Thoughts about death and living life -by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

February 23, 2012

One of my favorite stories is one told of a great rabbi and mystic who lived several centuries ago, Rabbi Menachem Mendal of Kotzk.  He asked his students, “What would you do if you knew you had only one more week to live?”  The first answered, “I would spend it with my family,” another said, “I would spend it doing mitzvoth, good acts of kindness,”  a third said” I would spend it studying Torah, meditating and praying.”   Then they turned to Rabbi Menachem Mendal and asked him, rabbi, “and what would you do?”   Answered the rabbi, “I would do what I do every day.”


I have often wondered what it would be like to know I was dying.  We all are, you know.  Religion runs the risk of missing this.  Often it either focuses on a different world after death, and so misses the impact of living here and now in a way informed by the reality of our death, or fixated on how to perform the details of this life, its proscriptions, beliefs and rituals, shrinking the space humans have in which to sit back and really feel the great reality of death; that we are dying and on some level, for even the most profound believer, death brings with it annihilation, nonbeing as we know it.


Some will instinctively dismiss this notion with, “yes, but for a better life with God.”   Perhaps, but even if that is so, if we do not give ourselves the opportunity to know we are dying, to feel the dread of oblivion first, then we have ignored an important gift.   Being human, truly being present in the here and now, means knowing we will cease to be.   Many deny death, ignore death in these and other much more superficial ways, but to live in a state of avoidance is perhaps to not really live.


How would you live if you knew we are dying?  (Which again I remind you, we are.)  What regrets do you have?   What changes can be made?  What letters written?  What experiences had?  What really is meaningful and what is not?  Why are we here?   What is my unique place and mission in this mysterious, but I believe meaningful, world?



Dubai is not Indonesia, by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

February 22, 2012

Eight Hours in Dubai: More Enlightening than I Thought

I had been looking forward to spending a little time in Dubai, on our way from Jakarta to Amman and finally, Thursday night to Jerusalem. However, it turned into a mini adventure that put the day’s activities into perspective.

This morning was a great session hammering out a consensus statement from the group. Many Muslim leaders – from the States and Indonesia – emphasized how important it was for the Arab world and the Muslim world to recognize the State of Israel – but, of course, they wanted it along with recognizing either the rights of the Palestinians to a state, or, some beyond that, to outright recognizing Palestine. 

In the end, we crafted a document that recognized the national aspirations of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. I was very happy with that language which did not attempt to propose a political solution to achieve that goal.

But it was impressive that Muslims had moved their people so close to recognizing Israel. 

After the session, one of the Indonesians worked hard to explain how Hana – in Javanese, meaning existence, was like – אהיה אשר אהיה – I will be Whom I will be. I don’t always understand them, but all the Indonesians – Christian and Muslim – are proud of how the Javanese culture has integrated Hinduism and Buddahism with Islam. 

Dr Yousuf – of the NU organization which represents the 30 million Muslims, mentioned yesterday, sat next to me on the bus to the airport and he said the organization stands for: Moderation, Tolerance, Balance.

Interestingly: Indonesians wear ties – the don’t interpret the Qur’anic verse of prohibiting going in the ways of the pagans (like the Torah’s “uv’chukoteihem lo telechu – the ways of the gentiles) in the way the Iranians or the old ulama (religious leaders) used to. They consider prohibiting ties to be merely a political prohibition. Kids in the religious boarding school we saw yesterday wore ties as did their teachers…

So that’s Indonesia. Smiles – sincere smiles – from everyone, and at least the language of tolerance and respect. Felt so comfortable there – so welcome. The government might not be doing enough to fight the forces of intolerance, but at least they seem to believe in respect and tolerance for all.

And on Emirates Airlines we felt the same way: they have kosher meals on Emirates – from Belgium. Not so good, but very kosher. And they have good Scotch (Glenfiddich 15…). So the airline was fine.

But Dubai is a world apart – no more smiles from anybody. What a contrast!

And with the five Jews in our group of 24 wearing kippot, it didn’t take long for the trouble, or challenges that I wrote of on Facebook just a few hours ago. A soldier/officer type asked me how many Jews were in the group. And while I answered, that I thought about 5, I really didn’t feel good about answering. Both the Muslims and the Christians in the group that were aware of the reason for the delay – that soldier had to ask his superiors, etc. – were very supportive. One Imam offered to wear a kippah. The Episcopalian was not happy with the excuse the guard in the white robe gave that there was no problem with Jews in Dubai, just for our own protection we had to either cover our kippot with a hat or take them off.

