Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 12:14 PM
Would you like to talk to your past self and compare notes on how your life is shaping up, be reminded of your goals, take stock in your blessings?
The world often moves too quickly for reflection, and the responsibilities of the everyday can keep us from life’s larger questions. This week, Reboot (the group behind the National Day of Unplugging) wants us to reconnect to self-reflection with a free online program called 10Q.
Starting tomorrow, September 28, people who sign up for 10Q will receive one question a day for 10 days. After participants answer the questions, they submit them to a secure online vault. “One year later,” the folks at 10Q say, “the vault will open and your answers will wing their way back to your email inbox for private reflection.”
Questions from last year included “Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2011?” and “Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?” Former participants are reading their 2010 answers now, and one respondent posted on Twitter, “Just re-read my answers from last year’s 10Q. Some disappointment, some joy, but always moving forward.”
The questions are designed begin on Rosh Hashanah, but 10Q can be meaningful to anyone, the group says:
10Q was inspired by the traditional ten days of reflection that occur between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period of time that’s long been considered an opportunity to look at where you’re at, where you’ve come from, and where you’re heading. Whether you’re Jewish or not, though, 10Q is a great way for anyone to look back at the year that’s past, look ahead at the year to come, and take stock. That’s a beautiful thing in any language.
Source: Daily 10Q
Image by Micky.!, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, May 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Are you Andy the Atheist, Jenna the Jew, or Willow the Wiccan? If so, be prepared for someone—let’s call her Chrissie the Christian—to chat you up about her close personal friend, Jesus.
Andy, Jenna, and Willow are three types of non-Christians profiled on a website run by Dare 2 Share Ministries, an evangelical youth ministry organization. The group’s resources page offers tips on ways to “share your faith” with 14 different kinds of people, from Mo the Muslim to Sid the Satanist, by getting inside their spiritual space.
Given the source, the basic information about each “worldview” is surprisingly fair-minded, breaking down, for example, even the dark abyss that is Satanism into bite-size bits. But things steer quickly out of hand when it comes to the proselytizing tips, which are presented under the innocuous-sounding “things to remember” heading. Because apparently the only reason evangelical Christians would try so hard to understand another spiritual belief system is so they can tear it down—slyly and strategically, that is.
Here are some of the more eyebrow-raising passages:
Willow the Wiccan: “Whether Willow knows it or not, she is in the grips of Satan, so like Sid the Satanist, be sure and cover your relationship and conversations with her in a ton of prayer.”
Jenna the Jew: “Jenna has been raised with little knowledge about Jesus Christ, so when you feel it could be appropriate, talk about how Jesus literally and perfectly fulfilled over 300 prophecies made about the coming Messiah. … Your main goal is not to persuade Jenna that Jesus is the Messiah—it is a means to an end, and that end is that she needs to see that she fails to keep God’s Law. It is not good enough for her to do her best; God requires perfection, so you need to get Jenna to the point where she knows that God will not overlook her failures or forgive her on the basis of their mitzvot (good deeds).”
Alisha the Agnostic: “Bottom line with an agnostic: remember you cannot argue someone to faith in Christ, but you can (and should) live such a Christlike life that those around you sense something different, which opens the door for you to explain the ‘evidence.’ ”
Nicole the New Ager: “When talking to Nicole, remember that you are entering a huge spiritual battle, so put on the full armor of God, and remember that the enemy is Satan, not Nicole (Ephesians 6).”
Source: Dare 2 Share Ministries
I Don’t Know, Maybe.
Friday, October 23, 2009 11:56 AM
Religions often have strict rules regarding treatment of the dead, which can be problematic when local authorities need to perform autopsies. W
the Amish, Hmong, and many Muslims also try to avoid the procedure.” In response, forensic pathologists have been working hard to respect religious laws where possible and to come up with alternatives. Some pathologists now perform “virtual autopsies” that use CT scans and MRIs to get the information they need without the invasiveness of a traditional autopsy. The scans aren’t as comprehensive as a full autopsy, but they’re becoming increasingly accepted by religious communities, and they’re far less expensive, too.
Monday, January 26, 2009 2:32 PM
Gender equality is a constant source of controversy within Orthodox Judaism. According to tradition and interpretation of the Old Testament, women must remain separate from men in synagogue and cannot go anywhere near the sacred scrolls of the Torah. They also do not count as part of the minyan, or quorum, needed to conduct services.
The latest issue of Moment —a magazine of independent, Jewish thought—profiles Tova Hartman, the "Orthodox feminist revolutionary" who cofounded Shira Hadasha, a traditional Orthodox synagogue that allows women privileges unthinkinkable for most Orthodox communities: the right to handle and read from the Torah. And to lead services—in front of men.
