Chairman’s Message

While Jews have never been actively involved in proselytizing, there is no question that converts and descendants of converts, ranging from Ruth to Onkeles to Rabbi Akiva, have enormously enriched Jewish life and history. In contemporary times, converts continue to contribute to the Jewish world in profound ways. Indeed, each of the converts profiled in this issue—whether it be a former minister from Japan or an Oxford-educated prince from Swaziland—is a sincere, deeply spiritual individual who overcame significant obstacles—sacrificing culture, community and oftentimes, even family–on the road to becoming Jewish. We hope that the following stories will not only move you but will inspire you to deepen your own connection to Torah and Yahadut.

In this issue, we also explore the Jewish perspective on death and mourning. Probing the Hebrew word for consolation, nechamah, writer Allen Bodner struggles to understand the purpose of life in the aftermath of his wife’s tragic death. Steve Lipman, a well-known staff writer at the New York Jewish Week, shares his feelings about Yizkor, the beautiful memorial prayer recited on the holidays. And, mental health professional Yael Wedeck reviews some of the newest Jewish books on the subject and how they can help both mourners and those who come to offer comfort.

Finally, the issue features a poignant and candid essay written by Yaakov Eisen, a young Religious Zionist who was prepared to enter the army before the disengagement. In the aftermath of the evacuation, Eisen is struggling to cope with his feelings, his loyalties and his own future. “Regrettably,” he writes, “when we see a soldier in uniform, we envision before us not those who liberated the Temple Mount but those who ruthlessly expelled us from Gush Katif.” While his views may be seen as extreme by some, there is no doubt that there are hundreds, if not thousands of disillusioned youth just like him in Israel.

Aside from these major features, the issue includes our usual array of stimulating and thoughtful departments, from Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein’s latest find on the Jewish Internet to Peter Abelow’s creative travel ideas. I would like to impress upon you, our loyal readers, that we are very interested in hearing from you. Your thoughts, ideas and opinions can help share the direction of this magazine. Please take a moment to drop us a line at ja@ou.org.

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This article was featured in the Summer 2006 issue of Jewish Action.
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