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Bat Mitzvah History Shows How Judaism Can Change

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the first-ever Bat Mitzvah. Judith Kaplan, daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (founder of the Reconstructionist Movement), was invited to read from a chumash (a printed book of the Torah) – not a Torah scroll – on a Saturday morning on 86th Street in Manhattan.  Read more »

Rethinking Conversion Policy

When one of the country’s leading Conservative rabbis states publicly his discomfort with a major policy of the movement, it warrants attention and consideration. In a Shabbat morning sermon, Elliot Cosgrove, rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City, shared his thoughts about conversion, interfaith relationships, and the status of non-Jewish family members in Jewish families.

Rabbi Cosgrove said he has seen that love trumps religious affiliation, with the result being that few families are immune from the situation of a child coming home with a non-Jewish partner and wanting to be married in a Jewish ceremony. The policy of most Conservative synagogues requires the non-Jewish partner to complete a conversion program, often lasting a year or longer, but the rabbi feels couples see it as putting obstacles in their way. If the non-Jewish partner does not convert in advance, Conservative rabbis will not officiate at the wedding but encourage conversion after the fact. Read more »

Pragmatism and Judaism

In an article entitled “Word of the Year” (www.FloridaJewishJournal.com, January 12, 2012, page 34), Rabbi Yaakov Thompson talked about the word “pragmatism” (which Merriam-Webster announced was the “word of the year”–most looked up word– for 2011) and Judaism.

While noting that pragmatism is very apropos to American thinking in general, and to 2011 in particular because of the economic difficulties facing us then, he went on to say: Read more »

“The God Upgrade”

“One day our five-year-old daughter Sadie noticed [a manual typewriter on my husband Jeff’s desk] and asked what it was. Jeff explained it was for typing. Sadie walked over and easily typed ‘Sadie’, then her sister’s name, ‘Ori’, and then asked, ‘Now what?’ She was dumbfounded when he explained that was all it did. No touch screen, no mouse, not even a monitor. The point of the contraption eluded her and she returned to [a game] on Jeff’s iPad. Read more »

The Direction of Jewish Civilization

In an interview with the Jewish Journal [January 11, 2012, by Shmuel Rosner], Harvey E. Goldberg, an American born professor of sociology and anthropology at Hebrew University, said the following in response to a question about whether Jewish civilization is rising or declining:

“First, one should not equate change with decline. Many patterns of Jewish life are undergoing change, and it takes time to reach assessments whether these are contributing to Jewish civilization or detracting from it. Second, calling Judaism a civilization needs to be qualified. Judaism has deep historical roots and has spread throughout the world, but because of the small number of Jews compared to other major civilizations, Jewish culture and religion have always been closely intertwined with other ways of life. Read more »