The Polymath


Thinking Green: It’s Not Just a Virtue — It’s Your Jewish Duty

By Jay Michaelson

The rhetoric of Jewish environmentalism has long been kind and gentle. Like much of American environmentalist talk, it accentuates the positive: what we can do, how you can help. This is Left-Wing Activism 101: Fight despair, and don’t alienate anyone. And it’s abetted, in both secular and Jewish contexts, by the propensity of tree-hugging liberals to be, well, tree-hugging liberals — nice people who, when not urging recycling and conservation, are also practicing nonviolent communication and advocating for pacifist politics.Read More


How I Finally Learned To Stop Worrying and Love (Okay, Like) Christmas

By Jay Michaelson

Like many Jews, I grew up hating Christmas: the songs, the TV specials, the reindeer and sleighs, not to mention huge stockings bursting with toys. (That myth of eight nights of presents was no consolation — I’d be lucky to be getting books and socks, the two worst gifts for a young boy, by the final night.) It’s been many years since those lonely December nights, but it seems that even in today’s multicultural America, there’s no time more marginalizing for Jews than Christmas.Read More


As Winter Falls, a Time To Learn From the Orthodox

By Jay Michaelson

As daylight-saving time ends and the winter approaches in earnest, Shabbat begins to be inconvenient again. In the northeastern United States, it now begins at four, even three in the afternoon Friday, early enough to encroach on the workday, and render the day a little bit useless. For families with children, the Sabbath now starts so early as to interfere with school — not to mention the ever-widening array of after-school activities, from test prep to tennis, tutoring to therapy.Read More


Memo to Michael Steinhardt: ‘Duh.’

By Jay Michaelson

This past summer, philanthropist Michael Steinhardt rocked the Jewish institutional world when he announced that he sort of regretted the $125 million he had spent on Jewish causes. “Is the Jewish world any better today than it was 13 years ago? Have things really improved? Are we reaching more people?” Steinhardt asked. “I don’t have positive answers. Outside of our self-congratulatory bubbles, things haven’t changed much.”Read More


The New Atheism: What’s a Liberal, Spiritual Jew To Do?

By Jay Michaelson

It’s hard to be a liberal religious Jew these days. Some of us first felt this way back in September 2001, when we felt forced to make statements like, “Al Qaeda is not really Islam” or, “Religion still is good for humankind — just not that kind of religion.” Others started getting uncomfortable when the “clash of civilizations” entered the political mainstream, trying, with difficulty, to chart a “third way” between the religious right’s war of Christianity against Islam and the secular left’s struggle of secularism against religion, fundamentalism and intolerance — all three of which seemed to be synonyms for one another.Read 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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