Shir Hamaalot

I have had struggles with my faith, with Judaism, over the last year. But now, even after the passing of the High Holidays, of Sukkot, of Shiminei Atzeret, of Simchat Torah, I find myself drawn back to the Torah, to the words of the sages, the commentators, the rabbis, and the beauty of living in the mercy of Hashem.

Because as we watch once more the walls of a civilization crumble around us, we are reminded that the kingdom of man is an illusion, and the only real kingdom is the Kingdom of G-d.

 

Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

(Morpheus, from The Matrix)

 

I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

(Tehillim 121, 1-2)

It is Still Too Hard to be a Working Parent

Opinion: I was a data scientist and mom. Then I had to choose.

Source: Why It’s So Hard to Be a Working Mom. Even at Facebook. | WIRED

Shanah Tovah, everyone. I hope your Rosh Hashanah was remarkable and moving, and that the Days of Awe are profound.

I wanted to break into your journey of teshuvah for a moment to share this short but provocative piece by Eliza Khuner, a data scientist who left her dream job at Facebook when she realized that her job was getting in the way of the most important parts of parenting.

As a father, I feel her pain, but in a different way. I blew it when my son was a toddler, working long hours at the office and traveling. I made the mistake of thinking that since I was able to be the sole breadwinner and my wife had a lot of help around the house with  the baby that I had done my bit as a dad. I was wrong, of course. I missed out a lot, and not just because I didn’t change diapers (I did, in my defense, empty the Diaper Genie.)

The good news is that I woke up just in time to save both my marriage and my relationship with my son. When my son was two I started working from home on half pay (and full work). I did that for a year, then quit my job. I started working for myself, and I have been working from home ever since. Even when my little firm was aqui-hired by my current company when my son was eleven, it was with the explicit assurance (which I did not have to work hard to elicit) that I would be able to work from home when not traveling.

The result has been incredible I have driven my son to and from school, picked him up from countless activities. I have known all of his teachers, cheered him at basketball games, shared the tension of robotics competitions, and spent countless hours talking to him and listening to him. I rejoined Scouts when he put on his first uniform, and have been his Den Leader, his Cubmaster, and now his Assistant Scoutmaster. We have been camping together, boating together, traveling together, and he is sixteen and we enjoy hanging out.

I have also had an amazing career – very different from the one I thought I had when he was born, but in so many respects a better one. And I can see now that the reason it was better was because of that balance, that choice to be a parent first, and whatever was on my business card second.

I say this not in sanctimony, not as a humble brag, but in wonder and gratitude. I am fully aware that not everyone has the opportunities that I do, or the choices that I had. But I want that for them, for all of us, because I think our children are improved, we are improved, and the world is improved when we are parents first, and whatever else after.

There is only so much we can do as individuals. The nature of work and of social expectations must change. I am heartened that my company and others are beginning to realize that parenthood and families need not be sacrificed on the altar of corporate success, but the exceptions prove the rule. We have a long way to go, and, with respect to Sheryl Sandberg, leaning in is not the entire answer. Indeed, I have reached the point in my career where I have come to realize that Sandberg is selling the same old Company Man join-the-rat-race-or-die snake oil that wound up destroying uncounted lives and families for the sake of quarterly returns for companies that mostly imploded in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Criticize Well

If you are one of those people who is preternaturally compelled to criticize faiths and the faithful, that is your right (in America, anyway).

If you want your critique to be taken seriously, however, try focusing on one faith at a time. Indiscriminately lumping all religions together and then opening fire is lazy, imprecise, often wrong, and readily dismissed by anyone who does not already agree with you.

We all may look the same to you, and there are always similarities. But if the differences are important enough to keep us in our separate houses, they are important enough for you to understand before you join the conversation.

The Price of Belief

The meaning of [the] Indiana [Religious Freedom Restoration Act decision] was that this was the first time corporate America took sides in the culture war — and it sided dramatically, powerfully, and consequentially with pro-LGBT activists, against the cause of religious liberty.

Source: How Bad Is The Benedict Option? | The American Conservative

I have issues with fundamentalist proclamations that we should adhere to the letter of the Bible on homosexuality. Abrahamic faiths generally walk a delicate line on LGBT issues, but the consensus that appears to be growing out of modern Jewish discussions on the topic (leaving the rulings of Haredi poskim out for a moment) is that the problem is the act rather than the individual. There shall be no stoning.

