Stories of Growth

The Super Bowl Big Shot Who Takes Off for Shabbat
Despite all of the pomp and fame, my relationship with G-d remains central in my own decision-making, as well as my interactions with others. I’ve had to turn down many lucrative business opportunities and decline important events because of my commitment to Shabbat and the holidays.
This Wrestling Champ Brings Tefillin to His Public High School
“Was I a Jew? Did I want to be one? Was I more of a wrestler, or more of a Jew? What’s good about being Jewish anyway?”
A Prison Guard’s Journey Home
My childhood was a scrambled mix of Christmas trees and Chanukah menorahs, church visits and the occasional Jewish service.
From Catholic Italian to Jewish Rabbi: David Martinetti Shares His Story
The rabbi walked toward me with a smile, extended his hand warmly, and offered me my first Jewish greeting: ‘Shalom.’ I froze, completely overwhelmed.
From Woodstock to Jerusalem
A short account of a long trip
The String That Ties Us Together
My summer yeshivah experience as a 39-year-old dad
A New Beginning
All my life, I was made to feel different, and if I didn’t play by the rules then I wasn’t a “good,” serious Jew. Is that how I want my son and daughter to feel? Do I have what it takes to connect?
Surviving the Fall
When a man finds himself visited by the same recurring dream, his normal schedule begins to fall apart. Robbed of sleep, with his life taken over by the dream, he embarks on a quest of self-discovery to find out why the dream matters so much to him.
Yanir's Search for Meaning in All the Wrong Places
An epic musical, mystical search that spanned India, China, Argentina, and Israel
Before I Said
Have you ever strolled on a college campus on a Saturday at eight in the morning? No one is around, no one is up. But I was—because I wasn’t going to get trapped into joining the minyan.
Why I Seek Outside Validation
The Inner World of an Adult Orphan
My father could not give me that basic confirmation that I am, that I matter. He passed away before he had enough time to do that for me. So I look for compensation.
How a Chanukah Menorah Changed My Life
One man’s search for his buried treasure.
A Continuous Journey
Following high school graduation, I set off for Israel, Birkenstocks and Bob Marley t-shirt in tow. I found an apartment in the center of Jerusalem, and waited for something to happen.
Moses Lives On
Moses and Jean Valjean: the connection
Turning My Life Around
I found myself questioning the one thing I had always depended on—my Jewish faith...
Karl Goodman
An “ish tov”—good man
My father gave me a huge hug and kiss like only he could, and then we walked out to the parking lot. As he began driving, my father told me how proud he was of me for playing so well. What he said next taught me a life lesson that I have never forgotten . . .
A Peace of (My) Mind
“So, what then? We should sit back, do nothing . . . and watch him slowly kill himself?” “No. I’m just saying maybe there’s a better way to reach him . . .”
Chucking Expectations
What did that mean, “discarding expectations”? Every situation results in some sort of outcome; positive or negative, we have to expect that something is going to happen. Besides, I was always taught that expectations can play a key role in life—expect good things, and they’ll happen for you; expect bad things, and they’ll definitely happen to you. How does someone approach life with no expectations at all?
The Rest Will Come Later
My grandfather kissed my cheeks and said, "Morty, every morning when you wake up, I want you to look at the mirror and strike your heart three times. While you are striking your heart, recite, 'I was born a Jew; I was raised a Jew; and I will die a Jew.'"
Journeying From the Forest of Despair
Despite his age (late adolescence being a time of presumed invincibility) and his size (he was a big guy), my brother began to become fearful. Dusk was rapidly approaching...
Life's Little Reversals
It’s clear that this is the swearing-in ceremony concluding basic training for these boys. I was across the ocean when my own son received his beret and Bible; I can’t bring myself to leave now.
Other Side of the Tapestry
Our lives are like the reverse side of a great tapestry. From the back, it all looks random and chaotic: all we can see are the knots, the imperfections, some bumps, smears of color...
Mikvah Time
The year is the same, the days are the same, but the months are different. It is a time quite individual—created by G‑d especially for me . . .
Free Trial Period
It was the commercial that first attracted me. Then there were the bonus gifts, and by the time my free-trial period was up I'd forgotten that my credit card was being billed monthly...
Who Are You?
In prison, you lose your identity. You can't be a thief when you aren't stealing; you can't be a drug dealer when you aren't dealing. You have no status in the underworld and no status in the real world
My Last Shabbat with Grandfather
That his Shabbat prayer was a gift to last all my years, Grandfather could hardly have known. And in the very last moments before my carriage moved, he gave me still another, utterly precious gift...
The Healer
I finally learned what it means to be a doctor
Leon Friedman was a Holocaust survivor who wrestled with his memories, suffered depression, and what some would call "survivor's guilt." I saw him frequently for one problem or another; sometimes I thought he just wanted to talk...
Hell's Kitchen
Radical research was required. I could have been a bit more philanthropic, but I needed a visceral rite of passage, not to mention the brief catharsis destruction provides...
