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Blurry Christmas tree in the lobby of a building like a workplace or hotel

We chose to raise our children in a home that celebrated Hanukkah – but sustaining a minority culture in the face of Christmas’s incessant commercial drumbeat was exhausting.

“No, Santa isn’t coming to our house.” “Yes, he’s going to your friends’ houses.” “Yes, it’s exciting that Santa brought your friend a tricycle.” “No, Santa still isn’t coming to our house.”

On the bright side, the situation provided an opportunity to teach my children that we live in a great country where people have many different religions and the...

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Microphone at the front of a large room; background of photo is blurred

Even though the Jewish people are known as the “People of the Book,” sometimes our sacred stories can seem virtually inaccessible to us. We might read them in ritual settings such as Shabbat or holiday services. We might parody them in Purim-spiels and ask questions about them at our Passover seders. But connecting to these collective stories on a deeper, more personal level can be a challenge.

As a rabbi, overcoming this challenge is the focus of...

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Five NFTY in Israel leaders, two young men and three young women, all smiling

As director of NFTY in Israel and a resident of Jerusalem, I was asked recently to write a blog post about Israel. With that in mind, I am going back to a topic I know well – or at least one I care about deeply: the complicated relationship between North American and Israeli Jews.

Having made aliyah (moving to Israel to live) 15 years ago, I have one foot firmly planted in the North American Jewish community and one foot firmly planted in the Israeli Jewish community. In my daily life, I can’t speak English without throwing in Hebrew words. Yet...

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Buddish temple in China, visited by the author

This week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, is often read in terms of reconciliation and reunification: Joseph forgives his brothers for selling him into slavery, Jacob learns his favorite son is alive, a family comes together. All in all, a nice, clean happy ending.

It turns out, however, that there is much more action happening in the background and, through some research, I happened upon the intriguing story of Serah.

Step-daughter of Asher, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, Serah is mentioned only...

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Back of the legs and feet of a person on a stationary bicycle in a gym

When I rolled into the gym this morning, I was hoping to get on my favorite recumbent bike. It allows me to do a good lower body work out without using my arms or putting any stress on my right shoulder, which is recovering from rotator cuff surgery. 

No such luck. 

Both of “my” bikes were taken.

The gym’s rules are prominently posted throughout: “30-minute limit on all machines when others are waiting.”

A young woman was toweling herself off on one of the bikes, so I asked her if she was finishing or just starting.

“Just starting,” she answered...

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