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Passacaglia — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

September 7th, 2012 · 2 Comments · Culture and Ideas

Haim Watzman A hand passed before my face and I jerked out of my reverie. A cool, almost chilly breeze was blowing from Bethlehem. The muffled sound of the wedding band, playing Levantine-tinged pop settings of verses from the Song of Songs and Jeremiah, filtered through the glass doors, blaring for a few seconds when […]

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Reborn Jews

March 7th, 2012 · 1 Comment · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman This article was solicited last year by the Jewish Review of Books but got cut in favor of material on the summer protest movement. I forgot about it and just yesterday found it in my computer. I hope it will interest SoJo’s readers I had two adoptive families in Kiryat Shmonah, Israel’s northernmost […]

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Advice to Dissent

June 28th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman Israelis often wail that the country lacks unity. But when most Israelis say “We need more unity,” what they really mean is “More people should agree with me.” Dissent can be a pain, but it’s essential—as is recognized by the Sages of the Talmud in the Horayot Tractate (4b). The Beit Midrash run […]

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Rabbi Lau’s Religion Problem

April 1st, 2010 · 9 Comments · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman When Rabbi Benny Lau began his Shabbat HaGadol talk at south Jerusalem’s Ramban synagogue last Saturday afternoon, he said his lesson originated in anger and frustration. The climax came when he said, “If I were a young person today, I would abandon religion.” Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath that precedes Pesach, is traditionally […]

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The Oration Vocation–”Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

October 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Culture and Ideas, Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman “I don’t like him already,” Leo Shocken barked to Inga, his svelte, silver-blonde assistant, who had just led me into his office. Large-jowled Shocken lounged behind a large desk strewn with files, calendars, and banana peels. He held a half-filled tumbler of bourbon in his hand and both his stocking feet were propped […]

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Mendelssohn And Monotheism–”Necessary Stories” Column from The Jerusalem Report

May 27th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Culture and Ideas, Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman Hazily, I notice that the kid working on his biceps is staring at me, and I suddenly realize that my mouth is hanging open and that my eyes are gaping. He’s in the gym, but I’m having a revelation on the shore of the Red Sea, thanks to the son of a Jewish […]

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Remembering Slavery

April 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman Jews who grew up in the Diaspora and have raised children in Israel face a challenge at the Pesach Seder every year. The text of the Hagadah, and the spirit of the holiday, call on us to remember that we were slaves in Egypt, strangers in a strange land, outsiders. I grew up […]

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Protesting the Settlers in Shul

December 12th, 2008 · No Comments · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman I went to a rally against Jewish settler violence at shul yesterday. Kehilat Yedidya is one of only a handful of Orthodox synagogues whose members can make a statement like that. And perhaps the only one in which opposition to the gathering came from the left rather than the right. My friend Daniel […]

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Reading Maimonides Through Islamic Glasses

December 4th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman In his introduction to the Mishna, Maimonides (known as “the Rambam” in Jewish tradition) tells a story about the revelation and transmission of the Torah. Reading this story in light of Islamic doctrines about sacred revelation and transmission reveals that Maimonides, who lived in an Islamic society, sought to ground the written and […]

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Serious Pluralism, Serious Judaism, Serious Democracy: Aryeh Geiger z”l

November 28th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Culture and Ideas

Haim Watzman South Jerusalem lost another of its pillars this week. Aryeh Geiger, a religious educator for whom the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin signaled the need for a complete revision of religious education in Jerusalem, passed away this week after a four-year battle with cancer. I, and my daughter Misgav, were among the many hundreds […]

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Son Sacrifice: Humility and the Significance of the Akeda

November 13th, 2008 · 5 Comments · Judaism and Religion

Haim Watzman Many years ago, when I lived at Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi, a storm erupted in synagogue on Shabbat Vayare—the Shabbat, like this coming one, on which we read the story of Akedat Yitzhak, the binding of Isaac. The shouts of anger and dismay were occasioned by one of the plethora of pamphlets that appear […]

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Intimate Mourning–”Shiv’a”

October 29th, 2008 · No Comments · Culture and Ideas

Haim Watzman I’m a Jew provincial enough to have only the vaguest notion about what gentiles do when a loved one dies. Non-Jews, and assimilated Jews, may be surprised, intrigued, or revolted by Shiv‘a , an award-winning Israeli/French film by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz. The film chronicles the traditional week of mourning observed by the […]

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