But I have equally fervent issues with the libertine proclamations that to believe that any consensual act between two mentally competent adults is wrong and deserving of legal censure. The reason I supported the RFRA was purely defensive: I should never be told what not to believe, and if the law as it stands is not sufficiently protecting my Constitutional right to freedom of belief and practice, then the law needs to be bolstered.

The Indiana RFRA was imperfect legislation at best. But its faults should not be conflated with the rightness of the core position around which it was based. We need a better RFRA, or, better yet, more vigorous protection of our Constitutional guarantees, even in the face of a vocal plurality who disagree.

I am willing to accept being socially ostracized for my beliefs. But I will not accept persecution, and in an era of social media, there is a fine line between being ostracized and being persecuted.

Not Your Father’s Catholic Church

“There has never been a Pope with as deep an understanding of Jews as Pope Francis” states Rabbi Rosen candidly. “Of course Pope John Paul II had a unique childhood experience of the Jewish community in Wadowice. But by the time he was a priest, there was little living community left to talk of, so his engagement was not as a developed adult.

Francis, on the other hand, has not only nurtured lifelong friendships with the Jewish community in Buenos Aires, with whom he has had “a vibrant interaction”, says Rabbi Rosen, but has co-authored a book with an Argentinian rabbi, Abraham Skorka, “thus addressing issues face to face with Jewish self-understanding and experience. This profoundly shapes his sensitivity and his commitment to the Jewish-Christian relationship.”

Source: Pope Francis and the Jews: the first six months – AJC: Global Jewish Advocacy

The Jewish-Catholic relationship is still on the mend after well over a millennium of anti-Semitic dysfunction that ranged from the dismissive to the the implicit countenance of genocide. It’s a large wound.

That said, since the “Nostra Aetate” declaration at Vatican II, the progress has been measured, but consistent and meaningful, and that looks to continue apace under Pope Francis, who has now taken the unprecedented step of calling upon all Catholics to cease the effort to evangelize Jews. We would do well to recognize that this is a controversial move for the Pope among his own flock, and that it was made in the effort to provide a comfortable “space” for interfaith discussion.

There are certainly good reasons to draw the line in that discussion at interfaith dialogue on doctrine: our beliefs should never be the subject of negotiation. At the same time, we must recognize – as did Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ZT”L, the Lubavitcher Rebbe – that there are commercial, philanthropic, civil, and economic issues of mutual interest about which there must be open channels of communication. And that proscription against dialogue on doctrine should never constrain leaders from either faith from dispelling real and often slanderous misconceptions held by one group of the other.

There is still much to be discussed in an effort to find a way to live together in a world where all faiths find themselves navigating a world with deeper and deeper sees of relativism. It is good to do so during a time when the attitude about Jews and Judaism projected by  most Catholics, lay and clergy, to be far more enlightened than has historically been the case.

 

 

Should Jews Live Apart Again?

Hebrew Union College Campus

One question that growth of Christian communities that are taking the Benedict Option poses to Jewish communities is whether more of us should be following them – and our Orthodox brothers and sisters – into lives of greater Jewish communalism in the face of changes underway in wider society?

(And to clarify – the Benedict Option is not an alternative to living within society at large, and does not contemplate disengagement or withdrawal, but calls for communal living within the broader context of society.)

We Are Used to Being Apart

Naturally, living apart – voluntarily or otherwise – is nothing new to Jews. At times, greater communalism has served us well, strengthening the bonds that unite us as a community, serving as a barrier to assimilation. and enabling us to better address and withstand persecution from outside.

Yet at other times, communalism became insularity, leaving us out of touch with the outsider world, and simultaneously making us easier to isolate, attack, and even (as in the Holocaust) exterminate.

There is an argument to be made that despite the dangers implicit in spreading ourselves among the goyim in the Diaspora (intermarriage, assimilation), there is the virtue of keeping us engaged, keeping us from being easily targeted.

But when being close to the goyim stops serving our purposes – when being a physical part of a wider, interfaith community leaves us cut off from the rest of our people and subject to harassment or worse, the attractions of communalism begin to eclipse the risks.

This is Urgent in Europe

We are probably not yet at the point in America where we are better off in our own communities. Many countries in Europe, however are in a different place. When we look across the Atlantic to our tribesmen and women in Europe, the trend in France, Germany, and other European nations appears to be to institute restrictions and condone public behavior that combine to make living among non-Jews increasingly challenging.

The choice is becoming stark: draw away from the wider population and form communities that combine physical proximity with strong support institutions; or emigrate. European Jews need to engage in country-by-country discussions about how they can continue living in a post-modern Europe, before weariness of persecution or outright fear drive them to Israel or America.

