In 1983, when Rabbi Rick Jacobs was the rabbi at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue (BHS), he had a vision to start a shelter to address the growing problem of homelessness in New York City. Thirty years later, the first synagogue-based homeless shelter in New York City is still responding to the need, run by volunteers from BHS with the support from several local synagogues, schools, and community groups.
To mark this anniversary, Rabbi Jacobs, now president of the URJ, will spend the night in the BHS Shelter on the evening of Thursday, January 16. He will join the congregation for services on Friday evening, January 17, followed by a congregational community dinner.
Located on the ground floor of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, the shelter provides a warm, safe place to sleep, a hot meal, and companionship and respect for 10 men. The shelter, which is open Monday through Thursday nights during the winter months, is an entirely volunteer effort coordinated by BHS congregants and supported by members and non-members alike. In 2012-2013, the shelter provided 135 nights of warm food and safe rest to 566 overnight guests.
Says Rabbi Jacobs,
When we opened the Shelter in the early 1980s, we knew that it wouldn’t put a dent in the problem of homelessness, but we felt it a necessary measure as we searched for better solutions. Thirty years later, the need for safe shelter is as urgent as ever. I applaud the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue community as well as all the volunteers that participate in this critical effort.
The statistics surrounding homelessness in New York City are discouraging. Each night more than 52,000 people – including more than 22,000 children – experience homelessness.
Rabbi Serge Lippe, senior rabbi at BHS, says,
It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of community action in providing respite and shelter to those in need,” said “As a congregation, we feel a moral imperative to sustain our commitment to this effort, as well as to work with local government and stakeholders to address the causes of homelessness.
The BHS shelter depends on more than 250 volunteers a year most of whom reside, attend school, or work in Brownstone Brooklyn. In addition to Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, which houses the shelter and oversees its operation, other groups that have been formally involved include Kane Street Synagogue, Congregation Beth Elohim, Park Slope Jewish Center, Hannah Senesh Community Day School, the Packer Collegiate Institute, and St. Ann’s School.
Says Andrea Feller, a volunteer who coordinates the shelter with fellow BHS congregant Anne Landman,
Like so many who find themselves homeless today, our guests are a diverse group in terms of age, background and circumstance,” For example, some men will spend the night in our shelter having been at work all day. If our beds, food and hospitality were not available, many would have nowhere else to sleep.
Brooklyn Heights Synagogue was a founding member of the Emergency Shelter Network, which grew out of a collaboration between Mayor Ed Koch and religious leaders in 1982. The network includes city-run drop-in centers that connect the homeless to privately run shelters in churches and synagogues, providing an alternative to large municipal shelters. Today, guests of the BHS Shelter come from a drop-in center operated by CAMBA, the largest social service agency in Brooklyn.
Those interested in volunteering should contact email@example.com.
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NEW YORK (JTA) – Authors Yossi Klein Halevi, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Ari Shavit were among the winners of the 2013 National Jewish Book Awards.
Halevi, a longtime Israeli journalist, took the top prize, the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award, for “Like Dreamers,” which tells the history of Israel through the personal experiences over decades of a handful of paratroopers who helped capture the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Sacks, the former British chief rabbi, won in the category of modern Jewish thought and experience for “The Koren Pesach Machzor.” Shavit, a journalist for Israel’s daily Haaretz, won in the history category for “My Promised Land: The triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” a book of reflections on Israel’s complicated history.
Awarded annually by the Jewish Book Council, the awards are in their 63rd annual iteration. This year’s crop included a notable number of foreign winners.
The award for fiction went to Israeli writer Amos Oz for “Between Friends,” which was translated into English by Sondra Silverston. Hebrew University professor Moshe Halbertal won the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award for Scholarship for “Maimonides: Life and Thought.”
Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman’s “FDR and the Jews” won the American Jewish Studies Celebrate 350 Award. Phyllis Chesler won in the category for biography or memoir for “An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir.” Michal Smart and Barbara Ashkenas’s book “Kaddish: Women’s Voices” won in the category of contemporary Jewish practice.
In children and young adult literature, the winner was “The War Within These Walls,” written by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki and translated by Laura Watkinson. The top prize for illustrated children’s book went to “Hanukkah Bear” by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.
