Forward Thinking

Victory for African Immigrants in Israel?

By Nathan Jeffay

haaretz

Will the doors of Israel’s detention centers really open, allowing illegal immigrants to walk free?

According to today’s High Court ruling, this is exactly what should happen over the coming weeks. Israel’s High Court has just struck down a controversial law that allows the state to detain illegal immigrants for up to three years.

Judges decided that administrative detention for illegals violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, and therefore the Anti-Infiltration Law that permitted it is invalid. Instead, the state can only detain illegals for far shorter periods.

Excitement is spreading through detention camps, where news of the ruling is just being heard. But the joy on the part of illegals — and the human rights groups that fought the law — may be premature.

Back in 2006 the court overturned another law, which bound migrant workers to their employers during their time in Israel. The state simply ignored the ruling for many months, and a full two years after the court gave its ruling, and in so doing said that the law violated migrants’ basic rights, it was fully in place.

Only since 2008 has it been cancelled gradually, employment sector by employment sector. And alternative legislation that limits migrants’ employment choices has been enacted to replace the cancelled law.

So, the court may have spoken on the Anti-Infiltration Law today, but it’s far from clear how this will translate to action.


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Marshall Berman, Marxist Mentsch, Dies at 72

By Ralph Seliger

You’d notice Marshall Berman, if you saw him. Back when I commuted to the City College of New York from my parents’ apartment in the late 1960s, my father certainly did. He rushed into our apartment to excitedly report that “a hippie” was entering our next-door neighbor’s place, a colleague of Berman’s at CCNY.

Berman drew stares not least because of his unruly Jew-fro, which he sported to the day he died, Sept. 11, at breakfast with a friend at Manhattan’s Metro Diner, an Upper West Side eatery he loved.

Berman, a prolific educator, philosopher, cultural critic and political scientist in the Marxist tradition, became my honors mentor at CCNY. I just saw him last week at the Rosh Hashana services of Ansche Chesed, down the block from the Metro, alongside his wife, Shellie. My experience of him was not great as a mentor, and I didn’t always agree with his views or fully grasp his more theoretical writings on culture, but he was a great intellect.

His doctorate was in political science, but his breadth of intellectual interests and knowledge was remarkable. I recall him first making his mark with front-page New York Times Book Review articles on works by the anti-psychiatry psychiatrist R.D. Laing and the symbolic-interactionist sociologist Erving Goffman.

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Fasting in Israel's Heatwave

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel is getting ready for the hottest and longest Yom Kippur for decades.

Well, not actually longer than normal, but it will feel longer. Israel has long adjusted the clock to wintertime ahead of the fast, so that it finishes some time between six and seven pm, rather than between seven and eight. But following intense controversy in recent years, with critics saying that the practice ushers in dark winter evenings too early, and in doing so wastes electricity on extra lighting, the government resolved to wait this year.

As for the temperature, partly because it’s so early in the secular calendar this year and partly because there is a mini-heat wave, temperatures will hit 100 Fahrenheit in some parts of Israel, making refraining from drinking extra difficult.

But Yom Kippur will be easier than the minor fast day, the Fast of Gedaliah, which fell on Sunday. Though it’s a shorter fast that Yom Kippur — it starts at dawn as opposed to in the evening — some Israelis went in to that fast unprepared.

There was much discussion of the smart phone bug that stemmed from Israel’s decision to delay the clock change. Many smart phones didn’t know that the clocks aren’t changing yet, and switched to wintertime anyway. The result: lots of people woke up late and found themselves late for work.

But for people who were fasting on Sunday, the story was sorrier. Imagine sitting down for your pre-fast meal today only to be told the meal is off — it’d too late to eat.

As Sunday’s fast started at dawn it’s okay to wake up early and eat and drink. But people who relied on their smart phones to wake them up dragged themselves up at an unearthly hour ready to prepare, only to find that their phone had woken them up late, and that it was already light and too late to eat.