What about the U.S.?

In the United States, at the very least we need to avoid being boiled frogs. American Jews, particularly those of us who do not presently live frum lives, should begin discussing at what point it makes sense for us to start basing our decisions about where to live on the proximity to strong Jewish communities, and when it would make sense to reinforce and extend the our communal institutions to better support us in a changing world.

We do not have to surrender our practices in order to cleave closer to the observant community, and to broaden the role of our community institutions. Nor am I asking the Charedim to invite Reform Jews to live among them. I am simply suggesting that we will survive against the coming storms only if we are one people, a community of communities, a “Kehillat Godol.”

And we do have to start responding as a community to movements in wider society that threaten our ability to practice our faith in accordance with Jewish law and tradition. Vegetarian Jews must recognize a commonality of interest with their omnivorous tribesmen on questions of shechita. Public education advocates among us should also support measures that make Jewish education accessible to those who choose it. We should all take a stand against efforts to criminalize practices that lie at the core of our faith, including circumcision.

And it behooves us to watch out for other potential challenges to our faith, whether in the form of institutional anti-Semitism, the toleration of exclusionary practices or persecution, or efforts by outsiders to make Jewish practice illegal.

At the very least, we should consider whether we have allowed certain practices and institutions in our communities to whither, and whether it is time to return to a policy of more actively supporting them.

History has proven that as we live in nations aside from our own, the strongest guarantee of our continued safety and prosperity lies in the construction of strong communities and institutions. We don’t need to adopt the “Benedict Option:” we created it. We simply need to return to the time-honored practices that have served to shield our communities, our faith, our families, and ourselves from the vagaries of a non-Jewish world.

Judaism and the Benedict Option

As described by conservative commentator Rod Dreher, who is both an expert in and advocate of the practice. the “Benedict Option” refers to the voluntary withdrawal by contemporary Christians from the wider society into segregated, or even cloistered communities, much in the way that Benedictine monks did during the more unsettled parts of the middle ages.

These modern Benedictines have, in Dreher’s words, “ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents.”

Dreher continues:

“Put less grandly, the Benedict Option — or “Ben Op” — is an umbrella term for Christians who “accept [Alistair] MacIntyre’s critique of modernity, and who also recognize that forming Christians who live out Christianity according to Great Tradition requires embedding within communities and institutions dedicated to that formation.”

The public discussion among observant Christian communities around the Benedict Option reached a crescendo during the latter half of President Obama’s second term. At the time, it was possible to foresee America living for decade under a government that was unsympathetic to the concerns of Americans shaken by the speed and magnitude of change in public mores. It has since dropped off, but one gets the feeling that observant Christians are waiting to see how far Trump is – or is not – willing to go to reverse that trend, or even to slow the pace of change.

The logical question when reading about the Benedict Option is to ask whether there is a Jewish version. Are observant Jews in America as alienated by the changes in American society as are observant Christians? And are they ready to change the structures of their communities to address them?

Few who read this would disagree that they already are, and have been for centuries. Indeed, as Dreher and others have noted, the most relevant model for the Benedict Option in the context of a modern society is not the original Benedictine communities themselves, but observant Jewish communities. The place of worship becomes the center of the community. Communities establish religious schools offering different mixes of secular subjects and religious teachings as an alternative to public schooling. They build social institutions designed to support observant life. And they are serious about weekly communal activities.

Two questions emerge from this, then.

  1. How are we as Jews – as individuals and as a community – to respond to Christian communities taking the Benedict Option?
  2. Is it time for Jews of all denominations – Conservative, Reform, and Deconstructionist as well as Orthodox – to begin rethinking our physical assimilation into wider society?

I’ll address each in separate posts in the coming weeks.

The Avoidance of Gluttony

Kashrut, pursued with determination, prepares the soul to avoid gluttony. The strictures of Halal do the same. Both are frameworks that demand consideration before consumption.

For its part, Christianity identifies gluttony as a sin, but interestingly does not provide a practical path to dodge the temptation in a prosperous society to become a foodie. Observation only, not at all a criticism.

To my knowledge, there are evangelistic ministries that consider the question, but such discussions tend to hit a theological dead end with Paul’s original rejection of the corpus of Torah law.

This suggests another reason why it is incumbent upon us as Jews to interact with non-Jews to promote their knowledge of our laws and practice. We are not now, nor should we ever be, a proselytizing faith. But as others faiths evolve and they seek answers in our practice, we have no reason to hold back that knowledge. On the contrary, an argument can be made that we should encourage such study, provided it is not with the intention of undermining or destroying us.

