Sunday, December 29, 2013

S1 E13 - Mid Season Special!

This week is the final episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska before our mid season hiatus so we are going out with a bang!  We have an incredible line up of some of the best talent in Jewish music today!

Headline our Shabbos extravaganza is the ONE AND ONLY LEGENDARY LENNY SOLOMON!

I cannot believe we got Lenny for Shabbos.  He is touring the US and he called me and told me that he wants to appear on Good Shabbos Nebraska! 

Coming with Lenny is his protege, the original Jewish Rapper - Etan G!  Here's the controversial clip where Etan G was kicked off of the chabad telethon in LA for his provocative song Motzi!

Also on the show this week we have Beth Israel member, singer song writer Karen Javitch.  Karen hosts a radio show in Omaha and she is a youtube sensation!  Her song in the nursery has received over 5 million hits from people all over the world!

Also on the show this week, is my cousin Seth.  Seth was a child prodigy, he has been playing the keyboard since he was about 3 years old.  At 12 years old he performs with his father in the Avi Maza orchestra, and he is a finalist in the international competition "Jewish Kids Got Talent."
Here's a clip of Seth playing some Jazz.  This kid is really incredible!
It is going to be an unbelievable Shabbos! 

Friday night Lenny is going to lead us in an inspiring Friday Night dinner and teach us some hits off of his latest Album, "Shabbos in Liverpool." 

Shabbos we are going to have an incredible episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska.

And After Shabbos Lenny is going to rock the house - Shlock Rock Style!

It all begins Friday at 6pm ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue - where every Shabbos is a shabbaton!

S1 E13 of Good Shabbos Nebraska - Musical Legend Lenny Solomon

This week we have the great privilege of having the one and only LENNY SOLOMON as a guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska.

Lenny Solomon is probably one of the greatest living legends in the Jewish Music scene today.  He has recorded over 30 albums and has probably performed in more Jewish communities throughout the world than any musician other than maybe Shlomo Carlebach and Yossele Rosenblatt.  

Lenny was in Omaha almost 20 years ago and for the last ten years I have been anxiously waiting for an opportunity to bring him back.  

Thanks to Good Shabbos Nebraska, and some generous sponsors, he's is coming back!

We have had some amazing episodes this season, but this one looks like it may be our best episode yet!  

Come early this week because we are going to fill up quickly!  If you come at 10 there may not be a seat.  

We are going to open the doors to shul at 7:00 am on Shabbos morning but people can start lining up any time after midnight on Wednesday night.  

You do not want to miss this amazing episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska!  This and every Shabbos at 10am ONLY at Beth Israel Syangogue - where every shabbos is a shabbaton!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

S! E12 recap


Today was an incredible episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show!!!

Our scheduled guests were the Potash Twins.  They are identical twin brothers Ezra and Adeev from Omaha.  They are an up and coming Jazz sensation that are taking the New York city Jazz scene by storm.

They were great.  Any one can tell that these guys are going places.  Besides being great musicians, they both have incredible engaging personalities.

We spoke about being Jewish in the entertainment world.  What are some of the challenges that being Jewish presents, but they also mentioned that it opens some doors.  Traditionally the Jazz scene has not had so many Jews, but the Potashes told us that Israelis are heavy into Jazz and at any given Jazz show in Jew York there is strong Israeli representation.

They spoke about how having Hebrew names has also been something that has worked for them rather than against them.

But we also had a surprise guest today.  We had Gershon Lerner, a shochet from Gibbon Nebraska staying with us for Shabbos.  He came on as a guest and told us all about the shechitah process and the life of a chasidic shochet in the middle of Nebraska.  It was fascinating.

After Kiddush Gershon did a Q and A about schechitah and people stayed for an hour as he fielded a barrage of tough questions about the kashruth industry and about kosher different kosher standards for meat.

it was an amazing episode.  I am going to bring Gershon back at some point to do a whole episode on shechita.

Next week is the last episode before the mid winter hiatus.  We have a star studded line up including the legendary LENNY SOLOMON!!  Lenny is probably the greatest Jewish musician of our time.

