6/18/18

The Oxymoron of Modern Open Inclusive Orthodoxy: My Column for June 2016 for the Jewish Standard

Update: My column was the subject of discussion by Rabbi Steven Riskin and Rabbi Kenneth Brander at a Ohr Torah Stone forum at the Rinat Israel Synagogue on June 13, 2018, moderated by Jerry Silverman, President & CEO, Jewish Federations of North America.

See the video here.

My Column for June 2016 for the Jewish Standard

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

In the past few years I’ve seen that people use the term “modern Orthodox” in news and opinion articles to describe a current form of Judaism. More recently, I read about a new group that sounds attractive to me, that wants to promote a more “inclusive” Orthodoxy. But I always have understood that Orthodox Judaism clearly says that it is the oldest and the original form of Judaism, that all of its practices are crucial to the survival of Judaism, and that they conform perfectly to God’s will as interpreted by the Orthodox rabbis. Why do people apply these fancy new labels for their faith? And is it hypocritical for me, if I embrace modern values, to continue to stay plain old Orthodox? Or should I join up with the new guys?

Confounded in Clifton

Dear Confounded,

If there was a supermarket where you could buy a religion in a box, you would not find many products with the label description “New and Improved.” But you would find most with the description, “Same Classic Ingredients for Centuries (or Millennia).”

So you are correct to be confused about the term “modern Orthodox.” Orthodox Jewish authorities’ main claim to legitimacy is that the content of their system is not modern. They insist that it is ancient, dating back thousands of years, to God’s covenants with our patriarchs, and to God’s revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. And you legitimately can scratch your head in disbelief when someone comes up with an incongruous title that implies that a religion can be ancient and modern at the same time.

So, you may ask, what then is all this talk about “modern Orthodoxy”? On the surface, I might dismiss that new label, or the similar tags “open Orthodoxy,” and “pluralistic Orthodoxy,” as marketing names without any deep meaning. I might say that they are meant to make the brand of religion that its leaders are selling more attractive to consumers.

6/17/18

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing the 18th Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy (aleha hashalom).

We miss her so very much. She would have loved to see the progress of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and take pride in all of their accomplishments. She would have loved to read books to her little great-grandchildren and to watch them play and grow.

She was born in NYC and attended the public schools in Washington Heights. She watched from her classroom window as they built the George Washington Bridge.

She graduated from Hunter High School, Hunter College and went on to a career in public service at the OPA and then into the field education. Together with my dad, she founded the Park East Day School when my father was rabbi at the Park East Synagogue, then called Congregation Zichron Ephraim. She subsequently taught in NYC public schools for many years.

She is interred on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. Her memorial photo site is here.

6/8/18

Is Charles Krauthammer Jewish?

Is columnist and Fox TV commentator Charles Krauthammer Jewish? Yes he is a Jew.

In JPost interview Krauthammer reflected on his Talmudic upbringing. He described himself in the interview we cite here as not very religious:
As for my own practice, it's fairly minimal, but I go on the required days. I go to Yizkor, those kinds of things. I once described to a friend my Jewishness - I said, I'm a Jewish Shinto. I believe in ancestor worship. That's the heart of my Judaism.
We disagree with most of what neoconservative Charles Krauthammer says about foreign policy. But from the excellent interview he gave to the Jerusalem Post, "The unfashionable Charles Krauthammer," we learned that his eloquent argumentation skills derive in part from his Orthodox Talmudic education.
Can you talk a little bit about your own Jewish upbringing and sense of Jewishness, and how that influences you? ...
I grew up in a Modern Orthodox home. I went to Jewish day school right through high school, so half of my day was spent speaking Hebrew from age six to 16. I studied thousands of hours of Talmud. My father thought I didn't get enough Talmud at school, so I took the extra Talmud class at school and he had a rabbi come to the house three nights a week. One of those nights was Saturday night, so in synagogue Saturday morning my brother and I would pray very hard for snow so he wouldn't be able to come on Saturday night and we could watch hockey night in Canada. That's where I learned about prayer...
He suffered a tragic swimming accident when in medical school which left him paralyzed.

He has a new book out and is the subject of a Fox News program and was on Jon Stewart's show to promote the book, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics.



Here is the entire article. It is no longer available at jPost.

"The unfashionable Charles Krauthammer"