Hartman's progressive ideas were born of her own experiences. When Hartman was 15 years old, she moved with her family from Montreal to Jerusalem. Back in Canada, she'd always felt at home in her family's shul. Once in Jerusalem, however, her family began worshiping at a traditional Orthodox synagogue "where women were relegated to the balcony," and Hartman realized that she could not truly feel at home in a temple where women were so ignored.
For her ideas, Hartman has come up against plenty of resistance, both in Israel and abroad, but she's also found ample support. As Jessica Ravitz writes for Moment: Hartman is "smack in the middle of what some have called the 'Orthodox feminist revolution.' "
Image by jonny.hunter, licensed under Creative Commons.
Sunday, December 28, 2008 12:02 PM
According to a recent poll, the number of Americans who believe that Jews run Hollywood has significantly dropped (22 percent, down from nearly 50 percent in the 1960s). The finding has Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein all worked up. “The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping,” he writes. “Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood.”
Stein hillariously rants about the deep Jewish presence in Hollywood. “The Jews are so dominant, I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies,” he asserts. “When I called them to talk about their incredible advancement, five of them refused to talk to me, apparently out of fear of insulting Jews. The sixth, AMC President Charlie Collier, turned out to be Jewish.”
All jokes aside, Stein does have a good point: “As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment,” he writes. “Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you'd be flipping between “The 700 Club” and “Davey and Goliath” on TV all day.”
Monday, October 13, 2008 2:10 PM
Conservationist Calvin DeWitt sees the Bible as our earliest environmentalist treatise: “an ecological handbook on how to live rightly on earth.”
The newly published Green Bible drives that message home by highlighting all verses with ecological and conservationist themes in green ink. It’s a variation on the red-letter editions of the Bible that highlight the words of Jesus. The green edition includes an index of environmental topics, a foreword by Desmond Tutu, a “trail guide for further study,” and “inspirational essays by scholars and leaders,” among them DeWitt.
Perusing the text and zeroing in on the green passages makes for an illuminating kind of exegesis. Most of Genesis is printed in green, concerning as it does the natural world and humankind’s relationship to it. When God says, “‘And have dominion over the fish of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (1:28), the Green Bible and its contributors interpret “dominion” not as free reign, but as responsibility.
The Book of Jeremiah is more to the point, recasting the Old Testament God as an angry environmental activist: “But my people have forgotten me … making their land a horror.” (18:15-16).
The Green Bible hopes to remind the faithful that adherence to their faith includes a responsibility toward God’s creations—an increasingly common theology reflected in the emergence of Christian environmental initiatives. Environmental awareness in this edition also encompasses a mindfulness of the earth’s other human inhabitants, and every exhortation to love thy neighbor, every reminder of our interconnectivity, is printed green. An example comes from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “There may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for each other. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (12:25).
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:29 AM
While Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn clash with their neighbors over traffic codes, ultra-Orthodox groups in Jerusalem are taking things to extremes, violently lashing out at people whose behavior contradicts their moral code.
Bands of vigilantes dubbing themselves “modesty squads” have been accused of attacking citizens who violate the groups' ultra-Orthodoxy, Breitbart reports. A divorced woman alleges that one such squad beat her, tied her down, and threatened to kill her if she did not move out of their conservative neighborhood. A clothing store selling “indecent” clothing was recently torched, with one person taken into custody. One group has protested outside an electronics store that sell satellite dishes, MP4 video players, and other devices that transmit “immoral” entertainment. Another squad is accused of throwing acid on a 14-year-old girl because she was wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
Heeb HQ calls the groups "Joogs," after the sadistic gang of Droogs in A Clockwork Orange, and suggests that “even pinning their eyes open and forcing them to watch Yentl without sleep for days on end would not be sufficient punishment for these guys.”
Thursday, August 28, 2008 1:12 PM
With the Clinton-Obama rift story finally being put to rest, pundits are turning to the supposed rift between Obama and the Jews as potential fertile ground for controversy. The story isn’t new: Back in May, the New York Times reported on the blatant falsehoods believed by some Jewish retirees in Florida. And Republican strategists may see an opportunity to grab some Jewish swing votes, with Joseph Lieberman’s name being kicked around as a possible Republican VP nominee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani trying to attack Obama on his Israel policy.
In spite of the media coverage, the story of the Obama-Jewish rift is just a bunch of schlock according to Joshua Keating writing for the Foreign Policy blog. Keating cites Gallup polls showing Obama clearly beating McCain among Jewish voters as proof that the storyline just doesn’t hold up. “The idea that Jews are disproportionately suspicious of Obama has a lot to do with the stereotype that they vote solely on which candidate is more hawkish on Middle East policy,” Keating writes, and that stereotype simply isn’t true.
Not taking any chances, Jewish groups have begun aggressively courting Jewish voters for Obama. Writing for the Politico, Ben Smith reports on JewsVote.org, a new website launched during the Democratic National Convention aiming to convince more Jews to vote for Barack Obama. Mik Moore, one of the group's founders told the Politico "[t]he goal of this website is to provide a series of powerful tools to Jews who are supportive of Obama and dismayed at the rumors that have made a lot of Jews question whether or not they can support Obama in the election."
Moore gained some attention in 2004 with “Operation Bubbe,” an effort to convince Jewish grandmothers (or Bubbies in Yiddish) to vote for John Kerry. Similarly, a website called “Bubbies for Obama” has popped up this year, enlisting more Jewish grandmothers to get out the vote for the Democrats.
For a more humorous take on the subject, be sure to watch Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show try and get to the bottom of controversy:
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 6:13 PM
As much as there is dividing Jews and Muslims, the two religions have more in common than their belief in Abraham. Writing for Tikkun, (article not available online) Zalman Schachter-Shalomi calls attention to the large body of Judeo-Arabic writings that could point the way toward greater conciliation between the two groups.
Largely unknown to both Jews and Muslims, Judeo-Arabic literature was written in an Arabic dialect with Hebrew script by Jews living in Islamic countries. The famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides, in fact, wrote in both standard Arabic and in Judeo-Arabic. The authors of the texts were undoubtedly influenced by Muslim scholars, Schachter-Shalomi writes, and influenced the Muslim scholars in turn. Schachter-Shalomi envisions a website where Muslims and Jews could read and study the texts, translating the writing for the Muslim world at large and creating a greater understanding between the two religions.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008 12:33 PM
Chronic disability raises difficult questions in religion. Helping the chronically ill participate in society may be a matter of education and legislation, but spiritual inclusion is less straightforward, as Tamara Green writes in the summer 2008 issue of Reform Judaism (article not available online):
I face what everyone with a disability or chronic illness faces: living with limitation. But committed as I am to living a meaningful Jewish life, I have found myself asking “Jewish questions” about my limitations as I shlep
around on my crutches: What does it mean to be created b’tselmo, in Adonai’s image? What does it mean to one who is disabled?
Green finds comfort in the Jewish tradition of bikkur cholim, visiting the sick, “the way of embracing everyone within the community, a way of acknowledging the suffering of others.”
Her conviction that Judaism values the disabled is deepened by two images from Jewish teachings. First, after Moses shattered the original set of commandments from Mt. Sinai in his anger at the people’s idolatry, the broken tablets were included in the Ark of the Covenant along with the second, unbroken pair. “There must have been at Sinai some children of Israel who, like me, were physically broken, and saw themselves as I did, in those fragments of the tablets, and… were relieved to find themselves included in the Covenant,” writes Green.
The second image comes from the 16th-century Jewish mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria, who explained that vessels, once containing the emanations of the spiritual world, were broken when Adonai created the material world, scattering “divine sparks.” The redemption of the world is possible, Luria taught, through “bring[ing] home the fallen sparks” in acts of chesed, or loving kindness. “I may not be able to do much about the broken vessel that is my body,” Green writes, “but certainly I can help to gather up the scattered light everywhere that I can.”
Friday, June 20, 2008 12:04 PM
Outsiders sometimes pejoratively refer to Hasidim as “black-hatters” or “penguins,” in reference to the Orthodox men’s old-fashioned, black-and-white garb. Colorless though their clothes may be, the Jewish student magazine New Voices points out that subtle variations exist among the wardrobes of Hasidic sects. New Voices provides a taxonomy, not a trend report—after all, most of the fashions are deliberate hold-outs from another century on another continent. If you’re still tempted to label Hasidim “penguins” after reading this fashion primer, New Voices tries a new tack: “Penguins? Maybe. But penguins as differentiated as the Macaroni, the Emperor, the Humboldt, and the Gentoo.”
