Don’t Let The JuBu’s Fool Ya…Buddhism is Treif

Recently the Forward published at article called “The Buddha From Brooklyn,” about Jeff Miller, AKA Surya Das. The article’s author wrote: “In a way, Surya Das’s Buddhist teaching is actually very Jewish.â€? And with that, I had to break my silence about Buddhism.

In discussions about the nature of Jewish life at the turn of this century, the Jubu phenomenon, deserves our attention. But don’t believe the hype, as it offers no solutions, only deeper problems.

Jews in large numbers have studied and adopted Buddhist practices. Some have become leading practitioners. In mainstream Jewish life, among Reform and Conservative congregations, one can hear references to Buddhism or Buddhists in sermons. Even my mother, from a traditional home, has offered to send me books that meld Jewish and Buddhist teachings, that tell Jews how many positive lessons Buddhism has for Jews to learn from.

Who are the JuBu’s?
Most Jews who do Buddhism— Buddhist meditation, tantras and other stuff —know next to nothing about the faith and law of their ancestors. As Jeff Miller said “Judaism never really answered my questions when I was growing up. I asked questions, they said: “Be quiet. Stop with the questions. What’s wrong with you?” So I sought elsewhere.â€? The Judaism they encountered in horrific after-school programs vaccinated them against continued Jewish knowledge as they encountered adulthood. Justifiably uninspired by what they saw, Jews searched elsewhere to find peace, answers, and spirituality. No one can blame them for pursuing spirituality elsewhere, when their Jewish upbringing was based on material pursuits and juvenile explanations. The generations of Jews that annihilated tradition, knowledge, and meaning, bear responsibility for Jews today who are totally ignorant of their own culture and heritage.

So while we cannot condemn, we still cannot condone. Buddhism is antithetical to Jewish practice and belief. A basic understanding of the Torah’s prohibitions of idolatry, deism, and asceticism rule out any kosher involvement with Buddhism, its teachers, proponents, and practice. Those practitioners that claim no inherent conflict are simply ignorant.

What attracts Jews to Buddhism are kernels of wisdom that G-d planted there. Why did G-d do this? Hashem planted those kernels in order to test us. The popularity of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, and Buddhist tchachkes, challenge each and every Jew to learn about their own heritage. Torah, Kabbalah, ancient Jewish prayer and meditation, represent the most unbelievably deep wisdom. Torah teaches how to engage life, the Godly sparks in each person, the nobility of each breath, and the humility to know our place in creation.

Though tempting, and seemingly benign, we must avoid Buddhist idols, symbols, altars, incense, offerings of food and water that are placed for ritual purposes. And since the main thrust of Buddhist teachings in North American are intertwined with meditation techniques, the conflicts inherent are not self-evident. Nonetheless, we must turn away from Buddhism, its JuBu practitioners, and return to Jewish practices and belief.

In words that are best known by the poet John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself…â€?. What a Jew does anywhere in the world has a powerful effect on the rest of the Jewish people. Each Jew is part of a great web of souls with a common root. Every sanctification of Hashem, ever

y Shma Yisrael, every Sabbath candle, resonates in the life of the Jewish people.

We did not survive through history by chance or by fluke. We are here to carry on a crucial mission, Tikkun Olam. Repairing the world, bringing holiness into the world, bringing blessing to the world.

Don’t let the light go out, it has shined for so many years.

Rabbi Yonah can be reached at

Adkins An Anti-Semite?

It seems that American’s love affair with the Bagel are over. Low-carb diet fettish has proven that people want skinny legs and not skinny onion sticks. They want flat abs, not round everything’s. What will become of an America denuded of bagels? Where will hungry Jews have brunch? Could it be that this is the sign of the impending implosion of Jewish culture, or is it just a phase in the muti-faceted evolution of Jewish life in America? After 350 years here, are we finally losing our grip on the American palate? Is this perhaps a sign that Atkins was an anti-Semite?

Well I am sad to say that I don’t think we can pin this decline on anything so insidious, much as I would love to. It is not just an inconvenience that is being literally taken away from Jewish communities nation-wide, but a whole generation of youngsters are growing up with bagel-free brunches, G-d forbid. They serve low-carb bagel alternatives like wraps, heaven help us! Can you imagine a child who thinks that Bubie and Zayde came over from the old world packing lox and cream-cheese wraps?

I am more than nostalgic. I am a freaking bagel lover, and this watershed in Jewish history should not go unnoticed. Is it a coincidence that declining bagel sales correspond to the rise in inter-marriage? That Birthright was born at a time of declining bagel sales?