A full list of the awardees and runners-up is available at the website of the Jewish Book Council.
The awards will be presented at a ceremony on the evening of March 5, 2014 at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. The event is free and open to the public.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel will accept letters confirming individuals’ Judaism from Avi Weiss, a New York liberal Orthodox rabbi.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — The Chief Rabbinate of Israel said it will accept letters from Rabbi Avi Weiss confirming the Judaism of those who wish to wed in the country.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Weiss’ attorney in Israel, Assaf Benmelech, the Chief Rabbinate affirmed its position on the liberal Orthodox rabbi from New York.
In October, the Chief Rabbinate rejected a letter from Weiss vouching for immigrants who wanted to marry in Israel pending an investigation into his adherence to traditional Jewish law. The move sparked widespread outrage that Weiss, a longtime synagogue leader in New York who had vouched for the Jewishness of many Israeli immigrants in the past, was suddenly having his reliability called into question.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s religious services minister and Diaspora affairs minister, has been meeting since November with officials from the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate to resolve the issue. Bennett reportedly sees the issue as one of prime importance based on the potential negative impact it could have on Israel-Diaspora relations.
Weiss founded the liberal Orthodox rabbinical seminary Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and has pioneered a number of controversial innovations in the Orthodox world, most recently his decision to ordain women as clergy through a new seminary called Yeshivat Maharat.
“I appreciate that this injustice has been corrected and am deeply grateful for the overwhelming support I received from all over the world,” Weiss said in a statement. “I also urge the Chief Rabbinate to reflect on how it can help us reach out, respect and acknowledge all Jews in the Diaspora.”
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An 18th-century painting depicting the ritual murder of Christian children by Jews will be uncovered and available for viewing at a Polish cathedral.Click here for the rest of the article...
At the request of Morocco’s king, prayers for rain were held at synagogues across the kingdom.Click here for the rest of the article...
WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — An 18th-century painting depicting the ritual murder of Christian children by Jews will be uncovered and available for viewing at a Polish cathedral.
The Charles de Prevot painting “Mord Rytualny,” or “Ritual Murder,” will go on display Thursday at the cathedral in Sandomierz as the Catholic Church marks its international Day of Judaism.
A plaque next to the painting will inform viewers that the Jews did not actually commit ritual murder because it is prohibited by their faith. The information on the plaque was prepared by the Polish Episcopal Conference’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, according to the Polish daily Gazeta.
The painting has been mounted on a cathedral wall but has been hidden behind a red curtain since 2006 because of its offensive nature.
It is part of a series of works by de Prevot depicting the martyrdom of Christians showing brutal and realistic scenes of torture and murder by pagans.
(JTA) — At the request of the king, prayers for rain were held at synagogues throughout Morocco.
The prayers were recited on Saturday, one day after Muslims said similar prayers in mosques at the request of King Mohammed VI, the Moroccan daily Le Matin reported. The king made the request upon learning that Morocco may suffer a drought this year.
Responding to the king’s plea, the Council of Israelite Communities in Morocco, or CCIM, published a statement in which it “invites worshipers to pray in all the synagogues of the kingdom” so that God may “spare our country and help His Highness the King.”
On Jan. 2, King Mohammed VI met in his royal palace in Marrakesh with Jack Lang, a French Jewish former minister who last year became the head of the Arab World Institute, a Paris-based intergovernmental body that France runs jointly with 22 Arab nations.
Under Mohammed VI, Morocco has undertaken massive renovations of Jewish heritage sites and participated in such projects abroad, including in Cape Verde off the coast of Senegal, which once had a population of Moroccan Jews.
Approximately 3,000 Jews live in Morocco, according to the European Jewish Congress.
So a rabbi and a former NBA star walk into a trade show…
Seriously though, Michigan rabbi (and JTA contributor) Jason Miller, actually did run into Shaquille O’Neal at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last Tuesday.
Inspired by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons‘ “Shabbat Shalom” closer at the end of an interview given at the show, and by an old TMZ video of Shaq wishing Jewish friends a “L’shana tova,” Miller decided to ask Shaq to recite some Hebrew phrases–on camera.
As Rabbi Miller noted on his blog, the basketball legend gladly obliged. Todah rabah Shaq!
