Bone Marrow Drive – Ayelet Galena

In the eight years I’ve maintained this blog, there have been over 800 posts published and yet I’ve never used this blog for a purpose such as this. Until now.

Seth Galena is one-half of the creative and comedic energy behind the website (“Kosher Comedy Community”). I’ve been a fan of for years and have gotten to know Seth and his brother/partner Isaac Galena in the Cyber World, though we’ve never met in person.

Now Seth and his family need some important assistance and I’d like to help spread the word. Please keep reading…

Ayelet, a loveable one-year-old daughter to Hindy Poupko and Seth Galena was recently diagnosed with a rare bone marrow failure disorder and is in need of a bone marrow transplant to survive. They are in the search for a perfect match and need your help. Since tissue type is inherited, Ayelet’s best chance of finding a genetically matched donor lies with those of Eastern European ancestry, however, there are many patients of all backgrounds in need of donors for transplants, so we encourage everyone to join the registry. You never know who may need one. It’s a simple cheek swab sample to help save a life!

To join the Bone Marrow Registry, you only need to be between the ages of 18-60, be willing to donate to any patient in need and meet the health guidelines. Once you join you never need to join again. For more info go to

Bone Marrow Drives to help locate a donor for Ayelet are taking place all over the country. I highly encourage you to find one and join the Bone Marrow Registry.

Whoever saves a single life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.
-Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Baseball Conservative Judaism Kosher Kosher Michigan Orthodox Judaism Politics

Twins Beat Mets in Kosher World Series

The Minnesota Twins have never played the New York Mets in a World Series, but when it comes to having Kosher food at the ballpark the Twins win.

Kosher Sports Inc. had been the exclusive Glatt Kosher provider at Shea Stadium, the former stadium of the NY Mets, since 2006. In 2008, the and Kosher Sports Inc. announced a multi-year agreement for the kosher concession company to continue as the exclusive Glatt Kosher concessionaire at Citi Field, which opened in 2009. However, things haven’t gone so smoothly in this agreement.

Kosher Sports Inc. says its contract with the Mets allows it to offer its kosher food at every game at Citi Field, the New York Daily News reported. The Mets’ management, however, issued a ban on sales during the Jewish Sabbath — between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. This is likely the first case of a Major League Baseball team being more strict on kosher standards than a kosher food supplier. (There are of course those who would contend that a Jewish person attending a baseball game and purchasing food there on the Jewish Sabbath may not be that punctilious about the kosher laws.)

So, the case was all set to be heard by a federal judge who was to decide whether a vendor can sell kosher food during Mets games on the Jewish Sabbath. However, that federal judge had to recuse himself from the case because he was seen wearing a Mets baseball hat during a break in the trial and once wore a necktie with the Mets team colors during the trial.

Things seem to be going much more swimmingly in the Midwest. Kosher food will be offered at Target Field for the first time. In Target Field’s second season as the Minnesota Twins’ home field, fans will be able to purchase Hebrew National hot dogs and all the fixings from a strictly kosher card behind home plate.

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Avi Olitzky of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park will provide the kosher certification and supervision. I was honored to provide some counsel to Rabbi Olitzky when he launched his kosher certification agency, MSP Kosher, a year ago. It’s wonderful to see other Conservative rabbis in the kosher certification arena, helping to create more options for the kosher consumer while maintaining strict standards, transparency, and sound business ethics.

The Star Tribune reports that “The cart will still be open Fridays and Saturdays but won’t be supervised.” I’m glad to see the Twins organization is not causing the same ruckus that led the Mets to a courtroom where Kosher Sports is seeking $1 million for breach of contract.

Congratulations to Rabbi Olitzky for bringing kosher hot dogs to the ballpark in Minnesota and to the Minnesota Twins for not messing up a good thing.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Conservative Judaism Judaism and Technology Rabbis

The Answer for Conservative Judaism’s Rebound

Somehow, the rabbinic associations of both the Reform and Conservative movements decided to hold their conventions this week in our nation’s two most notorious cities of sin — New Orleans and Las Vegas respectively.

I’m not attending either convention in person (does Twitter count?), but I have been following the speeches at the Rabbinical Assembly Convention (Conservative) in Vegas that have been streamed live on Ustream. All of the sessions seem to focus on the future of Conservative Judaism and what the leadership thinks is currently ailing the movement.

