(All answers can be found in the Spring 1998 issue.)

  1. According to "Jewish Macho" author Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, "A major factor in male synagogue flight is careerism. As a predominantly upper-middle-class group, many Jewish men hold high-power jobs that require long hours, commuting, and business travel. Some of the most creative, assertive, and dynamic Jewish men simply don't have the time to bring these qualities to the synagogue community." Also, "many congregations focus mainly on the education of children, so-called 'pediatric Judaism.' If synagogues are child-centered, and if women are still primarily responsible for child-rearing, then the congregation becomes a place for women and children first." In addition, "men of all faiths often associate spirituality with so-called 'feminine' characteristics: inwardness, openness, vulnerability, and nurturing. By contrast, American masculinity connotes independence, industriousness, and competition." (pp. 29-30)

  2. Rabbi Salkin argues that the Bible teaches us that men need two kinds of masculinity--toughness and gentility. "The sibling stories in Genesis all feature a typically masculine brother and a less typically (or, should we say, more Jewishly) masculine brother: Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers. In their various rivalries, the tough and warlike brothers always lose out in the end to the more docile, intellectual ones. But there is a sacred paradox: in the end, the feuding brothers must reunite. Ishmael and Isaac are reconciled when they bury their father Abraham. Jacob and Esau embrace and weep. Joseph forgives his brothers in Egypt." (p. 32)

  3. Says Nimoy: "It's very important to spread the idea that coming out of Egypt, out of bondage, was a liberation process. We need to emphasize that every person is somehow in bondage, so at our seder we ask everyone at the table to think about what they have liberated themselves from in this past year. What growth, what discoveries have they had? What liberation from previous burdens of commitments or binding concepts that have held them back?" Nimoy adds, "In the past 10 to 15 years, I've come out of a cocoon in which I was bound up by obsessive career goals at the expense of personal life. I've lately given myself the license to be much more engaged with my family and our personal activities, and let the career be equal or at best hold second place." (p. 35)

  4. "A get can only be initiated by the husband. A rabbinic court cannot compel a husband to grant his wife a get, except under highly restricted circumstances. Yet without a get an observant Jewish woman is still considered married. It is sinful for her to date another man. Any children from a subsequent marriage will be deemed illegitimate under Jewish law. All of this has led to abuses and even extortion by husbands seeking revenge." (p. 81)

  5. Nashim is the Hebrew word for women. It was also the name of the first NFTY all-girls retreat held last November at Wilshire Boulevard Temple's Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu, CA, centered around concepts of body and self. (p. 85)

  6. The 1955 production offered a universalist message that met with the approval of Anne Frank's father, Dr. Otto Frank. An authentic Jewish version of the diary was also available in the fifties, written by the Jewish novelist, Meyer Levin. Joining with Levin, many Reform rabbis at the time waged a tireless battle, demanding that the Jewish meaning of the diary not be expunged in the Broadway interpretation. (p. 96)

  7. According to Rabbi Harold Schulweis, Judaism approves of work, but endless work is considered a curse. Exodus 20:9-10 reads: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord." After Adam transgressed, God punished him: "In toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of your life. In the sweat of thy brow, in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till you return to the ground." On Shabbat, says Schulweis, "we can create the balance indispensable for our sanity, our health, and the solidity of our family lives." (pp. 11-13)

  8. In ancient times a mezuzah was actually a door frame. The words of the Shema--"Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One"--contained in the mezuzah today were once written on the door frame itself. (p. 59)

  9. An omer is a sheaf of barley. Jews traditionally counted the omer of the barley harvest from Passover to Shavuot as a way to contain the anxiety of waiting for what they hoped would be a good outcome--a bounty of food. (p. 60)

  10. Emily Dickinson. (p. 74)

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Copyright © 1998, Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Most recent update 18 Feb 1998