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In response to the passing last weekend of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
Today, we mourn the death of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an iconic leader whose love for Israel and the Jewish people infused his entire illustrious career. He was a visionary, larger than life, with the courage to constantly assess his stated positions, always with an eye toward pragmatism and concern for his beloved Israel.
Considered one of Israel’s greatest military strategists, his role in Israel’s wars – from the War of Independence to the 1956 Suez Campaign, the 1967 and 1973 wars – was pivotal to ensuring Israel’s security and indeed, the very existence of the state.
His military prowess did not always serve him well. His decision, as Israel’s Minister of Defense, to promote the 1982 war in Lebanon, and his actions that played a role in the deaths of residents of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp by Lebanese phalangists, were terribly misguided.
But, after a national inquiry and his resignation, he successfully returned to political life, capturing the votes and affection of the Israeli public. Most dramatically, this one-time architect of Israel’s settlement project, as Prime Minister from 2003-2005, led the government that forced a withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip, showing that throughout his storied career, he remained firm in his resolve to do what he saw as best for Israel’s security.
He believed that Israel’s well-being rests on its future as a Jewish democratic state, and for that, he made hard decisions that upended Israel’s political landscape, with the aim of achieving lasting peace and security for Israel.
Though his absence has been felt since he suffered a stroke in 2006, his own words and legacy continue to inspire: ‘The future lies before us. We are required to take difficult and controversial steps, but we must not miss the opportunity to try to achieve what we have wished for, for so many years: security, tranquility and peace.’
May his memory be for a blessing and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.
by Rabbi Bennett Miller and Rabbi Joshua Weinberg
On January 4, 2006, while serving as prime minister, just two-and-a-half months shy of elections that he was expected to win in a landslide, Sharon suffered a devastating stroke and never recovered. Sharon lost the final battle and died on Shabbat January 11, 2014 at the age of 85.
He is survived by his older sister Dita, his two living sons, Omri and Gilad, his daughter-in-law Inbal, and his six grandchildren.
Ariel Sharon was a farmer, warrior, and politician. His was a life that embodied the early Zionist ethos of labor and agriculture along with self-defense. Sharon’s early military career began in the Palmach, and it was David Ben Gurion who turned the Eastern European sounding Ariel Sheinerman to the more Israeli Sharon.
As Sharon rose in the IDF ranks, he became an almost mythic figure. With remarkable military and strategic prowess Sharon founded and led the Paratroopers’ unit 101 charged to deal with infiltration and cross-border terrorism. As Moshe Dayan recounted “I always knew what Sharon was doing – sometimes I knew after and sometimes before.”
As a general in the 1967 and 1973 wars his role was always essential to the success of Israel’s operation and to the security of the Jewish State.
After retiring from his military career he leaped on the political stage as a founder of the Likud party. In the Knesset and the government Sharon quickly became a champion of settling the territory conquered in the Six-Day war and became those settlements’ chief architect.
As Defense Minister in 1982 Sharon fell under heavy controversy as Israel embarked on a long and agonizing campaign in Southern Lebanon. Specifically Sharon was held responsible by the Kahan Commission as a result of the massacre by Lebanse Philangists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Sharon was found to bear personal responsibility ”for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge” and ”not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed.” Sharon’s negligence in protecting the civilian population of Beirut, which had come under Israeli control, amounted to a non-fulfillment of a duty with which the Defense Minister was charged, and it was recommended that Sharon be dismissed as Defense Minister.
On September 28, 2000 Ariel Sharon, accompanied by over 1000 security guards entered the Mosque enclave of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. On the same day violence broke out and developed into what many refer to as the El-Aqsa Intifada. Several months later in February of 2001, Sharon was elected to serve as Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
As Reform Jews, we will miss the leader who masterfully, and almost single-handedly moved the Israeli consensus to a point where the value of peace and compromise superseded the value of land. An always controversial political and military leader, Ariel Sharon gambled his own political future on his last major action of unilateral disengagement from Gaza, a position which we in the Reform Movement supported wholeheartedly.
Leaders like Sharon are few and far between and he was one of the last of his generation to lead Israel.
“May his memory be for a blessing and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Rabbi Bennett Miller is the chair of ARZA, and Rabbi Joshua Weinberg is its president.
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(PRWeb December 12, 2013)
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(PRWeb December 12, 2013)
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