Michelle Chamuel is rocking The Voice. Plus what former child star Mara Wilson has to say about Amanda Bynes (and other child stars who run into trouble).Go To Pop Culture
Here at InterfaithFamily.com, one of our missions is to encourage the Jewish community to be welcoming to people in interfaith families.
A key issue that we don’t often discuss in this connection is race, and this hopeful, inclusive moment seems like a great time to do it. Because the majority of Jews in the United States are descended from the large wave of Eastern European immigration from roughly 1880-1920, we feel safe assuming that all Jews look about the same. Well, that’s not a good assumption. All Jews do not look the same, and all Jews are not white. Continue reading
As a North American Jew, I’m accustomed to reading the endless kvetching of Jewish traditionalists about how American Judaism is inauthentic, assimilated or corrupted. It’s our default position as a community. We often bewail each other’s creativity and spirituality in the process. What I like is learning that all the other religions in the United States are similarly Americanized, unruly and individualistic, and similarly annoying their religious authorities. It makes me think of Whitman’s Song of Myself in Leaves of Grass.
When I read Charles M. Blow’s New York Times column, Heaven for the Godless, it lit me up inside. Here’s a good summary:
And that’s not all. Nearly half the respondents thought atheists would go to heaven, and most thought that people with no religious faith could also go. Continue reading
I admit it, I watch daytime TV. I have been watching General Hospital since the 5th grade. No, I am not going to tell you how long ago that was…
I have been looking for an opportunity to link my General Hospital habit to something Jewish. Finally, it happened last week! It was both good and bad.
I was tickled to see a scene in which the character of Bernie, the mob lawyer, speaks to his colleague about how Hanukkah is the celebration of light and symbolizes faith over tyranny. I even related to his discussion of how he takes comfort in Hanukkah. Even though he is separated from his family, he takes solace in knowing that everyone would be lighting the menorah that night. He encourages his non-Jewish colleague to seek out common traditions with her partner so they could truly enjoy the holidays together. This entire scene seemed to put the holiday season into perspective. Continue reading
If you are like me, you are getting ready to stay up all night tomorrow, watching the election returns. I do not remember an election in my adult life that seemed as important to the United States’ future.
Did you buy yourself an iPhone? Here’s a cool application for you–kosherme.com. You’ll need iTunes to get it. With this program, your iPhone can tell you which blessing to say over any meal or snack, in Hebrew, English and transliteration. They have omitted all blessings that one would say on the Jewish sabbath, because traditional observance dictates that you not use your iPhone on Shabbat.
Why do Jews have so many blessings, anyway? Blessing before you eat, blessings after you eat, blessings on thunder and lightning, blessings on seeing people of learning–there sure are a lot of them. If you believe in God, it’s what they call in computer software jargon a feature. It’s like Jewish culture has built in opportunities for gratitude and mindfulness.
If you don’t believe in God, you could use that moment to be grateful and mindful of other the human beings who worked to create your food, to keep your body healthy and to provide the roof over your head that protects you from thunder and lightning. (Though perhaps then you won’t want to pay the seven bucks to buy the application for your iPhone!) Continue reading
(In which someone finally answers the question, “What about…Naomi?”)
Shavuot begins Sunday evening. Though it’s not a minor holiday in Jewish terms, it doesn’t have as much of a presence in the United States as other, better-known Jewish holidays. To me, that’s a shame, as it celebrates aspects of Jewish belief that I think are under-recognized in the Jewish community. Shavuot was one of the three pilgrimage festivals to the temple in Jerusalem when it was standing, and it is the modern form of an ancient Near Eastern agricultural festival for the barley harvest, but most importantly, it’s the time when Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
Now that I work at InterfaithFamily.com, I’m thinking more about what the Jewish holidays have to say to interfaith families. Like Purim, Shavuot features the reading of a book of the bible that centers on a woman who enters an interfaith marriage. At Purim, we read about Esther, a Jewish girl who married a non-Jewish king and saved the Jewish people. At Shavuot, we read The Book of Ruth, a Moabite, who married into an Israelite family and became part of the Israelite people.
Typically, we interpret the Book of Ruth as a story about the acceptance of converts, and really, the world’s Jewish community needs that message right now, but I think we could also read this as the story of a successful interfaith marriage. Continue reading
I started here at InterfaithFamily.com at the end of February, and learned as part of my orientation here that I was going to be responsible for finding images to include with our stories and with my posts here on the blog. I’m not a creator of visual art myself; I can just about draw a picture of a kitty-cat when my son demands one. Perhaps that is why I’m always impressed by visual artists, and why I love the Internet.
Visual artists can publish their work on the Internet on sites like flickr.com under a Creative Commons license. The artists can decide to share their images for free, but retain copyright over them. When I find a beautiful artistic photograph with this license, I link back to the site where I found it, so that the artist can get traffic back. It makes me especially happy to do this for artists who are displaying oil paintings and Jewish crafts on their sites, though even accidental Jewish images float my boat.
In the opening line of his latest column for The (New York) Jewish Week, Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt asks:
It’s a provocative question that relates to a familiar problem to anyone who’s spent time in synagogues or at Jewish organizations in the last 10 years: Judaism is going female.
While the highest echelons of leadership in the Jewish world remain stubbornly male, the grass roots of Judaism, in synagogues, youth groups and local organizations, is increasingly female. At a conference of young Jewish leaders I attended in November, 23 participants were women–nine were men.
I need an intervention. No matter how much I try to move away from writing about Noah Feldman’s The Orthodox Paradox, I keep getting called back by the tantalizing aromas of fresh opinions. The way it makes me feel part of something bigger than myself, the way it makes my worries wash away, the way it builds my self-confidence… My name is Micah and I am an Orthodox-Paraholic.
But maybe one last taste?
Andrew Silow-Carroll, the ever-insightful editor of the New Jersey Jewish News, wrote a follow-up to his op-ed “The way we do the things we do.” In that essay he argued that the Feldman essay–and a recent volley of intellectual fireworks between Jack Wertheimer, provost of the Conservative movement’s rabbinical seminary, and Joey Kurtzman, editor of Jewcy–demonstrated the growing schism between the “particularists” and the “universalists.” The particularists, like Wertheimer, see Judaism first and foremost as a culture and view Jewish strength in inverse relationship to Jewish assimilation. The universalists, like Kurtzman (and to a lesser extent, Feldman), see Judaism as a universally accessible philosophy that is compromised by the obsession over communal boundaries. Silow-Carroll is more sympathetic to the first position–indeed, he lives his life by the rules of the particularist–but in this new column, he wonders whether his “choices will ensure the survival of anything.”
Since the Sept. 26 issue of our Web Magazine last year, we’ve been running polls alongside the table of contents. We typically get around 20 responses. While nothing like a statistically reliable sample, they do provide an interesting barometer of our readers’ opinions on interfaith issues.
For example, in our last issue on interfaith weddings, we asked “Do you think interfaith couples are more likely to participate in the Jewish community if a rabbi officiates at their wedding?” Eighteen people responded. 72% said Yes, 28% said No. In our new issue, out today, on growing up in an interfaith family, we asked, “Can a person be half-Jewish?”
We received the most respondents to our December holidays question: “Christmas music: Love it or hate it?” The 69 respondents were evenly split. Half said it was “OK in limited doses,” while slightly more than a quarter (28%) said “Love it” and slightly under a quarter (22%) said “Hate it.” Count me in the last category.