Watching my colleagues discuss “The Paradox of Growth in the Conservative Movement,” it occurred to me that to make Conservative Judaism vibrant again, we need to look at Ronald Reagan for guidance. That’s right, Ronald Reagan! The former president famously explained his departure from the Democratic Party to the Republican side by saying, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”

In other words, the Democratic Party changed and Reagan wasn’t willing to adapt. So he left. I’m not suggesting that Conservative rabbis leave the Conservative Movement en masse because it has changed. I am, however, suggesting that we — the professional leadership — adapt to the changing times.

The opening plenary session demonstrated this need. “The Paradox of Growth in the Conservative Movement” session began with a failed attempt at humor by Rabbi Brad Artson that underscores my point. One of the brightest rabbis today, Artson is a great speaker and well respected among his colleagues. But his joke came up empty. Riffing on the title of the session (“Paradox”), Artson referenced Allan Sherman’s pun that Casey and Kildaire are a “pair a docs.” Get it? Pair a docs… paradox. Nobody laughed. I had to look up the reference. Turns out that if you weren’t around back in the early 60’s (at least half of the room at the convention), you’re not going to remember the Ben Casey television series. You also might not be up on your Allan Sherman references if you’re under 55-years-old.

And that’s the problem with Conservative Judaism today. It’s not the 60’s or even the 70’s anymore when Conservative Judaism enjoyed its heyday. My grandfather of blessed memory, sitting in a synagogue thirty years ago, would have loved it had the rabbi quoted the Allan Sherman pun about the hospital drama from 1961. I don’t know that Artson needed to open with the “paradox/pair-a-docs” pun, but at least he could have referenced a hospital drama on TV from the past twenty years (ER, House, Scrubs). Even a St. Elsewhere reference might have included more of the rabbis in the room who came of age in the 1980s. After all, the most recent rabbinical school graduates were born in 1985.

Artson actually has his finger on the pulse of the younger generation and keeps up with the current trends more than most rabbis of his generation. He serves as the dean of the Ziegler Rabbinical School at the American Jewish University — the West Coast’s rabbinical seminary that trains Conservative rabbis. In fact, he redeemed himself after the pun FAIL last night. He even labeled his bad joke as “the old Conservative movement” and then went on to explain that rabbis need to embrace the Digital Age and exploit social media.

Artson shared a story of a mock job interview at the American Jewish University in which a rabbinical student about to graduate told the interviewers that in order to respect their time he would put his cellphone on the table in front of him. The interviewers (all older adults) looked at this student like he was crazy. Artson had to explain that for this 20-something’s generation the cellphone has become the wristwatch. There was an obvious culture gap. I tell rabbis all the time that if they want to communicate with high school and college students, they need to text or use Facebook chat. Email is dead to that young generation and we have to keep up with the trends if we want to be relevant.

The Conservative Movement has changed because our culture has changed. Americans are being pulled to the extremes in all areas of society, especially religion. The institutions of the Conservative movement have grown stale by not keeping up with the times, but as the head of the Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, has articulated, “The paradox of growth in the Conservative movement is that we have to separate movement from institutions.” Conservative rabbis who have been out of the seminary for more than ten years haven’t changed, but they need to change because the culture has changed. Conservative Judaism has long waved the banner of “Tradition and Change.” If that is to continue to be the mantra of this centrist branch of modern Judaism, then there must be a response to the change. “Tradition” must continue to be at the fore, but the way in which it is packaged and sold has to change. It’s a different world out there.

The borders have disappeared in the 21st century Digital Age and rabbis must come up with a new vision for how to market the product that is Conservative Judaism. And to complicate matters, the transition is ongoing. Rabbis have finally embraced the fact that they have to give out their cellphone number to their congregants who also expect a response to their email within an hour. And rabbis slowly began to see the need to upload their sermons and classes onto the Web as podcasts. But now these rabbis need to Facebook chat and blog and Skype and tweet and check-in. Will it ever end? No. We must continue to adapt and make our vision and approach fresh.

The opportunity for fifty-year-old puns is clearly over. The future of Judaism is now.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Comedy Humor Jon Stewart Orthodox Judaism Shabbat Television

The Daily Show Raises the Eruv

There are certain obscure laws in Judaism that one doesn’t expect to be explained and debated on Comedy Central. Certainly the “legal fiction” known as an eruv is one of these.