He will be accompanied by Etan G - the original Jewish rapper!  I have not seen Lenny and Etan G perform together in at least 20 years!!!  It is going to be a shabbos to remember!
You don't want to miss it!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Musical guests closing out the first half of Good Shabbos Nebraska Season 1

As the new year approaches we are getting ready to close out the first half of season one of Good Shabbos Nebraska.

And what a season it has been so far!  To recap:

Shmuley Boteach spoke with us about suffering, Michael Jackson, Jesus, and sex.
Jonathan Rosenbaum gave us an archaeological tour of Avraham's travels.
Jonathan  Adelman briefed us Syria, Iran, and the Middle East.
Meir Bar Ilan introduced us to ancient Jewish magic, witchcraft, and numerology.
Moshe Goldfeder told us about polygamy and robots.
Boris Gulko gave us first hand accounts of his life as one of the most celebrated Russian Refusenik.
Avital Chizhik took on Amos Oz and Vladamir Putin.
Sheba Mason had us rolling in the aisles.
Sabrina Thomas informed us about Christian Zionism.
Josh Yuter challenged everything we thought we knew about being Jewish.
Sjimon Den Hollander spoke to us about speaking with Muslims.

Every week has been great conversations and great Torah.  Good Shabbos Nebraska is doing better than I ever could have imagined.  New people are coming, and our regulars are coming more often!  And people are sponsoring some great kiddushes for after shul!

This is the future of shul!  Stay tuned for a Good Shabbos Nebraska tribute show at a shul near you!

The next two weeks we have a line up of incredible Jewish musical talent!

This week we have the Potash Twins.  If you have not heard of these guys yet, you will very soon.  Adeev and Ezra Potash, two local Omaha boys and identical twins, have taken the New York Jazz scene by storm!  They have already played with some of the biggest names in jazz and their following is growing stronger by the day!

This Shabbos we are going to talk with them about being Jewish celebrities, challenges and opportunities, and they are going to tell us about TWINTUITION - there special powers that they say makes them a great music team.  It was the subject of their recent Ted Talk!

Next week we have the one and only - LENNY SOLOMON!!!!  Lenny Solomon just may be the greatest Jewish musician ever!  He started the band Shlock Rock in the mid 0s and since then he has inspired literally hundreds of thousands of Jewish kids throughout the world!

I am a huge Lenny fan, I have been since my bar mitzvah.  I cannot wait to have a chance to interview him in person on Good Shabbos Nebraska!

In addition, he is going to be bringing Etan G!  The Jewish Rapper!!!

It is going to be an unforgettable start studded two weeks and will take us with a bang into our mid winter Hiatus!

When we come back in February we have an incredible line up of great guests, EVERY WEEK!


Friday, December 20, 2013

S1 E11 Sjimon Den Hollanmder and the model for Interfaith Dialogue

This week on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show - we have special guest Sjimon Den Hollander. 

Sjimon has a unique background.  He studied many religions on a sophisticated level, in that he learned for extended periods of time from scholarly practitioners of different religions, studying religious texts in their original languages with traditional as well as modern scholarly commentary. 

I had the privilege to study Torah with Sjimon and his breadth of knowledge and real life experiences opened up new vistas of understanding that even great scholars of Judaism sought to learn from him. 

In America in the 21st century even the most cloistered traditional Jewish sects are engaged with people of other faiths.  Agudat Yisrael, the umbrella organization that represents the Hareidi world, regularly partners with other faith groups to discuss and advocate for their beliefs, values, and practices. 

Simply talking to people of another religion does not necessary make for meaningful interfaith dialogue.

A number of years ago a Jewish man in Omaha wanted to meet with me.  He was not a member of my shul, and we had never really had a conversation before (we subsequently became very close friends).  When we met he told me that his daughter on the East Coast was dating a Catholic boy.  They were selected to be on a reality television show that was showing how couples of different faiths deal with their differences.  The television show was flying them around and doing interviews with friends and family.  When they visited the son's religious Catholic parents they had a lot to say about their Catholic faith.  This Jewish man was an active member of the Jewish community, but did not know much about Judaism and he wanted to have something interesting to share with the show. 