As one unhappy faster put it to me, smart hones don’t seem so smart when they send you off to work both late and hungry.


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Poem: Assad's Cataract

By Erez Bitton Translated by Tsipi Keller

Recently, blind Israeli poet Erez Bitton — who reportedly lost his sight at the age of 10 when he found a hand grenade — approached noted translator Tsipi Keller about the possibility of translating some of his work. Among the works was the poem “Assad’s Catarat.” The poem takes as its starting point the fact that Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad trained as an ophthalmologist and embarks upon an ironic examination of the concepts of vision and blindness. It is printed here with the permission of the translator.

Assad’s Cataract

You
who were destined
to be a healer
of extinguished eyes
who strove day and night
to restore damaged corneas
to remove cataracts
from dimmed lenses
to mend cracked retinas

You
who vowed to grant kids
locked in darkness
the glee of tree climbing
the rejoicing in color
in blue in yellow in orange

You
who vowed to grant the elderly
leaning on their canes at dusk
the gift of seeing again
red sunsets—

What are you doing now?
Striking down all corneas
cracking down on all retinas


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Quebec's Kippah Problem

By Lisa J. Grushcow

What Not To Wear: Quebec’s Charter of Values would forbid government employees including teachers from wearing any of the above.

In 1738, a young Catholic man named Jacques La Fargue came to New France. Jacques La Fargue turned out to be Esther Brandeau, a young Jewish woman who had disguised herself to come to the new world. When she refused to convert, she was sent back to France. Jews were officially allowed to settle in New France beginning in 1760, over 250 years ago. But Esther Brandeau’s were the first Jewish footsteps in what we today call Quebec.

I wonder what Esther Brandeau would make of the current controversy over the Parti Quebecois (PQ) government’s proposed Charter of Quebec Values. The ads in the Montreal metro proclaim, in two starkly-opposing posters: “Church. Synagogue. Mosque. These are sacred,” and, “Religious neutrality of the state. Equality of men and women. These are also sacred.” The self-proclaimed goals of the Charter are to set clear rules on religious accommodations; affirm Quebec values; and establish the religious neutrality of the state. The most controversial aspect of the proposal is the limitation of the wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols.” Namely, any employees of the state — which, in Quebec, includes not only public servants but teachers, professors, daycare workers, and doctors — cannot wear a hijab; a turban; a kippah; or a large crucifix. Small religious symbols are acceptable, though exact measurements are not provided. The crucifix in the Quebec National Assembly, along with the iconic cross on top of Mount Royal, are exempted as expressions of Quebec’s Catholic heritage.

It would be easy to look at this proposal and laugh; it would be equally easy to cry. But the reality is much more complex. The minority PQ government is trying to rally its base as it comes towards an election with a crumbling infrastructure and a weak economy. It is by no means certain that the government will garner enough votes to pass this legislation, and there is significant opposition among both French-speaking and English-speaking Quebecers. On a deeper level, those outside Quebec may not understand the existential concerns of a French-speaking majority who comprise less than two percent of the population of North America as a whole. Alone in an English-speaking continent, Quebec has a distinct language and culture. For that society to dissolve in the sea of internationalism would be a profound loss.

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Back to School Reflects British Success Story

By Nathan Jeffay

getty images

In London’s school uniform shops, the experienced sales clerks know what Jewish parents will order before they open their mouths.

The shops carry the clothing with embroidered crests for numerous schools, but today, you can normally guess from the parents which school their children go to, and therefore which uniform they want. The frum-ness level of the parents’ appearance gives it away.

There are all sorts of nuances in the parents’ appearance that point to their precise religious orientation, and more often than not, they will go for the schools that fit their look.

The Jewish day school system in Britain is an amazing success, to an extent that it makes Jewish educators in America jealous. With the state meeting all costs of most of the Jewish schools except the cost of religious studies, and Jewish schools faring well in secular education, a very high proportion of British Jews send to Jewish schools. More than 50% of Jewish children between the ages of 4 and 18 are now in Jewish day schools.

