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The Greatest Threat to the Jews

​As we enter this New Year, this is a time of great fear for the Jewish people.  There is great fear around the safety of Israel in light of the Iran nuclear deal.  There are many great fears about the safety and security of the Jewish people in a world of ever-increasing anti Semitism.  Issues surrounding Israel and its policies, issues about the Jewish relationship to the Obama administration, about a two-state solution are so fraught that they have become like a poison in Jewish communal discourse.  All the things we most fear are tearing the Jewish people apart. ​Over the past weeks, we have all witnessed rabbis and Jewish leaders of all kinds not only taking sides on the Iran deal, but rushing to the ramparts to defend their stance, and also bitterly attacking anyone who disagrees with them.  On the left, I have seen vitriol against right-wing Jews like I have never seen before, lodging words like "evil" and "fascist" against them.  On the right, I have seen a …

Are Jews White?

This summer, I had a conversation with a young woman about her Jewish identity.  She told me how she grew up in a family that was very involved in her synagogue.  She went to Jewish day school.  She had been to Israel multiple times. Despite all this, she felt very far away from her Jewishness.  Now out on her own, she didn't observe Shabbat.  She simply couldn't find the relevance of Judaism as she was making her way out on her own in the world.  I asked her to tell me what she did feel passionate about.  She told me how she has been reading and thinking a lot about racial justice in our society.  What moved her was the Blacklivesmatter movement--how, in light of Ferguson, Charleston, and seemingly endless incidents of injustice against black people in our society, she felt a pressing need to grapple with the racism that is so pervasive in this country and how it affects her identity.  I asked her to explain to me more about her passion for this issue.  She explained: "A…
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METRO WEEKLY Leap of Faith: An interview with Rabbi Gil Steinlauf Last fall, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel Synagogue sent an email to his congregation. He told them he was gay. (And it was good.) By Randy Shulman on May 28, 2015

Rabbi Gil Steinlauf – Photography by Todd Franson “I’m not going to go on record as saying Moses was gay.”
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf says this with a laugh — he laughs often and warmly, it turns out — but he’s also quite serious in response to a reporter’s offhand remark that Moses could be viewed as history’s first gay activist.
“But the story of Moses is a kind of coming out story,” Steinlauf says. “He grew up as a Prince of Egypt in the house of Pharaoh, completely in the center of power. Yet, he was nursed by his Israelite mother, so he knew that he had this secret identity. He lived in inner-conflict over those two worlds, those two identities of himself, until he finally came to a head when he killed an Egyptian who was oppressing an Israelite, and ran away. …

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Just Taught the Most Important Torah of Our Time

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http://tabletmag.com/scroll/190732/why-embracing-same-sex-marriage-is-modern-american-and-jewish

Embracing Same-Sex Marriage is Modern, American—and Jewish Ruth Bader Ginsburg says unions, once defined by gender dominance, are fundamentally changed. It’s time for the Jewish community to catch up. By Gil Steinlauf|May 4, 2015 10:18 AM
The proceedings about same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court last Tuesday began on a tense note. I was there. Almost immediately, Justice Roberts asserted that we are talking not simply about expanding marriage to include same-sex couples, but about fundamentally redefining marriage in America. The term “millennia” was echoed around among the justices: Hasn’t marriage “for millennia” been defined as a union between a man and a woman? Who are we to suddenly change it?  As a rabbi present for the deliberations, I found it remarkable that the justices seemed to speak of marriage in such binary terms. After all, in the Jewish tradition, we have a long view on…

The Closet of the Religious Right

When Governor Mike Pence signed the discriminatory RFRA bill into law, I reacted like any other gay man--with sadness and anger at the rejection of lgbtq individuals based on someone’s notion of a religious ideal.  But my anger has given way to a sobering realization:  I am not as different from the Christian religious Right as I would like to think.   When repeatedly challenged, Governor Pence dug in his heels and worked hard to avoid acknowledging how this bill enables citizens of his state to discriminate.  For months as this issue has reared its head in similar legislation in this country, I have seen this kind of reaction many times in interviews and conversations with those on the religious right. Every time I see this behavior--otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people desperately avoiding acknowledging the truth--I recognize it fundamentally.  I have been there.  For forty-five years of my life, I lived in a closet that I had made for myself.  There was nothing in the world th…

Election results in Israel: The triumph of fear over vision in the Jewish State

On election day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on Facebook that "Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out." With this fear-mongering, he succeeded in bringing out the far-right votes to secure his victory.  When I learned of these tactics, and of Likud’s victory, I was not angry.  I was overwhelmed with sadness and grief.  My sadness wasn’t only on account of dashed hopes for peace, or of an alienated American Jewry.  My deepest grief was on the triumph of fear over vision in the State of Israel.  In many ways, the story of the Jewish people over centuries has been about the struggle between fear and vision--between the trauma of persecution and the mission to be a holy people, a light of justice and peace for the world.  On Passover we tell the story of how our people we were liberated from a fear-mongering Pharaonic state.  Our national narrative bears a message of justice and hope.  At our seders, w…