So he searched his house and he found a pair of tefilin that belonged to his father.  He brought them with him and asked me what I could tell him about them.  I told him what they were, we learned the verses in the Torah that talk about them and I told him that if he came to minyan the next day I would show him how to put them on and how to daven with them.  He came and he had a spiritual and educational experience that gave him something uniquely Jewish to share with the show.  This man understood that if he was going to have a meaningful discussion then he had to know more Torah.

Interfaith dialogue is only meaningful if both sides are educated about their respective religions.  If both sides are uneducated then people have superficial discussions about how all people are the same and how we all value loving our neighbors.  We sing Hava Nagilah and you sing Amazing Grace - but we are all really the same in the end. 

Sjimon is involved in what should be the model for interfaith dialogue.  He is a knowledgeable person who has studied different faiths. He engages with Muslims and Christians who are equally knowledgeable.  The more knowledgeable the two sides of an interfaith discussion are, the more meaningful the dialogue will be. 

Tomorrow on Good Shabbos Nebraska Sjimon is going to tell us some of the benefits to engaging with people of other faiths, but also some of the pitfalls that people must look out for. 

This is a very relevant topic for Omaha's Jewish community as Temple Israel, the Reform Synagogue across the street, is currently involved in a tri faith initiative where they are seeking to have dialogue with Christians and Muslims.  I hope that tomorrow we see a good turn out for what will be a very important episode of GSN. 

So don't miss Good Shabbos Nebraska, this and every Shabbos, 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue where every Shabbos is a Shabbaton.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Neshama Carlebach and Interfaith Dialogue

Neshama Carlebach recently posted that she has made Aliyah to Reform Judaism.  One of the points that she makes in her post was that her father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, was ostracized by the Orthodox establishment because of his interfaith activities.  She feels that the Reform movement is a home where she can carry on her father's tradition of finding true unity for all of God's children.

In this I think she expresses what is a common belief among many Jews - Reform Jews are better equipped to engage in meaningful interfaith dialogue than Orthodox Jews. 

It is a common belief that I believe is a great misconception.

As an Orthodox Rabbi in Omaha, Nebraska every year, literally hundreds of people from other faiths seek me out because they want to learn about Judaism.  More often than not they are aware of the different Jewish denominations and they specifically want to speak to an Orthodox Rabbi for a variety of different reasons.

  • They perceive that Reform Judaism espouses values that are universal but do not express anything that is uniquely Jewish.  They learn kindness, charity, and social justice from their own traditions.  They do not feel they need to learn those values from Jews.  They want to learn about uniquely Jewish practices like Shabbos, Kosher, Eruv (incredible how many people want to learn about that), tefilin, Yarmulka and tzitzit (for men) and head covering (for women).  These are practices that they perceive are more prevalent in the Orthodox Jewish world then the Reform world.
  • They perceive that their value systems conform with the values of Orthodox Jews and that their values are at odds with the values of Reform Jews.  Many Muslim and Christian groups in America have staunch conservative values and express relief when they learn on the Internet that there are actually Jews who share those values rather than advocate for values and positions that they believe to be anti religious and culturally destructive.  
  • They believe in the Bible and they are offended when they hear Jews -of all people - say that the Bible is a fictitious man made document with values that express, at best, the good intentions of primitive authors.  They believe that the Bible is divine, binding, and eternal and they seek out Jews who share that belief.  
While it may be true that the Reform movement is more involved in official interfaith activities, there are millions of Americans who look to the Orthodox Jewish community to learn about Judaism.  These individuals and groups look to the Hareidi world to learn how to successfully maintain an authentic counter culture in the face of pervasive and incredible societal pressures to conform to the dominant culture.  They look towards modern Orthodox Jews to learn how to successfully integrate an ancient tradition with the modern world.  They ask us questions in the hopes of learning our secret.  

So while there is no denying that the Reform community is a place for those who want to engage in meaningful interfaith discussion, the Orthodox community serves as a resource to millions of religious Americans who are looking to learn about a Judaism that they can understand and relate to.

Neshama Carlebach's other points have validity.  The traumatic experiences that she describes as a little girl would be enough to make anyone leave, and as a female singer she certainly will be able to reach more people in the Reform community then if she was in the Orthodox community.  

