How I’m Spending My (Modern Jewish) Holidays, 5780/2020

Yesterday was Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terrorism. Swiftly on its heels, today brings Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. (Learn a bit more about them here.) And this year, as you might expect, there are many, many ways to observe online.

Israeli flag
Image by dror lahat from Pixabay

It’s impossible to do—or even list—everything that’s out there. I’m just going to share with you a few events that I’ve attended/plan to attend this year.


Responses to Difficult Reading, in Poetry and Prose

The 929 website, if you’re not familiar with it, “invites Jews everywhere to read Tanakh, one chapter a day, together.” Today’s chapter—II Samuel 13—is, as my friend Rabbi Abby Sosland observes, “almost unbearable” reading. Please be forewarned.

But if you can listen to Abby, and read my friend Sivan Rotholz’s reflections, there’s also a poem of mine included in the discussion on 929 today. (The poem, “Complicity,” is also featured in my forthcoming collection.)

Collage of screenshots from today's 929 English webpage, spotlighting contributions from Rabbi Abby Sosland, Sivan Rotholz, and me.

All three pieces—and much more—can be found on this page. (You’ll need to scroll down a bit to find my poem; if you’re in a hurry, here’s a direct link.)

Words of the Week

And now, for something a little different:

Discovered this Uzi Hitman clip via the class I’m taking on Israeli poetry and prayer, where this week we spent quite a bit of time with the “Adon Olam” text and variations.

Words of the Week

“God, Master of the Universe, please make this world safe for our people this year. Next year may we be in Jerusalem, but this year please take care of the Jews in our holy city and in so many other cities: in Marseilles and Copenhagen, in Argentina and Buenos Aires, Kansas and Seattle, Paris and Tunis, Sderot and Toulouse, Brussels and Donetsk. This Passover evening is a ‘night of vigilance’ [Exodus 12:42]. Please watch over us with divine care and compassion. Protect our sacred tombstones and graves from desecration. Protect our synagogues across the globe from Swastikas and shattering glass. Protect our innocent children on their day school playgrounds and our Jewish communal workers in embassies and community centers. Pour out Your wrath against the world’s injustices so that one day, You can pour out Your love. Ani Ma’amin — I believe that day will come. It is not here yet. Together, we will await that day. We will not wait passively. We will partner with you in a covenant to protect our people and remove them from harm’s way. And we will re-affirm in word and deed our daily commitment to justice, goodness and kindness.”

From Dr. Erica Brown’s “Pour Out Your Love?” in The Jewish Week

Whose Gen-X Judaism?

StarPeople are talking about “A Portrait of Jewish Americans: Findings from a Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews.” I’ve tried to keep up with what they are saying, refraining, for the most part, from commenting. (There are many blessings that accompany having a full-time job; in my case, the luxury of focusing quickly, thoughtfully, and in writing on matters of great personal interest isn’t one of them.)

So, over the past several days, I’ve read and listened to others. I’ve found myself agreeing with plenty that some commenters, including Rabbi David Wolpe and Jane Eisner, have had to say. But when I read Elissa Strauss’s “Give Us Our Gen-X Judaism,” disagreement—and a sense of depression—ensued.

And this troubled me, not only because Strauss and I have had numerous agreeable exchanges in the past (even if we haven’t ever met face-to-face), but also because, unlike Wolpe or Eisner, I’m actually part of the cohort on whose behalf Strauss is ostensibly speaking, those “Gen Xers” who were born, as the Pew survey indicates, between 1965 and 1980. And “our” Gen-X Judaism, at least as outlined in Strauss’s post, is definitely not mine. (more…)