Sinai Temple, in collaboration with Craig ‘N Co., will hold their popular Friday Night Live Shabbat service at Los Angeles Ford Ampitheatre on June 14, 2013.
(PRWeb May 09, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/SinaiTemple/FridayNightLiveattheFord/prweb10683665.htm
"Jo Joe," a new novel by Sally Wiener Grotta is "a riveting read; Astute, psychologically believable and moving," says Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum.
(PRWeb May 06, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/pixelhalllpress/050613/prweb10698345.htm
Inspiration Breaks announces sale on framed blessings and prayers that are sure to make lasting, one of a kind gifts this Mother’s Day.
(PRWeb April 30, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/4/prweb10684685.htm
Express Success LLC announces free Q&A call on karma, angels, past lives, and the inner child with Dr. Joy Pedersen, Angelic Channel, Licensed Spiritual Healer and Certified Spiritual Health Coach...
(PRWeb April 25, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/expresssuccess/freeqanda/prweb10665643.htm
World renowned speaker and community leader Rabbi Shimon Green visits Congregation Beth Israel Malden, to educate, entertain, and inspire at a Shabbaton and Lag B'Omer celebration.
(PRWeb April 22, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/4/prweb10657018.htm
by Michele Gelman and Sheila Gold
Michele Gelman is a native of New Orleans. By comparison, Sheila Gold is a relative “newcomer,” having been actively involved with her congregation for only 23 years. Despite this difference, these two women share many things: friendship, commitment to their respective synagogues, devotion to the Jewish community, and a love of pedicures.
Michele: We met nearly seven years ago. We were both enrolled in a two-year leadership development program through the New Orleans Federation and a mutual friend, before we enrolled in the Federation program, invited us to dinner at the Chef’s Table at Emeril’s Restaurant. I left that night knowing my husband and I would be friends with the Golds, but I had no idea that our friendship would develop through our Jewish journey together.
Sheila: As part of the program, we traveled together in Israel. We literally spent 24 hours a day together for 10 days. The trip was designed to bond our group and it certainly did! Spending so much time together, we learned a lot about each other and the families we’d left back in New Orleans. Our husbands were on the trip as well and they too developed a nice friendship. Our girls are “stair-stepped” in age at 10, 11, 12 and 13 years old. They all attend the same school and spend summers at URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS. Our older two girls, who have spent the last several years in the same cabin, have their own strong friendship, which has its roots in Jewish learning and commitment.
Michele: Both of us devote so much of our Jewish volunteer energy to synagogue life that we always have something to talk about. I’m a member of Congregation Gates of Prayer; Sheila belongs to Temple Sinai. Even though they’re “competing synagogues,” they often face many of the same challenges and questions—especially as synagogue life and membership become an increasingly hard-sell.
Sheila: Over time, as our friendship grew, so did our leadership skills and our commitment to our own temples. Several years ago, each of us was nominated to an executive board position, putting us on track to be the congregation’s president. As we got more involved in our leadership posts, we began to share ideas and troubleshoot synagogue issues that were especially tricky or troubling. While the age and demographics of our respective congregations may vary, the universal issues of membership, budget and engagement remain the same. It is not unusual for us to use the other as a sounding-board around related topics.
Michele: Many folks are surprised by our alliance—not the friendship part as much as the fact that we use each other as a support system and a sounding board for the leadership challenges we each face. We find this funny and reject all together the notion of competition.
Sheila: Luckily, our board meetings are on different nights of the week so we’re available to each other for “consultations.” For instance, last Tuesday night, the night of Michele’s board meetings, she sent me a text that said, “What is your social media policy?” We had a bit of back and forth, all while she was at the meeting.
Michele: And a few weeks before that, on a Monday night, Sheila texted me this question: “Do you have members underwrite religious school events?” I filled her in on the policy at Gates of Prayer, which helped her temple’s leadership devise their own guidelines.
