Breaking the rabbinate’s monopoly on marriage

January 2, 2017

Rabbi Chuck Davidson is on a holy mission to end the Israeli Rabbinate’s monopoly on marriage. Nearly every night of the week, Davidson conducts wedding ceremonies that the rabbinate deems “illegal.” His goal: to get arrested. That’s the only way, he says, to force the courts to rule on what he considers one of the […]

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Keeping kosher “in my own way”

September 16, 2016

Dennis Prager has a radical proposal. In a column published earlier this month in the Jewish Journal, he makes the argument that “if you don’t eat bacon or shellfish because you are a Jew” – even if you eat beef or chicken that hasn’t been slaughtered according to Jewish Law or you eat out in […]

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Crowdfunded shnitzel without killing coming to your kitchen

August 2, 2016

Shir Friedman calls me a care-nivore. “You’re someone who cares about not harming animals…but you still eat them,” she says with a smile. Friedman wants to change all that. If Friedman’s new company takes off – and judging by the rapid response to their Indiegogo campaign, I have every expectation that it will – I […]

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Magic, demons and Judaism: what to do with troubling texts?

September 19, 2015

Dr. Robin Stamler is a magic buff. It’s not magic tricks that interest him so much as the intersection between Jewish tradition and the mysterious and inexplicable. In a brisk one-hour session at the recent Limmud Jerusalem conference, Stamler laid out some of the more esoteric examples of Judaism’s quirkier, some would say, darker side. […]

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Roman vs. Jewish Law: What Happened to Patrilineal Descent?

January 28, 2015

My January 9, 2015 column in The Jerusalem Post generated a higher than usual number of comments, many of which were not particularly complimentary. In the piece, which addressed the United Synagogue Youth (USY) teen leadership’s decision on relaxing the group’s policy on “interdating,” I posited that since assimilation is natural – indeed inevitable – in […]

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Circumcision, No Fine: On Why Mandating Religious Behavior Backfires

December 5, 2013

I’m circumcised. My two sons are circumcised. Pretty much every other male I know is, too (not that I check). But a ruling last week by the Supreme Rabbinical Court for Appeals in Jerusalem that essentially mandates circumcision by law, with a severe financial penalty for parents who choose not to participate in this most […]

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Hanukah, Extremism and Light

December 27, 2011

Hanukah is probably the most confounding holiday on the Jewish calendar. If we move beyond the toys and the gelt of 20th century Christmas catch-up, the story itself has been interpreted in so many ways that it’s difficult to get a lock on the pshat (the simplest understanding). For what is Hanukah? Is it the […]

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L’ag b’Omer is Saturday Night. Or Maybe Not

May 18, 2011

The Jewish “bonfire” holiday of L’ag b’Omer is this Saturday night. Or maybe not. L’ag b’Omer commemorates the day some 2,000 years ago that a plague killing 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva ended. “L’ag” stands for lamed-gimel – in Hebrew the number 33. The Omer refers to a period of 49 days between the holidays […]

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Sleeping with the Enemy. It’s OK…Really

October 7, 2010

Sometimes, Jewish law can be taken to the most unlikely extremes. Witness the report in Ynet this week that it’s OK for an Israeli woman to seduce an enemy agent for the sake of national security. Indeed, it’s an important mitzvah. The ruling was made by Rabbi Ari Shvat in a publication from the Zomet […]

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eBooks and Sex

January 26, 2010

I’ve written in the past both about eBooks and sex, two of my favorite subjects. My stated position on eBooks is that they will supplant printed books entirely within 20 years, probably less; newspapers and magazines will be entirely digital as early as 5 years from now. My recent article on sex explored how premarital […]

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