Prominent Reconstructionist rabbi passes away (z”l) (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College)
The Reconstructionist movement has announced that Rabbi Jack Cohen, an influential leader within the movement, has passed away at the age of 93. Cohen (z”l) was close to Reconstructionist figurehead Mordecai Kaplan.
“He held various positions with the Foundation and with the Society for the Advancement of Judaism—including rabbi—until his aliyah to Israel in 1961. There, he became the director of the Hillel/B’nai Brith Foundation of the Hebrew University. He was a founder of Kehillat Mevakshei Derech and a passionate advocate for all things Reconstructionist in Israel. His many writings focused on the importance of education and the potential for democracy to transform Judaism.”
Updated: The original version of this article reported that Kaplan and Cohen studied together at Jewish Theological Seminary. While Cohen and Kaplan were both at JTS together (as the RRC writes, “He studied with Mordecai Kaplan at the Jewish Theological Seminary“), the report does not say Cohen and Kaplan were students at the same time. Our ambiguous phrasing has been clarified accordingly.
On Hitler and contextualizing tragedy (Forward)
In this survey of new biographies of important Nazi figures, Robert Zaretsky explores new interpretations of the life and times of the forerunners for one of history’s bloodiest genocides. In doing so, he takes a look at how historians, philosophers and more approach the “problem of Hitler” in their respective disciplines:
“And yet there are hundreds of Hitler biographies — enough to spawn meta-biographies, books like Ron Rosenbaum’s ‘Explaining Hitler,’ in which the author interviews historians, as well as theologians and philosophers, who have written on Hitler. For Rosenbaum, the endless stream of works on the Nazi leader reflects a ‘persistent anxiety that Hitler has somehow escaped explanation.’ His many interlocutors seem to agree: Historian H.R. Trevor-Roper, one of the earliest biographers of Hitler, confesses that his subject ‘remains a frightening mystery,’ while Alan Bullock, author of “Hitler: A Study in Tyranny,” concedes: ‘The more I learn about Hitler, the harder I find it to explain.’”
Israeli Masorti (Conservative) movement will ordain gays, lesbians (Haaretz)
In a historic decision, the Israel branch of Conservative Judaism has decided to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians for the rabbinate. Haaretz reports:
“The question whether or not to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis has been rattling the Conservative Movement in Israel and the U.S. for the past decade. Unlike the Reform movement that took to the question with ease, deciding firmly on the acceptance of gay rabbis. The Conservative Movement, whose rabbis see themselves bound to Jewish law, has been caught up in heated debate over the subject.”
What’s the deal with HBO’s ‘Girls’? (JTA)
Having heard a lot of buzz about HBO’s new program, “Girls,” we initially held off on posting anything until the haze of hype and critiques had cleared. But it looks like that might be a while, so we’re relenting. In this piece from JTA, Dvora Meyers explores the themes and “big ideas” of the show, which is one of the most talked about on television:
“But watch them struggle we will, and it won’t be pretty. However it’s a particular type of struggle and not one that is very easy to get behind. ‘Girls’ is not the story of underdogs, the children of immigrants or even a young adult from a middle-class background struggling in a recession that has been particularly hard on recent graduates. It follows four daughters of upper-class privilege — Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and college student Shoshana. These young women are not encountering institutional barriers to success but their own too-fortunate upbringings, which reinforced the idea that the lives and careers that awaited them were special and meaningful. They were not expecting boring nine-to-fives where no one saw them as unique snowflakes who have lived enough to write memoirs, as Hannah is doing while her parents foot the bills. (Hilariously, hers seems to be about six pages long, as befitting a 24-year-old who hasn’t been a child soldier, battled a life-threatening illness or escaped from a cult.)”