Some of us joked that this felt like an Entebbe moment – I cannot remember when I personally have ever been selected or separated as a Jew. In the end a Palestinian American Imam schmoozed with the guard, and tried to sensitize him to how it would feel if a Muslim woman were asked to remove her head covering. We shared Hadith about Muhammad and Jews who liked him. There is a lot of work to be done, but still believe it starts with relationship building.

So I sign off from an ornate hotel room in a glitzy hotel in Dubai, wearing my kippa. The guard said we could inside the hotel… I want to see how things will be in Jordan, Ramallah and Bethlehem. But I am with a great group, and we are all growing together.

Layla tov and Shalom al Yisrael,


Asher Lopatin

Sen. Santorum and the Orthodox Vote by R. Yosef Kanefsky

February 22, 2012

An item posted yesterday (2/21) on JTA quoted political commentator Alan Steinberg as  asserting that “[Sen. Rick Santorum’s]  stance on social issues will be a plus, particularly in the Orthodox community.” This is a markedly glib assessment however, reflecting both an ignorance of and disrespect for the sophistication  and nuance of Jewish law. There may be other reasons that Orthodox Jews may prefer Santorum, but his positions on several social issues stand in stark opposition to deeply entrenched Jewish legal tradition.

Jewish law does prohibit abortion on demand. Not because it regards a fetus as a human being, rather because it sees a fetus as representing potential life.  Though this distinction may seem subtle, it carries enormous legal implications. Jewish Law not only permits but actually mandates abortion in a situation in which a fetus is  (unwittingly of course) threatening the life of its mother. This is directed by the same principle that mandates that Shabbat be violated when life is in in danger. In Maimonides’ words, “the laws of the Torah were not given to inflict vengeance on the world, rather [to bring] compassion, kindness and peace to the world. (Laws of Shabbat 2:3)”.  Nor is the halachik discussion about abortion  limited to cases in which the threat to a mother’s life is physical, with numerous authorities also regarding the prospect of severe emotional or psychological trauma as grounds for abortion.

 And the issue is actually bigger than abortion per se. Jewish law bestows virtually no legal status at all upon fertilized embryos that are not implanted in a mother’s womb. This is why the Orthodox community has always been vocally in favor utilizing such embryos for stem cell research (See for example the statement of the Rabbinical Council of America’s statement  - ). While stem cell research is not as hot an issue as it was a few years ago, its return to research prominence – or the emergence of another, similar technology – is not at all unlikely.

Jewish Law also stands at odds with Senator Santorum’s anti-regulation approach to the relationship between humankind and the Earth. Judaism’s legal approach is defined by the tension between the Torah’s dueling directives that we  subdue the Earth (Genesis, Chapter 1) and simultaneously guard over it (Chapter 2). We are thus directed for example, to take full advantage of the earth’s fertility, and are simultaneously prohibited to needlessly destroy fruit-bearing trees. We are permitted to use animals for purposes of work and food, but we are prohibited to cause them physical or emotional distress (even muzzling an animal while it is threshing grain is prohibited by the Torah), or to drive a species toward extinction (see Nachmanides to Deuteronomy 22:6, regarding the  requirement to shoo away a mother bird before taking its young). The Talmud (Brachot 35a) charges us with the obligation to  navigate the tension between “the  Earth and it fullness are God’s” and “the Earth He gave to the sons of man”. We strive for balance, recognizing that we are at all times both  “subduers” and “guardians”.  In the words of the Midrash, “At the time when G-d created Adam, He took him around the trees of the Garden of Eden, and He said to him, ‘Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! Everything that I created, I created for you; take care that you do not damage and destroy My world, for if you damage it, there is no one to repair it afterwards! (Kohellet Rabbah 7)

On issues like feminism and even homosexuality Judaism’s worldview  is more sophisticated, nuanced and wiser than Senator Santorum’s is. The two should never be confused for one another.






