Author: Matthew Friedman

The Zionist Problem: Divided Loyalties in the Jewish Diaspora

The Stars and Stripes stand to the right of the Ark on the bimah at my local shul in the Chicago suburbs; the Degel Yisra’el, the blue-and-white flag of the State of Israel, stands to its left. It’s just another Shabbat in the diaspora. The presence of Zionism and the State of Israel in diaspora Jewish life is so pervasive that, after a while, you stop seeing it; yet it is always there, in the synagogue sanctuary and without. When I was a camper at Camp Wooden Acres and the YMHA Country Camp in the Laurentians north of Montreal,[*]...

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On Atonement

When I was a growing up, my mother used to tutor one of my brother’s high school friends in English. J.P. was a sweet kid, if a little rough around the edges, and he needed a little more help with his schoolwork that his parents could provide. So there he’d be, two evenings a week in our dining room, going through spelling and reading drills. He really appreciated all the help, and one evening, as he headed out the door, he offered this compliment with a friendly, open smile: “There are two kinds of Jews: there are rich Jews...

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The Reason for the Season: Recognizing the Christ in Christmas

My old friend Nicholas wished me a “merry non-culturally-specific winter festival” on Facebook. I appreciate the gesture, and I happily returned the sentiment, but as I walked past the giant, light-up creche in front of my neighbour’s house last night, I reflected that this winter festival is very culturally-specific, indeed. There is a “reason for the season” that goes well beyond eggnog, giftwrap, and red-nosed reindeers, as the culture warriors at Fox News and subway preachers never tire of reminding us. Paula White, the prosperity pastor, and White House spiritual advisor, praised the President for “putting Christ back in...

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American Pogrom

We have been saying Kaddish all week for eleven people murdered in the sanctuary of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We have said it in our schuls, standing in the autumnal chill at candlelight vigils, contemplatively in the solitude of our homes. For many of us, it is a profound expression of faith; for others, it is a habit that has returned in a moment of horror and grief. The first Aramaic words come easily, even when we can’t remember the whole prayer: יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּשׁ שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא, yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba… We have said these words before,...

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Letter to America

Come From Away is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway. It was nominated for seven Tony awards last year and won the prize for Best Direction of a Musical. A film adaptation is in the works. The musical tells the story of what happened when 38 airliners en-route to and from the United States were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland when American air traffic was grounded following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The people of Gander welcomed the passengers and crews – mostly Americans – with open arms. It is a story of a shared humanity, of the...

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