2011


 

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Skydiving Through Life: We are Responsible for the Present.” Jewish Week. 28 December 2011.

When I was in college, I went skydiving over the plains of Texas. Three years later, wanting to relive that unique moment of transcendence and tested limits, I went skydiving again, this time over the Swiss Alps. Ten years later, I’ve learned to embrace a spiritual alternative to jumping out of planes. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Chanukah and the Value of Giving Gifts.” Jewish Week. 19 December 2011.

I love to give and receive gifts. I enjoy the suspense of the unwrapping, the strengthened relationship that can emerge, and the opportunity to provide another with something new that they didn’t expect to receive. After all, life is about giving and giving gifts is just another way to fulfill our purpose. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Role of the Divine in Social Change: Where is God in Tikkun Olam?” Jewish Week. 14 December 2011.

Why is it that, at a typical American Jewish social justice event, no one invokes one of God’s names? When our movement openly accepts the role of the Divine in social change and in moral development, we embrace the most powerful part of our tradition. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Why Should We Care About the Religious Views of Our Candidates.” Jewish Week. 5 December 2011.

As the Presidential race progresses, once again the role of religion in politics has re-emerged as a common tension that cannot be dismissed. American Jews have often feared bringing religion into the political discourse out of fear of anti-Semitism, but this concern has hopefully lessened since Senator Lieberman was a serious Presidential candidate while being open about his traditional Jewish practices and perspectives. In our commitment to build a just society, we have an imperative to ask questions about the religious views of our politicians. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Bodies Exhibit & The Jewish Value of Honoring the Body.” Jewish Week. 30 November 2011.

Could you imagine arriving at a museum and seeing one of your loved ones who passed away on display for others’ amusement?

The Body Worlds exhibitions are the world’s most popular touring attraction, having been visited by more than 32 million people. Another exhibit opened in 2005 and there have been serious allegations that the bodies displayed in this Bodies Exhibit were stolen or otherwise unethically obtained in China. In addition to the very problematic origins of the bodies, the use of human bodies for public entertainment or “education,” which could be achieved through multiple other means such as an animated 3D exhibit, is inappropriate and must be condemned. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Problem with Overpopulation and The Command to Procreate.” Jewish Week. 22 November 2011.

The United Nations has declared that the 7th billion person in the world was just born. Further, they have announced that since 1960, we’ve been adding a billion people to the earth every 12 to 13 years. Read More…

 

Hart, Ari. “Prison Reform: An American Spiritual Crisis.” Huffington Post. 19 November 2011.

“Welcome to the Waldorf Astoria,” said the jail guard as he showed me the room I would sleep in, my prison issue bedding (top sheet, bottom sheet, two pillowcases, no pillow) and the vacuum-packed kosher meals that had been prepared for me. This was the beginning of the three days of this High Holy Day season that I would spend on Rikers Island, New York City’s jail complex located in the East River. Here, where some 14,000 inmates await their trials, I prayed, ate and slept over during Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat as the rabbi of a community of 60 or so Jewish inmates. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Recovering the Transformative and Ethical Power of Music.” Jewish Week. 16 November 2011.

After decades of dry piano, violin, and guitar lessons, I finally retired without any real merits forfeiting my hopes of ever becoming a rock star or fiery composer. Only recently have I realized that music is still at the core of my Jewish spiritual and ethical passion. Singing at protests, including melodies into activist storytelling, and opening my heart to new ideas and ideals while listening to powerful symphonies have changed the way I feel and interact with the world. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Embracing the Lost Art of Creativity.” Jewish Week. 9 November 2011.

I was 5 years-old and my father was the President of Crayola Crayons. This gave me significant popularity points as a kindergartner. One day, my parents came home to find that I had taken my Crayola markers and painted all over all of the white walls in the house. As protocol for this type of normal occurrence, my mother scolded me while my father, as a marketer of ideas, stood back and thought. It was in this precise moment that the washable marker was invented. I take some credit for this invention. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Torah and Science: The Jewish Moral Case For Embracing Evolution.” Jewish Week. 1 November 2011.

The Jewish tradition embraces a very positive approach toward secular wisdom. The Talmud even transforms a mundane encounter with a wise gentile into a religious experience: “On seeing one of the sages of the nations of the world, one makes the following blessing: ‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given of His wisdom to mortal human beings,” (Berachot 58a). The leading scientists of our age have fully embraced evolution as a given, yet for some reason, a literalist approach toward the Creation story is embraced by some rabbis today. Read More…

 

Hart, Ari. “Rabbi Learns Repentence From Prisoners.” The Jewish Daily Forward. 28 October 2011.

