340 U.S. Rabbis: ‘We Support This Historic Nuclear Accord’

Image via RNS/REUTERS/Carlos Barria 

For the Jewish people, the pursuit of peace is a fundamental religious duty. Our tradition implores us to "seek peace, and pursue it" (Psalms 34:14); unlike other commandments that obligate us when they come our way, we must pursue peace at every opportunity.

The deal with Iran seeks to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear bomb while also reaffirming the United States’ commitment to the pursuit of peaceful foreign policy solutions. We are not naive about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and regional ambitions; we embrace the agreement precisely because it is our best available option to ensure the security of the United States, Israel, and the entire world.

In light of this agreement, we are deeply concerned with the mistaken impression that the current leadership of the American Jewish community is united in opposition to the agreement. Despite what has been portrayed, these leaders do not represent the majority of Jewish Americans who support Congress’ approval of this deal. We, along with many other Jewish leaders, support this historic nuclear accord by the world’s most powerful nations and believe it is our best hope of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

Bondage, Freedom, and #TomatoRabbis

Here come the #TomatoRabbis / Photo via T'ruah

Closer to home, one of the messages that many of us often hear is that there is slavery in the supply chains of the products that we buy every day: cotton, chocolate, produce. This can be paralyzing when we go to the mall or the grocery store. None of us want to purchase something that originates in an extreme human rights violation. But the solution cannot be simply to buy a different product. When we talk about labor trafficking, we must keep the focus on the worker who is enslaved rather than the product we consume.

As a rabbi, I know that is not my tomato or banana that is created in the image of God—it is the person who picked that product. Fighting for food justice means ensuring the human rights and wages of workers, and doing so in a way that places the needs, dignity, and expertise of the workers at the head of the table. This last piece is crucial: no one can tell us how best to solve human rights abuses in supply chains, including modern slavery, more than the workers who have the most at stake...

We must raise up the leadership of those most affected by forced labor and support their efforts to create new futures for themselves. Since 2011, T’ruah has taken more than 50 rabbis to Immokalee to learn from the CIW. The stories they hear—and the transformation they see—inspire them to go home and turn their congregations into more than just educated consumers. They become activists: they write letters to corporations urging them to join the Fair Food Program, stage protests, take Hebrew school students to meet with managers, write op-eds, and deliver sermons. Our #TomatoRabbis have become part of the larger movement of Fair Food activists, urging corporations to live up to their professed values and join the new day dawning in the Florida tomato industry that is the only proven slavery-prevention program in the U.S.

Have Corporations Become Modern-day Golems?

In Jewish folklore, a golem is an anthropomorphic entity created from inanimate matter. Creative Commons image Matthias Ripp.

Corporations are not people — no matter what five Supreme Court justices and a failed presidential candidate may say.

I take that position on the basis of my religious faith, the very test that the justices applied in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

My tradition tells me to ask essential questions.

So here is where I start: May a golem be counted in a minyan? A minyan is a quorum required for certain Jewish prayers, and a golem is a mythological creature created from clay and animated by a sacred incantation.

The golem’s “sculptor” controls its actions; it has no real will of its own.

Rabbis Push Congress on Immigration Reform

In the midst of the Jewish holiday season, more than 1,200 rabbis and cantors have urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“We thought it was a particularly good time to speak out as rabbis and cantors on this issue that really speaks to us as Americans and as Jews,” said Barbara Weinstein, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Reform movement’s Washington office that coordinated the effort.

“For centuries, Jews were guests in others’ lands and not always treated well.”

Yeshiva University’s Norman Lamm Resigns Amid Sex Abuse Scandal

Photo courtesy RNS/Wikimedia Commons.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm. Photo courtesy RNS/Wikimedia Commons.

The chancellor and head of the seminary at Yeshiva University, the flagship U.S. school for Orthodox Judaism, resigned his posts on Monday and acknowledged that he had mishandled sex abuse allegations against staff members in the 1980s.

In a letter sent to students, faculty, alumni, and donors, Rabbi Norman Lamm, 85, said that in failing to report the abuse complaints to police, he was acting “in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived.”

“I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up,” wrote Lamm, for decades a leading figure in Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbis Aim to Inject More Morality into Business

Banks make loans they know homebuyers can’t pay back. Conglomerates market unhealthy food to children. Wall Street tycoons bet against their own shareholders.

In an age when the phrase “business ethics” can seem like an oxymoron, a group of rabbis has designed a course to use age-old Jewish teachings to help infuse some morality into economics -- from the household budget to the stock market.

Run by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, which is affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Orthodox Jewry, “Money Matters” is offered at more than 350 locations in 22 countries this year, and is proving to be one of the most popular courses JLI has ever offered, said Rabbi Efraim Mintz, JLI’s executive director.

“When students first come to the course, they may respect the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) and the Talmud (a 2,000 year-old compendium of Jewish oral law and biblical commentary), but few see it as something relevant to the here and now,” Mintz said.

“But soon, they are mesmerized and surprised by its applicability to the business issues of the day.”

More than 22,300 people have taken “Money Matters,” which was first offered in January, and lawyers can get continuing legal education credit for it in 22 states.

Don’t Read This Part of the Bible If You’re Under 30 (or a Woman)

Icon of the Prophet Ezekiel via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/xLsxE4.

Icon of the Prophet Ezekiel via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/xLsxE4.

It's long been known that Ezekiel is — well, let's be honest here — one crazy-arse book of the Bible.

Now that I'm tweeting about it every day and reading it cover to cover for the Twible project, I've come to understand one of the oldest traditions about it: it's not for everyone.

Some of the great rabbis taught that the book of Ezekiel, with its strange visions and explicit sexual language, should not be read by any Torah student under the age of 30.

The symbolism of "30" was likely tied to Ezekiel's own reported age when he began receiving his prophetic visions; perhaps the rabbis felt that if Ezekiel was old enough to see these weird word-pictures, 30-something men were considered mature enough to read about them.

Not so for women.