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Finkorswim Live on the Stunt Show: The Future of Orthodox Judaism

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Presenting another episode of Finkorswim Live on the Stunt Show. On this episode we got to some pretty substantial discussion of the current state and future of Orthodox Judaism.

The show aired at 1 PM ET on July 2, 2015 on NachumSegal.com and the NSN App. The show has been archived and is available as a podcast on this page.

Read…


I Believe in Torah, Halacha, and Equality

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On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it is unconstitutional for a state to ban same sex marriage. The issue still divides America, though the latest Pew numbers say 54% of Americans are in favor of gay marriage and only 36% oppose.

In the Orthodox Jewish community, the matter is far less polarizing. I could not find any actual numbers, but I think most people are correct in assuming that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews oppose same sex marriage for themselves and for America. All the mainstream Orthodox Jewish umbrella organizations have issued statements over the past few years reiterating this opposition. Some Orthodox Jews are ambivalent on the issue, and a small minority are in favor of gay marriage.

I celebrate the Supreme Court decision. Read…


Growing Up: What Religion Can Learn From the Magic of Inside Out

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Let’s talk about Inside Out again. But this time we are not just going to talk in the superficial, “go see it” kind of way we did last time. Now it’s time for real talk.

Storytelling and Canvas Building
Movies can be diversions or just pure entertainment, but sometimes movies can be so much more. There are movies that illustrate grand important ideas in a new way that pushes culture and society forward. To me, this is the peak of storytelling. When the story itself is not really the thing the story is saying, because the thing the story is saying is so much bigger than the story, we experience a sort of storytelling magic.

Too often, fiction undermines reality. I’ll never forget this quip from Rabbi Tendler during a private study session. “If you expect marriage to be the way marriage is portrayed in novels and films, you’re going to be waiting a long time for the violins.” In context, he was teaching me that relationships take work and popular culture is not very good at real relationships. Generally, we watch saccharine caricatures of real life with simple resolutions, over-emphasis on raw feelings, and of course, violins.

I love when fiction does not try to rewrite reality. I love when fiction tells us something about reality. Done right, a movie can be a powerful storytelling device that helps us to understand and deal with reality. Fiction can be real. Read…


Inside Out | Movie Review and Analysis

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Disney Pixar movies are cultural events in our world. No studio is as careful with their product and as successful with their product as Pixar. Yet, my anticipation level for their latest film, Inside Out, far exceeded previous expectations. I was a little concerned that I was setting myself up for disappointment. A few hours ago, I saw an early screening of Inside Out and it was the greatest movie I have ever seen. The after-movie feeling was like Interstellar, only more intense.

Everyone is familiar with the premise of the film. We interact with the main character on two levels. Riley is our 11 year old hero on the surface level, but the movie also tells its story from the perspective of her feelings. We meet her Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust as they work together to give Riley the best emotional experience. That’s the part everyone knows, but that’s not really what the movie is about.

The movie is actually a coming of age story. It’s not so much about Riley’s emotions, as much as it is about how Riley’s emotions as a child are completely different from the emotions that come as she reaches her teenage years. This is the note Inside Out plays so magnificently. The story of Riley’s feelings takes the first 25 minutes of the film. It is spectacular. I was grinning from the first moment and crying from the second. Inside Out is an emotional roller coaster and the first act of the film is a steady barrage of sweetness peppered with punches to the gut. I loved it, but it was intense. Read…


The Future of American Judaism

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This essay was written on October 8, 2013. It was never published. I think it’s still perfectly relevant.

The Pew report confirmed what many Jewish people already knew. Non-Orthodox Judaism is in crisis. According to Professor Stephen M. Cohen over 75% of non-Orthodox Jews are intermarried. About 43% of children of intermarriage consider themselves Jewish. The numbers are devastating and religious leaders are scrambling for solutions.

On the other hand, despite doomsday predictions from the 20th century, the Orthodox Jewish data demonstrates strength and viability. Almost 0% of Orthodox Jews intermarry and over 80% of Orthodox Jews between the age of 19 and 29 stay orthodox.

Some people think this is cause for celebrating Orthodox triumph. Other Orthodox Jews think that Orthodox Jews must step up outreach efforts to bring non-Orthodox Jews into the fold of Orthodox Judaism.

I think there is a third approach. Read…