Monthly Archives: February 2017

All Evil Begins With 15 Volts by Dr. Shira Gabriel

Social Psychologist Phil Zimbardo famously said, “All evil begins with 15 volts” in reference to the infamous Milgram electric shock experiments.

When I teach students about the Milgram studies, in which participants were asked to give electric shocks to another participant, I ask my students to guess whether they would have given the other participant a shock of 300 volts – a point at which the other participant had already been screaming in pain and begging to stop.  Every single student in my class says they would not have given the shock, and yet every single participant in Milgram’s study did. read more

David Ben-Gurion: Biblical Truth and Midrashic Truth by Matia Kam

King David

One of the greatest virtues of Tanach according to Ben Gurion has been “The truth, the unvarnished truth that shows no favoritism.” It is the truth “that has God’s imprint on it “ and therefore “there are few books in the world that have that biblical imprint.” As clear proof to that sharp biblical truth Ben Gurion invoked King David’s life story, “of his awesome deeds and shameful crimes,” as it unfolds in the book of Samuel (and in early Kings).

In a dispute with Israeli literary critic Avraham Kariv, Ben-Gurion used the full force of “the ethical and the Jewish” to reject the approach that “every verse came to universal and eternal life in the post Tanachic period;” he opposed the argument that “the Midrashic truth is superior to the Tanach truth.” read more

Postcards from Israel: Blooming in Winter by Sharona Langerman

It is mid-winter now.
Last week the Almond tree was still asleep
And suddenly five days later I saw her.
This beautiful princess in her flowered dress.
Glittering pearls in the sun
stitched with white and pink beads
smiling to the sky, happy in the rain
and calling to all the other trees
to come and join her in dance.
Sharona Langerman is an Israeli artist and photographer and lives in Kiryat Motzkin

Why Acting Presidential Is Not Going To Happen by Ayala Emmett

Mr. Trump’s Press Conference

Last Thursday’s press conference was a shocking display of Mr. Trump’s inability to “act presidential,” a phrase he often used on the campaign trail. He would tell his audience that his wife and his daughter constantly urged him to be more presidential. In an interview on NBC in 2016, he promised, “I will be so presidential, you will be so bored.”

The press conference last week was most alarming because it was clear that Mr. Trump was incapable of fulfilling his promise to be presidential. This serious failing is more than style, demeanor, or manners. It is lodged in the fact that in the array of socially available roles, the only role that Donald Trump is able to occupy is that of an “I”/“Me” of a self-absorbed person. For him the political is always entirely personal. He responds to all questions and crises not in the role of president, but as a person praised or attacked, loved or aggrieved. read more

Harold Wechsler: Home Run Hitter by Peter Eisenstadt

My beloved friend, Harold Wechsler, died suddenly, tragically, of a heart attack last Friday in his New York City apartment. Just last October we celebrated his 70th birthday. I am stunned, bereft, at a loss for words though I know that I have to write about him.

I first met Harold in 1996, a few months after I moved to Rochester from New York City. A mutual friend suggested that we get together. At the time, he was teaching at the School of Education at the University of Rochester. About a decade later he was hired away by NYU, where he was, until last week, the professor of Jewish Education and Educational History at the Steinhardt School of Education. We hit it off.   There were a lot of things we had in common. We both were historians, we both were interested in Jews, Judaism, and Jewish history.   And we both were baseball fans. Although we did a variety of things together, including during the cold and dark baseball-less months of November to March (which, believe me, in Rochester, are very dark and very cold) we primarily went to baseball games. We first went to a game together at Frontier Field, the home field for the Rochester Red Wings, in 1996, the year the new stadium opened in Rochester, and we soon were going to a game every month, every other week, or even more frequently. In 2012, the summer after Lynn Gordon, his wife died (after a long fight with cancer) we were going to multiple games every week. read more

Mr. President, Religious Freedom is in our DNA: Meet US Protesting Your Muslim Ban by Ayala Emmett

Temple B’rith Kodesh Interfaith Prayer Service
Photo by Yonathan Shapir

You should have been here Mr. President when our sanctuary filled to capacity. While those you banned waited for the Federal Court’s decision, we the people gathered on Sunday for an interfaith prayer service.

We squeezed closer in our pew to make room for a woman looking for a seat. Out of breath and sitting down, she told us that she was late because she was looking for parking. The enormous parking lot of Temple B’rith Kodesh could not hold the thousand people who wanted to be part of an interfaith service to welcome the stranger. read more

The So Called Senate Decorum and Freedom of Speech by Ayala Emmett

Silencing is un-American

When the president said that we in America also do terrible things he was wrong about the moral equivalence with Russia. No, our senators do not murder people of the opposition.

However, Republican senators are determined to silence freedom of speech and crush any opposition in every way.

The Republicans have embarked on a series of confirmations by hurrying every nominee through the senate with clear disregard for their qualifications. Little mattered, not even the candidates’ ethical record. The cover-up of unfit nominees was on daily display and in full view on the floor of the senate on Tuesday. read more