Web Feed

Syndicate content
things of interest in the synagogue world
Updated: 8 min 24 sec ago

Elements Theatre Company Brings "Pound of Flesh" Touring...

8 min 24 sec ago

Educational Touring Program Features Religious Leaders, Artists, and Scholars Discussing the Impact of Persecution and Bigotry on "The Other" as it Relates to Prejudice, Injustice and...

(PRWeb January 29, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/01/prweb12483603.htm

Conservative Judaism’s Leading Rabbinic School Selling Off Real Estate Assets

21 min 50 sec ago

The leading rabbinical school of Conservative Judaism will sell development rights at its historic Upper West Side property, and plans to use the proceeds to build a new library and conference center.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Online Rabbinical School Celebrates a New Class of Graduates: Eighth...

1 hour 12 min ago

The Jewish Spiritual Leadership Institute (JSLI) Online Rabbinical School conducted its eighth ordination Saturday night at a ceremony in Delray Beach, FL. Eleven new rabbis will now begin their...

(PRWeb January 21, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/01/prweb12457490.htm

Elements Theatre Company Brings "Pound of Flesh" Touring...

1 hour 12 min ago

Educational Touring Program Features Religious Leaders, Artists, and Scholars Discussing the Impact of Persecution and Bigotry on “The Other” as It Relates to Prejudice, Injustice and Assimilation

(PRWeb January 20, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/Elements_theatre2015/Chicago_Merchant_Venice/prweb12459621.htm

Cleveland Rabbi Accused of Sexually Abusing Baltimore Girl

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 16:39

An Ohio rabbi charged with sexually abusing a Maryland girl was ordered held on $500,000 bail and to turn in his passport, officials in Baltimore said on Thursday.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Rabbi Barry Freundel Won't Move Out of Kesher Israel Synagogue's House

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 12:26

The Washington, D.C. rabbi charged peeping at his synagogue’s mikvah has refused to move out of the synagogue-owned house where he and his family had been living, the congregation said in an email to congregants today.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Elements Theatre Company Brings "Pound of Flesh" Touring...

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 02:40

Educational Touring Program Features Religious Leaders, Artists, and Scholars Discussing the Impact of Persecution and Bigotry on “The Other” as It Relates to Prejudice, Injustice and Assimilation

(PRWeb December 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/12/prweb12417065.htm

Rachel Laser: We Must Fight Discrimination Against Sikhs

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 15:07

On Monday, RAC Deputy Director Rachel Laser spoke at a press conference announcing the National Sikh Campaign’s (NSC) report on “What Americans Know and What Americans Need to Know.” NSC was created to fight the stereotypes and discrimination that Sikh Americans face in society today by “[highlighting] the Sikh community’s contributions to American society; [creating] an environment in which Sikhs don’t have to hide their articles of faith and who they are as people; [fostering] a Sikh community that is organized and can begin using existing infrastructure to better integrate into American society; and [laying] the foundation for more Sikhs to become leaders in the United States.”

At the event, Rachel Laser underscored the importance of religious freedom and respect for all people, from all backgrounds. In an article in Deseret News, she describes how Jews have long been the targets of persecution, and how we now intimately the importance of ensuring that no other group faces discrimination:

Jewish Americans can also identify with the obstacles Sikhs face, said Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

“We are the quintessential immigrants, and we know what it’s like to be in the minority and to be misunderstood,” Laser said. “So we completely understand and support the idea that the Sikhs need to do a national educational campaign, in terms of being entirely unknown in the U.S., and being mistaken for terrorists and bad people.”

We are committed to ensuring that all people can live freely according to the teachings of their faith, beliefs and conscience. Learn more about our work on religious freedom and interfaith affairs.

70 Faces Media is Hiring!

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 11:53
Looking for a job in the media industry? Want to work for a wonderful Jewish non-profit organization? You’re in luck! Our parent company, 70 Faces Media, is currently hiring for two positions. Assistant Director of Development 70 Faces Media is seeking a high-energy, results-driven Assistant Director of Development to lead our grant development process by identifying […]

Jewish Visits to Temple Mount Rise by 28%

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 11:37

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem saw nearly 11,000 Israeli Jewish visitors last year, an increase of 28 percent over 2013.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Doing Well by Doing Good

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 09:00

Doing the right thing paid off at the bottom line. How often can you say that about doing a mitzvah? My experience with solar power at the Cape Cod Synagogue has been just that: our investment in renewable energy has been a positive for the environment, an expression of our Jewish values, and a net budgetary savings.

In 2006 I delivered a Rosh Hashanah sermon that focused on the importance of being independent from the need for foreign oil. The petro-dictatorships of the world are no friends of ours, and the surest way to protect our own interests, save our troops fighting in shadow of oil rigs, and do something to protect our increasingly threatened planet was to change our pattern. The response was strong, and community action soon began.

In 2011, we began seriously looking at a solar installation for our synagogue. We had done some initial investigation into siting a wind turbine, but the politics of wind energy are particularly noxious here on the Cape, and we realized solar was an easier path. We entered into our search with a few criteria in mind to guide us.

