Rabbi Roundtable from the Forward

Rabbi Rachel Timoner and other leading rabbis from all corners of the Jewish world are asked their thoughts on the most pressing issues of today in a series of articles from the Forward.

Question Twelve: Where Do You See The Jewish Community In 50 Years? (Read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Ever-flowering anew, embracing the old, embodying the contradictions.


Question Eleven: Is there poverty in your Jewish community? What should we be doing about it? (Read all)

Rabbi Timoner: There is poverty in every community, even when we don’t see it. Our Jewish communities often perceive themselves as wealthy, which can be a way of acknowledging privilege but can also make it difficult to see the person who does not have enough food to eat or a safe place to live, or who is not in the synagogue community because they can’t pay the dues, or is not in the day school because they can’t pay tuition, or not in the camp because they can’t afford the fees. “There shall be no needy among you….If there are needy among you…open your hand… There will always be needy among you…” (Deut. 15:4,7,8,11) This circle of texts in Parashat Re’eh tells us exactly what to do: change our economic and social policies so that all have what they need and, in the meantime, care for the needy among us as if the need will never end.


Question Ten: What are Jews, exactly? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: A religion, a culture, a people. We are much too diverse to be an ethnicity or race.


Question Nine: What Makes You Proud To Be A Jew? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Our resilience, our brilliance, our conversation with one another for 3,000 years about how to live a good life, our conversation with the Holy Blessed One for 3,000 years about how to fear and how to love and how to serve.


Question Eight: Is There Such A Thing As Jewish Values? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: V’ahavta l’reacha kamocha. V’ahavta et ha ger. V’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha b’chol levavecha u’v’chol nafshecha u’v’chol me’odecha.


Question Seven: What Is The One Lesson Jews Today Need To Learn From The Talmud? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Today, when Nazis and white supremacists are on the march, immigrants and Muslims threatened, people with disabilities mocked, Sanhedrin 37a calls out to us urgently: “Adam was created alone…so one person will not say to another, ‘My father was greater than your father’…And to tell of the greatness of the Holy One blessed be He, who stamped all people with the stamp of Adam, the first [human] and not one of them is similar to another. Therefore, each and every person is obligated to say, ‘The world was created for me.’”


Question Six: What Is The Diaspora Jew’s Role In Israel? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Claim it as ours. Always with humility, but also with recognition that we are family. Our well-being, our moral failures, and our futures are intertwined.


Question Five: What Is One Thing Jews Need To Stop Doing? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Supporting racism


Question Four: Is intermarriage a problem or an opportunity? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Intermarriage is a problem if we fail to perform the weddings and embrace the families who have intermarried and seek Jewish community. Intermarriage is an opportunity if we grow the Jewish people through conversion, raising all-Jewish kids with a non-Jewish parent, and celebrating the ever-expanding and evolving definition of what Judaism and the Jewish people look like.


Question Three: What can the Jewish community do to fight the opioid epidemic? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Step one is loving our families who are affected, and bringing the stories out from the shadows in the Jewish community. Secrecy and shame are compounding the suffering. By leading in this way, we will not only comfort the bereaved among us, but also educate the vulnerable.


Question Two: Are Jews The Inheritors Of Eretz Yisrael? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Yes. And our inheritance is to learn how to share.


Question One: What’s The Biggest Threat To The Jewish People? (read all)

Rabbi Timoner: Being willing to sell out our values for a misapprehension of what will make us safe.