August 26, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
Do you know this classic joke? An Orthodox, a Conservative, and a Reform rabbi are each asked whether you are supposed to say a brochah over a lobster.
The Orthodox rabbi asks, "What’s a...'lobster'?"
The Conservative rabbi says, “Some say yes, some say no.”
The Reform rabbi says, "What's a brochah?"
Or, what are the main differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism?
At an Orthodox wedding, the mother of the bride is pregnant.
At a Conservative wedding, the bride is pregnant.
At a Reform wedding, the rabbi is pregnant. And so is her wife.
And so on. Back in the olden days of the 20th Century, when I was growing up, we used to know that there were three kinds of Jews: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. That was it. Then I learned that there were other divisions among us: Sephardic Jews from the Mediterranean and Oriental Jews from parts east and south, as well as Ashkenazic ones like us; Israeli Jews, who were different from North American Jews; and English and Australian and South African Jews who spoke funny. As our horizons broadened we learned that there were other types: Hasidic Jews, who were Orthodox but dressed like they were Amish, and Reconstructionist Jews, who didn’t believe we were the Chosen People; even Renewal Jews, who were very touchy-feely and wore Birkenstocks. We even learned that there was something called Secular-Humanist Jews, who didn’t believe in God but did believe that they were Jews and got together in minyans to not pray.
Read more: The Lessons of the Heart - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Sermon Ekev 5776
August 12, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are well under way, and there is much to celebrate, gold medals and world records and new heroes and heroines for the world, as there are at every Olympics. There are Jewish Olympic stars this year, too, American born and Israeli, both. After an 8 year wait, Israel won its first Olympic medal since 2008 this week when Yarden Gerbi claimed a bronze medal in the women’s judo competition at the Rio games. She became the fourth Israeli judoka to take an Olympic medal, joining Yael Arad, Oren Smadja, and Arik Ze’evi in earlier Olympics. Israel’s four other Olympic medals have come in sailing or canoeing, two courtesy of Gal Fridman, including Israel's only gold medal. Gerbi also became just the second Israeli woman to win a medal. And American Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman added to her two Olympic golds and a bronze from 2012 in London with another team gold and an individual silver in the all-around gymnastics category, with some of her events left to go.
Superstar Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky isn’t Jewish—she is a practicing Catholic—but some of her remarkable motivation comes from her Jewish grandmother, Berta. When Katie was 10, Berta took her to a Jewish cemetery in Prague and showed her the graves of her family members who died during the Holocaust. The memory clearly stuck with Katie, and that visit is often on her mind, according to interviews.
Read more: The Olympics, Politics, and Tisha B’Av - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Sermon Devarim-Hazon 5776