November 2010

Judaism and Ethnicity

Recently, we received a question in our comments section in reference to an article about Messianic Judaism and how it differs from what is traditionally accepted as Jewish philosophy. In that article I made a brief mention of how the perception of Jews as a social group has changed, especially in America, over the past century. The commenter, B. Wolper, asks,

You say in your article that Jews were considered an ethnic group until around the mid-twentieth century.  What changed that?  Why are we not considered an ethnic group anymore?

I would like to thank B. Wolper for the question and will now clarify exactly what I meant when I suggested that Jews in modern day America are no longer considered a distinct ethnic group.

Prayer and Daily Life

In modern life, the act of prayer has been compartmentalized. Those who pray usually only do so at appointed times of ritual. They pray at religious services, before or after meals, on holidays and at life cycle events like weddings and funerals. This is all well and good, but there's also room for what one might call "spontaneous" prayer, little observances throughout the day that can bring spirituality into our regular lives.

Elijah and the Jewish View of Salvation

There is an old phrase from the midrashic tradition of Jewish storytelling that goes, "When the Messiah comes all prayers will be abolished except one: The prayer of gratitude". In order to understand the true gravity of this sentiment, one must first understand the Jewish version of the messianic age and the purpose of prayer in Judaism. This takes some study, as the most pervasive philosophy of a Messiah and the function of prayer in Western religion differs from Jewish theology greatly.

Jewish Nobel Laureates

Jewish culture has always highly valued education and thus professions that rely on mental prowess. This is why such a significant fraction of all the people to win the Nobel Prize have come from Jewish backgrounds. There are many Jewish Nobel Laureates in every category of the prize, great contributors to global society who have stood as shining examples of their people. There are certainly too many Jewish Nobel Laureates to feature in this article, but here are a few of the most notable among them.

The Politics of Judaism

This week in the United States is Election Week, the time when people in all 50 states cast their votes for issues and representatives at the local, state and national levels. There is often a great social weight to the decisions we as citizens make each November, which means that everyone of voting age is asked to consider his or her own social philosophy. For many, this boils down to a series of moral choices. When issues like health care are on the ballot, the way we feel about social responsibility definitely factors into the decision. For Jews we have to ask ourselves what our faith's philosophy says regarding the issues of our time. If our writings don't directly address these topics (as they often don't given how old many of them are), we have to extrapolate answers based on the spirit of the law rather than the letter. So, what is the Jewish perspective on the hot-button issues facing Americans in November 2010?