Joshua Halberstam


A Tale of Trade-offs

By Joshua Halberstam

‘Yes, Rabbi Wolf was gargantuan,” I tell my children. “A giant of a man, with more hair protruding from his knuckles than I had on my head, even back then when it was covered with thick curls. He was the one we were sent to for serious disciplining. But he wasn’t the mightiest rebbe in our yeshiva.” No, in this all-important debate that raged for years in the halls of my school, I stood with those who favored Rabbi Chafkin. “The man could rip right through a Brooklyn telephone book….saw him do it with my own eyes.”
My kids offer a polite, glazed half-nod. They’ve heard these recollections before, the thinly veiled comparisons of my yeshiva escapades with their own more temperate school experiences.Read More


Reviving Jewish Ethics

By Joshua Halberstam

A Code of Jewish Ethics:

Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Harmony/Bell Tower, 576 pages, $29.95. * * *The seven deadly sins, codified most likely in the 13th century, have enjoyed sustained notoriety, both ecclesiastical and in the public imagination. What is most noteworthy about these “capital sins,” as they areRead More


The Myth of Jewish Guilt

By Joshua Halberstam

What is it about Jewish guilt? One woman says she forever diets because of her Jewish guilt, while another blames Jewish guilt for her constant overeating. Jewish guilt is the culprit for why you are so tidy, or so messy, date too much, or too little, indulge your children or discipline them. Jewish guilt explains why you worry about your parents,Read More


As Empathy Fades

By Joshua Halberstam

Let us now think of the tsunami. Few do anymore. It’s been months since those waves washed across Asia and across our television screens; our sympathies, once so stirred, have receded with the calming of the waters. This is only natural, of course. Empathy is bound to ebb with passing time as surely as the ebbing of the tides themselves. ButRead More


Passover’s Lesson? It’s an Open Book

By Joshua Halberstam

Soon we will sit down for the Seder and do what Jews do well: talk, eat and talk some more. And as we’ve done for 2,000 years (almost precisely so), we will turn to the Haggada for the story of our Exodus and then proceed to improvise stories of our own.Indeed — I’m tempted to say, alas — the Haggada has increasingly become a RorschachRead More






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  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
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