What does it mean to be Jewish in today's world? Three prominent Jewish professionals provide their insights. What do you think?
To be a Jew is to live a joyous, vulnerable, purposeful existence, mindful of the noble legacy we carry and the incredible ethics Judaism contributed to the world. It is to take enormous pride in the Jewish state and in Jewish contributions all around the world. It is to feel responsible for all Jews, no matter where they are and to care for the downtrodden, the outsider and the stranger in our midst. It is exhilaration in the cup half full—the many ways Judaism has integrated the new feminist values. It is to be grateful for the core value of family that tradition contributes to my life. It is sitting in shul, people-watching and loving my community more than conversing with God, yet deeply sensing the two go hand in hand. It is to believe in God at some moments but not others—accepting this as all-of-a-piece in an ongoing faith. It is to be forever scarred by the Holocaust, yet because of it more intensely bound up with our partners in the covenant. It is to worry about and marvel at Israel in its ethical, restrained use of power despite continuous war and threats to its existence. I have faith in the promise of an eternal people, yet I know it demands of us a continuous struggle to stay alive. What a great gift to be chosen to walk through history as a Jew, a direct descendant of those who stood at Sinai and accepted the mission that is not yet finished! I know what it took my ancestors to get me here as a Jew, and I intend to make the same effort for my line, improving the world, I hope, in the process.
Blu Greenberg is the founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and author of On Women and Judaism: A View From Tradition.
Being Jewish is a dynamic struggle with identity. It’s Jacob with the angel, or whoever it is who comes in the middle of the night to wrestle with him. That’s what Jews do: We wrestle with God, we wrestle with others, and, most fundamentally, we wrestle with ourselves. One of the wonderful legacies of Jewish thought is challenging authority and doubting. As a scientist, I believe that real scientific progress comes from being an iconoclast, smashing idols in the tradition of Abraham so that you challenge traditional wisdom. You don’t accept things at face value, and you demand a great deal of yourself with regard to the validity of your knowledge. The excitement and the energy of science comes from disputes, and the Talmud is nothing but great authorities arguing with themselves. As a physician who takes care of patients, I look to the wonderful prayer (refuat hanefesh u’refuat haguf) for the healing of spirit and body. Judaism long ago appreciated these two dimensions in the experience of illness. As a real-world, pragmatic people, we are determined to do everything possible to improve the physical condition of the person but understand that there is an emotional, psychological and spiritual dimension that also needs to be addressed. What we call “healing” requires both. As a writer, I remember that we are people of books who understand that words have power. There are rabbinic injunctions against using words incorrectly and false testimony. What I extrapolate from our tradition is that the words I offer in public to describe science and medicine have to be carefully chosen and, as best as possible, filled with truth.
Jerome Groopman is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
I was a lot less open to the idea of being a Jew as a teenager in Iran because the context in which I could exercise my Judaism was not a democratic one. When I emigrated to the United States in 1985, however, I had options. Living in a democracy means that Judaism is not a monochromatic exercise, it is a multi-colored fact, a brilliant spectrum of many possibilities in which the range is so vast that all of us can find a shade that becomes us and allows us to continue to identify as Jewish. I love that our task for the Day of Atonement is to collectively read a single book in a day. One community, one book project. This is what we do as Jews: We read. Our connection with the higher authority is through a very rigorous exercise of reading. Human religious proxies are dangerous because it is easier to manipulate people this way. If there is to be a proxy, let it be a book. As Jews, we can help bring all other faith communities, including Muslim ones, in contact with the texts that they worship. Enhancing literacy among all populations is the way to engender the greatest Jewish value there is.
Roya Hakakian is author of Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran.
When Jodi and Alan of Marietta, Ga., began talking about plans for a bar mitzvah for their son, Zach, the idea of reading the Torah in front of 300 strangers wasn’t so appealing to him. He wanted something different. So the couple took a page from the wedding planner’s book: They invited 35 relatives and friends [...]
You're probably familiar with the Jewish wedding tradition " breaking of the glass" where the groom breaks a glass, everyone shouts "mazel tov," and the wedding's cocktail hour begins. Here are seven other Jewish wedding traditions worthy of consideration for you, whether you're planning a Jewish or an interfaith ceremony.Kabbalat Panim (Greeting Faces) Every bride wants to [...]
By Rabbi Yerachmiel GarfieldIt’s easy to get stuck on our phones — just finishing one call, one text, or checking email quickly as our children walk in the door or as we sit down to a family meal. Who hasn’t experienced the pull to our phones right after Shabbos or a minyan?We live in a [...]
Top 10 Reasons to shop for your ketubah with us: We are a "brick and mortar" store not just a website Individualized attention for ketubah shopping customers (no appointment necessary) Sample ketubahs and texts on site We work with your rabbi so all information for the ketubah is correct Our staff is proficient in Hebrew We handle all ketubah proofing details We have [...]
Tallits (Jewish prayer shawls) are often received at a milestone moment in one’s adult Jewish life. At bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, many families choose to give their child a tallit, which they will wear for the first time as they lead a congregation in prayer and learning. This process of choosing a tallit can be [...]
Yussel's Place, a premier retailer of Judaica gifts and Arts for bar and bat mitzvahs (including tallit sets), Jewish weddings (including break glass kits), all holidays (including Purim, Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah), and other special events has updated its already extensive online catalog of beautiful Judaica.For ketubahs, Yussel's provides individualized attention to [...]
If you’ve decided to include a ketubah as part of your wedding, you have several options. Here is a brief guide of things to consider as you select the one that’s right for you and your partner.Ketubah Text The most important part of any ketubah is what it says. After all, you and your partner will be [...]
If you're not Jewish but you've been invited to attend a Jewish Wedding, have no fear! You might feel a bit out of place during the ceremony but we've got information and etiquette tips to make you feel comfortable. First, what type of wedding is it? If the bride and groom are Conservative or Orthodox a [...]
When the wedding is over, the glass is broken, the flowers are given away, the cake eaten and the dress cannot be cut down to wear again. What remains are the memories, pictures, and above all else, your beautiful ketubah. The most important thing when beginning to shop for a ketubah is to stop…take a deep [...]