We wanted to work with a local company. Supporting the local economy was important to us, and we also wanted someone we knew lest anything go wrong. We developed a relationship with Beaumont Solar in New Bedford, about 40 minutes away from Hyannis.

We wanted to buy panels from an American manufacturer, and if not, then from a producer who abides by fair labor standards.  A quality product, made in safe conditions with fairly treated workers and modern environmental controls was an absolute must. You can always buy cheaper photovoltaic panels. There is a reason they cost less, often because they do not meet the above standards. As a bonus, we ended up with an excellent system that is producing above its planned output.

Lastly, our project had to be cost effective. As much as we wanted to go green, the truth is that no system that requires you to buy more expensive electricity is economically viable. By making a contribution to our bottom line, we hope that our example inspires others to do the same out of enlightened self-interest.

A year of work ended with our installation of a 41.6KW system on our roof that went on line in October of 2012. The cost was capitalized with a zero residual lease that made our monthly payment only $300 more than our previous electric bill. Thanks to the Solar Renewable Energy Credit program in Massachusetts, every megawatt-hour that we produce mints a credit that goes to an auction market. They have been worth about $240 each and we have produced 107 of them since fall of 2012. We are actually in the black on an operating basis. As of today, we are generating more power than we use. Our array is engineered to operate for 25 years and we will have no lease payments after the first eight. It has gone better than we dared to hope for.

Since the first people were created, we were charged (Gen. 2:15) לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ, to work and the keep the garden that is our planet. As Jews, we are asked to do more. Isaiah (49:6) tells us we are to be לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם a light to the nations, that our own mission is not fulfilled unless we lift up others towards the Divine.

I am happy to say that we are doing so. Just last fall, I met with the leaders of a local high school to discuss how solar might help their budget and our planet. Our solar energy system continues to be a powerful and inspiring symbol for our community.


David Freelund is the rabbi of the Cape Cod Synagogue in Hyannis, MA.


Alan Gross Draws Welcome Home Crowd at Synagogue

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 20:03

Alan Gross wore a gray suit, red tie and a perpetual smile as he took the stage Thursday night at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Md., at a welcome-home reception in his honor sponsored by dozens of Jewish organizations, including the the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Click here for the rest of the article...

For Cuba Jews, Better Ties to U.S. May Not Be Cure-All

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 19:51

On a recent Friday night inside this city’s Beth Shalom synagogue, Aliet Ashkenazi, 25, stood draped in a blue-and-white prayer shawl leading prayers in a mix of Spanish and near-perfect Hebrew.

Click here for the rest of the article...

State of the Union and News of the Week; Halki Seminary; Bruce Cockburn

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 18:16

Religious reaction to the State of the Union speech; a historic Eastern Orthodox seminary in Turkey that religious freedom activists want reopened; singer, songwriter, and spiritual seeker Bruce Cockburn

The post State of the Union and News of the Week; Halki Seminary; Bruce Cockburn appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Istanbul’s Historic Religious Monuments

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 13:25

Two of Istanbul’s top tourist destinations are also two of the city’s most important religious monuments: Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Watch scenes of both as author and Ottoman scholar Scott Rank discusses their historic spiritual and political significance for Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople.

The post Istanbul’s Historic Religious Monuments appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Bruce Cockburn

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 13:07

Over his long career, 69-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn says he was continually reaching for God’s presence, a connection he often feels while performing. His spiritual journey has now been chronicled in his book “Rumors of Glory.”

The post Bruce Cockburn appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

11 European Jewish Groups Push Back Against 'Arm-the-Jews' Rabbi

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 14:23

Leaders of 11 Jewish communities in Europe lambasted the director of a Brussels-based lobby group who after the Paris attacks called for some Jews to carry guns.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Echoing Through the Generations: The Story of Sylvester Marx

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:00

On Sunday, June 6, 1915, Sylvester Marx was confirmed at The Temple–Tifereth Israel in Cleveland, OH, marking the culmination of the young man’s Jewish education. A special reception followed, and the entire congregation joined in celebrating Sylvester and his fellow confirmands on that beautiful spring day.

Soon afterward, Sylvester’s parents resigned as members of The Temple and joined a local Christian Science church. Many of their friends already belonged to the church, choosing church affiliation – as Jewish families of the time often did – as a way to assimilate into American culture.

But Sylvester, having just celebrated a major milestone in his Jewish journey, considered himself a full, adult member of the Jewish community. Therefore, he requested a meeting with Moses Gries, The Temple’s rabbi, to see if he could retain membership in the congregation without his parents. Sitting together in the rabbi’s dark, book-lined study, the two of them worked out an arrangement so that Sylvester could remain a member on his own. Maybe he needed to pay a few dollars a year, maybe not.

Since Sylvester’s confirmation in 1915, Reform congregations have grown. They have added staff, purchased insurance policies, adopted by-laws, and approved policies and procedures to support the daily management of thriving houses of worship. Adding this sometimes-complicated infrastructure has been necessary to support the business of our sacred institutions. As members of our congregations pay more and more to belong, it is important that they know their money is being handled responsibly, and that their synagogue is being managed competently, legally, and according to best practices.