But I don't think that being reform will lead her towards more meaningful interfaith dialogue.  I suggest that if she has meaningful dialogue, which I have no doubt that she does, it is because she is so seeped in Judaism as a result of being her father's daughter.  My hope is that her Aliyah to the Reform movement puts her in a position to have great influence on Reform Jews and bring their masses back to traditional uniquely Jewish practices like Shabbos, Kosher, tefilin, along with traditional Jewish beliefs, and I hope that through her aliyah she can give the Jewish people an aliyah as well.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

S1 E11 - Sjimon Den Hollander

This Shabbos on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show - we have the great privilege of hosting special guest Sjimon Den Hollander!

According Jewish tradition, Moshe's father in law Yitro researched, studied, and experienced all of the religions of the world before he embraced Judaism.  If a person wants to get an insight into what made Yitro special, they should meet Sjimon Den Hollander.

Sjimon was born a Dutch Calvinist in the Netherlands, but at a young age his desire to learn sent him from the faith of his family on a journey of a lifetime that spanned across the globe.

(Some of his bio can be found here, but he will give a detailed account of his amazing life story after Kiddush on Shabbos.)

I had the great privilege of meeting Sjimon when we were both students of the great Hacham Eliyahu ben Haim at Yeshiva university.  Sjimon was my hevrusa (study partner) and together we prepared the texts that Hacham lectured on.  It was an incredible privilege to learn with Sjimon, as Sjimon's life experiences gave him insights, understanding, and practical knowledge on such a wide variety of subjects. 

When we studied anything relating to agriculture or livestock Sjimon drew from his childhood upbringing on a farm.

When we studied anything relating to human anatomy Sjimon drew from his training and experience as a nurse.

When we studied texts Sjimon drew from his proficiency in so many languages, modern and ancient. 

For every mitzvah or ritual he told us about parallel practices in other cultures.

He regularly drew from his knowledge of general world history and philosophy. 

And despite his vast knowledge base, Sjimon is the consummate wise man described by Ben Zoma who can "learn from every man."  I have never met someone who so embodied such genuine humility.  He views every person that he encounters as a potential teacher.  He is a master of the art of listening, and he views every conversation as an opportunity to learn from the other person. 

I am so privileged to know Sjimon.  Since I have known him he has been like an older brother to me. Sjimon has taught me so much about life and connecting with other people.  He has always been there for me for my celebrations, and he was there for me during some of the hardest times in my life. 
I am so happy that my community has an opportunity to meet this extraordinary person and that he will honor us by being a guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska. 

You will not want to miss this unforgettable episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska - this and every Shabbos 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue, where every Shabbos is a shabbaton!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

S1 E10 of Good Shabbos Nebraska - World Famous Blogger Rabbi Josh Yuter

This week may be the most controversial episode ever for Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's Favorite Shabbos Morning Talk Show.

Our guest this week will be the famous blogger and tweeter Rabbi Josh Yuter, author of the Yutopia blog (

Tablet Magazine refers to Rabbi Yuter as "Rabbi Zuckerberg" because of his dominating presence on Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, and every other imaginable form of social media.  

He has over 25,000 followers on twitter including writers from mainstream news outlets such as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and The New York Daily News who site Rabbi Yuter's Tweets as authoritative indicators of the pulse of young Jews.

Among other awards, in 2012 Rabbi Yuter was acknowledged as one of the top ten Jewish influencers for creative and strategic use of social media to positively impact the Jewish community.

Rabbi Yuter and I know each other from our undergraduate days at Yeshiva University.  We were both computer science majors (I subsequently switched to Math) and he seemed to be just a regular quirky computer geek who happened to know a lot of Torah and had a knack for clever punning (“The importance of Tu Bishvat in Judaism has gradually been reseeding.” and "professional weavers often face looming deadlines.")

Back in 1998 he was already involved in that new "internet" thing (probably just a fad) and he starting journaling and expressing his opinions in a log on the "world wide web" which some people called a web log - or "blog" for short.  I remember thinking to myself, "who is reading that anyway?  It is not as if that many people even have a computer!"

Enter the new information age and twitter and now that quirky punning computer geek can broadcast his thoughts to the world, and he has amassed an army of 25,000 followers who anxiously stare at their smart phones waiting to read the next witticism or radical idea that Rabbi Yuter can put out in 140 characters or less.