Sheila: Although, of course, there’s not going to be a merger anytime soon, we think it is crucially important for the Jewish community to function in a way that blurs lines and unifies communities, strengthening the Jewish people.
Michele: I intentionally chose to have my presidency coincide with Sheila’s installation as president. Why not? We support the Jewish community and the Jewish people, and both work for the collective good. If our friendship can be a symbol for something greater, all the better—for us, for our congregations and for the community-at-large.
Sheila: Michele and I always stand and speak shoulder to shoulder, in strong, steady voices. As we set off down the road toward our respective presidencies, our conversations (and our texts) certainly will continue!
Michele Mohre Gelman is a third generation lifetime member of Congregation Gates of Prayer, where she serves as executive vice president. Her two-year term as president will begin on July 1, 2013. Thanks to her two daughters and very devoted husband she is able to dedicate time to serving the congregation and the Jewish community.
Sheila Korones Gold is incoming president of Temple Sinai. An active member of the congregation for 23 years, she is—compared to Michele—a relative newcomer to New Orleans. Sheila’s heritage includes past temple leaders, and she hopes to pass the tradition on to her two daughters. When she’s not volunteering in the Jewish community, Sheila spends time with her daughters and her incredibly supportive husband, all of whom allow her the time and space to give Jewishly.
The Union for Reform Judaism is accepting donations to assist in the wake of the deadly tornado in Oklahoma. The URJ will allocate funding received to agencies on the ground that are best equipped to respond to this disaster. We’re also working closely with our congregations in the affected region to assure the safety of their congregants, their neighbors, and their structures and to determine next steps in relief work.
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said in a statement released today, “We are numb with grief, and yet inspired by the heroic resilience of the people of Oklahoma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this horrific tragedy. For now, we will collect donations and distribute them to the American Red Cross and others on the ground in Oklahoma. As other needs arise, perhaps including volunteers to assist with the clean-up and rebuilding, we stand ready to help in any way possible.”
To make a donation online visit www.urj.org/relief. Checks can be sent to the Union for Reform Judaism (Attn: Oklahoma Tornado Relief), 633 Third Ave., New York, NY 10017 or to the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism, 3845 Bathurst St. Suite 301, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3H 3N2.
Together, let’s show all of those affected in Oklahoma how much the Reform Movement cares.
by Sharon Mann
Editor’s Note: This post is the first of two about Congregation Emet VeShalom. The complementary post will appear tomorrow.
Reform Judaism and religious pluralism, which are taken for granted in the United States, are not axiomatic in Israel. As a member of Emet VeShalom—a Reform congregation in Nahariya, a peripheral area of Israel eight miles from Lebanon’s border—I know maintaining a non-Orthodox congregation is fraught with challenges. At present, one major challenge facing ours is that we do not have a rabbi serving as spiritual leader of our community. Our members are facing this challenge by stepping up and taking on the different roles of leading our Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday evening) services on a weekly basis, in addition to many of their other voluntary activities for our congregation.
Our Ritual Committee Chairperson and President work tirelessly to keep our congregation going and flowing from week to week by arranging a monthly schedule of participants. Each week, one person acts as leader of the services (or “coordinator,” as we refer to the position); one or more act as chazan (cantor), and a third member gives the drasha (discussion of the weekly Torah portion). Still, as Emet VeShalom is a relatively small congregation, it is not easy to fill all these roles and provide the spiritual nourishment that all seek at services.
Therefore, in March, I was surprised and delighted to receive an email from Marla Gamoran, founder and executive director of Skilled Volunteers for Israel, informing me that an American Reform rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Temple Beth El, Madison, WI, was planning to be in our area during his sabbatical and wanted to volunteer with our congregation. I was gratified to learn of Rabbi Biatch’s desire and put him in touch with our Ritual Committee Chairperson to discuss how he could help us. Rabbi Biatch quickly committed himself to leading services and giving the discussion of the Torah portion for three consecutive Friday evening services. He also volunteered to give a lecture in English to the English-speaking members of our congregation.
