Rabbi Morton (Morty) Leifman: In Memoria

Morty Leifman was a man who believed to his last day that what went on inside those gates at JTS was a crucial part of American Judaism. Yet he was not Pollyannaish or uncritical – he could be devastatingly serious and cutting and would put his career on the line for something, or someone, he believed in. But through it all he remained a consummate believer in Conservative Judaism. When we sometimes expressed our doubts about that he heard us and responded in a serious and honest manner, always with a grin and a twinkle in his eye. He had his own way of being subversive. But even in some of the darker moments inside those gates, I don’t think Morty ever considered leaving them behind. That was his spiritual home.

Is Meir Kahane Winning?: Reflections on Benjamin Netanyahu, the Hilltop Youth, and AIPAC

There are few Jewish figures in the contemporary Jewish imaginary as seemingly irredeemable as Meir Kahane. In 1986 the Israeli Parliament passed “The Racism Law” specifically targeting Kahane and his KACH party that eventually removed him from the Knesset. Even though the law could arguably have been applied to others in subsequent Israeli Parliaments (even some who openly espouse allegiance to Kahane) it never has been and likely never will. It was a law legislated to invalidate one individual. In America, The Jewish Defense League he founded in 1968 has long been discredited, even as it still exists, and his vision of the diaspora, Jews, race, and ethno-absolutism is an embarrassment to much of the American Jewish public.

Scholarship and Provocation: A Response to Arthur Green’s Review of Hasidism Incarnate

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Arthur Green recently published a review of my recent book Hasidism Incarnate in Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations. The review raises some important issues in regards to the study of Hasidism and Hasidic literature more generally, and the nature of comparison in the study of religion. It also gestures toward the complex relationship between scholarship and theology that many of us, both in Jewish Studies more generally, and Jewish mysticism in particular, traverse in our work. I begin my discussion of the larger questions raised in the review with Green’s claim of omission. In his review Green notes that it is surprising that I chose not to invoke Psalm 90:1 A prayer to Moses, man of God (ish ha- Elohim) in my study as it would ostensibly support my basic contention about incarnational thinking.

From Anti-Zionism to Settler Post-Zionism: What do the Settler Movement and Neturei Karta Have in Common?

There are arguably no two movements in Israel as disparate as the Settler Movement (known as Yesha) and Neturei Karta. Yesha represents the community of Israelis who live in the West Bank. It does not support a two-state solution and remains wed to a Greater Israel ideology that claims all of historic Erez Israel belongs to the Jews. Members of Neturei Karta are what we might call premillenialists. They are against a Jewish State in the Land of Israel claiming that tradition dictates that the messiah will come solely by divine fiat and the job of the Jews is to perform mitzvot and passively await his arrival.

Retelling Hasidism for the Twenty-First Century

A Hidden Light is the interesting experiment of an insider who stands outside a world he left but never abandoned. The work is neither critical nor apologetic, nor is it polemical. It is the loving, creative rendition of a devotee who has tried in his long career to separate Hasidism’s radical theology from its rigid and conventional sociological framework.