Alan Brill


Converts' Permanent Revolution

By Alan Brill

Converts' Permanent Revolution
Converted clerics, including those born Jews, were a key force behind the Catholic reforms of Vatican II. That fact in no way undermines the body of faith behind them.Read More


A Tribute to a Great Spirit

By Alan Brill

A Tribute to a Great Spirit
We may consider ourselves fortunate to have the many personal reflections on mystical texts offered in tribute to Arthur Green, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. “Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections” contains 26 essays, each consisting of a translated Hasidic text accompanied by a spiritual reflection. Arthur Green taught two generations of graduate students how to read Hasidic texts and produce from them approaches to contemporary spirituality. Here, his students go forth, continuing the path he has laid out for them.Read More


Why Read The Zohar?

By Alan Brill

Why Read The Zohar?
The Pritzker translation of the Zohar into English by Daniel Matt — the fifth volume of which has just appeared — should be greeted as a major cultural event. Yet, the publication of each volume has typically produced tiresome book reviews on the ownership of the word Kabbalah, comparing the academic approach of Gershom Scholem to Madonna’s New Age approach. The reviews do not answer the basic question: Why read parts of Kabbalah like the Zohar? Nor do they explain why the Zohar speaks to our age more than the myriad other kabbalistic works.Read More


Even This Review Is God

By Alan Brill

Even This Review Is God
Jay Michaelson is well known to readers of the Forward for his column, “The Polymath,” a title well chosen to mitigate the frequent changes in his byline, which varied from dot-com software designer, to doctoral student in Jewish mysticism, to lawyer, to environmentalist, to poet, to GBLT activist. As one of the founders of the journal Zeek, Michaelson was one of the instrumental creators of the new Jewish culture — the hip mixture of ironic and post-ironic aesthetic gestures — which moved Jewish culture beyond baby boomer concerns. Michaelson’s theology is as diverse as his former bylines and reflects the same shift to the values of the new Jewish culture.Read More


Reb Zalman’s Ah-ha Hasidism

By Alan Brill

Reb Zalman’s Ah-ha Hasidism
Contemporary American religion is filled with quests for inner happiness, a direct sense of presence and charismatic gifts. The quest ranges from spontaneous drum circles to the Dalai Lama’s Westernized talks on happiness, and from Eckhart Tolle’s New Age wisdom to Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal exorcisms. In this landscape of emotive spirituality, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi serves as one of the major guides for contemporary Jews who seek the path of the heart.Read More






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    • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
    • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
    • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
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    • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
    • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
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    • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
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