A Memoir of Gender Transition

In Through the Door of Life, Stern College professor Joy Ladin offers this analysis of why her colleague Moshe Tendler reacted so negatively to her announcement that she is transsexual: “Rabbi Tendler isn’t only worried about what I am; he is worried about what I mean.” This pithy line sums up why things transgender unsettle us so. It also hints at why this book is a worthwhile read for anyone.

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.

The Difference Between Holy and Nice: The Religious Counterculture

Polite. What could possibly be more antithetical to the heart of religion than the cool reserve of social propriety implied by that word? We’ve all seen it—the chilly, respectful friendliness; the ginger embrace that somehow reminds us of our separateness; the newcomers ignored at an Oneg Shabbat or coffee hour. We try to solve the problem through deputizing official badge-wearing “welcomers” or offering trainings in “hospitality” and, while some progress is sometimes made, the congregation is rarely transformed by these ex post facto measures into a community as religiously loving as the one described by Jasleen.

Privacy and Personhood in a World Without Mystery

It will not do merely to complain about the widespread and outrageous invasions of privacy that citizens of the developed world constantly suffer, nor to legislate against them one by one. If we really want to fix the privacy problem, we have to identify the underlying shift in society’s attitudes towards what it means to be a person.

Rethinking the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit

I was sitting on the balcony of a high-rise hotel in Southern California. The Pacific Ocean sparkled under a smog-free sky. A rabbi we’ll call Sol was enjoying the view with me. “Sol, we’ve become good enough friends now that I can ask you something kind of personal, right?” I asked. “Sure. Anything.” “What do you think of Jesus? I’m not asking that as a test question or as a prelude to an evangelistic presentation,” I explained. “I’m just curious.”

Levinas, Hitlerism, and New Atheist Revisionism

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, it became fashionable to view religion primarily as a source of strife. Future historians may view the rise of an intolerant new antireligious movement, New Atheism, as part of the generalized overreaction to the horror of September 11—an overreaction that also included the use of torture and mass detention, the abandonment of trial by jury, and the misguided American invasion of Iraq.