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Israel & Judaism through a Fresh Lens
Israel & Judaism through a Fresh Lens

The Soapbox

If two Jews have three opinions, what about a few hundred Gap Year students and teachers? Gather round for ideas, thoughts and Israel experiences.

Click here to submit your own essay for posting to the blog.

Michael Unterberg

Michael has been an educator for over 20 years. He was a founding member of the Torat Tzion Kollel movement in Cleveland, Ohio, where he and his wife Dara taught in and helped create the curriculum of the Fuchs Mizrachi School. Michael was the lead educator for ICNext, a training program for the broader Jewish Community in Cleveland. He was also a creative consultant the the Cleveland Playhouse. Michael studied philosophy in and received smicha from YU. Michael and Dara have five children and live in Efrat.

One More Time: The Law of Return isn’t Racist

It’s hard for a Jew who grew up in Brooklyn to admit, but sometimes, it isn’t worth arguing. It really does depend on the circumstance. Case in point: tour guides. Sure, I overhear lots of them walking around Jerusalem. And they often make odd mistakes or misrepresentations. While putting in my own two cents is tempting, there is little point. They’ll probably be defensive, and convince the tourists that you are a dufus once you walk away. Hence my strict “no arguing with tour guides” policy.

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On Kurds as Dhimmi

There’s a well known historical observation that antisemitism transformed in modernity. Crusaders and Nazis attacked Jews for different reasons. In the middle ages, Christians saw Jews as “other” and persecuted them for rejecting Jesus. As Europe secularized, antipathy towards the Jews became based on ethnicity and race rather than theology. With this shift, Jews themselves lost the escape route of conversion. Racial antisemitism in the Reich leads to a “final solution” in a way that never occurred to Popes or Feudal lords.

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The Partition Experiments

This coming April, we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the birth of the modern Jewish state. Before that happens, we’ll pass by a less celebrated date. November 29th will mark 70 years since the United Nations partition plan. We’ve seen the pictures of the celebrations after the vote passed. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a city in Israel that doesn’t have a “29th of November” street.

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No Profits in Prophets

I’m so afraid of the Bible.

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The Paradigm Shift

Fair warning: My first example won’t be good.

Sometimes teaching is hard, because some types of learning are hard. There are deep foundational ideas that can be heard, and even understood, but not integrated well into a person’s identity. Some bigger ideas need to be digested over time and experience. Teachers who want their students to achieve a deeper functional understanding of certain ideas may seek shortcuts. But they will probably not find them. Understanding an idea does not quickly create the full paradigm shift in thinking, no matter how deeply desired that outcome.

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Fail to the Chief?

“Is he/she good for Israel/the Jews?” It's probably the question most frequently asked by my students about any particular non-Israeli politician. I’m not surprised. Having grown up in the American Jewish community, I am very familiar with this pass/fail litmus test. A foreign leader is either good or bad for Israel.

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Let's Fix This

Are you finding that your conversations and newsfeeds are clogged by partisan miscommunication? Are people yelling past each other instead of talking to each other? 

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Your movement? Your move!

How do you know when something is done?

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The 5 Stages of Middle East Grief

Why so noisy?

Is your newsfeed still buzzing? Mine is. A week after the UNSC Resolution 2334, the American abstention, and the Kerry speech, there is still plenty of freaking out to be seen. No matter where one is on the political spectrum, there is no shortage of emoting.

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Whatever happened to Religious Zionism?

Is a hotdog a sandwich? Is a bowl of chili a kind of soup? Odd questions, but not so easy to answer. Sometimes definitions are elusive, and you have to go back to fundamentals find them. I’d like to argue that one can be a Zionist who is religious, but that doesn’t automatically make them a religious Zionist.

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