Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Jews’


From Generation to Degeneration: Declining American Jewish Kinship with Israel?

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by Hayim Herring



Over the past five years, my wife and I have spent about six weeks each year in Israel. We’re clearly not Israeli citizens, but we’re more than occasional visitors. Like many, we have family and close friends in Israel, and are intentionally deepening those relationships and making new ones. Whenever we return from a visit, we’re asked, “What did you see this time?” While we enjoy museums, concerts, new wineries, restaurants and archaeological findings, we most enjoy being with family and friends and, for me, getting my spiritual fix.


With more frequent visits, I’ve become more aware of the differences between the American and Israeli Jewish communities. Yom ha’Atzmaut felt like the right time to share some reflections… and to ask you for your opinions.


The modern state of Israel is only 67 years old. Although Israel is the indisputable historic homeland of the Jewish people, in its current iteration, it is young. In fact, my parents are older than the modern State of Israel. Israel is only about 10 years older than my wife and me, over 40 years older than my children, and well over 60 years older for some of my friends who have grandchildren.





Doing this simple, personal math clearly reminds me that within the American Jewish community, there are two generations that can remember the fragility of the State of Israel, and two generations (going on three) that think that Israel is an outsized global powerhouse. Because of such a significant divide, I wonder to what extent the words “from generation to generation,” that imply continuity of values and kinship, apply to the majority of American Jews who are third generation and beyond. They do not have personal living memories of Israel’s vulnerability but are routinely reminded of Israel’s deficiencies. In daily doses of media images and text, they absorb a one-sided, distorted view of Israel, where Israel almost always does wrong and rarely can do right.



NJ Jewish Standard Can’t Set a Jewish Community Standard

Posted on: October 11th, 2010 by Hayim Herring

By now, you might have read about the story that the New Jersey Jewish Standard inadvertently created about itself and, in doing so, inflicted pain on a gay couple. The facts are simple: this couple submitted a wedding announcement which the paper printed, then retracted under pressure from some members of the Orthodox rabbinate, and then re-retracted the retraction when it received an outpouring of outrage from other religious leaders and readers who were appalled by the original retraction.

Aside from the lack of decency by those at the paper responsible, this incident raises a question about community: who sets community standards today? Sometimes, for the sake of communal harmony, organizations will often adopt a “stricter” position in order to be maximally inclusive of the most traditionally-observant in the community (a common example is kashrut standards). On other occasions, the more traditional elements in a community feel excluded when liberal standards are applied.

Using this New Jersey Jewish Standard episode as an illustration, ask yourself—who determines the standard of what is “appropriate” for a local Jewish community? If you were the publisher of this paper, what process would you follow in arriving at a decision? Clearly, the paper is in a lose-lose situation—some segment of the community is going to be offended by its policy. Please take a few moments to comment, for this issue is not just about this one couple, but about the broader issue of who exactly is authorized to make decisions for a local Jewish community and is it even possible to arrive at a consensus anymore around community issues?

Thank you,

Rabbi Hayim Herring