Laurel Snyder's Jewish Dreams of Trees

Amy Levin: Jewish parents today have their pick of ethically themed children’s books with just-enough-but-not-too-much religion. But there’s something refreshingly unique about Laurel Snyder’s new book, Good Night, Laila Tov. Snyder’s tale follows two children on an outdoor family vacation, replete with camping on the beach, walking in fields full of berries, and the catching shelter deep woods. Illustrated with lush greens and warm hues, Good Night, Laila Tov makes you want to take a nap on a rainbow after you’ve saved a coral reef from extinction. In other words, it’s the perfect blend of accessible environmentalism (the kids help their parents plant trees) and a rhythmic bedtime serenade. Continue Reading →

Happy Birthday Zionism

Amy Levin: Given that today and tomorrow mark two extremely important national holidays in Israel beginning with Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance for Israeli soldiers, followed by Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s independence day, it seems fitting to bring the timeless debate over Zionism to the virtual table. This week, Huffpost Religion is publishing daily columns as part of a series called “Liberal Zionists Speak Out.” Continue Reading →

I’m Not Religious, I Just Love Meditation

Amy Levin:  While the image of Oprah endorsing transcendental meditation is about as banal as a priest offering the sacrament, the Queen of the New-Age spiritual marketplace has sold spirituality to those in her pews again. Oprah’s bricolage-like church offered this week’s sermon via her show Next Chapter on the OWN network: transcendental meditation is awesome, readily available for consumption, and so culturally adaptable that even a city in the middle of corn country is bursting with enlightenment.

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I'm Not Religious, I Just Love Meditation

Amy Levin:  While the image of Oprah endorsing transcendental meditation is about as banal as a priest offering the sacrament, the Queen of the New-Age spiritual marketplace has sold spirituality to those in her pews again. Oprah’s bricolage-like church offered this week’s sermon via her show Next Chapter on the OWN network: transcendental meditation is awesome, readily available for consumption, and so culturally adaptable that even a city in the middle of corn country is bursting with enlightenment.

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Ads for Secular (Liberal) Catholics

Amy Levin: The New York Times committed a liberal faux pas last month. As if they’d forgotten just how controversial ads can be, they accepted $39,000 from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to run a full-page. . .well I’ll just say it, “anti-Catholic” advertisement. The ad features a political cartoon–with a grumpily outraged male bishop and a frustrated cosmopolitan, white, middle-aged female sandwiching a birth control pill–that reads, “All the outrage over something like this is a bit hard to swallow.” Next to the cartoon in giant bold letters the ad visually screams “Open letter to ‘liberal’ and ‘nominal’ Catholics. It’s your moment of truth.” Feast your eyes down the page and you’ll find any number of quintessential reasons to leave the Catholic church, most prominently, women’s reproductive rights. Here’s a fun clip:

Why put up with an institution that won’t put up with women priests, which excludes half of humanity?

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Progress and Rat Poison in Morocco

Some rights gains are never permanent.

By Amy Levin

As the climate warms and the new season approaches, one might notice a comparatively calmer “Arab spring” this year. Distracted by presidential politics and plans to “Occupy Spring,” the revolutionary wave that shifted our gaze eastward last year may be experiencing somewhat of a sea change. Nevertheless, revolutionary movements in the Arab spring countries and their non-Arab neighbors are continuing to ride the proverbial wave. One particular question many of us are still asking is semi- rhetorical: Is Arab Spring democracy a “Win for Women?” Indeed, just this week, global outrage ignighted over the suicide of Amina Filali, a 16-year old Moroccan girl who was forced to marry her rapist. Continue Reading →

Santorum's Holy Sanctum

Amy Levin: I’m not sure God would be too happy with Santorum lately – I mean, it’s one thing to defend religious liberty in the name of a Christian nation, but it’s another to use petty language to reference divinely ordained scripture. Despite his claim that he was not criticizing the President’s Christianity, Santorum’s Ohio speech that claimed Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible,” made serious headlines last week. Phony? I don’t think I’ve heard that verbal jab since 6th grade recess – now that’s an abomination. Continue Reading →

Santorum’s Holy Sanctum

Amy Levin: I’m not sure God would be too happy with Santorum lately – I mean, it’s one thing to defend religious liberty in the name of a Christian nation, but it’s another to use petty language to reference divinely ordained scripture. Despite his claim that he was not criticizing the President’s Christianity, Santorum’s Ohio speech that claimed Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible,” made serious headlines last week. Phony? I don’t think I’ve heard that verbal jab since 6th grade recess – now that’s an abomination. Continue Reading →

The Gospel of Sacred Candy Hearts

By Amy Levin

Did Santa bring me a boyfriend this year? Smooches for all red, juicy collagen-chocolate filled lips. This v-day I’ll find my soul mate so my full heart becomes a half and we eat goodies like lollipops and lexapro. I think I found him on OkCupid; he buys me roses from Wal-Mart that I place in my hair and promise to never take it out and so I play Regina to sing me to sleep:

The flowers you gave me are rotting and still I refuse to throw them away.
Some of the bulbs never opened quite fully
They might so I’m waiting and staying awake.
Things I have loved I’m allowed to keep
I’ll never know if I go to sleep.

He’s Jewish! He’s Jewish! Spread the Good News! His name is Karl Marxstein and we exchange and exchange and plan to celebrate Valentine’s day with a bottle of Manischewitz and my mother’s Groupon but instead I watch Carrie Bradshaw marry herself while Charlotte shows me how to be a Jewish housewife. I use Oprah’s prayer book but it’s really a cookbook for the best guilt-free valentines special and I really feel like a woman. Continue Reading →

Tu B’Shevat, or Happy Birthday, Paris Hilton?

Amy Levin: What’s the one holiday that Lurianic Kabbalists and quasi-pagan eco-Jews alike love celebrating? It’s Tu B’Shevat, aka, “The New Year for Trees.” The name Tu B’Shevat is derived from the Hebrew date of the holiday, the 15th of Shevat – “tu” stands for the Hebrew letter “tet” and “vav” whose numerical values, 9 and 6, add up to 15. “B” means “of” in Hebrew, and “Shevat” is the Hebrew month on which the holiday falls. Oh, and apparently it’s the Paris Hilton of Jewish Holidays.

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