These rates have risen significantly in the last three decades. And one of the knock-on effects has been the polarization of families from different religious levels.

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Suffer the Children

By Jane Eisner

getty images

It was right and proper that President Obama address the American public from a simple podium with no special effects or distractions, methodically laying out his reasons for a military strike against Syria and addressing the doubts of so many about the wisdom and efficacy of such a risky move.

But part of me wished that the White House could have replayed the horrifying videos as a backdrop.

Obama mentioned them at the top, the “sickening images” of men, women and especially children frothing and writhing and suffering from the effects of the August 21 chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime against its own people. That’s the reason why I personally believe that the U.S. has a strategic and moral responsibility to respond forcefully to the use of a weapon most of the world wishes to see never used again.

Sure, pictures of dead children are a ploy — a ploy that his administration should have used for greater effect during these last couple weeks of confusing messaging and shifting approaches. I don’t know whether what Obama said tonight was enough to change the minds of those who don’t agree with him. But those images sure stuck with me.

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Could Stanley Fischer Make the Perfect Fed Chair?

By Doni Bloomfield

Getty Images

As the clock ticks down to Barack Obama’s final decision on Ben Bernanke’s replacement to head the Fed, it seems more and more certain that Larry Summers, the controversial former Treasury Secretary, will get the nod.

But in elite financial circles, it has been Stanley Fischer, a naturalized-American and the former head of the bank of Israel, who is being hailed by central bankers and their staff as Bernanke’s natural successor, according to recent off-the-record interviews with the Washington Post.

In late August central bankers from around the world descended on Jackson Hole, Wyo., for the Federal Reserve’s annual Economic Policy Symposium, the Super Bowl of central banking. At the helm of the first panel on the future of the global economy? Stanley Fischer.

Fischer’s unparalleled global reach in monetary policy would give him key allies across the financial world. He was chief economist for the World Bank, and deputy head of the International Monetary Fund, during the crisis years of the 1990s. As a professor at MIT, he was the thesis advisor to Bernanke and sat on the dissertation committee of Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank.

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News Quiz: Andy Samberg's New Gig

By Lenore Skenazy

As we enter the New Year with all its promise, we can’t help but ponder a few mysteries of life: What has King Solomon left for the ages? What is Andy Samberg doing this fall? And what job has a young Hasidic man snagged that is as surprising as gefilte fish at the Oyster Bar? Read on!

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Swing a Fish for Kapparot

By Eliyahu Federman

getty images

Thousands of Orthodox Jews are preparing to swing live chickens over their heads before Yom Kippur, symbolically transferring their sins to the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered and donated to the poor for consumption. This practice is called ‘Kapparot,’ which literally means “atonement.”

Using fish, money or chickens are acceptable methods of performing this expiation ritual. Using a live creature has the impact of allowing one to appreciate his or her own life and the life of the animal. A deep appreciation for animal life is fostered by seeing an animal slaughtered so that man can survive.

This chicken swinging ritual is controversial both in terms of the practice potentially leading to animal cruelty and the view by many leading rabbinical authorities that the practice should be avoided because of its superstitious nature.

Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Code of Jewish Law, called the practice “heathen, foolish and superstitious.” Other rabbis especially Kabbalists like Rabbi Isaac Luria encouraged the practice of using a live creature for Kapparot.

Another common objection to the practice is based on the Jewish principle that one is forbidden to engage in tsa’ar ba’alei chaim (causing unnecessary pain to animals). While the ritual itself does not necessitate animal cruelty, the pragmatic outcome may result in the unnecessary suffering of chickens:

Because modern kapparot chickens are trucked into the city from long distances, often in open trucks exposed to the weather and without adequate food or water, the question of … cruelty to animals …. has become an … issue. The birds may also suffer while they are being handled for sale or during the ceremony, because many urban Jews are unfamiliar with the proper, humane way to hold a chicken … The birds are frequently cooped up in baskets, and some merchants neglect to give them sufficient food or water. In some cases, the caged chickens have been left out in the rain or under the hot sun with no shade or shelter, or simply abandoned in warehouses and left to starve if not sold in time …

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American (Hasidic) Apparel

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

We’re used to seeing adolescent-looking girls posing like wannabe porn stars in American Apparel ads.

