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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