JSLI will ordain it's sixth class of Rabbis in Delray Beach, Florida this coming January.
(PRWeb December 12, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11411114.htm
When the wife of Cambodia’s only rabbi flies to America, she has her wig styled. But the hair in her wig, like that of many Orthodox women, might have come from the growing hair market in Cambodia.Click here for the rest of the article...
Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday a bill that would forbid the use of the word “Nazi” in any form, as well as words with similar sounds, for any reason. Use of the word Nazi would be allowed only for “educational purposes, documentation, historical or scientific research.” Offenders would face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 shekels ($28,000). The draft law also outlaws “insulting someone by wishing or expressing hope that the Nazis’ goals should be fulfilled” as well as “lamenting the fact that the Nazis failed to achieve their goals.” The bill would not prohibit calling actual Nazis as such.Click here for the rest of the article...
New York Rep. Eliot L. Engel sent a letter to Benjamin Netanyahu to express his concern over the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Jewish status letters written by Rabbi Avi Weiss.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — The New York congressman who represents Rabbi Avi Weiss expressed his concerns to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Jewish status letters written by the rabbi.
Rep. Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to Netanyahu dated Jan. 10, “This trend of rejecting status letters written by Rabbi Weiss and others undermines the bond between Diaspora communities and the state of Israel, and I fear may ultimately lead to the wholesale prohibition on community rabbis in the Diaspora from participating in the religious life of Jewish people in Israel.”
Weiss not only lives in Engel’s congressional district but the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale that Weiss led for nearly 40 years and the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school he founded are located there.
Late last year, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel rejected a letter vouching for the Jewishness of an American couple marrying in Israel written by Weiss, as well as the letters of at least 10 rabbis in other cases.
A letter vouching for a couple’s Jewishness and singlehood has been required for decades from couples wishing to marry in Israel.
The Chief Rabbinate decided several years ago that it would no longer automatically recognize conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora, and agreed to accept those of a limited number of approved rabbinical courts, or batei din.
Engel said he is concerned that the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject Weiss’ letter “is simply the latest instance of the broader marginalization of the many diverse streams of Judaism in Israel. If Rabbi Weiss’ credentials are rejected — an Orthodox leader with decades of experience — what does that portend for other strands of American Judaism?”
Engel left for Israel Sunday as part of Vice President Joe Biden’s delegation to the funeral for former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
(JTA) — A former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service left Denmark early after being accused of torture in a Danish police complaint filed by a pro-Palestinian group.
Carmi Gillon departed Denmark on Saturday without attending the Copenhagen Film Festival for a showing of the documentary “The Gatekeepers” or delivering a scheduled lecture. Gillon is one of six former Shin Bet heads to be interviewed for the documentary.
Gillon, who headed the Shin Bet in the mid-1990s, first said he would remain in the country, according to the Danish daily Kristeligt-Dagblad, but decided not to take any chances and left before his appearance.
He told the newspaper that he was “shocked” by the complaint by two Dutch anti-torture groups as well as Theodore Sorensen, Denmark’s former representative to the U.N. Committee against Torture. Gillon called the accusations “old.”
The Danish prosecutor’s office rejected the complaint, citing a lack of evidence of Gillon’s involvement in torture, Haaretz reported.
“The Gatekeepers,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, presents interviews with the former Shin Bet leaders and records their perceptions of how successive Israeli governments missed opportunities for peace.
Mimi Schultz’s grandmother carried a Torah out of Europe on her back and deposited it in a Jerusalem synagogue for safe keeping. Then it vanished.Click here for the rest of the article...
On the occasion of the death of former Israeli 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.”
To be married in Israel, immigrants must prove their Jewish ancestry to the country’s Chief Rabbinate. That’s where a bureaucrat named Itamar Tubul comes in.Click here for the rest of the article...
A group of rabbis studying psychology and counseling in New York or London would hardly raise an eyebrow. But in Israel, the group of 19 rabbis was breaking ground.Click here for the rest of the article...
This New Year celebration of trees, observed on the 15th day of the Hebrew month Shevat, has grown in popularity because of its connection to the environment. We spoke last year with Eldridge Street Synagogue educator Mattie Ettenheim at a Tu B’Shevat observance.
Seeking to maximize exposure of their 555-Day Long Prayer Initiative, and, "The Great Wave Offering," which concludes the prayer event, on September 11, 2014, the planners of "555 Days...
(PRWeb December 10, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11394026.htm
Several Dutch rabbis criticized a rabbinical court’s recognition of non-Jews who observe Torah laws.Click here for the rest of the article...
By Cantor Penny Kessler
Eighteen years ago, when I first led Yizkor on Yom Kippur at my current synagogue, I admit to having been startled by an exodus from the pews. Our congregation recites Yizkor immediately after the Torah service, before the scrolls are returned to the ark and right before musaf (a supplemental service added by some Jews on holidays). I had always understood yizkor as – unlike the individuality of yahrzeit (the yearly anniversary of a death) or sh’loshim (the month-long mourning period following burial) – a communal experience. With its acknowledgment of the deaths of parents, siblings, other relatives, friends and our Peoples’ martyrs, Yizkor was something all Jews could share, especially during the overwhelming 25 hours of Yom Kippur. And yet people left. When gently questioned, most of those who left (some returning following Yizkor, some going home even though the service would continue with musaf in my relatively “traditional” shul) told me – and here I paraphrase – “my parents are alive and – well, you know … kinnehura.” (“Kinnehura” is a Yiddish term said to ward off the evil eye, or bad luck.) That other loved ones were memorialized within the Yizkor service, not just immediate relatives, specifically parents, didn’t make a difference; there was something about the spiritual power that caused people to exit.
Over time I have noticed a sharp decrease in the numbers of those who leave the room, and from my perch on the bimah, I am aware of a variety of reactions by those who stay to participate. Men and women for whom a loved one’s death is more recent seem stunned; those who remember someone from years ago seem to respond with a wistful sorrow borne of the passing of time. No one has a passive reaction because whether death touches our lives intimately or tangentially, each of our loved ones has a story. And so the Yizkor service, leading as it does to Eil Maleh Rachamim and the Mourner’s Kaddish, can and should be a musical exploration of the depths and ranges of emotion with expressions of soaring melodies, meditations and congregational tunes.
For many years I have opened the Yizkor service with “Yeish Kochavim/There Are Stars,” Jeff Klepper and Danny Freelander’s setting of the Hannah Szenesh poem.1 My goal is to gently guide worshippers into the internal exercise of memory that they are about to undergo. “There are stars up above so far away we only see their light long, long after the star itself is gone. And so it is with people that we loved, their memories keep shining…” Sung in both Hebrew and English, I use this setting to give people a chance to take a deep breath, move intellectually and emotionally from the Torah reading, and engage their memories. LISTEN
If I were able to design my own Yizkor service, I might seriously consider singing only meditative music, mantras almost, interspersed with appropriate readings and opportunities for silent reflection. Uncomplicated repeated melodies and texts would give worshippers the opportunity to join together in one or two communal voices, adding their own harmonies and allowing them to sit and reflect on the texts, sharing their own hurts, needs and healing. I would most definitely include these two mantra-like melodies. The first, “Sheviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid – I Place God Before Me Always,” was written by Wendie Bernstein Lash.2 The text is a reminder that, even in times of sorrow when it would be so easy to turn away from God in anger or despair, it is spiritually healthy and healing to repeat the idea that God is always available to be my strength and support. LISTEN Shefa Gold’s setting of “Kosi R’vaya” – my cup overflows – similarly gently allows mourners to reach into the text of Psalm 23, contemplating the myriad ways to find blessing and an abundance of love and healing from God when we are the most vulnerable.3 LISTEN
In addition to Shefa Gold’s, there are so many beautiful settings for one of Yizkor’s most familiar and beloved psalms, Psalm 23. “Mizmor L’David”4 is a lovely congregational-friendly Chassidic setting by Ben Zion Shenker, whose life and career were recently highlighted in an NPR interview. The following audio file is of me singing the first verse and skipping to the third verse so you can hear the “bridge.” LISTEN While I rarely sing Psalm 23 in English during Yizkor, I have found that even with the various translations available, worshippers still gravitate to the formal King James English translation. This setting (sung by me), by the great composer Max Wohlberg, stands out for its majestic simplicity.5 LISTEN
Gerald Cohen’s “Psalm 23” is hauntingly beautiful with a lullaby-like gentleness. Rarely growing beyond a quiet whisper, Cohen’s music is challenging for me to sing because I become so wrapped up in its emotional pull. In this audio file, you will hear the composer performing his own work; it is simply beautiful and deeply moving.6 LISTEN
Finally, we move to the penultimate moment of the Yizkor service: Eil Maleh Rachamim. A plea to God to grant perfect peace to the souls of our loved ones, I prefer settings that have minimal embellishment and synthesize the prayer of the heart with the music. Those who have participated in Yizkor have just finished several moments of reflection, and I want them to experience a soft and smooth transition to the closing moments of the service. Nothing flashy, no coloratura, just sweet wistfulness prior to reciting kaddish. The following version (sung by me) is a combination of settings by A.Z. Idelsohn, Morris Barash and George Weinflash; honestly, it is a melody that I have to come to use over time, and I take no credit other than being honored to have melodies in my head by these brilliant composers. LISTEN
- “Yeish Kochavim.” Text: Hannah Szenesh, Music: Jeff Klepper/Danny Freelander. Performed by Danny Freelander and Jeff Klepper. From: “Snapshots: The Best of Kol B’seder Vol. 1”
- Sheviti Adonai L’negdi Tamid – I Place God Before Me Always, Wendie Bernstein Lash. From “Blessing: Jewish Chants for Blessing & Healing.”
- “Kosi R’vaya.” Text: Psalm 23, Music: Shefa Gold. From “Chanscendence”
- “Mizmor L’David.” Text: Psalm 23, Music: Ben Zion Shenker. Recorded by P. Kessler
- “Psalm 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd.” Text: Psalm 23, Music: Max Wohlberg. With permission of Ashbourne Music Publications. Recorded by PK.
- “Adonai Ro’i.” Text: Psalm 23, Music: Gerald Cohen. From “Four Songs on Hebrew Texts: Adonai ro’i (The Lord is my shepherd)” sung by the composer
Penny Kessler has served the United Jewish Center in Danbury, CT since 1995. A member of the Executive Board of the American Conference of Cantors, she has contributed several essays to URJ’s Ten Minutes of Torah.
Jeff Jacoby Tweeted prayers, thanks and scripture as the Boston Globe columnist continued to lead an outpouring of concern about his missing teenage son, Caleb Jacoby.Click here for the rest of the article...
by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein
One Friday night in December, I prayed at a Baptist-style, tent-revival, amen/hallelujah, neo-Hasidic Jewish service. Yes, that was Shabbat at the URJ Biennial, and although I was prepared for the spirit of it, based on my years in youth group, I wasn’t quite prepared for the spirituality of it.
I grew up in the Reform Movement, through URJ Eisner Camp, URJ Kutz Camp, and NFTY, but something shifted in me while in university, and I felt myself move slowly away. Maybe it was going to Brandeis and meeting all those deeply committed Conservative and Orthodox students, while my Reform friends drifted away and stopped coming to services, stopped celebrating Shabbat. Maybe it was the year in Israel where I studied in yeshiva and went to the Western Wall regularly and davened in traditional circles.
Or maybe it was the memory of my confirmation class, when my teacher said “Kashrut (kosher) was for health in those days. Nowadays, it’s outdated and dumb. No Reform Jew needs to practice it,” and the day of Confirmation itself, when the rabbi flatly refused to let a classmate wear a kippah. (We were rebellious in those days. As the strains of “God is in His Holy Temple” began on the organ, each one of us – girls included, which was then unheard of – drew a kippah out of our robe pocket and put it on as we marched down the aisle.) Our parents sent us to URJ camps, but the rabbis made fun of our newfound passion for Judaism by telling us we were “bordering on Conservative.” The youth group joyfully did Havdalah before our movie nights but the presidents of our congregations refused to add Havdalah before a Saturday night social for families, saying it was “too religious.”
The Reform Judaism I grew up with was, quite frankly, more concerned with not looking Orthodox than it was with teaching me any positive value in being Reform.
I tried being Orthodox for awhile, but my feminism got in the way. I tried being Reconstructionist, but my strong supernatural concept of God got in the way. I tried Jewish Renewal, but I fall asleep in meditation, and I’d rather shuckle than do yoga. I never toyed with being Conservative because my need for consistency got in the way. I just couldn’t grasp hold of a positive, joyful, traditional, and spiritual Judaism within any of the movements, and I wandered around for many years looking for home.
This past URJ Biennial helped me find it. First, the service leaders sang “O Canada” and put up a Canadian flag, which opened my now-Canadian heart. Then they said we could sit for Sh’ma if it was our custom to do so, which publicly valued and normatized a custom I’ve practiced for 20 years and one that I instituted at my synagogue. Then came the gathering of tzitzit on my tallit, something I’ve done silently and privately all these years. Next, mourners were asked to rise separately from the rest of the worshipers for the Mourner’s Kaddish, something I longed to do at a Biennial many years ago when I was in a year of mourning myself. OK, it was also the clapping and dancing and 13 Torah-reading tables and Bibliodrama, along with a silent Amidah. My traditional side was finally recognized; my spiritual side was finally satiated.
I came to Biennial with trepidation, as it was not universally accepted in my new synagogue for us to be Reform-affiliated. Many members doubted this idea, and many still identify with the Conservative Movement. During the application process to become a URJ member congregation, they did not feel moved, no matter how I preached the vision of Reform and its “best practices.” They fear the Reform they remember as being churchy and sterile. They fear the Reform they remember of lack of kippot and lack of Hebrew. Traditional Canadians, they honestly worry about flying the flag of Reform in a community where Conservative is still the norm. I knew the workshops and plenaries would be fine. I knew the call to tikkun olam would be loud and clear. I knew the speakers would be powerful. But would the davening be davening, or would it be “services”? Would we “rise and recite the watchword of our faith?” Would we sit for the standing prayer? Would we drone on in responsive readings?
When the chair of our Leadership Team came with me, with some degree of doubt, I couldn’t quite explain how far the Reform Movement had come for him. He had to see it with his own two eyes. His response after attending the Biennial? “This is awesome. Next time, our whole team should come.”
This ain’t my father’s Reform. It can finally be mine.
Elyse Goldstein is the rabbi of the URJ’s newest congregation, City Shul, in Toronto, Canada, which was voted into membership at this Biennial.
The rabbi of Porto urged the Catholic Church of Portugal to block a local priest’s plan to open a museum commemorating Jewish presence in the city.Click here for the rest of the article...
With people doing so much of their shopping online these days – for everything from clothing to electronics to groceries to books, and just about everything else – it’s become evident to my synagogue’s board that temple shopping begins online, too. Prospective members no longer wait to drop in unannounced at Shabbat services or attend open houses. People no longer want to waste their time with a temple that doesn’t provide what they’re looking for. They want to know right off the bat: Does the synagogue have a nursery school? When are Hebrew School classes? Are there activities for the parents and grandparents?
Until recently, my synagogue had a very plain website, with our basic information laid out in simple language alongside a photo collage, a music video, and… not much else. The information was there, but it was uninviting.
When our temple president began the process of creating a new website, it all sounded so simple. We sought a volunteer who would create a professional, easy-to-navigate website that would attract new members and be a useful tool to give our current membership up-to-date information about temple activities and services, as well as to showcase who we are and what we are about.
Needless to say, volunteers weren’t exactly lining up. I, for one, ran the other way! Thankfully, a husband and wife – Ben and Sharon, respectively – team stepped up to help. They brainstormed a number of ideas, researched other temple websites, and ultimately came to the conclusion that they faced a long and winding road ahead.
Although knowledgeable, Ben and Sharon knew they needed expert help. That is where the Union for Reform Judaism stepped in. Their RJ WebBuilder 2.0 service offered a number of different templates to work from, as well as the help of an experienced contact person versed in creating temple websites – rather than one that sold, say, clothes or electronics – our synagogue began to find some direction in its quest to update our online presence.
Our board was pleased to find that the URJ-provided templates were not cookie-cutter molds. One size did not have to fit all. We could shift categories could be shifted, place and replace information with ease, and personalize the site to truly represent our congregation.
In the beginning, our web mavens had a set of blank web pages. They recruited temple members to help gather the information. Our temple photographer began emailing photos from the last few years of events, special services, and celebrations. Various congregational committees were requested to send information about what they do. Throughout the gathering process, the expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day” came to mind.
Little by little, though, Rome – I mean, our site! – began to take shape. A number of common web- and synagogue-related phrases were thrown around: dignified, inviting, easy to navigate, easy to update, informative, fewer bells and whistles. Sneak peeks were provided along the way. Constructive criticism and commentary was taken into account in the form of changes and improvements. For every question, there was a solution.
When the new website was finally unveiled, Sharon and Ben beamed with pride as if they’d just become new parents. Of course their work is not complete; they are constantly tweaking, adding, and deleting, as is the nature of the web. Overall, though, the new site has been instrumental in bringing our synagogue into the modern age of providing information – and we’re the better for it.
Our congregation now boasts a website that portrays us in a positive, welcoming light. It started with two volunteers, plus some help from the URJ. Come visit us and see what can be accomplished when people step up to the challenge!
If your congregation is interested in learning more about RJ WebBuilder 20.0, the URJ’s custom platform for building state-of-the-art websites, please visit www.urj.org/rjweb.