Wednesday, June 04, 2008 4:32 PM
The term tikkun olam, translating from Hebrew as “repairing the world,” has become the spiritual equivalent of a cliché. In a paper for the Jewish Funds for Justice (pdf), Rabbi Jill Jacobs writes that the idea behind tikkun olam has merged with “tzedakah (financial support of the poor), g’milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), and tzedek (justice).” It has also become a catch-all phrase for progressive values, divorced from religion. Many believe that this has distorted the phrase, depriving it of all meaning. In fact, Jacobs reports that “some Jewish social justice activists and thinkers have moved away from using the term at all.” Instead of abandoning the term all together, Jacobs proposes a new definition that would fuse different Jewish traditions concerning tikkun olam, without losing its real-world uses.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 9:11 AM
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, right? Much of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition begins with that phrase. Writing for Parabola, Rabbi David Cooper suggests the creation story may not be so simple. Instead of the phrase, “[i]n the beginning, God created…” Cooper suggests a grammatically correct translation of the original material could be: “In the beginning, [it] created God, heaven, and earth.”
This alternate translation, favored in Jewish Kabbalah teachings, drastically changes the role of God in creation. Instead of God as the creator of everything, there is a different, unnamed force connecting and transcending all things, including God.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 5:47 PM
The Israel Defense Forces conscript both women and men. Last fall marked the first time the Israeli Air Force appointed a woman as deputy squadron commander.
For Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, this doesn't represent progress. As Ynetnews reports, the influential Zionist leader has ruled that it is against Torah laws for women to enlist in the IDF. “We need you to function as a pure and clean woman,” he admonished in a published open letter, “not to undermine your mental foundation.”
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 1:15 PM
For Israel’s 60th birthday, Rachel Barenblat penned an eloquent birthday card on the God’s Politics blog, expressing the conflicted feelings that many Jews feel towards the Jewish state. “To your detractors, I want to defend you fiercely,” Barenblat writes, “to your defenders, I want to point out every way in which you fail to live up to my hopes and dreams.” Barenblat, who blogs at the Velveteen Rabbi, writes about Israel like a distant family member in who feelings of love and disagreement mix into a confusing mess.
Monday, March 17, 2008 4:16 PM
The idea of not working on Shabbos puzzles many non-Jews. No work means no flipping light switches, no pushing elevator buttons, no warming up food. Do the devout sit at home in the dark, hungry and unmoving, for the entire day? Nah, reports the irreverent Jewish magazine Heeb, thanks in part to interfaith friendships with "Shabbos goys." By Heeb’s account, when the temperature dips in a Brandeis dorm room, Sarah Black adjusts the thermostat. When the light goes off in the bathroom at Temple Beth Ahm in New Jersey, Bill Webber uses his gentile fingers to flip it back on.
For many Jews, such partnerships are nothing new. Shabbos goys used to be paid positions, but now the favors are often just between friends. Jews get heat and light without breaking work prohibitions, and gentiles like Webber and Black get to help out their Jewish brethren. Heartwarming, or at least house-warming.
Friday, February 08, 2008 3:43 PM
The World Rabbinical Council announced last week that Jews can now indulge in bacon, ham, and other porcine delights, the Onion Radio News reports. The organization also began a new holiday: Hamover.
Image by NancyKay Shapiro.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008 4:03 PM
Recently, an ultra-Orthodox woman from Israel’s Jerusalem District so perplexed the local religious authorities that they ordered her and her husband to divorce. Her offense? Insisting on wearing a burka.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that a group of ultra-Orthodox women in the city of Ramat Beit Shemesh have started wearing burkas, the enveloping outer garment often associated with Islam, whenever they leave home. (A summary and excerpt of the article are available in English at The Muqata blog.) No known rabbi has advocated the practice.
One of the women is quoted in the article saying: “I don't want men to look at me. I'm happy being modest. In the past, I felt uncomfortable to walk around [sans-burka], in such a wanton fashion.”
(Thanks, Lilith blog.)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008 5:22 PM
There are many prayers to help mourn the death of a family member. In Judaism, the Mourner’s Kaddish gives people the opportunity to publicly express their grief over death. When coping with mental illness, the appropriate prayer is much harder to find. "Judaism does not give us a way of understanding and speaking about mental illness," Ayelet Amittay writes for Tikkun. Amittay’s father has not died physically, but she still feels that she has lost him to mental illness. Instead of a prayer for the dead, or a prayer for health that she knows will never come, Amittay struggles with her “need for a prayer that would redeem other kinds of losses—living losses.”
Monday, January 28, 2008 3:37 PM
For more than 80 years, the nondenominational Jewish organization Hillel has been cultivating Jewish community and identity on college campuses. Recently, Hillel released an extensive guide aimed at better serving students who are members of both the Jewish and the LGBTQ communities.
The 164-page Hillel LGBTQ Resource Guide includes students’ personal stories, a glossary of inclusive language, liturgical resources, and lists of queer identified and actively allied Hillel staff. The Forward reports that the guide grew from a group of LGBTQ Hillel staff members who have met at annual Hillel conferences since 1991, first secretly and later more openly.
(Thanks, RAC Blog.)
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