People Who Smile at You Even if You Don’t Know Them: The Magic of Indonesia with Rabbi Lopatin

February 21, 2012

I’m overwhlemed and energized with one full day in Indonesia: A land of gracious, humble people who are courageously breaking from a fog and taking a new look at Israel and the Middle East. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so please allow me to recap today’s events:

After waking up earlier than I had wanted, davening – facing West still – and scarfing down some tuna wraps, I had a bit of time to walk around our hotel.  Of course it’s impossible to “discover” Indonesia or even Jakarta by a 30 minute walk around the hotel, but I did discover gracious people all of whom smiled at me when I smiled at them – strangers, simple folks, deep frying food in the street for breakfast all around the area.  Indonesians are big foodies, and even just the fruit, which is all I have been eating, is fresh and delicious.  There is an element of innocence in this tropical Republic of 260 million people.  I know that’s probably naive, but the people’s responsiveness is captivating.  I only wish that when we wish “Shabbat shalom” to people around us, those we know and don’t know, that we get the same kind of warm, friendly, no-strings-attached response.  Im yirtzeh Hashem – may it be God’s will.  

We started with a visit to the Cathedral (Catholic), which overlooks the Independence Mosque, which overlooks the Protestant church. There certainly are issues with elements in Indonesia not being tolerant and burning churches. However, official line is one of tolerance and respect, and the Muslim organizations are supporting that. In fact, Dr. Yusuf, the co-chair from Indonesia of our mission, heads a 30 million strong Muslim organization and political party – he was a member of parliament – and he told me that his
Muslim organization sends its members to guard churches on Christmas. The
Minister of Defense of the largest Muslim country – is Catholic!

You go from the Cathedral, the biggest church in Indonesia, to the biggest Mosque in Southeast Asia (third biggest in the world), by crossing the street. The Istiqlal Mosque means independence mosque. Like many things in Indonesia, it is built with gematria symbols – the hight of this represents this, the length of this represents this, etc. Apparently, that is a Javanese influence – everything is symbolic. It was pointed out that the architect for the Istiqlal Mosque, Frederick Sylavan (sp?) was Christian and also designed the Lutheran church. In the mosque is a 300 year old drum – called a batuk – and… it’s a Hindu minhag (custom) taken over by Islam here. They use it twice a day to call people to prayer (even though prayers are 5 times a day…).

When you look out in the direction of the qibla – Mecca – you see the spires of the Protestant church. Everything in this country speaks of tolerance and blending and taking from other cultures. True, there were almost no Jews here to speak of – perhaps 1000 at its peak – but that makes the warmth here toward the Jews in the delegation even more surprising and powerful. The Muslim leaders in the group – some of them anthropologists, some studying women and Islam – are eager to learn, not only more about Judaism, but also about Israel. They are excited to be going, and everyone repeats that this is an historic gathering of leaders who really want to make a difference.

We met with some young boys and girls – the girls sit in the back, behind the boys – learning in the mosque school, and I even was introduced as a rabbi who knows the first chapter of the Qur’an (the Fatiha) by heart. I think they thought the whole thing strange… But as Indonesians, they were polite and clapped at the end…

From the Cathedral and Mosque we went to an ornate building, Independence Hall, where the Indonesian Declaration of Independence was signed, to meet with the foreign minister. Gold all over, crystal chandeliers, sitting around a fancy table with place cards – for some reason I sat right next to the Foreign Minister and our host, the Ambassador to Washington, Ambassador Jallal. White glove service of tea with Equal packets – what a country! – and sweets (not kosher- but they looked nice).

The foreign minister is a humble, youthful engaging man, tall, man who introduced himself and then asked us all to speak. After our leader, Rabbi Sid Schwarz, introduced the goals of the mission – to use religion to bring peace to the Middle East – he asked to hear from us. I urged him to bring the engaging, tolerant culture of Indonesia to the Middle East. I would love for Indonesia to recognize Israel. In subsequent conversation, we got the foreign minister to declare his support for a Two State Solution, but not – yet – to recognize Israel. Indonesia does “recognize” Palestine, and it even has a Palestinian embassy in Jakarta. But we tried…

Indonesians are the most humble and modest people I think I have ever met – Jews are supposed to be that way – and we are deep down – but Indonesians are that way from the moment you meet them and they smile back when you smile, and say hello – everyone, from the stranger on the street to the people you sit around the table with talking about the Middle East. The Ambassador, who came a few minutes late to the table, apologized not only to the group, but to me personally – how ironic, Mr. On Time Rabbi – for coming late. Amazing people. I need to remember to get a kippa for the Ambassador – he asked for one for his birthday.

