NEW YORK (JTA) — In March, dozens of rabbis will shave their heads at the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis conference in Chicago. But the 8-year-old boy whose struggle with cancer inspired the rabbis’ campaign will not be there to witness their act of solidarity.
Samuel Asher Sommer, the son of Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer, died Saturday in his Chicago-area home after an 18-month battle against refractory acute myeloid leukemia.
His funeral was held Monday afternoon at Am Shalom, where Phyllis Sommer is an associate rabbi.
Phyllis Sommer had created “Superman Sam,” a blog that documented her son’s struggle. Along with a fellow Reform rabbi, she came up with the idea for the “36 Rabbis Shave For The Brave” in order to raise money for pediatric cancer research and show solidarity with Sam, who lost his hair due to chemotherapy.
In the days since Samuel’s death, rabbis have continued to join the campaign.
As of Monday, 51 rabbis, most affiliated with the Reform movement, have pledged to lose their locks. Another 11 have volunteered to help in other ways.
According to the according to the “36 Rabbis Shave For The Brave” Web page, the campaign has raised $122,808 as of Monday afternoon for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a 13-year-old nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research.
Rabbi Charles Briskin, one of the rabbis who has pledged to shave his head and raised $4,339, said he signed on because he is friends with the Sommers and “felt propelled by the cause.”
“Following Sammy’s death, there’s just greater resolve to get more people on board to prevent more [families] from having to endure this,” he said. “Our goal is to keep the momentum going as we make our way to Chicago.”
The idea for “36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave” came in late October, according to Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr, who is coordinating the campaign with another rabbi.
“Phyllis was talking about St. Baldrick’s and said maybe it was time for her to shave her head,” she said. “I said, ‘That’s a wonderful idea, and we could probably get some of our colleagues to do it.’ ”
The two set a goal of $180,000 and 36 rabbis. “Then we said, we should all do it together at the CCAR conference since it’s in Chicago, and Sammy can come, too,” Schorr said.
Schorr said the shaving is to show solidarity with children undergoing chemotherapy and to raise awareness.
“It’s important for us to educate people about the lack of funding for pediatric cancer research, and we believe that as rabbis we have power we can leverage when we see a need in society,” she said.
According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation website, just 4 percent of money earmarked for cancer research in the United States focuses on pediatric cancers.
As a result, the foundation said, physicians must struggle to apply to children protocols that have been developed for adult patients. Treatment that works for adults can be toxic for children because they are so much smaller.
Rob Schiller, a well-known American film and television director and president of R&B JAAMZS, Inc., has been appointed to the board of directors for the Jewish National Fund
(PRWeb November 20, 2013)
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At least twenty-eight countries have received the message of "555 Days of Prayer to Save America." Founding and planning partner of "Save America Gathering," "One Church //...
(PRWeb November 20, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/11/prweb11350754.htm
On Friday, Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman, Rabbi Eleanor Steinman, NFTY Communications Vice President Aaron Heft and rabbinic student Jeremy Gimbel joined RAC Deputy Director, Rachel Laser for “A RAC: LGBT Equality and Workplace Protection” at the URJ Biennial.
Rabbi Steinman kicked off the session with an introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the major issues faced by the LGBT community. Rabbi Steinman urged the session participants to think about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals that go beyond the issue of same-sex marriage. What happens when a woman is legally married but is fired for having a picture of her wife on her desk at work? Members of the LGBT community deserve to be recognized and protected equally under the law.
A text study, led by Rabbi Schwartzman, focused on the many texts that encourage the Reform Movement to continue to push on towards LBGT equality. Rabbi Schwartzman was an active proponent of a non-discrimination state bill in Utah called the Housing and Employment Antidiscrimination Amendment. This past March, Rabbi Schwartzman worked with the RAC and Equality Utah to build support for the legislation and submitted testimony at the Utah Senate Workforce and Economic Development Committee hearing, comparing this issue with the Jewish plight of discrimination.
Following the text study, Rachel Laser presented a thorough description of ENDA, from its inception in 1994 to its current status, having passed a historic Senate floor vote this November. Laser delved into the RAC’s campaign for ENDA, describing the URJ’s long standing support for the rights of the LGBT community, and explaining the different aspects of the RAC’s ENDA campaign, including garnering the support of unique religious leaders and organizing the Faiths Calling Congressional call-in day. Aaron Heft then spoke about the role of NFTY in our continued efforts to secure equality for LGBT individuals.
