Spirituality & Faith


Can Social Entrepreneurs Repair the World?

This week, I attended a meeting at my synagogue hosted by my rabbi, Elan Babchuck, featuring Irwin Kula – one of his mentors, and a national thought leader about the nature of contemporary religion. I don’t read most announcements I’m sent about events, because I don’t have them on my radar as things I’d generally consider attending. In this case, Elan invited me personally, and the title “Disruptive Spiritual Innovation” was certainly intriguing. Elan shared that his goal for the meeting was to understand national trends facing organized religion, and to consider......

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A Turning Point for Faith in America?

Across the U.S., people are talking about the latest in religious news: According to research, numbers keep trending down among the most popular sects of institutional Christianity in America. Many wonder what this means about the role of faith in our communities and our private lives. While I believe atheism is not on the rise, and interest among individuals who seek spiritual fulfillment remains as vibrant as ever, the upshot is this: “If you believe in tradition, figure out how to use it in new and creative ways.” Watch my recent appearance......

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New Research: Christianity on Decline

The trend continues: According to a large survey conducted last year by Pew Research, Christianity is on the decline in America across every race, gender, age, education level and geographic region. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years (2007-2014) to about 71 percent. At the same time, as reported in Pew’s survey results, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent, with millennials becoming even less affiliated with......

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How Does Disruptive Innovation Help Sacred Communities?

There was an unlikely group of guests at last month’s Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards: ten rabbis. This cohort (of which I was fortunate to be a part) was present through the Rabbis Without Borders program of Clal. As one of the few clergy among the attendees, there was an unspoken, but invaluable, question for me: Can religious communities survive disruptive innovation? Perhaps ironically, our very presence as standard-bearers of a religion that predates the Bronze Age was itself disruptive to the 800 participants, largely from across high tech, financial, governmental, and entrepreneurial......

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Words of Hope and Action, Inspired by Baltimore - and Amy Grant

Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, called for a day of prayer for Baltimore on Sunday. With the city curfew lifted by way of recognizing that any immediate threat of violence is largely passed, it seems like the Governor’s idea is a good one. Rather than giving so much attention only to what’s going most wrong (the “if it bleeds, it leads” approach), a day of prayer invites everyone involved to focus on what we hope can be better, and that for which we’re already grateful. Aspiration and gratitude: two of the most urgently......

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The 'Bare Vineyards' of Baltimore

There was a powerful confluence for me while studying last week’s assigned Torah portion alongside news coverage about the April 19 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. In Baltimore, Gray locked eyes with police and ran; when he was apprehended, officers radioed for a vehicle for transport. By the time the police van pulled into the precinct station, Gray had three broken vertebrae and a fractured voice box. He died of spinal injuries a few days later. Demonstrations drew thousands of peaceful protesters. But in the aftermath of Gray’s funeral, Baltimore burned (a......

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Celebrate Ideas that Break the Mold

So there I was last Friday morning on stage, about to smash a glass in front of hundreds of people. But this was no wedding. It was part of an opening ceremony at the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, which are sort of like MTV’s VMAs, but with a red hammer instead of a moon man. The awards celebrate “those whose ideas have broken the mold to create significant impact.”? Winners present that morning included Shane Smith of Vice Media, Bill Simmons of Grantland, Brad Katsuyama of IEX, Reshma Saujani of Girls Who......

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When We Self-Sacrifice, What Really Motivates Us?

Last week, I had to write a rather large check to the United States Treasury, and since my wife and I would really like to redo our house in the next few years, giving up all that money was very painful. But I doubt that I’m alone in that feeling. Every American taxpayer has just determined exactly how much of their hard-earned income has gone to the U.S. government, and whatever amount it was, we probably felt like that number was way too high. Having just gone through tax time, many of......

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The Blessing of Being a Child of Holocaust Survivors

On Thursday, Jews across the world commemorate Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). For survivors, it is a time to pause and recollect. For Jews everywhere, it is a time to affirm that we will never forget. For me, Yom Hashoah is only an accentuation. I am the son of two Holocaust survivors, the grandchild of another survivor and of three grandparents who did not survive. I commemorate the Holocaust every day. Children of survivors live in dual and occasionally dueling realities. On one hand, we did not ourselves witness the horrors of......

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Gratitude for 'Good Enough'

In the film Whiplash, Terrence Fletcher – the monomaniacal drum teacher played by J.K. Simmons – fervently attests that “the two most dangerous words in the English language are ‘good job.'” Someone hears these words of approval and loses the edge that spurs them to practice harder and go beyond expectations. No longer afraid of failing, their switch is turned off, and the world loses its next great accomplishment. Simmons’ performance is disturbing, and his behavior is never far from the line between discipline and abuse. Yet it’s hard to shake his......

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