And… all the Indonesian diplomats are using iPads. Very cool.

Foreign minister said he was very supportive of the goals of mission – admires “inclusive outlook”. Praise for Ambassador Dino Jallal who made the mission happen. Indonesia is proud of its motto: Unity in diversity. And he claimed that they practice on a day to day basis. He admitted that there were challenges from those less tolerant. But overall adherence to respect, etc. “Interfaith tolerance is in our DNA…”

From the Foreign Ministry – which occupies Independence Hall – we went to a modern building for lunch at the Religion Ministry. I had three courses of delicious fruit. So far I have subsided on a lot of fruit and the tuna sandwiches. The tune is fine; I am praying hard that all this delicious fruit will be OK.

The Assistant Minister of Religion who sat at our table, emphasized that at its moment of independence Indonesia specifically avoided calling itself an Islamic state. They are not. But, on the other hand, there is not a full separation of church and state. It’s not religious but not secular.

After lunch we headed for an Islamic Boarding school. There are thousands of these, throughout Indonesia, and they are even more religious than the government religious schools. Kind of like Israel and America: There are public schools, days schools (Mamlachti Dati/Torani in Israel) and then Yeshivas and seminars…

But these frumest of the schools still are co-ed – girls and boys have separate classes and separate dormitories fare away from each other – and we got to spend some fun time with the kids. They were all delightful, engaging, smiling, sweet – everything that their adult counterparts are. Very unique for students to be this engaging.

The boarding school teachers explained that even in this highly religious environment, the schools are multi disciplinary. #1 extra curricular activity: marching band – the girls said this! Frum, modest “tziusdik” cheer leaders…

But here’s an interesting fact:

Since 1970s Indonesia has had women judges in Islamic courts…

We came back inspired by the leaders, by the students and by our group which is excited to forge new frontiers by flying to Israel. Yes, we are also meeting with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and Bethlehem. But the “chidush” – the novelty – will be our time in Israel and Jerusalem, Yad Vashem and far beyond and with President Peres.

I ended off the day eating fresh lichee fruit – learning how to peel them, which is as easy as a banana. And then hair fruit and some giant leather fruit. I’ll have pictures soon.

Time to get to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s meetings where we will finalize a letter to all the heads of state about our mission. Interesting discussions no doubt.

Shalom al Yisrael and layla tov – Good night from Jakarta!

Asher Lopatin



In Jakarta with Rabbis, Christian Clergy and Imams, with Rabbi Lopatin

February 20, 2012

Arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia, to sweltering Tel Aviv-in-the-summer type weather. The airport kind of feels like a tropical hotel, with walkways to customs that look out on to lawns and gardens.

After thinking about whether I should where a baseball hat (with a suit?) or my kippa, I opted for a kippa. I thought that if someone starts to give me a hard time – a guard, etc. – I would switch to a hat. But people – everyone: guards, police, people at the passport control, customs, taxi people – could not have been nicer or more gracious. Totally comfortable here.

At passport the man in the booth asked purpose of my visit – I said it was an interfaith mission with Christians and Muslims and Jew. He asked – was I Christian? No, I said, Jewish. Stamp!

The Avis taxi people got me a cab, and then when one had already been ordered by my hosts, they graciously voided my cab fair, and the Avis driver was walked me back to get my money back – no fighting or quibbling as the taxi people do in some other countries, ehem, ehem, and another man seeing my kippa said, Oh you are Jewish… First I thought he said he was Jewish, but I think he meant he was going to visit Israel, but in any case, very friendly – he was Christian. A lot of Christians around here seem to be happy to see a Jew – an even smaller minority than them. Christians are about 10%, Jews – well, there are now 25 in the country including the 5 rabbis.

Believe it or not, but Jakarta has E-toll speed pass! Looks kind of like Israel when you leave the airport with a mixture of hi rises and low rises or single family bungalow. All of Jakarta looks a lot like Tel Aviv with its slummier areas and more modern areas.

Still have the auto rickshas I remember from India 25 years ago! But on the other hand, I think an important measure of how advanced the country is can be seen by the helmets worn by motor cyclists. Every single one of the drivers – on the smallest motor scoter, moped etc. – wears a helmet – and most passengers as well.