However, the policies and procedures our leaders worked so hard to create can prevent them from doing the right things for the right reasons.

Suppose Sylvester Marx had been confirmed in 2015 instead of 1915.

In today’s world, his request to meet with the rabbi might land him with a referral to the membership committee chair. She, in turn, adhering to a policy that individual members must be at least 18 years old, would tell Sylvester that if he wants to join the congregation, he can, but only if his parents – who clearly have no interest in synagogue life – become members.

Worried that Sylvester’s parents may be trying to get an inexpensive family membership through their son, she might refer the boy to the congregation’s president. With the High Holidays approaching, the president may have little time to deal with the matter, referring it to the executive director.

The executive director, unfamiliar with the situation, might want to meet with the boy and his parents, but because, per temple policies, he is limited in what he can do independently, he is forced to refer the matter to the rabbi and the membership vice president. With this referral, it lands on October’s board meeting agenda, but once the rabbi and president realized the cantor’s contract was up for negotiation, they tabled everything else until the November board meeting.

It’s now been six weeks since Sylvester’s first call to the rabbi, and he’s just learned that it will be another four weeks before the board will discuss his request. Needless to say, the young man feels increasingly ignored and discouraged.

Today’s synagogues’ policies are important, but back in 1915, Rabbi Gries could more easily do the right thing for the right reasons: Sylvester Marx joined The Temple and maintained his membership for nearly seven decades. During those years, he got married, raised three children in the congregation, served on the board, and was an usher on the High Holidays every year until his death at age 84.

Sylvester’s eldest son, Rabbi Robert Marx, founded the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and served as the spiritual leader of two Chicago-area congregations: Congregation Solel in Highland Park and Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe. Don Marx, Sylvester’s younger son, settled in Fort Wayne, IN, where he and his family were, for many years, active members and leaders of Congregation Achduth Vesholom.

Harriet, Sylvester’s daughter, had three sons of her own – Mark, Jim, and me, Larry. My older brother Mark is the interim rabbi of Congregation Har Hashem in Boulder, CO. My younger brother and our whole family recently celebrated the bar mitzvah of his son. As for me, I worked for a decade as an executive director, most recently at Temple Chai in Long Grove, IL, and now serve the Union for Reform Judaism as director of Network Engagement and Collaboration. Many of Sylvester’s great-grandchildren are involved in temple youth groups and NFTY, and are considering their own careers as Jewish professionals.

Needless to say, my Grandpa Sylvester’s Jewish legacy is a strong one.

Maybe Rabbi Gries bent the rules to welcome my grandfather as a member of The Temple; maybe not. Either way, his actions back in 1915 reverberate through the Jewish community today.  I pray that our lay and professional leaders always have strong policies and procedures to guide their sacred work, and that they have the wisdom and freedom to set the rules aside when necessary to welcome the seeker, enrich the community, and perpetuate Reform Judaism for generations to come.

Thanks to Rabbi Mark Glickman for writing about his history several years ago, and to Bob Allenberg, executive director at The Temple, for sharing the confirmation photo of Sylvester Marx. 

We Need a Mikveh Revolution

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 05:00

The mikveh ritual can be traumatic for women, a fact that emerged loud and clear from the Rabbi Barry Freundel scandal. One Orthodox rabbi has a radical solution.

Click here for the rest of the article...

High School Student Lobbies Against Torture at L’Taken

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 09:00

Last week, Bailey Roos of Temple Beth El in San Antonio, Texas lobbied her members of Congress in support of the American Anti-Torture Act last introduced in the 112th Congress as part of our L’Taken social justice seminar. In her speech, Bailey talked about her own perception of torture as it related to her Jewish values and her experience visiting Israel last summer:

As I sat talking with my Synagogue Youth Advisor, we discovered that the only thing we really understood from the word “torture” was the implication of fear and abuse. However, as I studied the issue further, I was shocked by the vulgar descriptions of prisoners shackled to the floor, deprived of their most basic needs, dehumanized and debased in attempts to break the inmate. Not only does torture violate one’s human rights, it has also been proven ineffective and often unreliable, seeing that a prisoner will confess to anything to make the pain stop.

This topic is often associated with the balance between citizen’s security and human rights. An interpretation as seen by the Union for Reform Judaism expresses its desire for justice, something that torture does not achieve. The Jewish concern over the treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, for example, is derived from the quote “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” (Deuteronomy 16:20).  Justice in this sense is used in the social realm to assure fairness under the law, as well as securing the humane treatment of all people. This verse, coincidentally, was also part of my Torah portion that I read at my Bat Mitzvah three years ago, and is the origin of my interest in ethics and morality. I have always felt strongly about the importance of securing justice, but noted it especially after witnessing the war in Israel this summer, when I was there visiting the country with my peers and seeing first-hand the tension between protecting one’s country and adhering to its moral high-ground.

Bailey’s advocacy on the hill comes at a crucial moment. At the end of last year we saw the release of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report on torture at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. We are currently seeing a rise in transfers out of the facility by President Obama’s Administration. If you are interested in learning more about Jewish anti-torture work, take a look at the Religious Action Center’s Torture: Through a Jewish Lens page.