To close this powerful session, Jeremy Gimbel led the participants in singing the words of Pirke Avot 2:16,“lo alecha hamlacha ligmor – You are not required to complete the work, nor are you free to ignore it.”
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Biennial and Assembly Awards Acknowledge Outstanding Individual and Congregational/Sisterhood Contributions to Jewish Life
It’s not often that a rabbi gets to sit back off the bimah and lean into inspiring prayer. The constant responsibility for creating T’filah for others, partnering with a cantor and other shlichei tzibur (prayer leaders), draws our attention everywhere but our own spiritual selves.
And then there are moments like this morning’s shacharit service at the URJ’s Biennial Convention: 5,000 Jews, Jewish families, and gerei toshav (others dwelling amongst us) lifting up our voices and hearts and bodies and to praise the Holy One who brought us together. I felt like I was at URJ Camp Newman, and back in NFTY and right here, an adult feeling intensely youthful and openly spiritually engaged.
Movement and song, chorale and instrument, word and stories and silence invited each of us to find moments of meaning that spoke to our souls. The leaders were amazing; the experience transcendent.
When the Torah was chanted simultaneously from multiple bimot (stages), the multivocality of Jewish text and tradition suffused the sacred space, bringing ancient words to life.
For this rabbi, this Biennial service was cathartic and refreshing. It served as a reminder that in the midst of the rush to create and the pressure to push forward, there is also an imperative to step back and slow down.
After we turn from more Shabbat study and more spiritual search, back into thoughtful exploration of how to enhance and deepen the Jewish world, I for one will return to this sacred work energized, engaged and inspired.
Thank you to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi/Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl, Liz Lermen, Amichai Lau-Lavie, Merri Lovinger Arian, Josh Nelson, the instrumentalists, chorale and everyone behind the scenes – and my fellow daveners – for creating a sukkat shalom, a sanctuary of peace, in which I could finds wholeness and holiness. Shabbat shalom.
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Amidst the whirlwind of Biennial, three powerhouse women came together to discuss the challenges that women and girls face at home and around the world. In a fascinating panel moderated by Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism, Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America and Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service spoke about their work on a broad range of women’s issues in Israel, in the United States and internationally.
The panelists discussed how their Jewish identity influenced their career and what pushed them to dedicate their lives to the pursuit of equality for women and girls. Ruth Messinger described how Jewish values shaped her work first in urban issues and community organizing, then in her work around the world with AJWS.
While Ilyse Hogue reflected on the many obstacles women face in achieving full reproductive rights in the United States and the importance of bringing men into the conversation, Anat Hoffman shared the importance of humor when facing challenges. It was an incredible opportunity to have these inspiring women in conversation together.
You can take action and join the pursuit of full equality for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world!
Join AJWS and Urge Congress to pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA)! Sign our petition today: ajws.org/wbivawa.
Help protect reproductive rights with NARAL by taking action against the 20-week abortion ban that is now in the Senate!
Work with IRAC to fight for pluralism in Israel by lifting your voice against the Conversion Bill.
This post originally appeared at WRJblog.
More than 80,000 Mormon missionaries are now serving around the world; all abortions are against the law in this Central American country; and this dancing by Sufi Muslims is also a spiritual offering.
The post Mormon Missionary Expansion, El Salvador Abortion Ban, Sufi Whirling Dervishes appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.
A Spanish hotel built on the remains of a 15th century synagogue opened a new synagogue on its seventh floor.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — A Spanish hotel built on the remains of a 15th century synagogue opened a new synagogue on its seventh floor.
The opening last week at the four-star Parador de Lorca hotel in Lorca, a city in the southeastern region of Murcia, was the result of negotiations between management and the Sefarad Beitenu Jewish association, which will run the shul, according to a report in the Murcia Economia newspaper.
The president of Sefarad Beitenu, Aharon Franco, signed a cooperation contract with the Paradores hotel network on Dec. 4, the report said.
The synagogue was unearthed during the construction of the new hotel, which was opened last year.
The seventh floor also houses a small Jewish cultural center offering an overview of Jewish history in Spain and a description of the synagogue and other findings recovered in the ruins.
Several heritage preservation groups opposed the hotel’s construction because it would mean the loss of archaeological finds. The management pledged to incorporate the findings, including a 15th-century mikvah, or ritual bath, into the building’s architecture.
Shlomo Amar, a former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, visited the hotel and the ruins earlier this year and requested that it be made into a place of pilgrimage for Jews, according to the Spanish daily La Opinion de Murcia.
Today, Rabbi Saperstein will end his fast for immigration reform at the URJ Biennial in San Diego, along with the fasters and activists on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Since December 3, Rabbi Saperstein has consumed only water in a broad hunger strike bringing together immigrant rights activists from diverse organizations to urge Congress to take action for comprehensive immigration reform.
Today, Rabbi Saperstein remarked:
Today, as I bring my fast to a close, I continue to recall our Jewish imperative to welcome the stranger among us. I am honored to have participated in this fast that has captured the moral imagination of so many on Capitol Hill and beyond. And I am encouraged that the Fast4Families has brought this vital, urgent cause of immigration reform to the attention of so many.
I hope others will press this cause vigorously during the Congressional recess, and that Republican and Democratic leaders will join to bring comprehensive immigration reform to a vote immediately upon their return.
The Fast4Families began on November 12, when Eliseo Medina (SEIU), Dae Joong Yoon (NAKASEC), Cristian Avila (Mi Familia Vota) and Lisa Sharon Harper (Sojourners) began 22 days of fasting, to bring attention to immigration reform and urge Congress to make comprehensive reform a reality. Rabbi Saperstein, along with other faith leaders, took over the fast 10 days ago in a transition ceremony on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Last night, Gift of Life advisor Evie Goldfine – a recipient of a stem cell donation herself – accepted the Maurice N. Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award on behalf of founder and CEO of Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, Jay Feinberg. The award is in memory of Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, the executive director and President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations from 1943 – 1973; this award is the highest honor bestowed by the Reform Movement. Jay shares this award with other luminaries such as Michael J. Fox, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Rabbi Richard Hirsch, and Abba Eban.
Few people embody more than Jay Feinberg the words of the Talmud: “Whoever saves a life has saved an entire world.” Gift of Life, which Jay continues to lead, has made more than 10,000 matches between donors and recipients in the past two decades. And no one knows better than Jay what it means to find those matches: in 1995, after searching for more than 4 years for a match to help treat his own leukemia, it was the very last person at the last donor drive who was his match and his lifesaver. Along the way, he inspired more than 55,000 people to get tested and enter the marrow registry.
In her speech, Evie read Jay’s words, thanking his mother, who is the real founder of Gift of Life. When Jay was sick and had no match, she would not take “no” for an answer. She worked tirelessly to begin the grassroots movement to add more Jews – and more diversity – into the bone marrow registry to save her son. His mother is in the last days of her life now, and it was her illness that prevented Jay from accepting this honor in person.
Thanks to Jay and Gift of Life, we are helping save the world, one cheek swab at a time.
Finally, if you missed the award last night, you can catch it online!
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SAN DIEGO (JTA) — The Union for Reform Judaism awarded one of its highest honors to an Orthodox rabbi, the late David Hartman, at the opening plenary of the union’s biennial conference in San Diego.
On Wednesday evening, the union’s president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, presented the Alexander M. Schindler World Jewry Award posthumously to Hartman’s son, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and, like his father, an Orthodox-ordained rabbi.
In accepting the prize on behalf of his father, Hartman hailed the persistence of Zionist sentiment among Reform Jews despite Israel’s treatment of Reform Judaism, saying: “The truth is you should have walked away from Israel a long time ago.”
“How much insult, how much alienation, how much lack of respect should a person take before they say enough and walk away?” Hartman said. “Your love for Israel is measured in the fact that you’re willing to fight for it.”
In presenting the Schindler award, Jacobs credited David Hartman with inspiring him to become a Reform rabbi.
“David taught us to question traditional beliefs,” Jacobs said.
Nearly 5,000 people are attending the Reform biennial, the first since Jacobs took over the helm of the movement a year and a half ago.