To my knowledge, Rabbi Biatch’s volunteer work with us at Emet VeShalom is the first of its kind here. His contribution to our congregation brings together two concepts that we as Reform Jews hold dear, namely tikkun olam (repair of the world) and strengthening connections between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. We are blessed by his presence and the spiritual leadership he is sharing with us. He made such a wonderful impression at the first service he led that at its conclusion our community coordinator said, “We already miss him!”
In his d’var Torah on the portion Emor, Rabbi Biatch spoke about taking advantage of opportunities in life that we can declare as “holy.” He gave us several examples, including the opportunity to sanctify time and personal and communal relationships. We are learning from his example. At Emet VeShalom, we are joyful and appreciative that Rabbi Biatch chose to sanctify and dedicate his time and skills to enrich our congregation and our lives in Nahariya.
Sharon Mann made aliyah 20 years ago and lives in Nahariya, Israel. She is an active member of Emet VeShalom.
by Ruben Arquilevich
“Camp Newman helps us feel closer to God”. This is how I opened my dialogue with our 2013 leadership staff at our annual Spring retreat. You could have imagined the response. Even some of our Rabbinic students felt uneasy about this language and its timing (opening conversation). “God” talk is scary for many of us. It is not common language and many of us are just not comfortable with the term “God”. We are not alone and have a long history of struggling with this concept – after all, the term “Israel” means to “wrestle with God”. As Reform, progressive Jews, we do not strictly define God, so the sentiment of “closer to God” might feel foreign. Yet, the belief in God is a central pillar of Reform Judaism and of Camp Newman.
I have also struggled with God language, only having reached a comfort level in recent years. While I profess no single definition of God, I have come to appreciate the belief in a source of life, meaning, ultimate issues and purpose beyond our lives; and that Judaism and God play a role in this narrative. I have come to embrace God through life and death moments, nature, silence, children’s laughter, daily tribulations and accomplishments, tears of joy and sorrow and the daily mysteries and miracles of life.
At Camp Newman, and at Jewish sleep away camps in general, one only needs to take a stroll to bear witness to Godly moments: friends sitting under a tree, sharing with each other their greatest fears and hopes; campers shouting from the “Star of David Hike”, “We love being Jewish”; the sounds of laughter, joy and glee around every bend; pausing to reflect upon sunsets; a group of children engaged in deep conversation about life and its purpose; the embrace, support and healing from community as campers deal with loss and difficulties at home, reconciliation and deeper understanding after a conflict; a real apology and forgiveness; Israeli staff and Israel culture; Shabbat ruach, with staff blessing their campers; arms around each other at night as they gaze upon the stars and sing the Shema
Camp is ripe for feeling closer to God because we believe the most when we feel the connection. Camp, because of its 24/7 Jewish living in community, in nature, under certain values, provides endless touches of inspiration, feeling, emotion – joy, sadness, conviction, gratitude, awe, love. At camp we are not only unplugged from distractions of technology, but more importantly, plugged into the sacred in each other as Jews and human beings.
We just completed the Counting of the Omer, the period of counting the days between Passover (freedom) and Shavuot (receiving of the Torah). The mystics believed that we needed to meditate upon the 49 days leading up to Shavuot as a way to be “worthy” of receiving the Torah. That we needed to acquire certain manifestations of God, very human characteristics, certain emotional attributes: Chesed -loving kindness, gevruah -justice/restraint/awe, tiferet – beauty/harmony/compassion; netzach – endurance, fortitude, ambition; hod – humility; yesod -foundation; malchut – nobility, leadership. During this period, the Jewish people were becoming a nation, filled with laws/rules/things to know. To receive the Torah, however, the greatest gift, it was less about what one knew but about how we were to treat eachother as human beings and about how we were to be in the world.
The Talmud states “That By The Breath Of Children God Sustains The World”. The opportunity to wrestle with God , in a community of peers, mentors, role models and without judgments, is one of Camp’s greatest gifts. I call it our God journeys. We celebrate over a million hours of Jewish immersion at Camp Newman every year. It is during these hours, some formal but mostly informal, that we get to practice the aforementioned manifestations of God – which are very human, help us connect to God and travel our God journeys.
P.S. I concluded my conversation with our leadership staff as follows: over the weeks ahead, as you prepare for summer, you will learn many “how to do’s” and you’ll work on programs. Remember to take the time to prepare yourself emotionally and how you will support your staff, campers, your faculty and your campers parents around interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, helping us all connect with God.
Israel on Monday cancelled a visit by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to Jerusalem’s Old City, saying the Palestinians had sought to politicise a conservation mission.Click here for the rest of the article...
Imagine this: a school without a Facebook page! How could this be?
In the winter of 2011 Carmel Academy underwent a name change, as well as a rigorous and successful accreditation process. The name change, in particular, was a unique experience – one that required a great deal of forethought, leadership, careful planning and implementation. With a new branding campaign, a stellar accreditation report and the excitement that electrified our school community, we embraced this as an opportunity to also become part of the social media landscape. Coinciding with our new name and look, Carmel launched four social media platforms: a newly redesigned and robust read more
In a very personal and open letter, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann urges Hebrew Union College to reconsider its decision to deny entry to students who are romantically involved with non-Jews.Click here for the rest of the article...
Here are just a few of the recent stories from across the webosphere that speak directly to (and about) Reform Jews. What Jewish stories have you been reading recently? Leave a comment and let us know!
- “Modern-Day Rabbi Must Be CEO, Teacher, and Spiritual Leader at Once,” Forward
Are rabbis the new CEOs? Anne Cohen reports that “expectations have changed.” Rabbis are now required to read a spreadsheet as well as the Gemara. They need to be accessible, media-savvy public speakers; business-oriented entrepreneurs; fundraisers; program generators, and in touch with popular trends. To prepare rabbinical students for the challenges ahead, seminaries are reassessing their curriculum to focus more on professional development and pastoral skills than ever before.
- “Let There Be War at the Wall,” Haaretz
In this op-ed, RabbI Eric Yoffie writes that his first reaction to the ugly confrontation at the Western Wall on Friday was to be appalled and sickened. “But on reflection,” he says, “I’ve changed my mind: I welcome the war that the ultra-Orthodox have chosen to launch. As offensive as these actions were, there are multiple reasons to expect that good might emerge from the nastiness of recent days.”
- “Almost Half of Israeli Jews back Women of the Wall,” Times of Israel
Forty-eight percent of Israel’s Jewish population, including 64% of its secular citizens, support the Women of the Wall organization in its bid to enable alternatives to traditional prayer services at the Western Wall, according to a poll released Sunday. Only 26% of those who described themselves as traditionally religious supported the movement; none of the ultra-Orthodox respondents supported the movement.
The list is in and, according to the Jerusalem Post, our own Anat Hoffman is the 5th most influential Jew in the world. Hoffman, the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), trails only MK Yair Lapid, Jack Lew, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. She comes in above Jon Stewart (#7), Rep. Debbi Wasserman Schultz (#10) and Justice Elana Kagan (#12), just to name a few.
And, of course, our own Rabbi Saperstein is ranked as #26.
Hoffman’s high ranking is in part a result of her leadership in Women of the Wall, which has made remarkable strides over the past year advancing pluralism and women’s rights at the Kotel. Just this past week, Women of the Wall made headlines when thousands of Haredi Jews violently protested the group’s Rosh Kodesh service by launching rocks, spit and verbal abuse.
Unlike at previous services, for the first time in over two decades the police protected the Women of the Wall and arrested some of the perpetrators who threatened them. Such a dramatic turn in official treatment stems from a recent court ruling defending the right of women to pray at the Kotel.
The battle over women’s rights at the Kotel has now spread to the Knesset, where Naftali Bennet and Tzipi Livni are publically sparring. Countering recent court decisions, Benner seeks to regulate prayer at the Kotel and to limit the Women of the Wall’s practice. Livni has expressed her opposition to any such limitations, which require her approval.