That probably makes Yoel Weisshaus the most unorthodox American Apparel model ever. His dark blond peyos long and bouncy, the Hasidic 32-year-old college student poses in what is surely the company’s most modest ad ever, wearing a white button down and black pants, and in some shots his own fur shtreimel.

It is not Weisshaus’ first star turn, said the Satmar Hasid, who has his own website. He is part of a group of shomer Shabbat actors who work as extras in movies and television shows set in Hasidic areas. He was in the 2011 Sean Penn movie “This Must Be the Place” about a Nazi war criminal hunting washed up rock star, and recently shot an episode of the CBS show Blue Bloods, which is about a family of police officers and stars Tom Selleck. “I’m one of the very few Hasidim who puts my face out there,” he said, in a thick Yiddish accent.

It’s not enough to earn a living.

“I’m a peasant, a shlepper,” Weisshaus told The Forward. “I do a little bit here and there, I do a little bit sales in a family business, a little bit Hevra Kadisha,” preparing the bodies of the dead for burial. “I’m trying to do more legal writing, writing legal briefs and memoranda.”

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Michael Bloomberg, Leave Dante de Blasio Alone

By Dave Goldiner

Dante de Blasio

After 12 years and three terms as mayor, Michael Bloomberg somehow still can’t figure out how the average New Yorker thinks.

The out-of-touch billionaire who bought a trifecta free pass to Gracie Mansion is leaving office this year. But he couldn’t resist the urge to make an idiot of himself on the way out the door.

Bloomberg blasted Bill de Blasio, the Democratic frontrunner to succeed him, for seeking to “divide” the city. That’s because de Blasio has ridden to the top of the polls with a message that government must do more for middle- and working-class New Yorkers.

It was bad enough that Bloomberg obviously has no idea how the majority of New Yorkers feel about rising rents and failing schools in the gilded city that he has molded in his patrician image.

Like Anthony Weiner in an internet chat room, Bloomberg had to go even further.

Speaking in a swan-song interview with New York magazine, Bloomberg made the outrageous and offensive claim that de Blasio was running a “racist” campaign. Mayor Mike blames de Blasio for making political ads featuring his African-American wife (who was once a lesbian) and their teenage son, Dante, whose eloquence and trademark Afro has made him the defining symbol of the campaign.

“He’s making an appeal using his family to gain support,” Bloomberg said. “I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing.”

Bloomberg went on to prevaricate that he doesn’t think de Blasio himself is “racist.”

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The Presidential Blessing

By Yermi Brenner

Taking a moment off from the intense debate over Syria, President Barack Obama published a blessing for the High Holidays.

Obama noted that 50 years ago, Rabbi Joachim Prinz stood with Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and told the marchers the when god created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor. The president added that it is the time of year in which we should all ask ourselves the most piercing questions, like, “Am I doing my part to repair the world?”

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/183238/barack-obama-will-visit-stockholm-synagogue-during/#ixzz2dwnl2MH5

Obama attended a Rosh Hashana service in Stockholm, Sweden, where he will also visit a memorial monument for Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.


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Anthony Weiner's Meltdown Over Huma

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

youtube

Anthony Weiner blew his stack at a Jewish voter in Brooklyn who insulted his wife, calling the man a “jackass” through a mouthful of cheese danish.

In a video posted online by Yeshiva World News political correspondent Jacob Kornbluh, Weiner can be seen engaging in a shouting match with an unidentified man in a yarmulke inside the Weiss Family Bakery in the Orthodox neighborhood of Boro Park.

