Articles

New senior rabbi followed unusual road to Temple Emanu-el

Originally published in The Crier By Carol Niemi On July 1, Temple Emanu-El welcomed its new senior rabbi, Spike Anderson. A leader with a track record of getting things done, his calendar was already filled with meetings with other community leaders, not just from the temple but from business and government as well. Anyone who expects Rabbi Anderson to be a typical man of the cl [...]

Entrepreneurial Rabbi Arrives at Emanu-El (Atlanta Jewish Times)

Originally published in Atlanta Jewish Times By Michael Jacobs / mjacobs@atljewishtimes.com When Rabbi Spike Anderson arrived on the pulpit at the Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles in 2008, he wanted a noncontroversial topic for his first sermon. He chose the environment — and watched some of his new congregants walk out in anger. “After getting over the shock, I was really intereste [...]

It is Real... It's Israel

Each year on the Shabbat before Yom Ha’atzma-ut (Israel’s Independence Day), I traditionally tell our young children a puppet story about how Sha’arei the Eagle, and his best friend, Jacob the Mouse, saved all the animals and brought them to an amazing land. You see, this is a true story, even if it never happened. Once upon a time, all the animals were living in a land all together, when all of a [...]

To Haiti: Heartfelt Wishes From Wise

The evening before I boarded the airplane for Israel, my wife handed me a bulging envelope adorned with whimsical design and the words, “To Woodley: These are blessings from our hearts to yours. Please get well soon! From: The children of Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School.” Inside the envelope were hundreds of hand-made “get well” cards cut from brightly colored paper in the shape of a hams [...]

The Royal Secret (creative Midrash)

Whispers had followed Thermutis through the royal palace long before she was aware that she could shield herself with them, or even wield them as a sword. Even before her moon-blood, not once but twice she had snatched the dulled murmur of plotting between servants and guards; and twice, after executing the traitors, her father had publicly proclaimed that she was surely a girl suitable only for a [...]

The De-Evolution of the Jewish Warrior: Self-Identity as a 'Warrior'

Introduction This thesis is a diachronic study of the Jewish self-view as ‘warrior,’ covering selected Jewish literature from about 200 B.C.E to 200 C.E.  The premise of this thesis is that such a study of Jewish literature in its historical context might enable the historian to understand better the Jewish self-identity as ‘warrior’ in those four centuries… In some ways, the desire to exp [...]

Keeping the Dream Alive

“No,” said my High School Administration. “No, we have never done it that way”; “No, it would be too complicated”; “No, everyone is too busy!” So there was a certain amount of fear (of reprisal) as we ignored protocol and approached the headmaster’s office at our boarding school in Pennsylvania. We were three friends not yet 16 years old: one African-American, one Puerto-Rican, and one Jew (me) [...]

Finding Your Life's Purpose

And everyone who excelled in ability and everyone whose spirit moved him came, bringing to the Eternal his offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting.… (Exodus 35:21) Who am I? What is my place in the universe? What does God expect of me? We might say that the purpose of Judaism is to help us ask these questions and to begin to answer them in a way that gives each Jewish life both meaning a [...]

Celebrations That Defy Human Comprehension

...The Stories of Passover to Yom Ha’atzma-ut Our people sang this Song of the Sea, not just to celebrate that they were alive as individuals (dayeinu), and not just that they had survived as a people (dayeinu). For the first time in centuries, our people could hope for more than survival – we finally would have a chance to flourish! What could we accomplish now free from chains and degradati [...]

In The Shelter of the Sukkah

The day was brutally hot. Hot! The thick air seemed to beg for a breeze, the sidewalk shimmered with the heat, and the sun pounded relentlessly. But, we had friends over and the children (toddlers, really) wanted to play outside. So, I unrolled the garden-hose and filled the plastic kiddy-pool with cool water up to their knees. And then, the kids jumped in and began to splash and laugh as if the k [...]

My Personal Journey from Snow Banks to Sunshine

As I sit here in my study, preparing to write, I find myself very far from the home in which I was raised. Most days, indeed most weeks, I do not think about this fact except in passing. In the three years since my little family moved from Manhattan to Los Angeles, we have tried our best to plant roots. My wife, Marita, in addition to holding our family together, is working hard as a hospital chap [...]

Politics and Judaism

When I was at Seminary, we were told that there were two distinct schools of thought regarding politics and the pulpit. The first is that the two should never mix. This philosophy holds that the rabbi should only be concerned about matters of “the spirit”, as politics is too mundane for Torah. Additionally, politics is “bad for business” because it inevitably alienates folks who might disagree. T [...]

«What's In A Name»

or “An Introduction To Our New Rabbinic-Intern, Spike Anderson” I am looking for a lawyer to file a class action suit against Shel Silverstein and Johnny Cash! “Well, that is just ludicrous,” you say? No so, to the contrary… Because of their song, ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ many parents throughout America have given their children ridiculous names in hopes of filling some sort of nominal vacuum in th [...]