While the status of the Western Wall now dominates Israeli media (so much so that Women of the Wall is even a subject heading on Haartetz), its newfound fame is symptomatic of greater religious tensions in Israel. As the battles over religious pluralism, women’s rights and the rights of the non-Orthodox are on-going in Israel, we are proud to have Anat Hoffman at the helm.
Japan’s IRH Press Releases New Spiritual Interview Series by World Spiritual Leader and Japan’s Bestselling Author Master Ryuho Okawa.
(PRWeb April 18, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/Iran_Israel2013/04/prweb10622819.htm
Milwaukee Jewish Day School is a non-diversified school accepting Jews from across the board. We have an excellent education program deeply rooted in tradition and innovation. We have a large emphasis on digital media and technology such as iPads, smart-boards, computer Labs, and a green screen studio. With so many students and parents using technology photo’s and videos have never been so important.
We’ve always had an Annual Campaign, but for the first time as a result of the Social Media Academy we decided to try something different, and accept donations online.
As the largest coed Jewish day school in Baltimore – and the area’s only community day school – we have made significant progress this year harnessing the power of social media to share key messages with our current and prospective families. We have increased our Page “likes” over 33 percent, and have created some great content, including a number of creative videos that have “gone viral”. We are posting regularly with engaging content, using a warm and friendly voice, and our page stats reflect the growth in our audience and their interest in our page.
By Rabbi Richard Sarason
In the traditional liturgy, the special character of each holiday is particularly conveyed by the piyyutim (hymns, liturgical poems) that are recited or chanted on that day. Most of these piyyutim have been omitted in Reform liturgies since the nineteenth century, out of a sense that their Hebrew diction is too arcane and their theology too medieval. Yet, some of these poems have routinely been retained in Reform High Holy Day prayer books, particularly for Yom Kippur.1
Probably the best known of the piyyutim for Rosh Hashanah, which over time has come to be recited on Yom Kippur as well, is Un’taneh tokef (“Let us declare the awesome sanctity of this day”). This poem powerfully dramatizes the Zichronot theme of Rosh Hashanah as Yom ha-din, the Day of Judgment, on which “all creatures pass before God as in a military muster” (the imagery comes from Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:2).2 It describes in rather harrowing images3 how the book of memory, in which each person’s deeds are inscribed, is opened on this day, and how everyone’s fate for the next year is inscribed on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur–for life or death, for prosperity or suffering. Yet the poem continues on a hopeful note that prayer, repentance, and charity may avert or temper any severe decree. It then contrasts the frailty and fragility of human life with God’s eternity, and expresses confidence in divine compassion. In the traditional liturgy, the poem is recited in the Musaf Amidah, right before the Kedushah, the acclamation of God’s holiness. The poem’s very last lines, in fact, transition into this acclamation.
The poem is intentionally upsetting; it aims to stop each of us in our tracks and to make us consider ultimate themes of life and death, as well as our personal behavior and responsibility for our actions. In previous generations, many worshippers were literally moved to tears by its message and imagery. In our own day, it is not necessary to take any of this mythic imagery at face value in order to take seriously the poem’s underlying ideas and exhortations. Some North American Reform prayer books (notably that of Isaac Mayer Wise) that were concerned about the imagery omitted altogether the first part of the poem. Others, such as the Union Prayer Book and Gates of Repentance, shortened the poem by omitting its ending. The current draft of the new Reform Mahzor gives the entire poem, with extensive framing commentary and “left-page” alternatives. Some North American Reform prayer books (notably the 1855 prayer book of Temple Emanuel in New York and the Union Prayer Book) included this poem only in the Yom Kippur liturgy rather than on Rosh Hashanah, regarding “the awesomeness of this day” as more appropriate to Yom Kippur.
