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Sol Adler, Disgraced Former Head of 92nd Street Y, Commits Suicide

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 17:46

Sol Adler, the disgraced former executive director of the 92nd Street Y, has hanged himself in his Brooklyn home — two years after the organization’s corruption scandal.

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Maryland teens arrested for anti-Semitic messages

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 15:33

(JTA) — Two Maryland teens were arrested and charged with painting anti-Semitic messages on a synagogue, a home and buses.

The targets of the anti-Semitism were located in Potomac and Rockville, Maryland suburbs near Washington, D.C.

Police believe the teens, both 16, are responsible for other incidents in April, Bethesda Now reported.

The teens were arrested May 6 for incidents that occurred between April 18 and 21. The anti-Semitic messages included swastikas and the phrase “All Jews Burn.”

Boston Rabbi Barry Starr Leaves Pulpit Over Affair and Missing Cash

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 13:19

Rabbi Barry Starr, a leader in the Conservative movement who has served a Boston synagogue for three decades, resigned after acknowledging his marital infidelity.

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Boston-area rabbi leaves pulpit over marital infidelity

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 12:08

BOSTON (JTA) — Rabbi Barry Starr, a leader in the Conservative movement who has served a suburban Boston synagogue for nearly three decades, resigned after acknowledging his marital infidelity.

Starr informed congregants at Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Sharon, of his resignation in an emailed letter sent last week, the Boston Globe reported. In addition to engaging in marital infidelity, he acknowledged “other serious personal conduct which require me to resign.”

“I write this letter of a very heavy heart and a sense of shame and remorse that makes this the most difficult thing I have done in my life,” the letter announcing Friday’s resignation said.

The executive director of Temple Israel wrote to congregants in a separate email that some checks made payable to the rabbi’s discretionary fund over the past month have been “compromised,” the Globe reported. The director advised donors to stop payment of any checks that may not have cleared.

The Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, and local and state police are investigating, Temple Israel president Arnie Freedman told the Globe.

Starr, a married father of two, is credited with expanding the congregation he served for 28 years to over 600 families. He has served on the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary and as president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, as well as the region’s Rabbinical Assembly.

Freedman said he lacked details of the rabbi’s misdeeds but that Temple Israel has not made allegations of any crime against Starr.

“This is the most tragic thing that has happened in the life of this community,” Freedman told the Globe. “He’s always been the heart and soul of our community.”




Rabbis Urge Action Against Arab Attacks on Mount of Olives

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 09:50

More than 100 Orthodox rabbis, mostly from the United States, are urging action against ongoing Arab attacks on the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

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How Some Piffle About Mr. Pouffle Inspired John Kerry's 'Poof'

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 06:00

John Kerry used the word ‘poof’ to describe the collapse of the peace talks. He probably didn’t know he was quoting 16th century operetta and a modern-day musical.

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A Heavenly Earth Day

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 12:00

By Rabbi Everett Gendler

Thirty six years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president, he established a number of regional Solar Energy Centers to encourage the use of sun-fueled electricity.  Attracted to the idea of plugging our temple Eternal Light directly into the sun, I and several members of Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA, investigated the feasibility of converting our Ner Tamid to solar power.

Its symbolic appropriateness is evident.  Non-polluting, not in danger of imminent depletion, it seemed perfectly suited as a pure symbol of illumination and eternity.  We obtained two solar panels, storage batteries for hours of darkness and periods of heavy cloud cover, and at the dark of the year, during Hanukkah, 1978, we celebrated its installation.  People appreciated its symbolic value, and in December, 1991, we celebrated its Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

During my remaining years as rabbi of the temple, the light ever so gently kept nudging me:  Why only a symbol?  Why not real production of more usable electricity for your temple?  The question was not easily answered.  Succeeding U. S. administrations did not maintain the solar energy centers, and the necessary technical information was hard to obtain.  Even though the Light was included in a Union of Concerned Scientists-Real Goods book, Renewables Are Ready, published in 1995, by then I was retiring from the temple, and so it remained symbolic, not pragmatic.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Massachusetts, led by Governor Deval Patrick, has offered assistance to towns and cities interested in solarizing.  Among the communities participating in this project is Great Barrington, where we live year round.  We made inquiry, received a follow-up phone call, then a preliminary interview with one of the Real Goods Solar representatives.  The roof of our house is solar panel-resistant, but there is a section of our front hayfield that seemed ideal: an unobstructed stretch of south-facing land that would not be subject to unwanted shade.

The official site visit was fixed for April 22nd, Earth Day.  So that morning, two knowledgeable solar technicians came and mapped the exact location for the installation this summer of 44 solar panels, enough to supply all of our electricity needs with surplus to feed back into the National Grid that provides our electricity.  Thanks to policies of both the U. S. Government and Massachusetts, there are tax credits and rebates also to speed up recovering the original costs of the installation.  At some time well before the coming of the Messiah, and while the panels are still under warranty, we should have not only all of our electricity without cost but earn some additional credit as well.

Granted, it has not been instantaneous, but the slow solar suasion has finally seen fulfillment.  Worth noting, also, is that the number 44 is the number of candles we burn each year at Hanukkah.  Add this solar dimension to the auspicious coincidence of the site mapping happening on Earth Day, and I think it fair to call it a Heavenly Earth Day.

Rabbi Everett Gendler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanuel of the Merrimack Valley in Lowell, MA, and he was the first Jewish chaplain at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.  Rabbi Gendler played a pivotal role in involving American Jews in the civil rights movement and he has dedicated his life to social justice, nonviolence and environmental stewardship. In more recent years, he has been honored with the “Lifetime Achievement” award from the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, the “Human Rights Hero” award from T’ruah and the Presidents’ Medallion from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. In “retirement,” Rabbi Gendler and his wife, Mary, continue to travel regularly to India where they are helping the Tibetan exile community develop an ongoing study program on strategic nonviolent struggle.

The Gendler Grapevine Project is a six-year initiative established to promote activities within the Jewish and interfaith communities that honor and support the values maintained by Rabbi Everett Gendler. Learn more about the Gendler Grapevine Project and the innovative projects the organization supports.  

Double Booked: No More Pee Wee Parenting Please

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 11:00

By Rabbi Josh Brown

Those of us who are fond of the 1980′s likely remember Pee Wee Herman and his incredible breakfast machine.  Rolling out of bed, Pee Wee would flip the switch of his oscillating fan and put an orchestra of pulleys and wheels in motion.  Without touching a pot or pan, eggs were cracked and fried, pancakes flipped and toast zipped across the room landing into the toaster only to be flipped onto Pee Wee’s plate without any effort at all.

As a product of the 80′s I am a member of a generation that values efficiency and organization.  We love coffee makers that fill our cup in less than a minute, requiring no set-up, clean up or even a carafe.  We love that our phones play music without having to flip a switch or turn a dial.  But as a rabbi who works with teens almost every day, I also worry that our passion to be efficient comes with an emotional cost.

When we convince ourselves that parenting is getting the food from the fridge to the table in time for school or getting all three kids to all 6 of their daily activities without a hitch is the goal, we neglect what truly makes working families work.  We neglect that efficiency is not effective if it lacks time for emotion.

Sheryl Sandberg shares in her recent book Lean In, that she used to think that success in business was about being efficient, organized, focused and compartmentalizing her professional life.  Then she realized that “leadership is often more about being authentic than perfect”.

The same can be said of parenting.  I realize this every time I ask a 12 year old to write a thank you note to her parents in honor of her bat mitzvah and she writes “Thank you mom for driving me everywhere, all the time”.  And I cringe when often, gender stereotypes aside, the next sentence thanks dad for “paying for everything.”

As the father of two young children whose parents both work full time, I know that time often feels like our most endangered resource.  And even with the deep support system and financial comfort my wife and I enjoy, we forget that perfect parenting is not the goal, present parenting is.  Our mornings are far from perfect.  We run late, we forget lunches – some of us have even been known to put on different colored shoes or forget a belt.  But if this is the cost of being able to look our kids in the eye, I have to believe it is worth it.

As Sandberg learned in the most efficient, structured environments in corporate America, “authenticity is not about efficiency, it is about sharing true emotions.”  This is the challenge we adopt as working parents.  Can we be as efficient as we are emotionally authentic?  Can we share emotional selves, not just our resources with our children?  Are we as interested in their passions as we are their grades?  It is not about scheduling, it is about sincerity.  The result is not a perfect parent, but it is a better one.