The Wednesday evening presentation included a video message from Vice President Joe Biden, who said he had been asked by President Obama to give a shout-out to Reform’s youth movement, NFTY, the National Federation of Temple Youth.
The late Rabbi David Hartman, z”l, was honored posthumously tonight at the URJ Biennial Convention in San Diego, CA., by receiving the Reform Movement’s highest honor, the Alexander M. Schindler Award for Service to World Jewry.
Named for Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, the second president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations from 1973-1996, this award honors an individual who has shown a passion, leadership and commitment to World Jewry. Rabbi Schindler was a remarkably compassionate humanitarian, devoted to social justice and religious action, always seeking to better the human condition, to gain rights for the disenfranchised, and sustenance for the destitute and the downtrodden. A true Ohev Yisrael, lover of Israel, Schindler prodded the Reform Movement to participate fully in the Zionist world and was a prime mover in the creation of ARZA and ARZA Canada.
Rabbi Hartman, the founder and spiritual leader of the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute, was a leading thinker among philosophers of contemporary Judaism and an internationally renowned Jewish author. He passed away this year on Feb. 10, 2013. He was honored by the URJ for his dedication to the Jewish people and to religious pluralism.
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs says,
I would not be a rabbi if I had not studied with Rabbi David Hartman. Back in 1975, I walked into a class he was teaching at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Learning with David was as if someone turned on the lights in a dark room. He shattered forever my narrow conception of traditional Judaism.
His brand of Judaism was fearless, always evolving, brutally honest, defying all labels and yet profoundly authentic. Each day I try to live and teach the Torah that I learned from Rabbi Hartman, a Torah that is desperately needed in the fractured Jewish communities where we live, especially in Israel. Our Jewish communities must expand the circle of our concern to include both the Jews with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree. This was David’s Torah of pluralism, which he taught with passion and persuasiveness. May we have even a fraction of his insight and backbone as we help shape a more compelling Judaism for the next generations.”
Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute and the Director of the Engaging Israel Project, accepted the Schindler award on his father’s behalf, saying,
My father had a deep and profound love for the Reform Movement, in particular for Reform Rabbis. The mission of his life was to create a Judaism of excellence – a Judaism always open to rethinking itself. For my father, pluralism was not only a moral imperative but an intellectual one. For only a Judaism open and respectful of different voices, would be a Judaism capable of maximizing its intellectual potential. What captured his heart and indeed his soul was the intellectual and spiritual courage, openness, and hunger that he experienced in the Reform Movement of the last few decades. A movement willing to both learn from its past and be critical of its past as it reexplored and reconnected with Torah in new ways. On behalf of my father, I want to thank you for this profound honor, which would have moved him very deeply.
After accepting the award, Rabbi Hartman and Rabbi Jacobs announced a new partnership between the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)- an Israel Engagement Initiative for Reform congregations across North America. In 2014, the URJ will select 30 congregations to participate in the first stage of this initiative, which will be based on the SHI iEngage curriculum.
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, President of Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, said,
The goal of this joint initiative with the URJ is to support and enhance Israel engagement work throughout the Reform Movement by creating a new narrative regarding the significance of Israel in Jewish life.
Probing beyond the political controversies of the day, the iEngage curriculum helps to reframe the relationship between the State of Israel and Jews worldwide. We are pleased and honored to partner with the URJ to help bring a quintessentially Jewish values-based vocabulary with which to articulate why Israel can and should be fundamental to their Jewish identities and lives.
The Israel Engagement Initiative will enable participants to bring a more sophisticated discourse and enriched content into their communities, allowing them to experiment with new concepts, language, and skills for revolutionizing personal and institutional engagement with Israel.
Participants will have access to resources and experts from SHI and the URJ through a series of webinars, consultations and regional gatherings, where they will network with one another, sharing best principles, experiences, and ideas.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs said,
There is a great opportunity for congregations to create a positive and ethical communal discourse on Israel and to expand the presence of Israel into new areas of communal life, such as early childhood engagement, youth engagement, social justice initiatives, adult learning, and so on. This initiative invites the participation of professional and lay leaders to work together and expand the conversation about Israel across the Reform Movement and beyond.
For more information about the Israel engagement initiative, please contact URJ’s Director for Israel Engagement Rabbi Yehudit Werchow.