According to Jewish law, a Jewish person is forbidden from carrying (or even pushing a baby stroller) from one domain to another on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays. There are actually several types of eruvin (plural) that allow Jewish people to circumnavigate what is forbidden on Shabbat, including the eruv tavshilin that allows us to cook meals for Shabbat on Jewish festivals.

On last night’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, correspondent Wyatt Cenac took up the ongoing debate in Westhampton Beach, Long Island as to whether to allow for an eruv (thin wire attached to existing electrical poles that gives the appearance that all the homes are within the same domain for carrying on Shabbat). The secular Jews of this town object to the erection of an eruv as they believe it will turn their town over to an Orthodox Jewish majority as has happened in other locales.

The segment is humorous, but also tainted with the type of infighting and vitriol that Samuel Freedman wrote about in his book, Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry .

Here is the video:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Rabbi Jason Miller
The Thin Jew Line (Eruv)

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Fashion History Jewish Shabbat Torah

What to Wear

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I attended a Purim party. I had no idea what to wear. In past years I was able to figure out what to wear based on the theme. Black tie? Got it covered. Western attire? No problem (jeans, flannel and cowboy hat). 70’s Disco attire? That’s easy (and fun!).

This year, however, the invitation said “Gem Tones.” Say what? I was clueless and my wife wasn’t much help on this one. I started calling other guys to find out what they were going to wear. One friend was more clueless than the next. Were jeans too casual? Did I need a sport coat? Did my outfit have to be certain colors. I don’t think I’ve ever looked in my closet and thought, “Gee, some of my clothes bear a striking resemblance to the tones of gems!” I would have been less stressed had the invitation instructed us to dress like a favorite Disney character (well, there’s always next year!).

It’s usually easy for men to decide what to wear to parties. Weddings are either a black tuxedo or a dark suit. “Casual” can be jeans or slacks and a button-down shirt. I’m really not complaining because I know it’s much more challenging for women.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tzav, the details about the clothing of the priests continues. Even God’s instructions concerning the sacrificial burnt offering have a great deal to do with the special vestments of the high priest, Aaron, and the other priests. “The priest shall dress in linen raiment, with linen breeches next to his body.” After the priest has taken up the ashes of the burnt offering he has to do a costume change. Even the priests’ clothes get anointed with oil and some of the blood from the sacrifice.

The late biblical scholar Nahum Sarna writes about the details of the priestly clothing: “Just as sacred space must be differentiated from profane space, so the occupants of the sacred office must be distinguishable from the laity. Hence, special attire, the insignia of office, is ordained for Aaron, the archetypal High Priest, and for his sons, the priests of lower rank.”

The reason for such minutiae when it comes the clothing of these holy men is l’chavod ultifaret (for dignity, honor, and splendor). The medieval commentator Sforno explains the use of these two Hebrew words. The vestments, he writes, “were for the dignity of God and to lend splendor to the office of the priest so that he would be revered by the people.”  I think that the vestments were as much for the dignity of the priests, of the wearer that is, as they were for God’s dignity.

This teaches us that what we wear says a great deal about us. All of these details about the priestly clothing reminds me of the famous dress code that was in effect for many years at IBM. Men had to dress in a dark colored suit, could only wear a white dress shirt, and could select a necktie of any conventional color; so long as it was solid – no patterns. For women, it was mostly the same – A dark, solid colored skirt and a white blouse. IBM believed that the way its workforce dressed portrayed the specific image that they wanted associated with their company. Apparently, they held the belief that it’s “the clothing that makes the man.”

And this belief was just as true in the 1990s, as companies like IBM shifted from strict, conservative dress codes to less-formal attire. Casual dress in the workplace became the new trend and “Dress down Fridays” became a popular section in most clothing stores. Companies like IBM believe that the way one dresses helps contribute to the way one works, behaves, and acts toward others. It also contributes to the way others view the wearer. When we get dressed in the morning, don’t we think about what type of image we want to portray for that day? Don’t we pick out our clothes for the day based on more than just the weather?

What we wear is representative of who we are, and indeed, where we come from. It speaks volumes about what we stand for and our own level of self-dignity. Styles do change. And society’s attitudes toward standards of proper attire do too. I might never fully comprehend how to dress in a “gem tones” attire, but I understand that our clothing is important.

Let us dress for success. Let us dress for style. And most important, let us dress l’chavod ultif’aret – for dignity, honor, and splendor.