The Yiddishe Interface

Judaism needs people within the faith who are capable of and disposed to interacting with ha goyim. We as a people cannot, either practically or (in the context of our assigned role on Earth) morally withdraw from the world around us.

We can certainly have groups or kehillim who can and should do so. Our strength, I believe, lies in our diversity, and such communities are part of our mantle; there will always be among us souls of profound tenderness who can only thrive in places of refuge from the conflicts within the world.

But to survive as a people, as an am, we will need men and women of great faith who can still serve as our interface to the other nations of the world on at least partially common ground. Others need not believe what we believe, but they must know the truth about our beliefs and why we hold to them, not the lies that others might manufacture in our absence.

Where Gandhi Went Wrong

Since his assassination in 1948, Mohandas K. Gandhi has become something of a secular saint, recognized almost universally as a “great soul” who not only did much to liberate his own people, but who also changed the dialogue around violence and repression.

Gandhi lived by high principles that served him and the peoples of Greater India in the effort to cast off British rule. But Gandhi’s belief that his principles could withstand application to peoples and/or situations far different than those in which he lived was in many cases and unsupported conceit, and in other cases produced some convoluted thinking.

He believed that non-violence would have served India in the face of a Japanese occupation. He believed that the proper response of the Jews of Europe to Hitler’s Final Solution was to throw themselves upon the butcher knives of the SS death squads. And he believed that a State of Israel must wait until the Jews were invited back to their homeland.

Against the latter, Jewish philosopher Martin Buber penned an eloquent criticism. There is a complete text here, along with a broader overview of Gandhi’s relationship with Jews. At best, Gandhi was playing to the home crowd. At worst, he spoke from a willful lack of understanding of the true facts on the ground. Whatever the reason, little does more to tarnish the verity of Gandhi’s ethos than his offhanded treatment of questions around the Jews.

Probing Gandhi’s words on the subject, and contemplating the context in which he wrote them, it is little wonder that India has failed to sustain a Jewish community of any size. It also underscores that the time has come for a critical re-examination of his core beliefs, their roots, and their logical extensions.

Amoral Logic

How does a utilitarian approach to morality lead to the Golden Rule?

Anyone who studies a little bit of game theory has to believe that “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” is, at best, an occasional outcome.

In Judaism, our love of G-d, combined with belief that we are all created in G-d’s image (spiritually if not physically) provides that path. Do we always live by it? No. But the more we live in consistency with our values, the more we are driven to take care of each other.

Utilitarian morality, on the other hand, begins and ends with looking out for Number One. For me, that’s a recipe for dystopia.

Seven Reasons I’ll Be On Trump’s Muslim Registry

Donald Trump’s policy advisers are discussing plans to establish a registry for Muslim immigrants in the US, a man believed to be a key member of the President-elect’s transition team has revealed.

Source: Donald Trump team ‘discussing plans for Muslim registration system’ | The Independent

If the president-elect goes ahead with this plan, we must each choose how to address it. Some will support it, and in the case of some, their reasons will be both understandable and rational. Others, including myself, will resist it in different ways. We could send our checks to the ACLU, but I think that this sort of thing demands more than a well-funded court battle: it demands a bit of moral sabotage.

As a Jew, I will be placing my name on that registry, as, I think, should every clear-thinking descendant of Abraham in the United States.  I will do it:

  1. To remember the Holocaust. We will not feed our fellow Americans into that same kind of nightmare.
  2. To remember all of the brave souls who, at the risk of their position or their lives, resisted Nazi oppression to help save Jews from the Holocaust.
  3. As an act of peace toward all Muslims everywhere, to show that whatever our disagreements, we are all brothers.
  4. Because in doing so we openly defy a government act that is at odds with the Constitution.
  5. Because I need to show my son that we are never powerless in the face of injustice.
  6. Because if we don’t, we’re next.
  7. Because G-d is Great.

 

America’s Choice

My wife and my 14 year-old son were discussing the election yesterday. And my wife said that this proves that we cannot put our faith in man or in Earthly institutions. We must put our faith in Hashem. 

She’s right. And it reminded me of a passage from the Tachanun:

And David said to Gad, “I am exceedingly distressed. Let us fall into Hashem’s hand, for His mercies are abundant, but let me not fall into human hands.”

We can trust people to represent us, but we cannot trust them to always have our best interests at heart, and, indeed, about all we can expect is for them to operate in the self-centered manner that economists call “rational.”

Do not put your faith in your leaders, elected or otherwise. Grant them a highly conditional trust at the very most.

Five Reasons that Stephen Fry is a Bad Atheist

Mr. Stephen Fry is an educated, erudite, intelligent and well-spoken man who has spent much of his time and treasure in the effort to better the world. He is also an atheist, one who proves by his deeds that one does not need to be religious in order to do good.

As Fry advances in years, though, he is becoming an increasingly prolific polemicist on the “evils” of religion. No person of faith – and especially no Jew – should fear or hate the atheist: they play an essential role in forcing us to see and acknowledge the problems with our beliefs, and in the case of Judaism, to dig deeper to find the source of those problems.

But there are good atheists and there are bad atheists, and when I study Fry’s words I find five glaring failings that reveal that, while he is without doubt a good man, he is a fairly awful atheist.

  1. His understanding of the reasons to believe in G-d are at best simplistic, if not intentionally reductionist
  2. His attempt to critique religion as an undifferentiated whole completely ignores the distinctions between them.
  3. His understanding of the nature of the religious quest is incomplete at best.
  4. His constant use of the ad hominem fallacy in defending his beliefs undermines his best arguments.
  5. His apparent belief that to justify his ethos he must tear down en masse the entire edifice of theism makes him less an atheist than a crusading anti-theist.

This is someone whom I would have expected to have take the time to understand the belief systems (note the plural) that he opposes and to address them in detail. The fact that he has not speaks well neither for him nor for atheism generally.

It falls upon him to explain these failings, or at least to address them. Until then, his arguments invite not debate, but scorn, and not least from fellow atheists.

On Shaming an Anti-Semite

Lisa Marie Mendez, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) student and employee at the UCLA Medical Center, has made her extreme distaste for “fucking Zionist pigs” crystal clear this past month in her rant against Jews on Facebook.

Source: A UCLA Student Working At David Geffen Medical Center Told Jews To “Get The F*** Out of Here.” When Will UCLA Kick Her The Hell Out? | Daily Wire

Given how disgusting and abhorrent as this angry rant is, I am as tempted as many others who have read it to visit personal retribution on the individual who spewed forth these anti-Semitic sentiments. (And let us be clear – while the words may be couched in anti-Israel rhetoric, they quickly become anti-Semitic.) But I believe to do would be a bad idea for three reasons.
First, the more I read her words, I am stunned that they come from the hand of an apparently intelligent young woman who has earned the right to study at one of the world’s foremost institutions of higher learning, and work at one of the nation’s best medical facilities. The only conclusion I can reach is that Ms. Mendez is a deeply angry, deeply wounded young woman. A retributive campaign against her would only make her more aggrieved. It would neither heal her nor make her reconsider the error of her beliefs. What is worse, trying to get this young lady fired or expelled flies in the face of the core values of Torah that compel us to the mercy, justice, and compassion of Hashem. In pursuing personal retribution against her, we would fail as Jews.
Second, the young lady has the right guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to express her beliefs, irrespective of how hateful and stupid they are. What is more, she is a student at a major public university, and we should always work to ensure that those venues remain an especially open and free marketplace of ideas. As neanderthal and rodent-level as anti-Semitism and Jew-baiting are, they are laid most bare as foolish in an open community of scholars. As Jews, we must look to history and recognize that we have thrived in the Diaspora primarily in those places where intellectual expression was least constrained. We cannot defend the right of the talented and learned Mayim Bialik if we do not defend the rights of her detractor, Ms. Mendez. In pursuing personal retribution against her, we would fail as Americans.
Third, the righteous fight against defamation must never sink to the level of a witch-hunt. The most effective approach to anti-Semitism is outreach and discussion first and foremost. In fact, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL,) in its response to this specific situation, sought assurances from both the university Ms. Mendez attended and the hospital for which she worked that they did not share her sentiments, and in fact sought to distance themselves from them. They ascertained that the student did not allow her beliefs to infect her work and devolve into discrimination or hateful acts. We should take it no further.
This is not to say that we should moderate or cease or active opposition to anti-Semitisim in all of its forms. It is, rather, to say that we must do so with compassion, with a respect for free speech, and an unyielding determination to draw a line between seething hatred and acts of discrimination or violence.
Ms. Mendes should be ashamed of the words she has written, and I suspect that the day will come when she regrets her words as importune or even unjust. But that is a very different thing than saying that she should be shamed. Public shaming only stokes the fires of hatred and resentment.