In almost 15 years of blogging Rabbi Yuter has touched on the most sensitive and provocative issues in modern Jewish life, particularly but not always those facing the Orthodox Jewish world. He has written extensively on gender issues, homosexuality, conversion to Judaism, American and Israeli politics, Rabbi politics, Jewish denominations, new technology, pop culture, and current events.  

He never shies away from chiming in on even the most hotly debated topics, and you never know which side of a controversial issue he will side with.  But you can always be sure that he will have harsh words for one side, the other, or both.  

I believe that Rabbi Yuter's popularity stems from his courage to say things that others are afraid to say, and his fairness on any given issue.  In today's world people tend to flock to blogs that articulate exactly what they are thinking and the discussions devolve into echo chambers.  Rabbi Yuter is a refreshing break from these trends and he provides a thoughtful and challenging perspective on the issues of the day that force people to think and consider a point of view that they other wise would have dismissed outright.  

I am very excited to welcome my good friend, Rabbi Yuter, to Omaha and to give the community an opportunity to meet one of the millennial generation's most provocative and widely disseminated Jewish thinkers.  

Rabbi Yuter is very excited to be a guest for season 1 episode 10 of Good Shabbos Nebraska.  The unique talk show format of GSN is a perfect opportunity for Rabbi Yuter to address a wide variety of topics and let people know exactly what he thinks about them -  in more than 140 characters.

If you have not yet been to Good Shabbos Nebraska, you must check it out and see for yourself why Omaha Jews are raving about and flocking to the most innovative, exciting, and thought provocing synagogue experience anywhere north of Pacific st. and east of 132nd st.  

It all takes place every Shabbos at 10 am ONLY @BethIsraelSynagogue - where every Shabbos is a Shabbaton! #wesias

Monday, December 2, 2013

S1 E9 of Good Shabbos Nebraska

This week on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show - we are proud to feature another guest provided for us by our friends at AIPAC.

Our guest this week will be Sabrina Thomas - AIPAC Southwest Christian Outreach Director –Houston, Texas

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)- stands as the pre-imminent pro-Israel lobby in the United States. Its mission is to nurture and advance the relationship between the United States and Israel.  

As a bi-partisan organization, AIPAC’s strength comes from its grassroots members who cultivate relationships with congressional leaders. Through those relationships, AIPAC’s grassroots members educate and advocate congressional leaders on the necessity of a safe and secure Israel as well as the continued strength of the US - Israel relationship.  

While AIPAC has always been a Jewish institution, AIPAC has taken into account the current demographic trends of the Jewish community in America.  The organization ascertained that in order to sustain and grow the strength of the US - Israel relationship, it needed to expand its base of support. 

Therefore, AIPAC opened its doors in recent years welcoming other pro-Israel Americans to join its advocacy efforts. AIPAC is reaching out to religiously-motivated pro-Israel Christians, African Americans, and Latinos.

In August 2012, AIPAC launched its Southwest Christian Outreach program to reach out to these Christian allies and enhance their pro-Israel advocacy, by hiring Sabrina Thomas, as the Southwest Christian Outreach Director.  Sabrina works to reach pro-Israel Christian leaders primarily in the Southwest (TX, LA, AR, OK, NM, CO, and NE).

This week on Good Shabbos Nebraska we will have an opportunity to meet Sabrina and hear about the work she is doing in Nebraska.

I am particularly interested in learning which religious groups she has had success with, as well as which groups are the most resistant to a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel.  

This week's parsha, vayigash, deals extensively with Yosef's relationship with the Egyptian government and the tension that he experienced as a leader of the Egyptian nation while at the same time advocating for the welfare of his brothers from a foreign nation.  This paradigm has served as historic model for diaspora Jewish communities and we are going to discuss some of the similarities and differences in our current situation.

I am also looking forward to hear what Sabrina has to say about Jewish scepticism towards Christian Zionism, and how AIPAC addresses those concerns.

It is going to be a great Shabbos.  Many thanks, as always to our good friends at AIPAC for making this possible.

So be there this and every Shabbos for Good Shabbos Nebraska, 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel - where every Shabbos is a shabbaton!