The Jewish Musician Who Risked His Path to Stardom to Keep the Sabbath

In 2011, the British pop singer Alex Clare had finally made it big: his first album was coming out, and he had been scheduled to go on tour with the singer-songwriter Adele. But Clare, raised in a secular Jewish home, had in the previous years embraced strict religious observance, and informed his producers that he would have to miss several concert dates because of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. The record company subsequently dropped him, until, as Paul Glynn reports

several months later, when the newly label-less singer suddenly found himself with a hit on his hands. “Too Close,” . . . from his debut album, began to work its way on to radio playlists and up near the top of the UK singles chart in April 2012, thanks largely to an appearance on a Microsoft advertisement.

“We have a saying in Hebrew, gam zu l’tovah, which means, ‘This too is good,’” says Clare. “We say that when something goes really badly wrong. It’s a crazy [thing] to have enough faith to say, ‘This right now is a really bad situation but ultimately God is good and life is good and this is for a greater good,’ whatever that might be. And in my case it really worked out that way.”

Nine years on, Clare is speaking to us around the release of his new single, “Why Don’t Ya,” another booming ballad which marks the end of his five-year hiatus. . . . The track . . . is an ode to his wife, with whom he “ran away” to Israel in 2015, with their firstborn (they now have three children) to “focus on spirituality” and study the Torah and the Talmud.

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Read more at BBC

More about: British Jewry, Judaism, Popular music, Sabbath

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform