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Rabbi Eric Yoffie is a writer, lecturer, and President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism

Six Shared Values and the American Jewish Future

Posted by on Dec 9, 2014 in Jerusalem Post | 0 comments

Six Shared Values and the American Jewish Future

American Jews are a fractious lot.  Our religious differences are real and important.  Our community, after all, is known for its passionate pluralism, which in many ways is a blessing and a source of strength. I recently read an interesting take on these differences in a blog post by David Strulowitz published on the Wexner Foundation site.  Mr. Strulowitz provides a fascinating and out-of-the-ordinary point of view.  Still, it occurred to me that it is a mistake to focus overly much on our differences.   For all the divisions between right...

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Religious Reform Won’t Survive Coalition Breakup

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Haaretz | 1 comment

Religious Reform Won’t Survive Coalition Breakup

It didn’t amount to much. The dramatic changes that some had foreseen as a result of the 2013 coalition negotiations, which left Israel’s Haredim (ultra- Orthodox) outside of the government, did not materialize. Various ministers had promised that the Haredi-free coalition would force the ultra-Orthodox to forfeitthe special perks that they enjoyed and that so infuriated the rest of Israel’s population. Finally, Israelis were told, religious freedom would return to the national agenda and the Haredim would be obligated to share equally the...

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Religion, Hypocrisy, and Obamacare

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Time | 2 comments

Religion, Hypocrisy, and Obamacare

“Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.” These words, spoken last year to a member of the Ohio legislature by John Kasich, the now reelected Republican governor of Ohio, are significant for two reasons. First and most important, they are a reminder of a simple religious truth: If you don’t care about the poor, the suffering, and the sick, you cannot be...

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Coercion and Judaism don’t mix – especially not in Israel

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Haaretz | 0 comments

Coercion and Judaism don’t mix – especially not in Israel

Memo to American Jewish liberals: Church-state separation on the American model cannot exist in the State of Israel. Click To Tweet Rabbi Avi Shafran was right on that point in his recent Haaretz article, even if he was wrong about practically everything else. Israel, as Rabbi Shafran pointed out, is a Jewish state. Israel is the one place in the world where Jews have actual power. Click To Tweet It is the one place in the world where Shabbat and the festivals provide the rhythm of the calendar, where the language of the Bible is the language...

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Stop bashing America

Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 in Jerusalem Post | 3 comments

Stop bashing America

American Jews are apoplectic. While they watch in astonishment, Israel’s leaders are doing everything they can to disrupt and degrade Israel’s relations with her most important ally, the United States of America. Jewish leaders are not only dismayed but genuinely puzzled.  Why in heaven’s name, they wonder, would Israeli officials do things that are guaranteed to undermine the goodwill so essential to Israel’s security and well-being? American Jews know that America is Israel’s indispensable ally.  Absent American support, Israel’s military...

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Is Pulpit Endorsement of Candidates the next Hobby Lobby?

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Time | 0 comments

Is Pulpit Endorsement of Candidates the next Hobby Lobby?

Electioneering from the pulpit is a very bad idea Click To Tweet but champions of this particular bad idea seem to feel that its time has come. Let’s hope, for the sake of religion in America, that they are wrong. On October 5, referred to by its organizers as “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” more than 1,500 pastors preached sermons about political candidates and their views on matters before the electorate. The day was organized by Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that advocates the absolute right of clergy to endorse candidates or parties...

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Muzzled by a Minority: Many Rabbis Don’t Talk about Israel

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in By Eric | 2 comments

Muzzled by a Minority: Many Rabbis Don’t Talk about Israel

(Published in Reform Judaism Magazine, Fall 2014) → In 2012, I met with a dozen Reform and Conservative rabbis. Two of the rabbis, who served different synagogues, mentioned having each recently made the mistake of giving sermons that were somewhat critical of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. Congregants with hawkish views responded with such outrage, contempt, and ferocity, the rabbis vowed that, going forward, they would simply remain silent on the subject in public, rather than subject themselves to arbitrary litmus tests of...

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The Three Mistakes Atheists Make

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Huffington Post | 1 comment

The Three Mistakes Atheists Make

The God Wars mostly bore me. In my younger days I enjoyed, at least for a while, the intellectual back-and-forth of the God debates. For me, these exchanges had a game-like quality, and it was fun to play the game. How can a student of religion ignore the rational argumentation of Nietzsche or the psychological insights of Freud? And from time to time, I still find myself intrigued by the God-debunking that serious atheists offer. When Richard Dawkins claims that biology and evolution demonstrate that God does not exist, I must take notice,...

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“Too many Arabs”

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in By Eric | 0 comments

“Too many Arabs”

An article in a central Massachusetts newspaper quotes me as saying that there are “too many Arabs” in Israel.  The only problem is that I never said this. I have said, many times, that demographic factors are one of the reasons why Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and why there must be a two-state solution to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Calling for a two-state solution does not mean there are “too many Arabs” in Israel. Click To Tweet It means that there are two groups, Israelis and...

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Brandeis Gets it Right on Islam

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Huffington Post | 4 comments

Brandeis Gets it Right on Islam

Brandeis University, a Jewish-sponsored university and my alma mater, has withdrawn its offer to give an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As reported in The New York Times and elsewhere, Brandeis changed its mind eight days after announcing the honor to Ms. Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia and served in the Dutch Parliament. The president of Brandeis, Fred Lawrence, said in his announcement of the change that “we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core...

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