was in Gaza? A boyfriend? A brother? Both? More? It was hard to watch her try

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Whatever Happened to Evil? (Jerusalem Post)

Evil4When the dust finally settles, when we can finally breathe again and begin to learn the lessons of this war-of-sorts, we’ll have more than our share of questions to ask.

Are the residents of Israel any safer than they were before? Is it really possible that a power like Israel cannot rid Gaza of rockets? Will Israel, when it’s all over, have sold out the residents of the South once again? Will we have created more cities like Sderot, in which the only people who live there are the ones who cannot afford to move away? Beyond the war, there will

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From Hebron to Kurdistan (Jerusalem Post)

Kurds5We knew it would end this way. Three weeks without a sign of life, no demands from anyone for their return, no one assuming responsibility – the likelihood of a tragic ending was overwhelming. Most of us knew it, even if we acknowledged it only in whispers.

Yet the predictability of the outcome made it no less heartbreaking. The now standard Israeli ritual unfolded: Israel television (except for Channel 1, which stuck with football) broadcast images of a massive IDF presence in Halhul, just outside Hebron. Newscasters assumed devastated faces, apologizing that the military censor precluded their revealing much.
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Because They Were Jews (NY Daily News)

Funeral2To observers across the world, Israelis’ reaction to the abduction and murder of three teenagers may seem a bit overwrought. Of course, the deaths of any three children, anywhere, is horrific. And yes, a tightly knit country like Israel will invariably respond with greater emotion than might citizens of other countries.

But still, how does one explain the presence of thousands of weeping people at the funeral, most of whom did not know the families? Why did Israelis across this country light hundreds of candles on sidewalks, hold each other and cry softly? Why were Jews across the world, in France and in Australia, in the U.S.

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Between the Symphony and the Jungle

jungle5When the rabbis of the Talmudic period wanted to introduce an idea that was so painful, so edgy, so problematic that they were actually hesitant to write what they meant to say, they would occasionally write an introduction like this to the seemingly blasphemous idea they wanted to share: “This is a difficult thing to say, and it is impossible to say it explicitly.” And then they would go on to say, often by way of analogy, whatever it was that they had intended in the first place.

There’s a similar tentative whisper making its way across this week’s pain-gripped Israel,

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#BringBackOurConscience

BringBack6In the annals of Obama presidency photographs, few images are likely to become as iconic in their representation of feigned powerlessness as that of a pouting first lady holding up a sign reading #BringBackOurGirls. The image is worse than pathetic; it’s actually infuriating.

For either people care about things, or they don’t. If the president (who I assume was consulted before Michelle struck the pose) doesn’t care about the hundreds of girls who are now in the hands of jihadi barbarians, then he should just say so.

But if he does care, then as the commander- in-chief of what is still (for the time being, at least) the most powerful military in

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The Road to Sovereignty was Paved with Clarity (Jerusalem Post)

Koshar3Yuli Kosharovsky died on the first day of Passover, the “season of our freedom.”

The man who had been the refusenik trapped behind the Iron Curtain for longer than anyone else, one of the most inspirational pillars of the former refusenik movement, died at the age of 72 when he fell from a tree he was trimming near his home in Beit Aryeh.

I first learned of Yuli Kosharovsky in 1982, when my wife and I were preparing to head to Russia to meet with refuseniksKosharovsky was on the list of those

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Hand-Wringing Ain’t Leadership

yoffie6“When U.S. Jewish commentators such as Daniel Gordis focus solely on how the world, Palestinians and the UN hate us, offering no vision for peace in Israel’s future, no wonder young Jews turn off.” So my Twitter feed greeted me one bright Jerusalem morning a week or two ago. That’s quite the cross to bear, knowing that the reason that young American Jews are turning away from Israel is, well, me.

Needless to say, I coped. Not only because nothing Haaretz publishes truly surprises me any longer, but because the writer, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, has demonstrated an uncanny ability in recent months to land on the wrong side of virtually every

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