The End of the World
It was back to basics. Actually, it was back to much less than basics. It was back to virtually nothing...
Big Families
"How Many Children Are You Going to Have?"
I recently participated in a phone conference connecting 29 people from Israel, Ukraine, France, Alaska, Texas, New York and Solon, Ohio, all the children or children-in-law of a single woman -- my mother
A Father's Blessing
"Daddy," I cried, gulping down the large lump that was forming in my throat. "We don't want your blessing tomorrow. We want it after the surgery, for many years to come!"
Crimson Mist
I'm driving down the mountain. The forest on either side of the Jerusalem Highway has an eerie, mystical aura. The words pop into my mind: Free Choice
I Never Got to Mozambique
The rabbi was speaking of women’s inherent spiritual superiority to men. My hand shot up. “Where are the men? Shouldn’t they also hear of our elevated status?”
Flying West
The center is not our creation, but the circle is. The paradox today is this: one cannot create a circle without a firm center, yet the center is invisible until we create our circle
At a certain point we have lived long enough to see that every choice we made was made in ignorance.
My Pesach Story
a Letter from Jerusalem
The philosophical conclusion of quantum physics is that physical reality is determined by a human observer. Halachah (Torah law) requires me to check every corner of my home for pretzel crumbs. Corrective observation
I work 12 to 14 hours a day. I have even less time than money. My obligations to family, work, and community are greater than any time in my life. Yet I have never been more free
I simply had no more talk left in me. I had spent hours casting about for some suitable activity that could serve as a replacement for the speaking, but thus far, I had come up with nothing.
A Burning Bush
An earsplitting blast froze me in my place and the ground vibrated from an explosion. Terrified screams and a haze of smoke filled the air...
The Women's Balcony
“I want to know why the women aren’t allowed to dance with the men.” My anger sounded to my own ears flat, bold, the way I wanted it . . .
I didn’t need a guru -- I needed my grandmother
"That was about the time of the beginning of the baal teshuvah movement," I said, remembering my arrival in Crown Heights in 1974. My guest bristled. "What do you mean, 'movement'?" he said. "I wasn’t part of any movement. I did this on my own."
A Set of Dishes
Our interests included Jewish "things": JPS books, Chagall prints, and Jewish records. And that was enough for us. Until our visit to Warsaw
The Ache in My Heart
It was merely the expectation that I would see the Rebbe again. Or, to be more precise, that he would see me . . .
Family relations for a ba'al tshuvah is a tricky, and often painful affair
My Sojourn in the Garden of Eden
I was in the Garden of Eden, its bounty sorrounded me, and yet my simplest actions had no meaning
A Sixth Dimension
They were carrying branches and fruit. They wanted me to wave them in the air, to shake them in all directions. For G‑d. For world peace. For unity . . .
Flying back to Israel from New York, I sat next to an Israeli who didn’t hold religious Jews in high regard.
Running out of Gas
It was the kind of neighborhood where you don’'t just take a leisurely walk, even in the daytime. I was scared . . .
At My Friend's Wedding
The other night one of my dearest friends was married. He had looked past his personal inhibitions, I had remained imprisoned by mine.
The Storm Chaser
I glanced around; I had lost him already. I later discovered that he, too, was unfamiliar with the roads, but astonishingly that didn’t stop him. The gust of suspense left in his wake intrigued me...
The Science of Life and the Art of Living
Jacques Berger looked me up and down, noting my long ponytail, plaid flannel shirt and threadbare, faded blue jeans. He must have also noticed my ethnically distinct nose...
Déjà Vu For Little Michele
A Faith Journey
One part of our Sunday church service referred to “our brothers and sisters, the Jews.” I asked my Irish mother about Jews at one time, and she smiled and told me that the Jews were very special people with a special connection to G-d
My Jewish Soul was Crying
A Journey Back From Christianity
No matter how much I talked the talk and walked the walk, my inner soul was crying. I married a non-Jewish man and had two sons. My soul cried out to me that they are Jewish!
A Letter to Shlomo
As the beloved counselor of the oldest bunk of 14 teenagers, they quickly understood something was wrong with me. They probed hard and found out that, somewhat like E.T., I needed desperately to “phone home”—to connect with Shabbat...
Gush Katif Viewpoint: Five Years Later
We move forward, but the past returns at odd moments. There is so much hurt.
The Professor and the Hot Dog
The rest is commentary
Professor Greene was involved in the NASA program to find life on Mars. No, the hot dog was not from Mars. But it was a mighty hot dog, nonetheless. Just not as mighty as Professor Greene.
I Took the Road Less Traveled—and Stayed There
“You’re going to sit home ALONE instead of driving to shul to be with other Jews at Shabbat services?!” my parents demanded.
How I Found Myself as a Comedian and as a Jew
At that point, my entire identity was wrapped up in what I did and not how I felt, and I had no strong point of view.
Declaring Chapter 11 for my family business was beyond humbling. I felt as if my life was crumbling.