Towards Shared Identities

Quillette. November 12, 2020. When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, many Jews in the Russian Empire hoped for a French victory. Napoleon had eliminated barriers to Jewish integration and advancement in France; the Russian regime and its policies, by contrast, were thoroughly infused with anti-Jewish discrimination and hostility. But one prominent Hasidic leader disagreed with…

Just Jew It: Against Giving Reasons for Living a Jewish Life

eJewish Philanthropy. July 23, 2019. It’s not uncommon, in Jewish communal circles, to hear it claimed that the central question for our profession today is, “Why be Jewish?” In an age of free choice and self-constructed identities, this argument goes, the Jewish community can no longer count on individuals to affiliate themselves and participate, so…

The Pundit’s Fallacy and the Jews

eJewish Philanthropy. June 20, 2019. The best way to get elected is to campaign on the policies I prefer. That’s the essence of what political writer Matthew Yglesias has called “the pundit’s fallacy.” It’s a useful concept for any kind of strategic thinking, not just politics. We all sometimes accidentally tip the scales of our empirical…

Cloud Streaming American Judaism

eJewish Philanthropy. (December 7, 2017. Based on an earlier Times of Israel blog post.) I fear American Jewish culture may not survive Pandora and Spotify. How shall I explain? I was once told that the first song to sell a million copies was ‘The Maple Leaf Rag,” by Scott Joplin, in 1897. Actually, this is…

Debunking “White Zionism”

Forward. August 21, 2017 Richard Spencer, the prominent “alt-right” white supremacist, recently described himself to an Israeli TV interviewer as “a white Zionist.” That claim, coming from the leader of such a viciously antisemitic movement, is ironic and ridiculous. But if Spencer’s hope was to win sympathy from Zionists, his claim of an analogy between Zionism and…

Religious ‘neutrality’ is a myth.

LA Times. December 23 (online) / December 25 (print), 2016 In 2003, at age 21, I wrote an op-ed for my hometown paper arguing that the Montpelier, Vt., City Hall should remove its Christmas tree. I argued that Christmas decorations symbolically told Jews like me, and other non-Christians, that city government stood more for the…

As America Wrestles with Tribalism, Jews Will Be Exhibit A

The Times of Israel. Dec 14, 2016 Since Election Day, America has been fighting about tribalism. How much was Trump’s victory due to white tribalism? Should Democrats abandon “identity politics” hoping to transcend tribalism, or should they double down on multiculturalism, tribal though it may be? Eventually, the American mainstream will settle on answers to these…

To the Young Man Shouting About Hitler on the #1 Train, et al

The Times of Israel. (June 22, 2016.) Dear young man on the Uptown #1 train who shouted at me that Hitler should come back for the rest of the Jews, Dear two friends of that young man who laughed while he shouted, Dear high school classmate of my wife’s who posted “F**k the Fourth of…

Nonprofits Still Seen Struggling Long After Recession

The Jewish Week. (Dec 31, 2014.) One billion dollars lost. With the U.S. economy digging itself out of a deep hole, the $1 billion figure represents the collective revenue loss to Jewish nonprofits from 2007, the start of the Great Recession, to 2012, according to a new study. That’s an 11 percent drop in money…

A Father’s Lectures

This I Believe. Radio presentation on The Bob Edwards Show, June 7, 2013. Also appeared as a chapter of This I Believe: On Fatherhood ed. Dan Gediman, John Gregory, and Mary Jo Gediman. My father wasn’t a spanker, a shouter, a poker, or a grounder. He was a lecturer. When he really got into it,…

The Next Pope and the Jews

First Things. (March 11, 2013.) When the next pope is elected, pronouncements from major Jewish organizations will follow this basic script: Mazel tov. Your recent predecessors did many good things for the Jews; please expand them. Your predecessors also did many bad things for the Jews; please admit this and do better. Mazel tov again,…