The poem has an interesting history. It was composed by an unknown poet in the land of Israel during the Byzantine era (perhaps in the 6th to 7th centuries C.E.),4 and appears in three Mahzor fragments of the rite of the land of Israel found in the Cairo Genizah. It does not appear in any fragments of the Babylonian rite found there, nor does it appear in the Sefardic rite. It is taken up into the medieval Ashkenazic rite together with other piyyutimfrom the land of Israel (there was a movement of – some – liturgical texts and customs from the land of Israel through Italy and into the Rhineland). The well-known legend (paraphrased by Chaim Stern in Gates of Repentance) of the martyrdom of Rabbi Amnon of Mayence/Mainz,5 who is said to have composed and recited this poem in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah as he was expiring, is just that-an Ashkenazic legend that aims to sanctify the rather recent custom of reciting this poem by linking it up with a tale of pious martyrdom in the wake of the Crusades in the Rhineland. In the legend, Rabbi Amnon is said to have come in a dream to the prestigious Rabbi Kalonymos Meshullam ben Kalonymos and taught him the poem. Rabbi Kalonymos ben Meshullam was, in fact, one of the martyrs of the First Crusade.
Un’taneh tokef remains one of the highlights of the High Holy Day liturgy on account of its sober theme and graphic imagery. It exhorts us to consider what really matters in life, and leaves us with a sense of urgency, but also a sense of confidence that repentance and change are possible – and that this is how we should approach the Divine.
For further reading:
Machzor: Challenge and Change. Resource Pack for Individual and Group Study. CCAR, 2010.
Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, ed., Who by Fire, Who by Water: Un’taneh Tokef.Jewish Lights, 2010.
- Very often the piyyutim retained were from the Spanish-Portuguese Sephardic rite, which are written in a more classic biblical Hebrew style under the influence of Arabic poetics, rather than from the Ashkenazic rite, where the earlier and more florid Byzantine poetic models from the land of Israel were still being emulated. The Spanish poems, on the whole, are easier to understand and correspond more to western poetic aesthetic ideals than the Byzantine and Ashkenazic ones. Thus, for example, it has been common in Reform prayer books to begin the Yom KippurSeder Ha’avodah, the description of the Yom Kippur rites in the Second Temple, with the introductory poem from the Sephardic rite rather than from the Ashkenazic one. That custom may still be found in Gates of Repentance, p. 410.
- The best manuscripts of the Mishnah and at least one Genizah fragment of the poem read here kiv’numeron rather than kiv’nei maron. Numeron is a Greek loan-word, meaning a military muster, during which each soldier is counted. B’nei maronrepresents a later attempt to read this as two Semitic words: “those on high” = the angels (construing maron as an Aramaized form of marom). Interestingly, the creative misreading seems already to be presumed in the content of the poem, which proclaims that the angels also are judged on Rosh Hashanah.
- As a graphic depiction of the Day of Judgment, this poem has sometimes been likened to the Catholic Dies Irae hymn of the Latin Requiem Mass, which describes the Last Judgment in similarly harrowing terms (and dates from roughly the same period). Un’taneh tokef, of course, does not deal with the final judgment at the end of time but rather with the annual judgment on Rosh Hashanah.
- Piyyut-scholar Joseph Yahalom has identified the poem’s author as Yannai, a sixth-seventh century synagogue poet best known for his extensive weekly cycles ofkedushtot, which relate the weekly Torah readings to the first three benedictions of the Amidah. See his “Who Shall be the Author and Who Shall Not,” Haaretz, September 6, 2002.
- This first appears in Or Zarua (“Light is sown”), a book of liturgical customs and their reasons by Isaac ben Moses of Vienna (c. 1180-1250). The name Amnon is characteristic of Italian Jews, not Ashkenazic Jews. There apparently was a Rabbi Amnon who was martyred in Italy.
Dr. Sarason is Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought and the Associate Editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual. He was ordained at HUC-JIR.
The Toronto Board of Rabbis criticized the Jewish Defense League of Canada for inviting Islam critic Pamela Geller to speak in the city.Click here for the rest of the article...