Fundamentalism and Abrahamic Faith

Despite the fervent hopes of some of the more radical atheists, if “bronze-age religions” were really in danger of dying, none of the Four Horsemen (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, and Sam Harris) would have expended so much passion in their crusades against those faiths. The fear among the more vocal of the New Atheists seems to be quite the opposite: that somehow fundamentalism in the Abrahamic creeds are threatening to throw the “Enlightenment” into reverse.

What this implicit fear obscures are the voices of moderation within each of the faiths that quietly fulminate against the social destructiveness of fundamentalism. I see Jewish thinkers like Jonathan Sacks and Joseph Telushkin (and the late Lubavitcher Rebbe) waging a gentle war of wisdom against religious extremism within my faith. There are Christians and Muslims engaged in the same effort.

A theologian explained to me once that “religion is man’s response to his ultimate concern.” That places a burden of relevance upon all faiths that demands their evolution or their extinction. Regressive forces like fundamentalism inveigh against evolution.

Talmud and the Death Penalty

A recent study cited in Forbes documented problems in the application of the death penalty in the United States. The provocative study suggests that one out of every twenty-five defendants sentenced to death in the U.S. is actually innocent.

The study, while not necessarily conclusive, strengthens my growing conviction that if we are going to be a nation that continues to sentence people to death, we must consider using a more Talmudic level of criterion in our sentencing. I am a longtime advocate of the death penalty, but it is difficult to continue such support when the possibility of a mistake is so high.

Much of my support of the death penalty lies in its source in Torah rather than my belief in the punishment as a deterrent to criminals. Yet it is becoming clear that our standards for evidence and sentencing fall short of the intent of Jewish law. That should trouble every Jew in America who supports capital punishment.

The ACLU Does Defend Freedom of Religion

Apparently few of my friends, liberal or conservative, realize that the American Civil Liberties Union is not a political force bent on the secularization of society. In fact, while the ACLU has taken on a number of cases to ensure that religion is not forced on anyone who does not want it so, they have been staunch defenders of the individual’s right to religious expression, especially in public schools.

Proof positive is here.

It is heartening to note that the nation’s most famous Constitutional Law crusaders stand in defense of the Free Exercise Clause, whether they personally believe in it or not.

Anti-Semitism and Free Speech

Let’s be realistic: anti-Semitism is already being discussed on campus behind the thinning veil of”anti-Zionism.” It is time for us to flush the haters into the open, compel them to drop their pretense, and say what they really mean. Frankly, I’d rather be able to see my enemy in the clear than have him camouflaged behind the fig leaf of BDS or “Palestinian” nationalism.

If we are going to allow anti-Semitism (whether open or under the rubric of anti-Zionism) to enter the legitimate realm of campus discussion, we must also allow open and free criticism of Islam, Christianity, the Queen, radical feminism, and every other sacred cow on campus.

And while we are doing so, let us recommit ourself to free speech. Let’s stop protecting each other from hurt feelings and grow some thick skin. The existence of the university as something distinct from the fifth through eighth years of high school is the need to expose young adults to all kinds of ideas so that they can improve their critical reasoning. Otherwise college becomes like the Internet: four years of your life spent with a bunch of like-minded people.

Church, State, and Faith in Education

I think we all can agree that there should be a separation of church and state. Where we might have a divergence of opinion is in someone – including the state – telling me what I can or cannot teach my child.

The community, via the state, can tell me that my child must learn about evolution in school. It cannot tell me what I can and cannot teach him in the privacy of our home or in the confines of our house of worship. While I am not a constitutional lawyer, it seems reasonable to me that trying to enforce such a restriction would be an outright violation of the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.

For the record, some of the best discussions we have in our house are about the apparent contradictions between Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the common English translations of Genesis, and how Jewish scholars (starting with Maimonedes) reconcile the two. But that’s another topic.

Did Feldblum Really Say that Gay Dignity Trumps Religious Liberty

“But the bottom line for [Professor Chai] Feldblum is: ‘Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.'”

via National Review Online.

Did a member of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the daughter of a Torah scholar really say this? Is affirming the dignity of gay people now officially more important than ensuring religious liberty? Has it now become binary? Has the conversation about finding a place where both can coexist ended? How can it be wrong for religious liberty to trump the dignity of LGBT people all the time, but okay for LGBT pride to trump religious liberty in all cases?

I am deeply, deeply troubled.

I would love to hear from some of the LGBT people who are also practicing Jews.