The Weiner campaign later released a longer video revealing that the argument started when the shopper insulted Weiner and said, “married to an Arab” — a reference to his wife, Huma Abedin, whose family is from Saudi Arabia. The insult was first reported by Talking Points Memo.

Hearing the insult as he left the store, Weiner stopped, called the person who flung the insult a “jackass,” and returned inside to confront him.

Weiner proceeded to shout angrily at the man in a yalmuke for roughly two minutes as the man continued to criticize Weiner for his sexting scandal. “You did disgusting things, you have a nerve to even walk around in public,” the man says.

“And you’re a perfect person, you’re my judge?” Weiner said. “What rabbi taught you that, that you’re my judge?”

The man called him “a bad example” and told Weiner that his sexting amounted to “deviant” behavior.

“Stay out of the public, go home and get a job,” the man told Weiner.

After the encounter, an unseen man asked Weiner if he will forgive the man who confronted him, given that the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah was set to begin just hours later.

“Of course, of course, I don’t hold it against him,” Weiner said.


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A Prayer for Syria

By Mishael Zion

Suddenly everyone is talking about Syria.

Two years of mayhem and murder, confusion and hesitation. 100,000 Syrians killed, a quarter of the population turned refugees, and now hundreds have been gassed to death, a sight which no Jew – no human – can ignore; a sight which once seen, cannot go unanswered.

As we enter Rosh Hashana, the crucial days of mercy and compassion in the Jewish calendar, we must open the door for the story of the Syrian people to enter into our prayers. If books of life and death are opening during this time, how can we not place this burning issue on our praying agenda during these High Holy Days.

Some might decry such prayers as a “bleeding heart liberal” initiative, one which undermines precious “Jewish time” for the plight of those who are otherwise our enemies. Yet praying for other nations is an inimitable feature of Rosh haShana, and praying on behalf of one’s neighbors is something Jews have been doing since the days of Abraham.

Rosh Hashana contains an on-going tension between the personal and the global. On one hand it is our private judgment day, a day where the Jewish people crown God as our King. Yet Rosh Hashana commemorates the creation of the world – not the creation of the Jewish people. It is the judgment day for the entire world – and our prayers must reflect that concern.

This concept is already invoked in many of the prayers of Rosh haShana, and best crystallized in one of the oldest prayers for Rosh haShana, called “Rav’s Tekiya”. Originally quoted in the Talmud, it continues to appear in almost all prayer books:

This day is the commencement of Your deeds, a recollection of that first day. It is a fixture for Israel, a day of judgment for the God of Jacob. And regarding the nations it will be decided: Which to peace and which to the sword; which to hunger and which to prosperity; And creatures will be called up, to be recalled for life or death. (Babylonian Talmud Rosh haShana 27a)

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Bill Thompson and 2 Josephs

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

josh nathan-kazis
Bill’s 2 Josephs: When Bill Thompson campaigned in Brooklyn, Joseph Goldberger, far left, appeared with him. Joseph Menczer, second from left, also showed up at his rally.

New York mayoral candidate Bill Thompson’s political tour guides to Hasidic Brooklyn are two guys named Joseph — both famous influence-peddlers with strong community connections and checkered pasts.

When he campaigned in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Williamsburg on Labor Day, Thompson was accompanied by Hasidic fixers Joseph Menczer and Joseph Goldberger, the New York Observer reported.

Menczer and Goldberger are members of the Pupa Hasidic sect, a small ultra-Orthodox group based in Williamsburg. They have close ties to Rabbi David Niederman, a leader of the larger of the two halves of the divided Satmar Hasidic community.

Once owners of retail stores in Williamsburg, the two rose to prominence in the late 1990s after their prodigious fundraising efforts for George Pataki’s gubernatorial campaign gave them exceptional access to the governor’s office.

In 2000, the New York Times revealed that Goldberger and Menczer had parlayed their $500,000 in donations to the Pataki campaign into a highly unusual relationship with state health officials who they lobbied behalf of for-profit businesses.