“Welcome to the Waldorf Astoria,” said the jail guard as he showed me the room I would sleep in, my prison issue bedding (top sheet, bottom sheet, two pillowcases, no pillow) and the vacuum-packed kosher meals that had been prepared for me. This was the beginning of the three days of this High Holy Day season that I would spend on Rikers Island, New York City’s jail complex located in the East River. Here, where some 14,000 inmates await their trials, I prayed, ate and slept over during Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat as the rabbi of a community of 60 or so Jewish inmates. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Gun Control Vs. Gun Rights.” Jewish Week. 25 October 2011.

While I was recently giving a class at a Modern Orthodox synagogue in New York City on the topic of halachic approaches to weapons I asked this group of 25 people (most between 50-65 years old) how many of them owned guns. I expected 1 or 2 hands to emerge but was astonished to find that about 50-60% admitted to having a gun at home. Shortly after, I learned that there is an Orthodox organization now training Orthodox Jews to use guns and to bring them to synagogue as a form of “protection.” If the religious Jewish community in America has joined the consumers of guns then we must also enter into the national gun discourse. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Conflict Resolution: A Spiritual Approach.” Jewish Week. 18 October 2011.

It seems as if there is disagreement and tension everywhere. Most days, I feel surrounded by conflicts that emerge globally, nationally, locally, professionally, and personally. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Right People Are In The Room.” Jewish Week. 10 October 2011.

There were times, when I was one of three students that would stay awake late enough to hear Rabbi Shlomo Riskin when he would stop by our beit midrash at Yeshivat Hamivtar to give a late night class. What I was so profoundly moved by was the fact that Rav Riskin would speak to the 3 of us as if there were 200 people present. He offered his normal passionate and engaging class since we were the right people in the room. Read More…

 

Hart, Ari. “Confronting the Oppression of our Hands: A Social Justice Reflection for Yom Kippur.”Huffington Post. 06 October 2011.

It is dusk on Yom Kippur. As the holiest day of the Jewish year comes to a close, the Neilah service arrives. Neilah means closing, and the Jewish tradition understands that this fifth and final prayer service occurs when the gates of prayer begin to shut. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Purpose of Creation.” Jewish Week. 6 October 2011.

I found myself consumed in the liturgy by the phrase “HaYom harat olam” (today the world is created) and with questions about the purpose of creation and of my personal existence. As we reflect on the direction of our lives between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we might ask ourselves why humans, generally as well as individually, were created. Read More…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “A Yom Kippur of Mercy or Cruelty?” Jewish Week. 26 September 2011.

Some Jews have a medieval custom to sacrifice a chicken before Yom Kippur, “kaporos.” One grabs the chicken’s legs while pinning its wings back and swings it around one’s head. These chickens are packed into crates before this procedure and then usually sent to be slaughtered after. Others are often just left in crates to die. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Religious Freedom and Sharia Law.” Jewish Week. 21 September 2011.

In Paris, last week, when a Muslim cab driver picked me up I noticed a slight discomfort came over me. I realized, at that moment, that American religious fanatics had succeeded at convincing me to be afraid. Religion, at its best, furthers deep value formation and creates bridges and connections whereas religion at its worst is destructive and spreads fear throughout society. There is a growing religious fanaticism, with diverse manifestations, that seeks to promote fear of the other and that fear almost inevitability leads to hate. This fear and hate is unfortunately not absent from major segments of the Jewish communal discourse. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Jewish Perception of Tattoos: A Fair Prejudice?” Jewish Week. 14 September 2011.

I recently spoke with young former gang members undergoing tattoo removal at Homeboy Industries, a job-training site in LA for at-risk and gang involved youth. Their tattoos serve as serious barriers to employment and acceptance into mainstream society. A Harris Poll taken in 2008 estimated that 14 percent of Americans now have tattoos and the Pew Research Center shows that a whopping 26% of those between 18-25 have at least one tattoo. Is the typical Jewish perception toward these individuals with body art fair? Read more…

 

Hart, Ari. “Remembering and Erasing Evil: 9/11 and Amalek.” Huffington Post. 8 September 2011.

For most Americans, Sept. 11, 2001 was a day we can never forget. Where we were when we heard, the images on TV, the fear in the voices of our loved ones, the horrible loss of life: every time the anniversary rolls around, we encounter our own traumatic experiences. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Global Unity or Chaos: Special Report from the World Economic Forum!”Jewish Journal Blog. 6 September 2011.

I have returned to Switzerland this week as the Rabbinic Representative to join global partners and interfaith leaders at the World Economic Forum. Here, we continue to plan the annual gathering in Davos this winter and to think-tank the greatest moral, economic, and political issues of our time. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “A Chassidic Approach to Spiritual Materialism and Ethical Consumption.”Jewish Week. 2 September 2011.

