The Pew Report on Jewish Americans

Red Chart from Free photos ID-100114992

I ‘ve finally been able to read the Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans” from cover, as they say, to cover.

First, Jews should be grateful to Pew for shouldering a responsibility abdicated by our own leaders, who decided in 2010 not to conduct the National Jewish Population Survey that had been conducted in 2000 and 1990. There appears to have been a desire not to hear bad news, which earlier surveys had delivered. I call this the Ostrich Syndrome. So, thank you, Pew Charitable Trusts.

What did they find? Continue reading

Israeli Spring 3

DSC_0705 Taj small fileIn a hotel near the Taj Mahal, I thought back on my week in Israel leading into a month in India. The Taj, a marble poem to lost love, was built by the Muslim king Shah Jihan, the “Emperor of the World.” His wife died after nineteen pregnancies during her fourteenth birth and this, perhaps the finest building ever built, became her resting place.

But the Emperor of the World was cast down by one of his sons, who had killed three others, leaving himself the sole heir. Battles had raged among these brothers, just as they had among the sons of King David. Continue reading

Israeli Spring 2

I’m in bed in the early morning in Delhi, with gathering traffic sounds outside and a brace of pigeons fluttering at the white building and grand leafy tree across the way, seen through palm leaves on the porch.

Kineret (Sea of Galilee)

I did get to spend Shavuot eve with my friends the physician and artist. They still seem rather English although in Israel forty years, but they have Israeli children, and grandchildren who struggle with English. They are four generations now, since Elliot’s ninetyish mom, hale, graceful and charming, was there to enliven the dinner conversation. Continue reading

Israeli Spring 1

Cactus flower VHGFrom the balcony of my “suite” in downtown Jerusalem, I see the tattered stripes of an Israeli flag seized by a strong wind, a huge McDonald’s with intact golden arches, and an almost empty street with caged-up stores in advance of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. The Jerusalem Post showed a man in a black kippa—meaning religious but not too—harvesting sheaves in a gold field of wheat. He’ll make matzoh when the time comes. That the flag fragment is allowed to stay where it is may reflect the current level of nationalism here. Continue reading

Forverts

Forverts front pageBack in October, not long after I’d begun subscribing to the great old Yiddish-language newspaper, Forverts—no, this is not the English-language newspaper Forward, which I like to read and occasionally even write for—there was a photo above the fold on the front page that stunned and stayed with me.

The photo shows a pretty middle-aged woman reading from a Torah scroll,   Continue reading

Was All This About Egypt?

It’s not that I think this is really over. Cairo’s streets are filled with angry people, and Egypt may lurch again toward democracy. But back on the Gaza border a lull in the missile exchanges began Wednesday, and the last 48 hours have been mostly quiet. The citizens of Southern Israel will not be satisfied with this, since however degraded Hamas might be, it was still firing rockets a-plenty when the cease-fire started. One beefy middle-aged guy said that if Netanyahu doesn’t actually stop the attacks from Gaza he will “pay the price” at the polls in January.

But Hillary Clinton dropped by on her way back from Southeast Asia—she and her boss do have other things to think about—and spent some political capital in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo. She wants this to be her closing scene as Secretary of State, and something to brag about if she runs for the Oval Office. That meant some serious arm-twisting for both Israel’s Prime Minister and Egypt’s President Morsy. You could almost hear them say “Ouch.”

And now Morsy has overreached, making a power grab that could cost him his palace. Still, despite demonstrations in Cairo, it looks possible that one of Israel’s main goals in this operation has been reached, and it has nothing directly to do with rockets raining down on Ashdod: the new Egypt’s pivot toward the West. Continue reading

Gaza Again

“After a long night of air strikes that Israel says hit up to a hundred and fifty targets across the Palestinian territories, remarkably, there appear to have been few casualties.” A reporter in a flak jacked walked through the rubble of a large building. “This was a Hamas Interior Ministry building. Like a lot of the targets hit overnight, it was deserted. Nobody was hurt here. But what local people are saying is that these air raids were designed to spread fear and panic. There’s a lot of residential buildings in this neighborhood, and right next door, a United Nations school.” A Palestinian man shown with his family, who spent the night in a shelter, says, “My children are afraid and crying.”

“Israeli civilians have also been suffering,” the narrator says, over pictures of rocketed homes. “Hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza since Wednesday. People have been leaving their homes to seek refuge in shelters.

Even hospitals have been moving their patients.” This is the BBC this morning, being uncharacteristically balanced. But they don’t mention that continuously, for years, the people of southern Israel have been running to shelters to hide from the rockets that have never stopped. During those years, people in Gaza have rarely had to hide from Israeli attacks.

Continue reading

Forgiveness?

I wrote last time that I had a song in my head—Ani Ma’amin—that I didn’t want to be cured of. But I was cured, after the Atlanta performance of Defiant Requiem conducted by Murry Sidlin, who with Verdi’s (and Rafael Schächter’s) help created ityet I was not cured by Verdi, much as I love him. I’ll explain, but first: Continue reading

Defiant Requiem

Late in Sukkot, I find myself still haunted by Yom Kippur melodies. It’s that “song-in-your-head” phenomenon that psychologists say can only be treated by replacing it with another song—the disease itself, they say, is the only cure. But I don’t want to be cured.

The song in my head is just a line: Ani ma’amin, ani ma’amin, ani ma’a-amin . . . b’viat . . . ha’Moshiach . . . b’viat ha’Moshiach ani ma’amin. Utterly simple: I believe, I believe, I believe . . . in the coming . . . of the Messiah . . . in the coming of the Messiah I believe. “Ani Ma’amin” as a whole is longer, based on Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles of the Faith. It is indeed a haunting melody and a pivotal prayer for Jews. Of all thirteen, this is the one I believe in least, yet this one plays in my head continually. Continue reading

Misogyny, Sexism, Chauvinism, or What?

When I wrote recently about a question that had been put to me—under the title “Is Misogyny Maladaptive?”—I was taken to task (at PsychologyToday.com, where it also appeared) for misusing the word misogyny. I was trying to use it to mean “anti-woman.” Strictly, it comes from Greek roots meaning “hate” and “woman,” and some dictionaries define it as simply hatred or dislike of women or girls, although occasionally the word contempt is included. This matters because you can easily have contempt for someone you also in some way like or love. Continue reading