Winter 2016

Winter 2016
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Letters, Winter 2016

JTS, American Judaism, and Conditional Synagogues


Why I Defy the Israeli Chief Rabbinate

Everyone knows that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate is often capricious, needlessly adversarial, and hopelessly bureaucratic. Actually, it’s worse than that. It can’t be abolished any time soon, but its power should be radically diminished.

A Walk in Jerusalem

Jews and Arabs live separately and are rarely friends, but they deal with each other constantly. The city can’t function otherwise. A walk in the Old City under a cloud of unease.


Oh, the Humanity!

Would the demise or even disappearance of human beings be, on the whole, a good thing. Yuval Noah Harari seems to think so, or is at least willing to entertain the thought.

Reader, I Adopted Him

Maya Arad's latest work is minor literature in the sense that Jane Austen—a model for Arad—is minor because she focuses on human character rather than on the Napoleonic wars and the religious crisis of the Enlightenment.

Re-Intoxicated by God

The way out is clearly marked: Intense Talmud study leads to intense study of science and philosophy. Spinoza was (in fact, sometimes still is) a crucial step along the path out.

Water Shall Flow from Jerusalem

In Israel even well-to-do families can be seen scooping bath water out of the tub to water backyard plants and  hygiene classes teach students to use the least amount of water when showering and brushing their teeth. Israel's way with water may be the way out chronic water shortages.

Shifting Daylight

Ross shows how the U.S.-Israel relationship has survived, and even thrived, since 1948 despite the radically different approaches taken by successive presidents.


Not by the Rivers of Babylon

It turns out that Israel sits on a “saddle point” between four weather systems. The rabbis of the Talmud didn’t know that, but they did have some interesting things to say about rain.

Sadat in Jerusalem: Behind the Scenes

The outcome of Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Israel was historic, but the backstage wrangling over protocol and Palestinian participation was also significant.

Remembering the Scholems

New books about Gershom Scholem and his brother Werner evoke memories of 28 Abarbanel Street in Jerusalem.

The Arts

A Harem of Translators

Singer insisted that all foreign-language translations of his work be based on the English versions. And most of them were done by young women who closer to typist-editors than true translators.

A Cipher and His Songs

Avraham Halfi faced outward, a gifted comic performer, and inward, a lyric poet of resonant privacy.

Two Poems

Two untitled poems by Avraham Halfi, translated by Leon Wieseltier.

Robert Capa's Road to Jerusalem

By all accounts, his own not least, Robert Capa was a womanizer, a heavy drinker, and a compulsive gambler who consistently lost his shirt everywhere from poker games at the front lines to European casinos. He was also a gifted, prolific photographer.

Lost & Found

Your Time Is Up: Jabotinsky at the Sixth Zionist Congress

The young Jabotinsky didn’t exactly take the Sixth Zionist Congress by storm. When he approached Chaim Weizmann, saying, “I hope I am not intruding,” Weizmann replied, “You are.” A newly discovered text, edited by Brian Horowitz and Leonid Katsis.

Last Word

A Party in Boisk

The bodily joy a group of Boiskers took in fulfilling the commandment to study Torah is still surprising, and that may have something to do with the Torah they chose to study.

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