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News Quiz: Sergey Brin's New Lady

By Lenore Skenazy

Jews and Sex. That could be the title of this week’s new quiz, because… why not? That’s a title that gets readers. But, in this case, it’s also a title that pertains to the content. So much sex and so many Jews! Read on! (As if I could stop you.)

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End of Jonathan Sacks Era

By Nathan Jeffay

getty images
Jonathan Sacks

Two countries; two chief rabbinates. But the institutions could hardly be more different.

I have spent part of this summer observing the Chief Rabbi elections in Israel, and part in the U.K., hearing the opinions of British Jews about the end of the Jonathan Sacks era, with their Chief Rabbi (or strictly speaking the Chief Rabbi they share with the Commonwealth) due to retire on Sunday after two decades. The London-based congregational rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will replace him.

Sacks’ great success has been showing a dignified face of Judaism to non-observant Jewry and to non-Jewish Britain. He is famous for his short “Thought for the Day” monologues on BBC Radio and for his writing in the mainstream media. Sacks is a popular public intellectual far beyond the Jewish community, as he seems to know how to say the right things to inspire without pushing his beliefs.

In fact, the common tongue-in-cheek comment about him among Orthodox Jews is that he has been “Chief Rabbi for the Gentiles” — revered outside of his obvious following, Orthodox Jewry, but failing to resonate in this observant community.

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has precisely the opposite orientation — it represents Orthodoxy and fails to communicate its message beyond.

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Looking for a Shul for the Holidays?

By Forward Staff

As we head into the New Year, Jews around the world are getting ready to reflect, party, pray, and of course, eat! NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation wanted to make it easier to find a High Holiday experience that’s fun, meaningful and close by, so they created an interactive map.

With more than 475 events from over 250 cities, the map is easily searchable by different locations and an array of personal preferences. Whether it’s an LGBT-friendly event, a traditional worship service, or a Rosh Hashanah dinner with other 20s/30s Jews, you will be able to easily search for the High Holiday experience you want in your city. You can also easily share the map’s events on Facebook and Twitter, so you can connect with friends and experience the High Holidays together.


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'Dr. King Demanded Justice'

By Alan van Capelle

Alan van Capelle

The following speech was delivered at this week’s ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Fifty years ago a Rabbi shared these steps with Dr. King and began his remarks by saying, “I speak to you as an American Jew.”

My name is Alan van Capelle, and today I speak to you as an American Jew. I represent the Jewish Civil Rights Group Bend the Arc, and the more than thirty organizations collectively called the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable.

The vision Dr. King offered us fifty years ago wasn’t only a dream. It was a call for equality but it was also a demand for justice.

We may be closer to legal equality but we are far, far, far from justice. We are far from justice when young black men are stopped and frisked and disrespected on the streets of New York City.

We are far from justice when students carry the burden of loans.

We are far from justice when 11 million immigrants work every single day without protections or a pathway to citizenship.

We are far from justice when a gay, lesbian, or transgender person can be fired from their job simply for being who they are.

We are far from justice when we accept the fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and we allow American children to go to bed hungry.

Yes, the moral arc of the universe is long and it does in fact bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. It bends because of people like Bayard Rustin, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner. It bends because of you and me. We make the arc bend. And for many of us, it’s not bending fast enough.

Every year Jews around the world recall how Moses led his people out of slavery and towards the Promised Land. But the desert came first.

Jews believe that the only way to the Promised Land is through the desert. We are taught that “there is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.”

Fifty years after Dr. King delivered his speech from these very steps we are still a people wandering through the desert. But don’t be discouraged. Because I’m not.

When I look around this Mall, at all of you – so diverse, so impassioned, so bonded together by shared values, hopes, and dreams – then I can hear in your voices the echo of Dr. King, and I know that the edge of the desert is near, and the promised land within sight.


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