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In Memory of Yisroel Polstein

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For two years of my life I had a best friend. We studied Torah together, we fought and argued, we got into trouble, we were best friends. He remains inseparable from my 9th and 10th grade experience.

At the end of 10th grade, my best friend began behaving more and more erratically. He could not stay in yeshiva. We spoke on the phone and he told me about learning that he was suffering from some mental health issues. He told me stories about life with mental illness. He was struggling. His life and mine parted ways simply because he was far away and we had little opportunity to connect. Read…


You Can Help the IDF

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Young men and women are fighting for their lives and the safety of their families and their nation at this very moment. The IDF is in Gaza and we all hope and pray for their swift and safe return.

No matter one’s personal preference or opinion on Operation Protective Edge, too soft, too harsh, too quick, too slow, too whatever, those are our sons and daughters in harm’s way and we are united in our support of their sacrifice.

A verse in this week’s Torah portion so purely expresses the emotions of many Diaspora Jews with an eye on Israel. Read…


It’s All About Love | In Honor of Rav Yaakov Weinberg’s 15th Yartzeit

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Rav Yaakov Weinberg was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father, like any true talmid of Rav Weinberg, quoted his rebbe often and with regard to a wide range of issues. His intellectualism and broadminded approach to Orthodox Judaism are my father’s guiding light professionally and personally. His wisdom in Torah and secular knowledge was only bested by his thirst for more knowledge. Thus, the Torah and methodology of Rav Weinberg were always part of our home.

I also have early memories of meeting the Rosh Yeshiva and I was always struck by his warmth and infinite smile. Those early times that I met him, he was just a very sweet man to my young mind, not an anti-social intellectual. As I grew older and learned more about this great man, I realized that his greatness was not limited to his intellectual prowess and dedication to truth. Those were ever present. Rav Weinberg’s greatness was his Ahavas Yisrael. Read…


It’s Time to End Black and White Thinking

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I don’t write about practical politics on my Haaretz blog or this blog very often. My preferences and ideas about political issues certainly seep into the content, but the purpose of my writing is not to score political points or convert people to a particular political position.

Last week, I objected to the reckless accusation that President Obama is “anti-Israel and borderline anti-Jewish” and argued that Jewish people should have gratitude for the President’s generosity and support for Israel. The fact that critics may think he is a terrible president or a failure in every possible way, should not change obviate critics from expressing appreciation.

While saying thank you is important to me, and I believe gratitude it is a valuable lesson on its own, that was not the real purpose of the article. To me, it was part of a much broader, and much more important issue. Read…


Thank You President Obama

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This article first appeared on my Haaretz blog. It appears here with permission.

President Obama’s editorial in Haaretz elicited predictable partisan responses. Supporters of the president and Israel gleefully shared the article as evidence of the unwavering support the current United States government continues to provide for Israel. Simultaneously, the president’s detractors criticized the timing of the article, its omissions, and dismissed its ‘acceptable content’ as political bluster that was contradicted by observable fact.

There’s no official position or consensus among Orthodox Jews on this issue, but my sense is that Orthodox Jews fall in the detractor camp more often than the supporter camp. Politics are messy, and there are reasonable arguments to be made about Obama’s job performance overall. But I think that supporters of Israel who oppose Obama for domestic reasons, valid or contrived, are allowing those grievances to disproportionately influence their opinion of Obama’s support of Israel. Read…