A Rabbi's World

Weekly reflections from Gerald C. Skolnik, the rabbi of Forest Hills Jewish Center and a leader in the Conservative movement.

What Chaplains Do

A Naval Academy rabbi knew the midshipman killed in the Amtrak crash and served at the funeral.

05/19/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

When people think of rabbis, they instinctively associate them with synagogues. That’s where most people encounter rabbis – when they come to services.

Rabbi Yonatan Warren, in glasses, with the family at Justin Zemser's funeral. Getty Images

Poor Bibi. Poor Israel. And Poor Us.

05/07/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

In an article that appeared in the May 5 issue of Haaretz, Israel’s preeminent English language newspaper, the well-respected columnist Chemi Shalev pointed to the irony of Israel’s most recent coalition-building crisis. By withdrawing at the very last moment from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s emerging coalition, Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, had gifted the Israeli left, who reviles him, with an unintentionally sweet gift: schadenfreude.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Celebration: 30 Years Ago, JTS Admitted Women Into The Rabbinical School

04/30/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

For two days this week, at its annual convention, the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional organization of Conservative rabbis, devoted itself to reflecting on a significant anniversary in the history of the Conservative movement. Thirty years ago, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the storied academic center of that movement, made the momentous decision to admit women to its Rabbinical School, and ultimately ordain them as rabbis.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

This Is The Only State Of Israel That We Have

04/23/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

As we celebrate this Yom Ha’atzma’ut, the sixty-seventh birthday of the State of Israel, I share a treasured Israel memory.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

What Is The Definition Of 'Survivor'?

04/17/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

In the mid-1980’s, just a few years after I began my rabbinate at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, I traveled to Poland with a UJA-Federation Rabbinic Cabinet mission. It was shortly after my two older children were born, and from the moment that I entered the gate of Auschwitz and saw a display of clothing stripped from infants and toddlers who had been brought there for extermination, I was forever changed. Before that visit, the harsh reality of the Holocaust had been an abstract set of numbers and grainy images. When I returned, I had gained what I now understand to be an intuition of an infinitesimal fraction of the horror of what had transpired. I was shaken to the core.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

From Redemption to Despair, and Back Again

04/09/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Although the transition from the High Holidays to Sukkot certainly brings with it more than a little cognitive dissonance, going from the solemnity of Yom Kippur to the joy of Sukkot, it pales in comparison with the cycle of Passover, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and then Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). These communal observances fall but a few days from each other, and take us from the exhilaration of redemption to the utter despair of the Holocaust and then back again to the redemptive joy of the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Zamir Choral Foundation: Finding Harmony Amidst the Noise

03/26/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

My work in the pulpit rabbinate is, of course, centered on the synagogue that I serve in Forest Hills. It has been my family’s community, and my professional home, since 1981. But it is equally true that my rabbinate extends beyond the parochial walls of my congregation, involving me in many causes and projects that impact not only my community, but also the Jewish world at large.

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

What Do We Learn From The Israeli Elections?

03/19/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

Those conversant in the vernacular of Talmudic Aramaic will know that, following a legal or aggadic teaching, the Talmud will often ask “Mai Ka Mashma Lan? Loosely translated, it means, “What is this coming to teach us,” or, the more frequently used “what do we learn from this?”

Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

It’s Not Just About Race

03/13/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

With the news this week that the city manager of Ferguson, Missouri has resigned following a scathing Justice Department report that accused his police department of systemic racism, and with a fraternity on the University of Oklahoma having been thrown off campus for an ugly, alcohol-driven (evidently) racist incident, it is clear that race relations in America remain in crisis. As President Obama said quite eloquently at the ceremony marking the fiftieth anniversary of what came to be called Bloody Sunday in Selma. Alabama, we have indeed come a long, long way from where this country was at its worst. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

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Remembering Leonard Nimoy, A Serious Jew

03/05/2015
Jewish Week Online Columnist

I can only imagine that, after everything I’ve written the past few weeks about Bibi, Barack, and the “Situation,” and having just come back from the AIPAC Policy Conference, you might expect me to write about all that … And you’d be completely justified in assuming that I would.

Courtesy of Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik
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