Does Religion Need Glitz?

Sept. 1 2015

Noting a trend toward competitive advertising for High Holiday services, Marc Angel rues what it implies:

Recent issues of New York’s Jewish Week newspaper, as well as other publications, have included advertisements by area synagogues that promise “inspiring” services and sermons, talented cantors, special programs for children, etc. Several hotels have placed ads attempting to lure customers to spend the holy days in their “luxurious and chic” facilities, where guests will enjoy services led by fine cantors, rabbis, and scholars in residence.

[While I was] perusing the various ads, it struck me that virtually all of them are appealing to readers’ desire to be entertained. The ads seem to be saying: come to our synagogue or hotel and you’ll have a great time, good music, good speakers, [and] lots of inspiration. You should come to us (rather than to others) because we can entertain you better, or cheaper, or for free.

I suppose it should not be surprising to find synagogues marketing themselves as entertainment centers, even if they also include “inspiration” and “meaningful” services as part of their draw. . . . Yet, in reading the pre-Rosh Hashanah ads, my heart sinks. . . .

Traditionally, the month of Elul [the final month of the Jewish calendar] is a period of self-evaluation in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Special prayers are chanted; the shofar is sounded. The season is not here to entertain us, but to challenge us. It is not meant to be a time of spiritual passivity, but a time to encourage us to raise our spiritual levels by dint of our own efforts.

Read more at Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

More about: American Jewry, High Holidays, Religion & Holidays, Synagogue


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria