JERUSALEM (JTA) – Women of the Wall presented the conditions under which the group would move its monthly prayer service to a third, egalitarian section of the Western Wall’s plaza.
The 16 conditions – which the group’s leadership presented Monday ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – pertain to the section’s size, appearance, management, accessibility, budget and name. Together, they mandate that the new section be treated as equal to the existing Western Wall plaza.
Women of the Wall, which meets at the beginning of each Jewish month for a women’s prayer service at the Western Wall, announced earlier this month that it would drop its longstanding demand to hold its service in the wall’s women’s section, should its demands for the egalitarian section be fulfilled. Until then, the group said, it will continue meeting in the women’s section.
“This is not as simple as saying we’re leaving the women’s section and going somewhere else,” Women of the Wall spokesperson Shira Pruce told JTA. “We’re coming into this with our eyes open. We’re staying in the women’s section until the last condition has been met.”
The list presented Monday, though, is comprehensive and could take years to implement – should the government agree to it.
A group within Women of the Wall has objected, in recent weeks, to the possibility of moving the service to the third section – but these conditions could make the internal debate theoretical.
Some conditions accord with an outline for the third section presented in April by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky, such as the demand that there be a unified entrance to all three of the plaza’s sections. Others are already in effect, such as the condition that the section be open, free of charge, 24 hours a day.
But others may prove harder to fulfill. The first condition states that the new section – which is currently a few stories lower than the existing plaza – be elevated to the same height and be adjacent to the wall itself. Accomplishing that would require the approval of the Islamic Wakf, a body that controls the Temple Mount and that has thus far been resistant to physical changes to the site.
Several other conditions could spark political conflict. One condition demands that the authority of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which now administers the plaza, be restricted only to the existing men’s and women’s sections. A new body, with equal women’s representation and including Women of the Wall’s leadership, would run the remainder of the plaza, under the Women of the Wall’s conditions.
The group also demanded that it be allowed to bring a Torah scroll into the women’s section for its monthly service, which is now prohibited.
Pruce said that Women of the Wall would be negotiating with the government and suggested that the group could be flexible on some of the conditions.
“We aren’t going to argue over one centimeter here or there,” she said. “We’re going into negotiations, that’s a given, but every single condition is a part of a vision that creates equality.”
A joint plan for the wall’s new egalitarian section, formulated by Sharansky and Israeli Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit, is due out in the near future.
New Jersey's only school exclusively for gifted and talented children opens up their after-school science enrichment program to gifted children outside the academy's current enrollment.
(PRWeb October 01, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/gifted-education/after-school-programs/prweb11179603.htm
(JTA) — Musician and guitarist Lou Reed, the frontman for the band Velvet Underground as well as a solo artist, has died.
Reed, who was born to a Jewish family, died Sunday at 71. A cause of death was not made public.
He had a liver transplant last year after years of alcohol and drug abuse.
Reed, born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn, N.Y., became influential in rock by blending art and music in New York in the 1960s through Velvet Underground’s collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 1996.
Reed quit the band in 1970 and focused on his solo career, which featured the 1972 hit song “Walk on the Wild Side.”
He visited Israel five years ago with his musician wife Laurie Anderson during her world tour.
Reed reportedly was coy about his Jewish roots. He was quoted as saying, “My God is rock ’n’ roll” and “The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”
Lou Reed, the iconic Jewish rocker whose band the Velvet Underground fused art and music in 1960s New York, has died.Click here for the rest of the article...
We visited a Hindu religious coming-of-age ceremony for nine-year-old Rushil Ramakrishnan at the Hindu Temple in Adelphi, Maryland. Also known as the “sacred thread” ceremony, it is typically performed for boys between the ages of 8 and 16 and traditionally marks the start of their formal education. Dr. Siva Subramanian, a neonatologist at Georgetown University Hospital and a founder of Sri Siva Vishnu Temple as well as other Hindu associations in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, presided over the two-day ceremony. He explains the meaning and significance of its elaborate rituals and Sanskrit chants.
View more pictures by photographer Sam Pinczuk:
We visit two universities with different ideas about maintaining their Catholic identity, and we talk with poet Christian Wiman, senior lecturer in religion and literature at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, about God, religious faith, suffering, and poetry as a spiritual guide.
“I have a hard time conceiving of a God completely removed from suffering,” says Christian Wiman, a lecturer in religion and literature at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. “Once I understand the notion of Christ participating in suffering, then it makes more sense to me.”
A pro-Israel group is calling on public schools in a suburban Boston district to remove “hateful education materials from their curricula.”Click here for the rest of the article...
NEW YORK (JTA) — A pro-Israel group is calling on public schools in a suburban Boston district to remove “hateful education materials from their curricula.”
Americans for Peace and Tolerance in a newspaper ad campaign claims the Newton schools are using five materials that “demonize Israel and America while glorifying Islam.” They include the books “A Muslim Primer,” “The Arab World Studies Workbook” and several handouts.
JTA calls seeking comment from Newton Mayor Setti Warren and School Committee Chair Matt Hills were not immediately returned.
Americans for Peace and Tolerance, founded in 2008 by Boston activist and David Project founder Charles Jacobs, was a prominent critic of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.
The Roxbury center opened following a 5-year-long legal battle that included APT claims that extremists controlled and funded the society.
Jacobs also is a frequent critic of the Anti-Defamation League.
JTA is soliciting readers’ ideas for reversing the tide of Jewish assimilation in America. Here’s today’s featured idea:
We need to foster family celebrations of Shabbat and holidays that are not specifically religious in nature, are held outside synagogues and impose no pressure to join anything.
Every Friday afternoon, pick a park, beach, or someone’s backyard and program 30-45 minutes of entertainment with an educational and spiritual component. The activities, which can include singing, games for the family or even puppet shows for the kids, can culminate with grape juice, challah and candles. Serve cookies. Print up some song sheets with transliterated Hebrew blessings and some English songs.
Ask for a donation of some non-perishable food to be donated to an organization feeding the hungry as the “price of admission” to such an event, but don’t harangue those who don’t bring anything.
This is a non-threatening, non-coercive, hassle-free time to do something Jewish together (but not too Jewish) on a Jewish occasion. These gatherings, which I call “Shabbat@ _____” can be simple, fun functions to introduce the idea of family and community around a time of physical relaxation and spiritual renewal.
There are many young families with children who are not interesting in coming into our synagogues. We must find them on neutral turf.
Rabbi Gerald B. Weiss
West Palm Beach, Florida
Read more ideas for stemming the tide of American Jewish disengagement here.
To share your idea, send an email describing one concrete idea in 200 words or less to email@example.com ( include your full name, city, and state or country). Our favorites will be featured online.
More than 5,000 people, including prominent French politicians, scholars and clergymen, have signed a petition against attempts to ban ritual circumcision of boys in Europe.Click here for the rest of the article...
The Jewish community of Balta in Ukraine has lost its bid to gain possession of a former synagogue which it helped build.Click here for the rest of the article...
Women of the Wall has more influence over prayer at the Kotel than ever. So why do some members accuse the movement’s leaders of selling out its most cherished ideals?Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — More than 5,000 people, including prominent French politicians, scholars and clergymen, have signed a petition against attempts to ban ritual circumcision of boys in Europe.
Titled “no to a ban on circumcision,” the petition was published on Oct. 16 by CRIF, the umbrella organization representing France’s Jewish communities, following the Oct. 1 passing of a Council of Europe resolution that calls male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”
Among the co-signatories of the petition are Anne Hidalgo, a candidate in next year’s Paris mayoral elections; the director Claude Lanzmann and Claude Goasguen and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, both former government ministers. By Thursday, the petition had more than 5,500 signatures.
The non-binding resolution by the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly “targets European Jewish communities that are already exposed to the unprecedented resurgence of anti-Semitism,” the petition reads. “It is inconceivable to those who survived the Holocaust” and “dangerous because it stigmatizes Jews,” the petition reads.
Other co-signatories include Patrick Dubois, a French Catholic priest and Holocaust scholar, and Alain Massini, a well-known Protestant pastor.
The text of the petition also characterizes the resolution as “insulting” because it “equates between circumcision and [female genital] mutilation.”
In the resolution, “female genital mutilation and the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons” are listed together as examples of “violations of the physical integrity of children, which supporters of the procedures tend to present as beneficial to the children themselves despite clear evidence to the contrary.”
But Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, wrote in a letter earlier this month that the resolution does not equate the two practices.
How did three less-than-observant Broadway guys come up with the biggest Jewish musical ever? Eileen Reynolds explores the engaging story — and explains why it still matters.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) – The Jewish community of Balta in Ukraine has lost its bid to gain possession of a former synagogue which it helped build.
The 100-year-old Savranskaya synagogue, which is now an abandoned building owned by the Ukrtelecom communications firm, will remain the firm’s property, the Odessa Administrative Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month.
The ruling reverses the 2011 ruling by the Balta District Court, which found that the Jewish community had claim to the building, according to a report published last week in the Russian news site Dumskaya.
The Jewish community of Balta paid 2,500 rubles in 1903 for the construction of the building, but the appeals court found this irrelevant.
The building stopped being used as a synagogue during the Holocaust years and the Soviet government turned it into an apartment block until 1964, when the national telephone company started using it.
The company kept the building after its privatization and has owned it since 2003.
When the synagogue was built, Balta had 13,200 Jewish residents — more than half its total population, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. But because of Soviet persecution, only 4,700 remained by 1941 when German troops seized the area and began perpetrating mass executions of Jews with help from Romanian soldiers.
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yad Vashem is partnering with the Aladdin Project to hold a Holocaust education seminar in Turkey.
Some 20 academics who teach in private and public universities in Turkey will participate in the program organized by the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, in cooperation with the Aladdin Project and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance at Galatasaray University in Istanbul.
The Aladdin Project to promote intercultural relations between Muslims and Jews was launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in March 2009, and has since been supported by more than 1,000 intellectuals, academics and public figures from over 50 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.
Thursday’s seminar is the first of a five-part educational initiative on Holocaust education and anti-Semitism for Turkish academics.
In June 2014, the group will visit Jerusalem for a weeklong seminar at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies.
The seminar comes the same week that the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that anti-Semitism triggered by the deteriorating relationship between Turkey and Israel is spurring young Turkish Jews to leave the country.
Hundreds of young Turkish Jews have immigrated to the United States or Europe in recent years, Nesim Guvenis, deputy chairman the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel, told the Hurriyet Daily News.
He told Hurriyet that the unease of Jews in Turkey became exacerbated after the Mavi Marmara incident in which Israeli Naval commandoes killed nine Turkish citizens when intercepting the ship attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
By Cantor Cheryl Wunch
There are many different themes that appear throughout our Yom Kippur liturgy. Obviously, the themes of repentance, returning, and renewal are the ones that most immediately come to mind. We speak and sing of our sins, our need for forgiveness, and our desire to start again with a clean slate. The service itself is one filled with majesty, drama, and a sense of spiritual urgency that can often be felt in the air. While there are many liturgical moments that are unique to the Yom Kippur service, there is one particularly interesting liturgical anomaly that is repeated multiple times throughout the traditional Yom Kippur service, and has also made its way into our Reform Machzor; the Thirteen Attributes of God. This piece of liturgy is also known as the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, or Shalosh Esrei Middot HaRachamim.
The Thirteen Attributes originates in Parshat Ki Tisa, after the debacle with the Golden Calf. Moses returns to the top of the mountain, and pleads to know God’s nature. God commands Moses to craft the second set of tablets, and then God descends in a cloud, shields Moses’ eyes, and proclaims: “The Eternal One, the Eternal God is merciful and gracious, endlessly patient, loving, and true, showing mercy to thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and granting pardon; yet God does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.” After this statement Moses bows low, and asks God to accompany the Israelites and forgive them of their sins. The Thirteen Attributes, as it appears in our liturgy, is an abbreviated version of this speech, ending with “granting pardon.” For those trying to count the thirteen, there are a number of explanations, the most common from the Talmud is as follows:
- Adonai – compassion before a person sins;
- Adonai – compassion after a person has sinned;
- El – almighty;
- Rachum – merciful;
- Chanun – gracious;
- Erech appayim – endlessly patient;
- Rav chesed – abounding in lovingkindness;
- Emet – and in truth;
- Notzer chesed laalafim — showing mercy to thousands;
- Noseh avon – forgiving iniquity;
- Vafeshah – and transgression;
- V’chatah – and sin;
- Venakeh – and granting pardon.
What I find strange about this text is that even though it is repeated throughout our service, it is neither a prayer, nor a blessing, nor a request. It is a revelation, a statement of fact. So why then, is it so prominent in our prayer service?
To find out why we repeat this text, we must first look at when we repeat this text. The recitation of the Thirteen Attributes appears most often in the penitential prayers during the Selichot period (the days leading up to Rosh HaShanah), during the 10 Days of Repentance, multiple times on Yom Kippur and on other fast days. The Thirteen Attributes is also added to the Torah service on Festivals, but not on Shabbat, right before taking the Torah from the Ark. Some communities begin this practice at the beginning of Elul, as part of their “warm-up” to the Days of Awe. It is fairly easy to understand why these words are added to the penitential prayers; we are repenting for our sins, and asking for God’s forgiveness, and so reminding ourselves (and maybe reminding God!) how merciful, loving, and forgiving God is can help us to have faith that we will, indeed, be granted pardon. The Talmud (Rosh Hashana, 17b) even teaches that simply reciting these words will bring about God’s forgiveness. This statement has been hotly debated by the rabbis, some claiming that it is not the words themselves that are effective, but the understanding of the words and the attempt to emulate these characteristics that brings about God’s compassion. Regardless of which side you take in this debate, it is clear to see why this text fits into the penitential prayers.
Despite its traditional appearance in the penitential prayers, most Reform Jews, one might argue, are most familiar with this text from its place in the Torah service on the High Holidays. I find the placement of this text during the Torah service on Yom Kippur to be especially compelling. On this day, we stand in front of the ark and proclaim these words, even though they have been stated many other times throughout the holiday. This particular recitation stands out. It is more majestic. It is more obvious. It is more dramatic. As we stand in front of the ark, readying ourselves to read from the sacred scroll, we are not stating the Thirteen Attributes as an addition to our petitions, but as an emulation of the One who first uttered these words. Our Talmudic sage, Rabbi Yochanan, taught that God covered the Holy face, like a prayer leader wrapped in a tallit, and taught Moses the order of these words. In this way, God became the Ultimate Shaliach Tzibbur (messenger of the congregation), and showed us all how to properly lead our people in prayer. When we stand before the ark and sing or chant the Thirteen Attributes, we are performing this rite just as God taught us to do. It is a dramatic scene – we stand up at the highest point of the synagogue, like standing on the mountain, and with our faces hidden from the congregation, proclaim aloud the attributes which we all work to emulate. Only then are we ready to remove the Torah from the ark and begin the pageantry of the Torah reading, as Moses did when he brought the second set of tablets down to the people. The presentation of the Thirteen Attributes at this point in the service is not done with the humility of penitence, but rather with awe, respect, and a yearning for the ability to strive towards these attributes for ourselves.
One way that many congregations choose to make this moment in our service stand out is by using music to communicate this text. There are many settings of the Thirteen Attributes that run the gamut from simple and declamatory, such as this setting by Lewandowski (LISTEN), to congregational and participatory, such as this setting by Leon Sher (LISTEN), to florid and awe-inspiring, such as this track by Max Helfman (LISTEN). Many settings also employ a call-and-response technique, such as this track by Abraham Moshe Bernstein (LISTEN) to include the choir and congregation. There are even updates on traditional melodies that include English translations, such as this track published by the Jewish Renewal Community of Boulder (LISTEN), which help people fully to understand the text. While each of these musical settings is quite different, the one thing that they have in common is that they cause us to stop and truly consider the words that we are saying. We are not simply reciting a list, we are working to emulate the Almighty, and become better, more kindhearted people.
For those of you who have a little bit more than 10 minutes free for Torah today, I highly recommend listening to this instrumental composition of the 13 Attributes of Mercy by Gilbert Trout. What images does it conjure for you? Do you feel the majesty? Do you feel the pleading? Do you feel the desire to emulate, if only for a moment, all of the good that God is and has instilled in us? Close your eyes and listen… and may we all find the strength to continue to strive to be kinder, more compassionate, more patient and forgiving.
Sources (in order of examples):
Adonai, Adonai. Louis Lewandowski. From Songs of Repentance, Disc 2. Transcontinental Music Publications. 2001.
Adonai, Adonai. Leon Sher. From The First Album, Performed by Beged Kefet. 1987.
Adonai, Adonai. Max Helfman. From The Holy Ark. Union for Reform Judaism 68th Biennial CD. 2005.
Adonai, Adonai. Abraham Moshe Bernstein. From Festival Delights, Performed by Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi and the Anshe Emet Festival Choir. 1999.
Adonai, Adonai. From Prayers for Healing and High Holidays. Performed by Michelle Wolf and Joseph Lukasik. Published by the Jewish Renewal Community of Boulder.
Cheryl Wunch has been the Cantor at Congregation Beth Am in Buffalo Grove, Il since her ordination in 2011. She also serves as the president of the Reform Cantors of Chicago. Her own blog can be found at wunchbreak.wordpress.com.
I hope you’re hungry, because tomorrow is Food Day and the RAC will be serving up a fresh webinar. Tune in a 10:00am EST for Eco-Kashrut: How Judaism Informs our Ethical Food Choices to hear from our special guests, Seth Goldman, TeaEO of Honest Tea, and Rabbi Mary Zamore, editor of “The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic.”
Seth Goldman will bring us the perspective of a beverage-producing corporation with a mission that embodies the principles of food justice. Honest Tea is committed to using organic ingredients, promoting a healthy diet and ensuring Fair Trade working standards in the developing world.
Rabbi Mary Zamore is a long-time advocate for the environment and ethical eating. In “The Sacred Table,” various experts in the field of Jewish food ethics offer up personal and communal perspectives on food production, the environment, personal health, agricultural workers’ rights, animal rights, the spirituality of eating and fasting, gratitude, caring for the hungry, the challenges of eating together, and more.
Join the RAC in commemorating Food Day by joining the Eco-Kashrut: How Judaism Informs our Ethical Food Choices webinar tomorrow at 10:00am. In our daily morning prayer, we say, “Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam poke’ach ivrim – Blessed are you who opens the eyes of the blind.” Allow this webinar to open your eyes to the many environmental challenges faced by our current global food system and how you can be an advocate for ethical food in your personal life and your community.