In preparing this blog, I went back and watched the Pee Wee Herman breakfast scene.  This time as a parent.  It brought back memories of my childhood and that sense of silliness that kids naturally embrace. Now, I realized, Pee Wee has a really cool breakfast, but he sits at the table alone.  This is not what we want for our kids.

As we focus on the very real challenges working parents face every day, I pray that our definition of a working family is not limited to one able to put food on the table and get to school on time.  That is, simply put, Pee Wee parenting; parenting with efficiency.  All parents, working or not, strive to provide for all of our child’s basic needs.  There is no more basic need than the authentic emotional relationship a child has with his or her parents.  For that reason and many more, it is a need worthy of preserving.

Rabbi Josh Brown is the Associate Rabbi at Temple Israel in Omaha, Nebraska.  He is married to Carrie Lewin Brown and they have two children, Hannah (4) and Noah (1).  

Comments are an important part of the conversation. Share your thoughts in the comments sectionThis blog is part of a special RACBlog series, “Double Booked: A Conversation about Working Families in the 21st Century,” dealing with the many issues that affect working families, and featuring everything from personal stories to policy analysis. Visit the Double Booked portal to read more posts, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #doublebooked.

ROR Stands with Ruth: Omer Week Four

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 18:15

By Rabbi Esther Lederman

This is the fourth in a series from Rabbis Organizing Rabbis connecting the Omer and the issue of immigration.

I never intended to become an immigrant to this country.  Like much of life, it just happened.  I took a job, and then another, and then went to graduate school. Before I knew it, I had lived in this country for fifteen years.  America had gradually become my home.  It is where my best friends lived, where I found my calling as a rabbi, where I had my first congregation, where I fell in love with the man who would become my husband, where I gave birth to my first child.  Yet I was no closer to being a permanent resident than the day I had moved here fifteen years ago.  And then my application for permanent residency was denied.   Like Ruth, I was at risk of losing my home, of everything I knew, of losing that sense of rootedness and stability I had taken for granted. 

Like Ruth, I was lucky. My story eventually has a good ending.  I reapplied and was accepted, thanks to my American husband, (and no, his name is not Boaz) and am now the proud owner of a green card, looking forward to that day when I will be able to become an American citizen.  The ground on which I stand feels strong.

But for millions of immigrants to this country, the millions of Ruths that exist out there, there is not yet a happy ending.  Millions of immigrants live here, in the shadows, struggling to remain a part of the fabric of our country, fearful of driving down the street, unable to pay for college, without the protection of family or an ID.  Thousands of parents are being deported every day, taken from their children, leaving their kids parentless, entering foster systems, taking on jobs, failing in school.

For these millions of souls, there is not yet a happy ending. The key word in that sentence is yet.  Their story and fight is not over.  This is the week of Netzach in the counting of the Omer.  Netzach stands for endurance and fortitude, and ultimately, victory.  It defines an energy that will stop at nothing to achieve its goals.  It is the readiness to go all the way, to fight for what you believe.  It stands for the ability to endure in the face of challenges and hardship and believe that things are possible.

Being an immigrant requires Netzach.  Being an ally in the fight for immigration reform requires Netzach.  With legislation stalled in the House, with deportations at an all time high, we all need a little Netzach.

This Shavuot, I encourage you to stand up and say:  I stand with Ruth.  I stand with the millions of Ruths in this country who have the Netzach to see this fight through to the end, because their lives depend on it.

Rabbi Esther Lederman is a rabbi at Temple Micah in Washington, D.C.

We stand with Ruth – and so can you! We have created a special liturgy and text study for our Shavuot campaign. Will you show us your support for this campaign by pledging to use one or both of our resources?

This Shavuot, we recommit ourselves to working with the modern-day strangers among us. This Shavuot, we stand with Ruth.

Rabbis Organizing Rabbis is a joint project of the CCAR’s Peace & Justice Committee, the URJ’s Just Congregations, and the Religious Action Center. Learn more and join the mailing list at rac.org/ror.

Jordan River Baptism Site

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 17:24

Final preparations are underway for Pope Francis’s May 24-26 pilgrimage to the Mideast. During a brief stop in Jordan, the pope has invited Syrian refugees and disabled young people to join him for a meal at the Jordan River baptism site. Located just across the border from Israel, the spot is revered by many Christians as the place where John the Baptist lived, Jesus was baptized, and Christianity began.

The post Jordan River Baptism Site appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

In a first, Israeli women take test for kosher supervisor

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 16:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Nine women took the Chief Rabbinate’s exam to be kosher inspectors — the first time females were permitted to take the test.

The women took the exam Wednesday in a separate room from the 200 men taking the test at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Allowing the women to take the test resolved a lawsuit filed last year with Israel’s Supreme Court by the Emunah organization, which runs a kosher supervision course for women. The court had asked the Chief Rabbinate to allow the course graduates to take the exam, Haaretz reported Thursday.

The Chief Rabbinate’s decision to allow women to take the exam was based on a ruling by Chief Rabbi David Lau made over the objections of Chief Rabbinate members.

Jewish Drag Kings Reclaim Male Roles for Women

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 15:00

An actress donning a hasidic rabbi’s outfit for a performance might be considered offensive by some – but a growing number of Jewish drag king performers redefine male Jewish roles.

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N.J. Rabbi David Wax Pleads Guilty in $100K Orthodox Agunot 'Get' Extortion

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 20:31

New Jersey Rabbi David Wax pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges as part of a scheme to force an Israeli man to give his wife a get.

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Kansas City Rampage Suspect Eyed Synagogues and Kosher Restaurants

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 15:06

The FBI found printouts containing addresses of synagogues and kosher eateries in the home of Kansas City shooting suspect Frazier Glenn Miller.

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Supreme Plea for Inclusive Kind of Prayer

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 06:00

Jane Eisner learned the value of inclusive prayer over breakfast with a Catholic cardinal. The Supreme Court’s ruling on prayer at town meetings proves it has yet to learn that lesson.

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Jewish Groups Slam Supreme Court for Ruling Approving Prayer at Town Meeting

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 11:38

An array of Jewish groups decried a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing prayers at town hall meetings.

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Tunisia Synagogue Damaged in Anti-Semitic Attack

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 08:57

A synagogue in Tunisia was vandalized in what a human rights activist and some Jews described as an anti-Semitic attack.

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Tunisian synagogue vandalized in suspected anti-Semitic attack

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 07:27

(JTA) — A synagogue in Tunisia was vandalized in what a human rights activist and some Jews described as an anti-Semitic attack.

The Beith El synagogue in Sfax, located 150 miles south of the capital Tunis, was ransacked on April 30 by unidentified individuals who littered the floor with prayer books and tallitot, or Jewish prayer shawls, according to a May 4 account by Ftouh Souhail, a human rights activist and attorney who monitors the situation of the country’s Jewish community of 1,700 people.

He said that signs indicated that “Islamo-fascists” were behind the vandalism, which he said was anti-Semitic.

Souhail quoted a 76-year-old member of the Jewish community identified as R. Perez as saying: “They tore apart walls, paintings and threw them to the floor … this is vandalism directed against the Jewish heritage of Sfax. I cried like a child at the sight of my place of worship in this state.” The account appeared Sunday on the website Dreuz.info with a video of the synagogue after the attack.

Souhail said that “available information showed the perpetrators were a group of 10 students from the Technical High School of April 9.” He said they broke into the synagogue while wearing hoods that concealed their faces.

According to Souhail, the attack last week was the third time that “pro-Palestinian elements perpetrate these shameful acts against the synagogue of Beith El.” Previous attacks occured in August 2011 and December of 2012. In one of the attacks, the perpetrators stole silver chandeliers that weighed 120 pounds, according to Souhail’s account, which said Sfax’s Jewish community was made up of approximately 20 elderly Jews.

“Tunisia has seen a wave of anti-Semitism since the 2010 revolt,” Souhail wrote in reference to the revolution that in 2011 swept the country’s former ruler, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, from power.

The website and Facebgook page of the Tunisian interior ministry, which regularly contain updates about crimes, did not immediately offer any information on the incident.

A Daughter's Letter to Her Father for Mother's Day

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 06:00

Leah Vincent writes a letter to her father for Mother’s Day — and in the process, reclaims the Sh’ma as a woman’s prayer.

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Keeping Guns Away From the Torah in Georgia

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 06:00

A new Georgia law allows guns practically anywhere, including houses of worship. One Atlanta rabbi explains why her shul decided to declare itself a weapons-free zone.

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