Many people wear face masks – pollution… I think that’s an Asian thing…

Right near the hotel is the national (Catholic) cathedral, which shares a parking lot with a giant mosque. Whatever he issues may be in parts of the country between Christians and Muslims – Muslims burning down churches and not being convicted – in theory and on the ground to a great extent this country is still firmly committed to diversity.

In our opening session, getting to know each other – there are 24 us total, with 5 rabbis, and about 8 Christians, one of the members of our group, who represents that largest Muslim organization in Indonesia – 30 million members – spoke passionately about how the Western world and Islam have to come closer together, not further apart. Also, the voices here were about Islam not blaming the West for its challenges – but he hoped the West would not blame Islam either for the acts of radicals.

Another Imam said how good things were in the old days of Medina, when Muhammad “hung out” with the Jews and Christians. But I challenged this view: The Qur’an speaks over and over again about how evil the Yahud – the Jews – of Medina were. Yet another Imam gave a brilliant – homiletic, forced, perhaps, but based on the great commentator Zemachshari – that even in the Qur’an there is a difference between Al-Yahud – THE individual Jews who were so bad to Muhammad and his followers – and Yahud – Jews in general who dwelled in Medina even after Muhammad’s death. Another Muslim leader concurred. It doesn’t really matter to me what Muhammad actually meant, or what the Qur’an really meant. What is important is that I am hearing that there is a different narrative – a narrative tolerant and respectful of the Jews – that is coming out of some circles of Islam. The question is whether this progressive, embracing narrative will win, or will the intolerant rejectionist narrative of the fundamentalists win?

Discovery: Our sponsor is not the Indonesian government. We are guests of the Indonesian Ambassador to Washington, who has taken serious risks to his own career for bringing this diverse multi-faith group together and to go to the Middle East. But our sponsor is mainly a very nice TV mogul who, in honor of our group, is going to have a Muslim, Christian and a Jew on Indonesian TV tomorrow morning. This is all unprecedented. Interestingly, the TV mogul’s parents are intermarried – Muslim father, Christian mother – but it has lead him to believe that we can bridge gaps. Interesting. Even in America, where we desperately are trying to get Jews to marry Jews, sometimes something good comes out of an intermarriage… Food for thought.

Speaking of food: I was able to pass through security (carry on) with tuna and mayonnaise and flat breads – and Rabbi Julie Schohnfeld packed more tuna in her suitcase for me – so even though there really isn’t any kosher food besides fruit, I will be fine.

Ending on one sobering note: For all the divisions that Muslims have, one of the Muslim ulama’a pointed out that they all pray together. Even millions in Mecca can all pray together – whereas Jews are really finicky about where we daven – certainly outside of our denomination, but even within! But Rabbi Peter Nobel pointed out that a Reformation has never really come to Islam. So maybe we just have to give them time…

It’s bedtime in Jakarta.

Layla tov and more adventures God willing in the morning – including meeting the Foreign Minister and I hope to push him on relations with Israel.

Asher Lopatin

With Hashem’s Help, Let the Indonesia Interfaith Middle East Peace Tour Begin! Rabbi Asher Lopatin

February 20, 2012

Writing from Hong Kong Airport, where I’m waiting for my flight to Jakarta:

It was hard to believe this would happen, but here I am davening shacharit, having lost a day (Sunday disappeared) and facing West to Israel!  I decided that since I lost the Song of the Day for “Yom Rishon B’shabat” (Sunday), I would say after Monday’s Song of the Day “Today is Sunday in Israel, where the Leviim used to say in the Temple…”

The Indonesian government has generously invited five rabbis, four Christian clergy and three American Muslim clerics to fly to Jakarta, meet up with 12 Indonesian (probably all Muslim) clergy, and then head to Dubai (just one night), Jordan, Israel (including Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv), then to Washington DC for meetings with the State Dept., the White House and Congress.  The mission, ostensibly: Finding ways of using our three Abrahamic religions to bridge gaps and promote peace.  Indonesia is a thriving Democracy, by all accounts, but it is on the cusp of deciding: Will it continue to embrace the more progressive, relatively tolerant Islam that it derived in its struggle against colonialism from such thinkers as Muhammad Abdu and Afghani, or will it give in to the newer forces of Islamic fundamentalism coming from the Middle East, which are beginning to proliferate in Indonesia.  While Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, there is potential for warmer relations, and the fact that this group of non-official, but influential,  Indonesians will be meeting with President Shimon Peres and a lot of other Israeli luminaries hopefully bodes well.

