Archive | September, 2012

What the Orthodox think about us… and what we think about them

I work very closely with Simi, a Jew who is very Orthodox (she’s my age and about to get married) and very modern (she associates with Jews of all types and started wearing pants last week).

Right before Rosh Hashanah, she was surprised to discover that there are observant Jews (Reform, etc.) who only do one day of yom tov. And yesterday she turned to me and said, “So I hear Reform Jews do actually fast on Yom Kippur.” I was dumbfounded.

A little while later, she saw an article someone posted on Facebook that had something to do with the Orthodox. A comment on it read, “I am almost always impressed by the trends of thought in Judaism. The only exceptions are anytime I encounter information about the Orthodox.”

Simi turned to me and said, “What is this about? Why do people think this?”

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Welcome, Jewniverse Readers!

If you’ve arrived here because of today’s Jewniverse email, welcome! (If you’ve come for some other reason, well….)

And if you’re a regular here and you don’t know what I’m talking about: My Jewish Learning does this great daily email called Jewniverse. The material in the emails is original — I don’t even think it appears online at MJL — and it’s all over the map.

The signup page on their site says it’s about “the inspiration, the extraordinary, and the just plain strange.” We’ll leave aside the matter of which of those three categories I fall into. So I’ll just say that I’m a big fan, I get it every day and you should too.

The text of today’s email:

Book reviews are found in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals. But what about prayer book reviews? Who can you go to for a good siddur review?

Writer and editor David A.M. Wilensky answered that question with his blog, the Reform Shuckle. Here, Wilensky posted lengthy reviews of any siddur or Mahzor (High Holiday prayer book) he came across. A true siddur enthusiast, he commented on everything from design and layout, to commentary, liturgical integrity, and of course translation. He dings one siddur for coming without a bookmark ribbon, and praises another for “sensical and elegant line breaks…with the blocks of English and the blocks of Hebrew mirroring each other in shape like a Rorschach ink blot test.”

These days Wilensky, who’s the editor-in-chief of New Voices, has a new blog, but you can still explore the archives at the Reform Shuckle, and read his thoughts on all kinds of liturgical texts, from old family siddurim, to new bentchers.

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My latest for the Forward: ‘Just File Your Forms, Mort!’

Remember that time when the ZOA’s Mort Klein went on a tear about me, observing that I was “young and inexperienced,” and thus unqualified to critique them? Here’s what I wrote at the time.

It seems that Mort is now presiding over some rather silly attempts at governance over there at the ZOA, as the Forward has been reporting. They’ve lost their tax exempt status on account of forgetting to file some forms with IRS for three straight years.

Since the organization I head doesn’t have any trouble maintaining its tax exempt status, I thought I’d help Mort out with an explanation of how to file your taxes:

If you’ve never worked at a non-profit or served on the board of one, you might not know why this all sounds so completely bonkers. As the executive director of a non-profit organization, I, like Klein, work closely with a board of directors. This qualifies me to explain why all of this is, in fact, completely bonkers.

I feel safe in these assumptions despite Klein’s lack of confidence in me. He published anattack on me in May, in which he called me “young and inexperienced” and my writing “amateurish.” Despite these handicaps, I shall press on, given my meager knowledge of such things.

Go read the whole thing over at the Forward.

By the way, the version of this piece that got published is somewhat tamer than my original. I can’t help but include this little gem that we had to cut: “(Note that I did not, in turn, point out that he is a grouch with a constituency of octogenarians and a soapbox that reeks of irrelevance.)”

Shabbat shalom, shanah tovah, etc.

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