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Graphic of Israeli flag, Palestinian flag and Israel

Because of my deep admiration for Michelle Alexander’s brilliant work on the unfinished tasks of civil rights, I eagerly read her recent New York Times piece, hoping she’d shed new light on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Instead, this endlessly complicated and painful conflict was simplified in Alexander’s narrative, with Israel shouldering complete responsibility for the deplorable status quo. Right-wing voices that put the blame solely on Palestinians make the same reductionist...

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Marc Chagall's tapestries in Chagall Hall in the Knesset

After finishing final exams and celebrating the end of the semester, I decided to spend some of my winter break exploring new sites in Jerusalem. Although I learned a fair amount about Israeli politics over the past few years, I had never actually been inside the Knesset (parliament) building. A close friend recently started working there, and I was excited to learn from her on a guided tour.

The tour began with relatively basic questions, pitched to a public group with vastly different levels of background knowledge:

When did the State of Israel declare its independence?...

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The author wearing a tallit and tefillin

That picture – a 40-year-old blonde female rabbi – is what Jewish looks like.

I started wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) and laying tefillin (phylacteries) 15 years ago. It has taken me years to get over my internalized judgment as a woman wearing these items that are “traditionally” worn only by men. Even on the best of days, tefillin are a strange and uncomfortable feature of Jewish practice. I’ve had to consciously push myself beyond my own discomfort to own this mitzvah (commandment) that has come to mean so much to me.

Like many Jews who have invested in a davening (...

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Book cover: Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority: Our Jewish Obligation to Social Justice

B’reishit bara Elohim, in the beginning, God didn’t create the Land of Israel or the Jewish people. No, God created a wondrous universe, teeming with beauty, complexity, and possibility. Within this incomplete world, God created human beings to partner with God in shaping a world of justice and compassion. The sphere of divine concern includes not only the triumphs and trials of our people. Its reach is global, extending to all who inhabit the planet.

The fundamental question for this chapter has in many ways already been asked and answered, debated by Rabbinic sages and subjected...

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Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

This week marks Shabbat Tzedek: the Shabbat closest to Martin Luther King Jr. Day in which we remember his life and work, celebrate the victories of the civil rights movement, and reflect on what still needs to be done in the pursuit of racial justice.

However, on MLK Jr. Day, we often are presented with a sanitized, nonconfrontational version of Dr. King that is a far cry from the radical activist who was reviled during his time for his powerful justice work. Whether...

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