I intend to write almost daily on Morethodoxy from each of cities where we will be having conversations and relationship building exercises.  The five rabbis on this trip represent the spectrum of organized Jewish life in America: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist.  Certainly none of us speaks for a movement, but together I hope that the discussions are frank and honest, with all sides seeing different dimensions of Judaism, and hopefully Christianity and Islam as well.

Looking forward to writing from Jakarta where I hope to arrive Monday afternoon at 2:00 PM Indonesian time.

Shalom al Yisrael, Peace on Israel and from Israel to the whole world,

Asher Lopatin

Gendered Expectations and the Experience of Children, Guest Post by Dr. Alan Krinsky

February 17, 2012

Gendered Expectations and the Experience of Children

Alan Krinsky


Something critical is missing in the impassioned discussions over tensions within the Orthodox world. Beyond the philosophical and halakhic divisions and debates over the she-lo asani ishah blessing and women’s participation, little or no attention has been paid to the actual experience of people, especially children.

What do children experience in regard to gender and appropriate gender roles? Do they truly believe or understand that God created men and women with differences, with different roles, but that neither men nor women are “better” than the other in some fundamental sense? That God is neither male nor female? Now, I could be far off the mark, but I do not imagine that most of our children have absorbed such sophisticated theological concepts.

What, instead, do they think and experience? Do young boys and girls genuinely hear the she-lo asani ishah blessing and understand it according to the most common explanation, that it refers to the additional mitzvos incumbent upon men? Or, do boys and girls alike learn from this and other words and practices that men are better than women in an essential sense? That, while we are all created in the image of God, men are more so than women? That at the banquet in the next world, men are sitting at the table and not women? That only a man has the potential to achieve the status of a Gadol in any sense? 

In brief, when boys say she-lo asani ishah, do they really believe they are better than girls? And do girls also believe this when they hear it?

As a member of an OU shul with a YU Rabbi, with a daughter (in an Orthodox Jewish high school) studying Gemara in the same class and at the same level as boys, I can only guess at the gender expectations of my daughter’s peers, the ones with whom she went to elementary school, a mixed Haredi and Modern Orthodox one.

As far as I can tell, the normative, expected course for these girls is graduation from high school, followed by a year at seminary, possibly a college degree part-time, and marriage and children not too long after the completion of high school. They will not become Talmudic scholars, even if more capable and inclined than many of the boys. (And these girls, even the most brilliant, will not become doctors, neither of Medicine nor of Philosophy.) In a world where this is the epitome of a life in this world, what does she-lo asani ishah mean, and what effect does it have on girls and boys?

At the least, I would suggest, we not rush to condemn Rabbis or laypersons who express their discomfort with a blessing like this and imagine a different world—one remaining squarely within the four amos of halakha, if not quite adhering to what most of us feel is traditional. We should dan lecaf zechus, give the benefit of the doubt, and take these people at their word, that they are committed to a life of mitzvos and Torah. That their concerns, even anguish, is not unreasonable. That they not be pushed out of the tent of Orthodoxy. 

The last question, one for which I have no answer, is whether or not—if such experiences are genuine—whether or not these facts should influence how we understand and even rule on the matter? And maybe, I might humbly suggest, the values our children experience and learn could be considered, even by poskim, in determining whether or not reciting the she-lo asani ishah blessing is necessary for men to remain within the tent of Orthodox Judaism, on an equal level with keeping kosher and keeping Shabbos. If this blessing, in fact, contributes towards inculcating a set of beliefs none of us hold—including that men are in some essential way “better” than women—is that itself reasonable cause for its reconsideration?



Alan Krinsky, PhD, MPH, works full-time as a Senior Analyst in the field of healthcare quality improvement, and is also a writer. He was previously a monthly columnist for Rhode Island’s Jewish Voice & Herald, and his essays have been published at The Huffington Post, in The Providence Journal, and on the online version of The Forward. He lives with his family in Providence, RI and currently serves as the President of Congregation Beth Sholom.