It all started when bagelers, Noah, Einstein, and other’s sold their homemade bagel chains to multi nationals. The chains introduced such soft fluffy sickening flavored bagels, that it is no wonder that American is rejecting them! The bagels became glamorous buns with little taste or chew. The whole was filled up to make them more sandwich=friendly. They were being sold with meat and cheese fillings, by mega-corps, looking to squeeze every last dime our of the biz, without regard for product quality or customer satisfaction.

This Rise and Fall of the Bagel Empire is a tragic occurrence, to those sensitive enough to feel the reverberations throughout the Jewish world. America will never be the same. And either will my brunch.

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Bagels are big biz. America ate over a half-billion dollars worth of just the top five market brands. That does not include retail bagels and in-house bagels. The numbers reached over a billion dollars in bagels.

Now the decline of the bagel is underway.

In the 1990’s Bageling was still a great investment. “Building a better bagel” by Margaret Littman in Bakery Production and Marketing, Vol. 32, No. 2 (February 15, 1997), quotes industry experts, that the bagel market is not near its saturation point. “According to the American Bagel Association, bagel consumption was 26 bagels per person in 1996. This is an increase from 1993 consumption figures of 14.2 bagels per yearâ€?

Bagel Statistics for 2004

2004 Bagel Statistics
Top Ten Fresh Bagel Brands
Brand Dollar Sales Pounds
1)Thomas 161,591,648 55,901,992
2)Sarah Lee 84,156,336 29,923,414
3)Private Label 63,504,364 34,907,744
4)Lenders 31,613,710 11,794,987
5)Earth Grains 24,357,704 9,232,786

Top Ten Frozen Bagel Brands
Brand Dollar Sales Unit Sales
1)Lenders $95,695,872 73,441,976
2)Lenders other 23,950,2244 15,506,581
3)Private Label 15,481,805 14,108,963
4)Pepperidge 3,832,686 1,338,521
5)Bagels Forever 2,370,845 2,911,556

Top Five Bagel Brands
Category sales of $447.2 (million)
2)Sara Lee
3)Private Label
4)Lenders Bagel Shop
5) Earth Grains

Chutzpah of a Murderer

As The Parsha Goes, So Goes The Week

This famous statement means that world events often mirror events in the Torah Portion of the week. Sometimes subtly, and sometimes gratingly obvious, the parsha never fails.
As the world’s eye is upon a military hospital in France, and reporters scramble to tell the inside story of a wicked man’s fate, it appears that he remains connected to life support for lack of a place to bury him.

“Arafat’s family always has wanted him to be buried in Jerusalem, but Israeli officials have said they would not allow that. There is some discussion about Arafat being buried in Egypt.â€? (from CNN)

Imagine the irony and the chutzpah. Abraham, the tzaddik, the most righteous man who brought monotheism to the planet, who brought morality. The Father of the three great religions. Abraham BUYS his burial plot. This murderer thinks that he somehow deserves it. Somehow that it is his right. This says so much. He has siphoned billions from his starving people and he doesn’t even have what it takes to buy a burial plot.

Sleep Jewish

Sunday night I had the great privilege to be in Irvine, at the amazing and new JCC. The Musical Mystery Tour began. OC Hillel has created a beit-cafe program in their student lounge for an evening of music and conversation with me, really, can you believe it? All told, this is going to be a marvelous venue for music and ideas, for thought provoking questions and discussion. The essence of our discussion was “What is the Jewish View on Relationships,” but of course it went far beyond this. We discussed brit milah, pre-marital sex, masturbation, the animal soul and the G-dly soul, the quest for love, and the agony of defeat.

But the main issue that we realized was: What do sexually active college students do to bring their lives and behavior closer in line with the Torah ideal, when they, nor their partners are ready for such a leap of faith and change of habit? How can we go from sleeping together now, and then say, well maybe we should put this off till marriage?

There are no easy simple answers and each person has his/her own journey. Even without the Jewish element, college is a time of establishing relationships, and patterns that might be with us for the rest of our adult lives. How one acts in college can affect their entire lives. And I am not even speaking about the drastic things that can happen – STD’s, unplanned pregnancy, rape — but “normalâ€? behavior as well.

The crucial message to college students is: Sleep Jewish. So many students tell me that they are dating non-Jews.

So while I cannot offer a simply answer to the student who is sleeping with his girlfriend, at least lets make sure that she is Jewish. The rest we can work on later.