Shabbat Shalom!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Basketball Israel Sports

Omri Casspi May Return to Maccabi Tel Aviv

There have been several former NBA players who have gone on to play for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club. However, I can’t think of any players to do so while in the middle of an NBA contract. Sacramento Kings player Omri Casspi has announced that he may return to his former team in Israel should the NBA impose a player lockout next season.

Casspi’s the first Israeli to play in the NBA (New Jersey Nets player Jordan Farmar has an Israeli step-father, Yehuda Kolani from Tel Aviv). JTA reports that Casspi told Israel’s Army Radio Thursday that he would consider rejoining Maccabi Tel Aviv if the league and the players’ union do not come to a new compromise by June 30, the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Casspi would be allowed to play abroad in the event of a lockout. While Casspi’s playing time with the Kings has been limited lately, he did make news earlier this month with his “Sheket B’vakasha” slam dunk.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
American Jews Conservative Judaism

Conservative Jewish College Students Get Short Shrift

At some point in 1996, I sat down to begin writing a draft of my application essays for rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary. One of the questions asked what the focus of my future rabbinate would be and it didn’t take long to formulate an answer that included paying more attention to Jewish college students.

As an active student in the university’s Jewish community at the time, I recognized that college students don’t often get the attention they should from their synagogues or temples back home. During high school, a lot of congregational funds and professional support are directed to youth groups. Staff members forge lasting relationships with Jewish teens, scholarships are awarded for retreat and convention attendance, leadership skills are taught, Israel trips are available that last much longer than ten days.

When these teens leave home for college, however, it is largely believed that the Hillel on campus will take care of them. Aside from an annual visit from the congregational rabbi, there is often little connection from the synagogue. Hillel can be a one-size-fits-all solution for many Jewish college students and that is where the individual movement’s college outreach programs come in to play.

During my second year of college, I helped re-constitute a Koach chapter on my campus. Koach is the Conservative Movement’s college outreach program. It was an important lifeline for Jewish students (many of whom were already active with Hillel) who affiliated with the Conservative branch of Judaism. My connection with Koach continued when I was in rabbinical school, teaching at a Koach kallah (retreat) and serving as a visiting Koach Scholar on college campuses.

Today, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism votes on its new strategic plan. I haven’t written about the state of United Synagogue in the past year, but I have been watching closely. Rather than criticize the organization, I’ve been interested to see how it redefines itself amidst a massive decline in affiliated synagogues. Like many Conservative rabbis and Conservative Jewish leaders across North America, I have long wondered how affiliated synagogues justify the hefty annual dues price tag to United Synagogue without getting much in return. The reality has long been that Conservative synagogues remain affiliated and pay dues so they will be able to participate in the placement process when they need to hire a new rabbi or cantor, and so their teens will be able to be members of United Synagogue Youth (USY), the movement’s international youth group. Without enough support or resources to justify paying dues during the recession years, a large percentage of Conservative congregations disaffiliated. If congregations needed to hire new clergy during that time, they negotiated a settlement deal to re-affiliate and then promptly stopped their dues payments once the new rabbi or cantor was in place.

Over the past few years, organized dissent has arisen from within the ranks of the Conservative Movement. One of the coalitions of critics, Hayom (rabbis and synagogue presidents), has joined forces with United Synagogue to construct a reinvention strategy through a new strategic plan. When a draft of this new strategic plan, crafted with the expert consulting of Dr. Jack Ukeles and sociologist Steven M. Cohen and under the co-chairmanship of Professor Jacob Finkelstein and Rabbi Ed Feinstein, was posted on the USCJ website the criticism began.

The most vocal complaint about United Synagogue’s new plan was its reduction in funding and attention to its college outreach program. In response, a grassroots group (Mahar Coalition) of Conservative Jewish college students and alumni of Koach was formed. United Synagogue quickly revised its strategic plan, but without any monetary figures being changed in the revision that will be voted on today.

Here’s what the original plan said (based on the draft that has since been taken off of the USCJ website):

Recommendation 4.5 “USCJ should shift its priority in connecting young Jewish adults from the college campus to the post-college generation, recognizing that the North American Jewish community has made a much more substantial investment in Jewish life on the college campus than it has in the young adult post-college generation.” 4.6 “At the same time, USCJ needs to maintain a bridge between high school graduates and post-college young adults. USCJ should make a limited, focused investment in the college-age cohort by creating leadership development opportunities for the outstanding graduates of Ramah, USY, and Nativ, many of whom are studying at List College.” 5.1 “The current campus environment is heavily serviced by Hillel and numerous other well-funded and professionally staffed efforts. The only way a relatively modest expenditure by USCJ can make a significant impact on campus is by highly focused interventions. While the USCJ cannot abandon Conservative Jewish college students, it needs a more effective vehicle than the current Koach program.”

The language above makes the jump from high school graduates to post-college young adults and seems to believe that Hillels will handle the Jewish outreach to college students. The Mahar Coalition has stated the obvious: they too want to engage in education and Torah learning through a lifeline to the Conservative Movement while on the college campus.

The edited plan was amended to read:

Recommendation 4.5 “It is recognized that a continuing presence on campus for Conservative Judaism is vital to maintain the bridge between our high school students and the young adult post-college generation. It is not clear who should fund this effort and what the effort should look like. Since USCJ has been funding and administering the effort through Koach, in the short term USCJ should continue to do so in a highly focused and cost-efficient way. Simultaneously, USCJ should engage with college student leaders, and leaders of Conservative Judaism, to determine how best to work in partnership to ensure that the USCJ presence on the college campus not only remains but grows.”

The Mahar Coalition’s response to the revision was fairly positive, but there was no decision by United Synagogue to shave less funding from Koach. Hopefully, the conversation will continue and individuals or foundations will step up to support the important outreach from United Synagogue to Conservative college students.

United Synagogue’s reputation is at stake here and there has been a tradition of having little transparency in their decision making over the decades. If the Conservative Movement is to dig out of its current predicament and truly reinvent itself, it cannot short shrift Conservative Jewish college students — a highly impressionable demographic. They will only give member congregations more reason to question if affiliation is really worth the money.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Celebrities Hollywood Humor Jewish Rabbi Rabbis

Isla Fisher Wants to Be a Rabbi

Music Rooms reports that the actress Isla Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”), the wife of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, joked that after converting to Judaism she now wants to become a rabbi.

Isla became engaged to the comedian in 2004, and studied for three years before completing her conversion in early 2007. The 35-year-old star took on the Hebrew name Ayala, the Hebrew word for Doe. Isla has joked she is so enamoured with the religion that she’s thinking of becoming a rabbi. 

“You study, then have a test. In fact, I’m thinking of becoming a mohel. [Pause] If you knew what a mohel was, you’d laugh. It’s a rabbi who circumcises boys,” she told the April edition of Elle.

Perhaps before becoming a rabbi, Fisher should watch this video, made by YouTube user CFIDSgurl using xtranormal.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Blogs Celebrities Charity Detroit Health Hollywood Israel Philanthropy

Clarifying Natalie Portman’s Hadassah Gift That Never Was

I pride myself on always trying to provide factual information on this blog. However, it has come to my attention that six years ago, in March 2005, I reposted a news report that the Jewish/Israeli actress Natalie Portman made a $50 million gift to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. I didn’t provide any of my own commentary on the post, but simply reposted a news report that had been published on several other websites, based on Israel’s Arutz7. A Google search still retrieves many of the original news reports of Portman’s supposed gift from 2005. Here is what the Arutz7 website report about Portman’s donation looked like back in 2005:

The operative word in the Arutz7 article above is “including,” insinuating that a total of $50 million was received including a “large donation” by Natalie Portman. That was misinterpreted when it was reposted on the blog (clip below):

Now, Natalie Portman has won an Oscar and is starring in several big box office films. She is also making headlines for standing up to Dior’s John Galliano and speaking out against his anti-Semitic slurs. Hadassah issued a statement last week praising the actress for her courageous stand. And then, I’m sure some Google searches by Hadassah staff and members turned up the various blog posts from 2005 about the $5 million gift that turns out to be a misunderstanding.

So, six years went by and no one seemed to question this erroneous donation? I did a little research and it turns out that a woman named Phyllis commented on a blog in April 2005, stating “she [Portman] didn’t donate $50 million personally-they received donations of $50 million and her donation was included in that re-read the article: ‘Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital received a $50 million donation last week including a large donation from one of the people born there — famed Jewish actress Natalie Portman.”

