Erev Pesach OpEds

I’m going to try to get back to my original goal for this blog: citing and commenting on interesting articles that should have some resonance for Modern Orthodox education. You may have missed these two excellent Pesach themed Op-eds if you were busy burning your chametz this past Friday morning. Joshua Berman’s Search for the Historical Exodus was published in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a condensed version of the more detailed essay he published in Mosaic on March 2. David Brooks wrote a piece titled On Conquering Fear that was published in the New York Times.  Why did I find these important? Continue reading

Exodus: Gods and Kings

I must admit that the trailer was a lot better than the actual film. As the entire school is learning Sefer Shemot this year I was hoping that Ridley Scott’s film about Exodus could be used as an effective educational tool. I went to see the film the night it came out, and was disappointed in the film. I’d give it two stars. But I still thought that there would be serious educational merit in seeing the film. We took the whole school to the see the movie on Chanukah and the reviews of kids and staff were mixed. I’ll explain why I thought it was a good idea to bring the school to the movie and then I’ll address the issues raised by those who questioned the decision. Continue reading

The Case for School Uniforms

In last Saturday’s New York Times, Peggy Orenstein wrote an op-ed that discussed her frustration with her daughter’s school’s dress code. Dress code enforcement usually targets the girls more than the boys and inevitably communicates unintended messages to girls about their sexuality.

Today in response to the op-ed there were a couple of letters to the editor.  One of them said that the solution is school uniforms. Here it is: Continue reading

Strangers and Hashtags, or Religion and Spirituality

Leon Wieseltier has struck gold once again. In another great essay in the New Republic he body slams Alain de Botton for his self absorbed retreat from the world.  It is well worth reading. His language is exquisite as always, and the analysis is spot on. Alain de Botton argued for a twitter sabbath so that one can retreat into the stillness and appreciate the simpler and more beautiful things in life. Wieseltier’s sharp pen pokes fun at and holes in the argument. Wieseltier’s argument is similar to the argument that values religion over spirituality and responsibilities over rights. I once read an article a number of years ago by Rabbi Sacks published in some newspaper about the difference between religion and spirituality. I’ve spent some time googling for it but can’t find it. If you know where it is, feel free to comment. And once we’re talking about responsibilities over rights, let’s recall Robert Cover’s beautiful essay on Obligation.

I often hear that kids nowadays want to know what’s in it for them and they are too focused on finding their own personal meaning in mitzvot. There’s some truth to that. Everyone wants to find personal meaning. It seems to me though that it’s our job as educators to teach about the joy in serving others and living a life committed to something bigger than ourselves. This doesn’t seem to be a hard sell to me. Kids want to fight for something. They want to believe in a cause.  Believe in me . Help me believe in anything.  Cause I, I wanna be someone who believes

social orthodoxy part 3

Rabbi Emanuel Feldman’s letter to the editor in the most recent Jewish Review of Books (which was published before the Social Orthodoxy brouhaha) is terrific. He responded to Daniel Gordis’ infamous Requiem for the Conservative Movement. The letter is what I consider the right approach toward dealing with those whose intellectual misgivings lead them to shy away from Orthodoxy. It’s a strong statement of valuing social orthodoxy as a way-station.

On the other hand, Continue reading

My Graduation Speech Annotated

Below is the speech I delivered at the WYHS graduation last week. I worked on a theme that I had posted about earlier- God. The speech is in the black font. I added some of my thoughts about the speech in the red font in the parentheses.

 

The late David Foster Wallace began one of the more famous commencement addresses with a story I’d like to share with you. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says,”Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What in the world is water?” (I edited the language out of concern that the word “hell” might offend. The original language though does a better job.)

The great Foster Wallace developed an idea based on this little parable. I’d like to share my own with you. As he said, the point of the fish story is that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. (I used the DFW story and referenced him not really because I needed it to illustrate my point in the speech, although it did a pretty good job of that. My main reason was to sniff out any DFW fans in the audience. I was hoping that a few people might approach me after the graduation and tell me of their fondness for DFW. Alas, no one commented.) 

 

I find it remarkable that we actually spend so little time talking about a specific type of  water that we swim in.

You may be wondering- what is he talking about? What part of our lives that we take for granted is he referring to? Some of you are guessing that I’m talking about developing an appreciation for our Jewish community which we take for granted. Yes, he’s probably going to talk about the importance of serving the community and appreciating all it offers. Continue reading

Rabbi Avi Shafran’s dvar torah in the Forward quoting the maggid of Duluth

R. Avi Shafran posted a beautiful dvar Torah in the Forward right before Pesach.  I continue to be a  big fan of his writing and continue to be amazed at his role as the public face of the Agudah in America. Could you imagine a rav writing as the spokesman for the Agudah in Israel approvingly quoting a secular Jew who flirted with apostasy in the context of his dvar Torah: ” As a great poet sang, sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.”