One of the primary areas in daily life where I strive for piety is in my eating choices. Jewish tradition is rich with wisdom pertinent to our greatest moral problems related to food consumption today: hunger, just labor practices, treatment of animals, fair trade, environmental impact, and access to healthy food options. I have become more interested in exploring the degree to which the lifestyles advised in Chassidic thought can assist the moral life choices of one seeking to eat and consume more justly. Read more

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Why Does God Test Us?” Jewish Week. 24 August 2011.

Walking in Seattle yesterday, I smelled one of the most amazing unkosher cuisines I could ever remember smelling. As I stared at my food enemy, I had a thought which I imagine most religious Jews have at one point or another. I wondered: Was God testing me with this great smell? Was this amazing scent a way to bring my downfall? Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Intertwining Inner and Outer Religious Life: Yehuda haLevi’s Human and Divine Law.” Jewish Week. 19 August 2011.

The Orthodox Jewish community in the United States for the last few decades has been experiencing a move toward higher ritual observance, as demonstrated by Samuel Heilman’s study, “Sliding to the Right,” and, in many communities, prioritizes ritual observance and religious conformity over spiritual leadership, natural morality, and common sense ethics. Instead of committing time and effort to addressing local poverty, many devote resources to the search for the perfectly-shaped lulavRead more

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “How Should We Treat Undocumented Workers?” Jewish Week. 29 July 2011.

How should the American people treat a population which only has a marginal economic impact yet still manages to stimulate job growth and consumption in the country? The presumed answer is sadly far from the reality of how America behaves towards “illegal immigrants.” Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “The Forgotten Population: Domestic Workers in Our Homes.” Jewish Journal. 15 June 2011.

Ever stop to ask the salary of the woman washing dishes on Shabbat in your neighbor’s home, or the gentleman mowing your friend’s lawn about his vacation, or the nanny raising the children down the block whether she had time to sit down for lunch today? If you did, you most likely discovered an unpleasant situation of inadequate pay, few or no breaks, no paid sick or vacation days, and perhaps even bullying or verbal abuse. But how can it be? Those employers (neighbors) seem so nice, and their domestic workers always seem to be smiling and content.Read more

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Yeridat HaDorot, The Descent of Man: Is Progress Possible in Our Time?” The Jewish Week. 10 June 2011.

Will we ever end poverty, hunger and genocide? Is there hope that tomorrow will look brighter than today? The social justice movement is guided by a messianic vision that a world that is more just and free is possible. Can we, as Jews, embrace this promise of progress? Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Solitary Confinement: When Solitude is no Longer a Virtue.” The Jewish Week. 05 May 2011.

Last week there was a major Congressional briefing on the effects of long-term solitary confinement. Experts demonstrated that prolonged, isolated confinement causes serious psychological damage. Yet most courts and legislatures have been unwilling to declare this harsh practice unconstitutional or to change this nation’s current unethical practice. Can anyone hear the cries from the “hole?” Read more…

 

Hart, Ari. “Food Justice at your Seder Table.” Huffington Post. 18 April 2011.

The Passover seder is Jewish drama. Over the evening, a tale of slavery and liberation, despair and hope, narrow straits and open possibilities unfolds. We experience this drama through food. We lift high the matzah, the bread of affliction, for all to see; we taste the painful maror to remind us of embittered lives and oppressive work; we drink four cups of redemptive wine. Food brings these experiences to life. Through eating, we bring these symbols into our bodies. Read more…

 

Raisner, Yitzi. “Food Justice at the Seder Table.” Jewschool. 13 April 2011.

The Seder is an orchestrated affair with fourteen movements, from Kadesh to Nirtzah. At my family’s Seder, though, there is a prelude which marks the true beginning of the meal, long before the first cup of wine is poured. One might call it Bechira, “The Selection.” For you simply cannot approach the Pesach table without a thoughtfully chosen Haggadah (and pillow, for that matter). My grandmother is loyal to the Szyk Haggadah for its aesthetic offerings. My sister, on the other hand, appreciates the Abarbanel’s unique insights. It’s a highly personal choice and no two people end up at the table with the same one. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Pregnant Inmates Chained During Labor: On theDignity of Childbirth.” The Jewish Week. 12 April 2011.

Childbirth is one of the most sacred events of the human experience. All women deserve the dignity to give birth free of danger, restraint, or oppression. Unfortunately, this is not the case in America for inmates who are forced to go through labor in shackles – not metaphorical shackles; real ones. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “A Pesach Plea for Prison Reform.” The Jewish Journal. 12 April 2011.

Last week, here in Los Angeles, we read with horror of an inmate in a local county jail who was strangled to death in his cell. This inmate had been complaining to a judge that he was being “hassled” by other inmates. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have plagued L.A. County’s jails for more than 30 years, along with a culture of violence and fear that includes prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and the use of excessive force by deputies. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Alternatives to Incarceration: A Jewish Approach.” The Jewish Week. 07 April 2011.

Many prisoners keep knives in body cavities, an ex-convict explained to me last week, to ensure they can protect themselves from brutal prison violence and rape. This horrific description haunts me. Read more…

 

Hart, Ari. “Tax Season: The Most Spiritual Time of Year?” Huffington Post. 04 April 2011.

Forms. Number-Crunching. Headaches. Worry. Going through the year’s spending and income and applying it to the nitty-gritty of our tax code often feels like the least religious, least spiritual activity possible. While doing our taxes can be a source of frayed nerves and aggravation, they can also be a spiritual lens that reflects our priorities, values and the effects of our labors on the world. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Jewish Hotel Ethics.” The Jewish Week. 31 March 2011.

Hotel workers are among some of the most poor and abused laborers in America today. Over 90 percent of hotel housekeepers have reported suffered work-related pain due to the demands of the job. How can the Jewish tradition inform an authentic Jewish ethic for hotel guests? Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Rabbi Shmuly. “Another Kosher Scandal: What’s at Stake?” The Jewish Week. 24 March 2011.

Yes, once again kosher is not yosher (just)!

Pickles used to be my favorite snack, but now I can’t help but think of the workers in a pickle at Flaum Appetizing before taking a bite.

Just a few years ago, Flaum, which also produces Sonny & Joe’s and distributes Tnuva and Bodek products, fired seventeen Latino workers who stood up against over a decade of abusive treatment and unlawfully-withheld benefits and overtime pay. Read more…

 

Hart, Ari. “Holding God Accountable: Faith and Disaster.” Huffington Post. 21 March 2011.

“Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked … ?” Genesis, 18:23

These words echoed in my spirit as I watched the images of the tsunami strike in Japan, and as the situation continues to unfold it evokes profound spiritual anxiety in me. How do we make sense of such enormous tragedy within the context of our faith? For we who believe in an active God who cares about what happens in this world, how do we make sense of wide-scale catastrophe? How do we respond when horrible things happen to innocent people?

We hold God accountable. Read more…

 

Hart, Ari. New York Muslims and Jews: Serving Together. Jew School. 30 January 2011.

It sounds like a dream: a Muslim woman wearing a full head covering, laughing and joking with an orthodox rabbi as they paint a mural of Run-DMC for Brooklyn schoolchildren. But on Martin Luther King Day, 2011, that dream was real.Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Shmuly. Where are the Women in the Global Future Discourse? Special Report from the World Economic Forum. Jewish Journal. 27 January 2011.

It has been hard not to notice that speaker after speaker here in Davos are men. Where are the women in these conversations? Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Shmuly. Gloal Affairs: A Balancing Act? Special Report from the World Economic Forum.Jewish Journal. 28 January 2011.

As global politicians, corporate executives, and thought leaders exchange business cards at a rapid rate here in Davos, two things are clear: on the one hand these brilliant powerful leaders have great influence over the global economy, and on the other hand no one is in control of this extremely complex system. The conversations are empowering and humbling. Read more…

 

Yanklowitz, Shmuly. A life without limbs, a life without limits: Special Report from the World Economic Forum. Jewish Journal. 27 January 2011.

One major CEO explained to me after the presentation that he could not return to the normal sessions about the state of economy after his heart had been so touched and transformed by Nick’s story of survival and persistence. I personally left amazed and awed at Nick’s achievements to inspire millions around the world through his motivational speaking and even saving lives by motivating communities not to kill infants born with deformations or disabilities. Read more…

 

Fuchter, Dasi. Queens College Hillel Social Justice Group Take on Labor Violations. The Jewish Week. 12 January 2011.

Two years ago, during my freshman year at Queens College, I found my passion for Jewish social justice when I started a Challah for Hunger chapter on campus, an organization that raises money and awareness for hunger and disaster relief through the production and sale of challah bread. Read more…

 

Hart, Ari. Peoplehood, Universalism and Particularism. Jewish Philanthropy. 5 January 2011.

During a steamy Chicago August a few years back, I led a summer program called Or Tzedek that brought Jewish high schoolers to Chicago neighborhoods. Our goal was to explore Judaism and social justice. On the second day of the trip, I brought my students to Chicago’s predominantly African-American South-West Side. Our project for the day was knocking on doors and distributing leaflets to people in the neighborhood about prenatal health opportunities available to pregnant women. Read more…