Early this week, I began receiving emails from Hadassah staff members inquiring about this supposed donation. And then I received this message from Hadassah:

“This ‘story’ was originally misreported exactly six years ago this month when Hadassah announced it had raised $50 million in just two short years from quite a variety of sources for a new center for emergency medicine. Natalie Portman appeared at the event but did not contribute to the center. For some unknown reason, last week, people began to re-circulate the very old, very wrong version of the story claiming that Portman had made a $50 million donation. Hadassah would be grateful if you would post a correction to this post. This was obviously no fault of yours. But these things quickly take on a life of their own. Thanks very much.”

So, I am hereby retracting the misinformation that was published on this blog in March 2005. Natalie Portman has been a strong supporter of Hadassah Hospital and I’m sure she will continue to be, however, she never made a $50 million donation to the expanded emergency trauma unit.

I’ll conclude this post by reminding everyone that the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Hadassah Hospital, named for the mother of the late Jewish philanthropist Bill Davidson of Detroit, is still in need of funds and I encourage everyone to contribute to this important cause.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Blogs Faith God Rabbis Religion Theology Web

Why Atheists Love Religion Websites

I published my first blog post on the Huffington Post website back in October. What immediately amazed me was the large number of comments posted about my piece. In the first couple of days there were close to 500 responses to what I had written. And then I began to skim these “talkbacks” to find that the vast majority were written by individuals who were angry about any form of organized religion and believed that God was as make-believe as Mickey Mouse. I was surprised to see so many self-affirmed atheists not only lurking on the religion section of the Huffington Post, but also being its most vocal contributors. It should be noted that my blog post had little to do with God and was devoted to post-denominationalism in Judaism. Most of the comments were from lapsed Christians who now felt religion was a joke and seemed angry that it was still in existence (in any form).

I planned to write about this phenomenon, but never got around to it. So, I was glad when my colleague Rabbi David Wolpe, of Los Angeles, posted his feelings about it on the Huffington Post yesterday (“Why Are Atheists So Angry?”). In a much more eloquent way than I could, Rabbi Wolpe put into words his take on why there are so many atheists participating in the online conversation on websites devoted to religion — and why their comments are so tinged with angst. When I first read his post yesterday there were no comments, however, when I checked back today there are now close to 900 responses — certainly with a good number of them from the atheist community.

Rabbi Wolpe writes:

How harmless is it to post an article about why people should read the bible on a site devoted to religion? I did on this very page, and it evoked more than 2,000 responses, most of them angry. I had previously written a similarly gentle article about how God should be taught to children that evoked more than 1,000 responses, almost all negative and many downright nasty.

It is curious that a religion site draws responses mostly from atheists, and that the atheists are very unhappy. They are unhappy with the bible (“foolish fairy tales” is one of the more generous descriptions), unhappy with the idea of God (the “imaginary dictator” whose task in human history, apparently, is to ensure that oppression and evil triumph) and very unhappy with anyone (read: me) who presumes to offer religious advice to the religious. Only the untutored assume that religious people predominate on websites (Huffington Post Religion page, On Faith in the Washington Post, devoted to religion.

In the past when I have debated noted atheists — Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others — the audience was heavily weighted toward my opponents. That makes sense. Each of these men — like Dawkins, Dennett and others — brings with them a large following. But why seek out a religious site solely to insult religion?

To summarize, Rabbi Wolpe offers four four reasons why he believes atheists are so angry. First, Atheists genuinely resent the evil that religion has caused in the world. Second, they are convinced that religion is a fairy tale that impedes science/progress/rational thought. Third, “there is an arrogant unwillingness to engage with religion’s serious thinkers.” And, finally, he argues that “there is sometimes in the atheist a want of wonder. In a world in which so much is still not understood, in which multiple universes are possible, in which we have not pierced the mystery of consciousness, to discount the supernatural is to lack the openness to mystery that should be a human hallmark. There is so much we do not know. Religious people too should acknowledge this truth.”

Perhaps websites like the Huffington Post and Beliefnet should offer a section devoted solely to atheism so that the atheists would no longer dominate the airwaves in the religion section with with their angst. Or perhaps, these individuals will continue to weigh in on the discussions surrounding religion, but will do so in a more civil manner that will actually move the conversation forward in a productive way. I know deep down that these individuals are still seeking. They are still interested in the conversation and have their fleeting moments of belief; otherwise I don’t think they’d spend the time engaged in the debate.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |