"555 Days of Prayer to Save America" Praises God for Moving Mightily, Across the Nation, on "National Back to Church Sunday." Meanwhile, the "Save America Gathering" and...
(PRWeb September 18, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/9/prweb11128971.htm
As the "Save America Gathering" Led Prayer Event, "555 Days of Prayer to Save America" Gains Momentum, Participants Find Themselves Praying for the Body of Christ, "The...
(PRWeb September 10, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/9/prweb11091405.htm
We look into some of the ethical challenges raised by solitary confinement in prisons; visit best-selling Catholic crime-novel writer James Lee Burke at his home in Montana; and replay our 2012 story about a mock hajj for Muslim American children in Virginia as this year’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca approaches.
The post Solitary Confinement, James Lee Burke, Children’s Hajj appeared first on Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.
In December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared that October 11 would henceforth be known as the International Day of the Girl. For its second year in existence, the theme of this year’s commemoration is education as a form of girls’ empowerment.
Over the past year, the face of girls’ education advocacy has been sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her activism in support of education for girls. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the attack on Malala, who fully recovered from her injuries and has become an important voice on this issue around the world. Her story reminds us of the real and present dangers that young women face when they demand a right that is theirs by birth: an education.
Education is just one of the many areas where advocacy is important to improve and empower girls around the world. Access to contraception and sexuality education, protection from gender-based violence and child marriages, as well as the right to participate in broader politics and society alongside access to employment opportunities are just some of the issues that girls and young women face as they develop into women.
But education is at the heart of it all. With education comes self-awareness and self-confidence, because the skills necessary for employment, for figuring out the world’s problems and how to solve them are part and parcel the product of time with teachers, with other students, with books and with the opportunity to ask questions and find answers.
Looking around at my role models, both historical and modern, it is so clear that success is not always guaranteed, especially for women and girls. There are many places in the world where, for social or political reasons, girls do not have the access to opportunity that they deserve. Reflecting on the Day of the Girl and this year’s theme, the lesson of female empowerment is deeply resonant and pertinent.
As Reform Jews, we place great emphasis on the power and importance of education. The Torah calls us not only to learn and discuss G-d’s instructions ourselves, but also to teach them to our children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Fun fact: this citation from Deuteronomy is the beginning of the V’ahavta, the words we recite after the Sh’ma. Educating our future leaders is one step toward ensuring a brighter future – it will certainly be a giant leap toward empowering girls and greater equality for women.
Leaning against the door of a low-budget hotel room in Odessa, an inebriated young man knocks with unmistakable urgency.
“Wake up, man, it’s important. I need a condom right now,” he tells his buddy, who is sleeping on the other side of the door.
It’s 4:30 A.M. at Limmud FSU Odessa, a Jewish learning conference that few would probably associate with such nocturnal adventures. Across the world, Limmud is synonymous with different kinds of passions, like analyzing Sholem Aleichem works or promoting women’s participation in institutional life.
In Warwick, England, where Limmud began 30 years ago and which remains the movement’s flagship, the conference draws hundreds of families whose children enjoy early morning aerobics classes as parents chat over coffee about which activity to attend. Elsewhere in Europe, like in Amsterdam, Limmud conferences last for just one day and are particularly popular with people over 60.
But in Odessa, the Ukrainian beach resort famous for its nightlife, Limmud’s 500 participants are predominantly young Jews with partying on their minds. Some sit deep into the wee hours hours on the lobby floor, cradling guitars and bottles of vodka they brought from home — a far cheaper alternative than the bar of the OK Odessa hotel, which hosted the conference from Oct. 5-8.
Showcasing the region’s famous tolerance for heavy-duty alcohol consumption, the same people who partied on the dance floor until 4 A.M. can be seen attending and even presenting Limmud talks after sunrise, though things usually pick up only around 10 A.M.
“The lectures are interesting, but my main goal here is the human contact and networking,” says Maxim Yudin, a participant in his 30s from Minsk. “When I arrived, it took me hours just to get from the lobby to my room because I kept getting sucked into groups of people I know. This is like a water hole for Jews our age from all over the former Soviet Union.”
The theme of this year’s Limmud — the third such conference hosted in Odessa and the seventh held in Ukraine — was the ties that link Odessa with Tel Aviv. “Like Odessa, Tel Aviv is not famous for producing prudes,” said Ayelet Bitan Shlonsky, a presenter from Tel Aviv’s Bialik Museum complex.
Co-sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the branding strategy at Limmud Odessa seems deliberately informal. At the main event, organizers projected a video greeting by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who played a flute in his office while wearing shorts. He also practiced shooting hoops with a beach tennis ball.
If Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler disapproves of the hard partying, then he is hiding it well. “Take a look around, habibi,” says the Israel-born former Jewish Agency boss. “Not a good time to be married, huh? Tonight these guys will be partying so hard they’ll bring down the roof!”
Boruch Gorin, a Limmud Odessa presenter and influential Chabad rabbi from Moscow, isn’t shocked either. “I think it’s terrific that so many young people are coming here. It shows the resilience of the Jewish people that even after decades of Communist repression such an event has an enormous pull on the very people who will take Jewish life into the future in this part of the world,” says Gorin, who is the editor-in-chief of the L’chaim Jewish monthly.
Elsewhere in Europe, Limmud has been kept at arm’s length by the rabbinical establishment. Britain’s former chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, stayed away from the gathering during his 22 years in office — an absence that many connect to a rabbinical court ruling in London that Orthodox rabbis should stay away from the pluralistic event. His replacement, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, only this year announced he would attend.
“But FSU communities aren’t nearly as compartmentalized as the British Jewish community, where the Orthodox and seculars live in separate worlds,” Gorin says. “We are all members of the same milieu, same group, with the same celebrities and shared interests, despite all the differences — and this is a source of strength and pride for us.”
‘Polyamorous’ Jews are often shunned at synagogues and in the community. Some are pushing for greater acceptance for the controversial practice.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — As the August premiere of the Broadway musical “Soul Doctor” drew to a close, the daughter of the show’s subject, the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, took to the stage.
Neshama Carlebach invited the cast and audience to join her in singing her father’s legendary hit, “Am Yisrael Chai,” which became widely recognized as an anthem for the Soviet Jewry movement. The refrain, “Od avinu chai,” translates as “Our father lives on” and is derived from the question Joseph asks his brothers in the book of Genesis.
Although “Soul Doctor” is slated to close on Sunday after 32 preview performances and 66 regular performances, there was no mistaking the significance of the lyrics.
“This was the culmination of 10 years of work,” Carlebach told JTA. “It was a moment of triumph for my father that he was on Broadway. But it was another step in the journey. I know there is more work to be done.”
The work Carlebach speaks of is the perpetual “fixing of the world,” or tikkun olam, the healing of broken hearts and rectification of injustices that her father, a famed Jewish troubadour and spiritual leader who died 19 years ago this month, emphasized throughout his career. His legacy continues to be celebrated by an ever-growing stream of Carlebach-inspired bands, in memorial events around the world and in yet another biography — Natan Ophir’s “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy.”
But as interest in her father continues to grow, Carlebach is battling obstacles not entirely unlike those that once dogged her father, from the endless pirating of his music to her marriage — which, like that of her parents, ended in divorce.
True to her roots, Carlebach’s work as a female performing artist is grounded in Jewish tradition. Yet she continually breaks new ground. Last year, she performed at an interfaith peace summit at Mt. Fuji, Japan and at the gates of Auschwitz on Yom Hashoah. She has recorded an album and performed widely with an African-American Baptist church choir. This weekend, she will headline the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism centennial in Baltimore with Josh Nelson, who produced her upcoming album, “Soul Daughter,” inspired by the Broadway show and scheduled for release before hannukah. The pair will also perform at the Union for Reform Judaism biennial in December.
In September, Carlebach joined with Storahtelling theater troupe founder Amichai Lau-Lavie to help lead High Holidays services in New York through Lau-Lavie’s new project, Lab/Shul.
“The fact that she is bringing her own creations woven with her father’s legacy is exactly why she is the perfect person to be with us, in what we are co-creating — an infusion of the ‘inherited ancient’ and the ‘radically new,’” says Lau-Lavie.
In 1994, the year her father suffered a fatal heart attack on an airplane, Neshama, then a teenager, joined him on stage for the first time during what became his last tour. Together, they broke the taboo of kol isha, the Orthodox prohibition of women singing before men.
With her father’s passing, Neshama immediately stepped in as a solo act, fulfilling his existing bookings. She has performed ever since, touring widely and releasing eight albums.
“If I had been the first Orthodox woman singing in the 1950s, I may not have gone anywhere,” she says. “I sense that there is a new opening for women. We are not done with our revolution.”
Breaking the Orthodox sound barrier isn’t the only path Carlebach is trailblazing. Together with her younger sister, Nedara “Dari” Carlebach, a married mother of two who resides in Israel largely out of the public eye, they are gathering their father’s intellectual property into a comprehensive archive. Under the auspices of the Jerusalem-based Carlebach Legacy Trust, the sisters have amassed photographs, audio and video recordings, and spiritual teachings. In 2012, in conjunction with Urim Publications, the trust released the first of several volumes of their father’s biblical commentary, “Evan Shlomo: The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach,” edited by Shlomo Katz.
“The full image of our father is still hidden to most people,” Dari told JTA. “It’s even hard for us to grasp how much he brought to the world.”
A mother of two, Neshama’s oldest son, Rafael, 6, is a drummer who has apparently inherited his grandfather’s musicality. Rafael plays percussion on the “Soul Daughter” recording of “The Song of Shabbos,” which Shlomo composed at the funeral of his father, addressing the late Rabbi Naftali Carlebach beyond the grave.
“My father said, ‘Because everything was lost in the war, you didn’t leave me riches, diamonds or real estate. You left me Shabbos.’ On the spot, this song came to him,” Neshama Carlebach said. “And now, I sing for my father. The circle feels complete to have my son perform on that song.”
The track is one of 30 featured in “Soul Doctor.” Originally conceived as a one-woman show in which Carlebach sang and shared her father’s stories, it evolved over time into a musical.
The show is built around Shlomo’s friendship with gospel and jazz legend Nina Simone, a tradition of cross-cultural collaboration Neshama carries forward with The Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir on her seventh album, “Higher & Higher.”
At the 2011 Grammy Awards, the album was honored as a sixth-time entrant, an early form of recognition in the process toward becoming an official nominee. But the record didn’t yield sales on par with her previous collections, which have sold more than 1 million copies combined.
Carlebach attributes the response to interreligious fear, which her father also endured. “The back-up singers on his first album were from the churches my father loved to visit in New York City, but nobody spoke about it,” Carlebach says.
In contrast, Carlebach has been increasingly public about her ongoing interfaith collaboration with the choir. At her invitation, the choir’s Reverend Roger Hambrick participated in Lab/Shul’s Yom Kippur afternoon services.
“It was awesome. He sang solo and with her and it was very moving,” Lau-Lavie says. “They got the crowd of 1,000 on their feet just before Neila. There were many tears.”
When Carlebach looks at her mission in the aftermath of her father’s, their style is one and the same.
“We are trying new things and breaking barriers,” Carlebach said. “That is definitely who he was and the kind of person I want to be.”
(Lisa Alcalay Klug is the author of “Hot Mamalah” and “Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe.”)
The study of the American Jewish experience is often given short shrift compared to that of the Old Country. But we have plenty of value to tell the world, Jenna Weissman Joselit writes.Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s impact was evident in the unprecedented outpouring at his funeral. But will the Sephardic political movement survive its towering leader’s death?Click here for the rest of the article...
The New York Times noted what it called “a surprising finding” from the Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews: 34 percent of respondents said that a person could still be Jewish if he or she believes that Jesus is the Messiah. Jewish leaders though have also at times expressed views about Jesus that caused surprise — and even outrage — among their co-religionists.
In 1925, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, founder of the Free Synagogue in New York, faced a global maelstrom after allegedly suggesting that “Jews must accept the teachings of Jesus” and “the teachings of Jesus are an unparalleled code of ethics.” The alleged remarks garnered attention from as far as Poland, and the incident led to calls to him for quit his role as the head of the United Palestine Appeal. Wise denied making the remarks that had been attributed to him in newspaper reports and disavowed them.
A decade later, in 1936, Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath of Toronto made waves with his own statement about Jesus. JTA reported:
Jewish circles were discussing today the statement of Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath in the Holy Blossom Synagogue yesterday in which he declared that it was high time the Jews of the world accepted Jesus as a prophet. Calling upon Jew and Christian to unite in the cause of a common humanity, he described Christ “as the towering figure that will lead them gently into this comradeship and fellowship with those multitudes that find in this gentle Jew the profoundest object of their reverence and esteem.”
Eisendrath went on to lead the Reform Jewish movement in America for 30 years, from 1943 until his death in 1973. In 1963, he elaborated upon his views about Jesus:
“Needless to say, Jews never can and never will accept Jesus as the Messiah or as the Son of God,” he stated. “But, despite this constant reality, there is room for improved understanding and openness to change in interpreting Jesus as a positive and prophetic spirit in the stream of the Jewish tradition.” He urged Jewish scholars to examine “our own statements, our own facts, our own interpretations of the significance of the life of Jesus, the Jew.”
Here is a blog post about a 1929 sermon by Eisendrath that touches on his approach to Jesus and Christianity.
NEW YORK (JTA) — For months leading up to my wedding, I was a bundle of nerves. Sure, I was worried about whether or not my dress would fit and if the swing band would be able to pull off the hora, but that wasn’t it. I was petrified that my fiance would die.
I pictured him being killed by a bus while crossing the street or being blown up on the train by a dirty bomb. I envisioned him in a hospital bed, slowly succumbing to a gruesome terminal illness, or being struck in the head by a fastball at Yankee Stadium. Every morning when he kissed me goodbye, a wave of panic would wash over me as I imagined it would be our last kiss.
I saw myself at the cemetery and then sitting shiva, my friends and family dropping by with kugels, offering their condolences and support. It was ironic. Here I was planning our wedding, but in my head I was planning his funeral.
My anxieties eased a bit the day after the wedding. We had made it through the big event without a major tragedy. I really started to relax the next week as we wandered along isolated stretches of the Portuguese beach and drank sangria in Seville.
Over the next few years, we drifted from the honeymoon stage to the new-parent stage, and the fears I once had about my partner were now replaced with typical maternal anxieties about sleep training and teething. The waltz of worry about my husband slowed until it was merely a quiet background murmur. At some point, I’m not even sure when, I stopped kissing him goodbye as if it were the last time.
A few weeks after we celebrated our third wedding anniversary, it happened. The thing I had feared most came true when the man I knew and loved disappeared. It just didn’t happen in a way I thought was possible. In one moment my husband was my best friend, my confidante, my emergency contact. Then, like something out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” he became a stranger.
Sitting there on the cappuccino-colored ottoman in our living room, he told me he was having an affair and wanted a divorce. This guy looked like my husband and sounded like my husband, but what he was saying could not be coming out of my husband’s mouth. I had imagined losing him so many times, but never by choice. Though my husband wasn’t killed by a bus or a bomb, he was gone.
That night he went to her house and never returned to our marital bed.
Thankfully, I had a cadre of family and friends who took care of me during this critical time. My mom flew out to New York and stayed with me for a week. She accompanied me to the lawyer’s office to iron out the details of our separation and helped me sort through bills to figure out what my new monthly budget should be. These were tasks that required a presence of mind I did not have at the time.
One of my best childhood friends, Missy, who lived in Mexico, was attending a wedding in Colorado when I emailed her with the news. Within hours she had rerouted her flight home to stop in New York.
“I couldn’t let you go through this alone,” Missy said.
She stayed with me for two weeks, nurturing me with delicious and healthy cooking, trips to the gym and constant pep talks.
Peri and Sara came over every day to help me care for my 16-month-old, entertaining him, changing diapers and giving him baths, and plying me with nourishing meals.
On a weeklong trip to my parents in Michigan, my friend Amy drove an extra three hours to take my son and me to join her in Chicago for a weekend.
Friends living all over the world gave me a sympathetic ear at any time of day. At midnight, I could call Jenny in California. At 4 a.m., I could call Hadass in Tel Aviv.
When I look back, I realize just how much my friends and family sustained me then and keep me going even now, three years later.
Not everyone has that kind of built-in support. For a people who tend to apply ritual to almost every aspect of life, I wonder why we Jews haven’t yet prescribed a set of shiva-like rituals for divorce. When a separation happens, the community should spring into action just like they would after a death. Neighbors should drop over with babkas, and there should be tea and sympathy always at the ready.
For the newly separated, it’s critical to stay busy, healthy and surrounded by supportive friends and family. Due to stress and depression, many newly separated are at risk for developing unhealthy habits and getting sick.
Like mine did for me, friends can help keep the newly separated person healthy by cooking for them, going on walks together, inviting them to the gym or taking them to a yoga class.
They can arrange fun outings for Saturday nights, when everyone else seems to be on “date night” and the newly single feel especially lonely. They could extend invitations for the holidays, and understand if the invitation is declined because sometimes celebrating with someone else’s family is harder than not celebrating at all.
Most importantly, friends and family can listen to the painful, angry, sad and often very repetitive monologues of those who going through a separation.
As with a death, the grieving doesn’t end with shiva; it can take years. I still have my moments.
Recently, as I sat on the subway, I felt the hot sting of tears when I realized it was the 10th anniversary of the day I met my ex. It still hurts to think of those happier times and the loss I feel. But that morning on the train, I heard my father’s voice reciting one of his favorite Solomonic proverbs: “This, too, shall pass.”
In that moment, I sensed his loving embrace from afar and felt a little better.
(Annette Powers is a marketing and communications professional. In her free time, she writes about a variety of topics from co-parenting to Yom Kippur to compulsive texting.)
Two Orthodox rabbis and two others were arrested for allegedly kidnapping and beating men in order to force them to grant their wives religious Jewish divorces.Click here for the rest of the article...
We often hear a lot about negative stories about religious freedom around the world. We recall the tragedy at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin nearly a year ago, in which a man identified as a neo-Nazi by the Southern Poverty Law Center killed six members of that community. We recall also the tragedy at the Ozar Hatorah school in France in spring of 2012, in which a rabbi and four children were killed in a horrible act of anti-Semitism. A church in Pakistan was recently bombed as part of ongoing attacks on minority faiths in the region. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released the International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, which describes in great detail the state of religious freedom in many different countries. Eight countries have been named “Countries of Particular Concern”: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
In the Torah, Jews are taught to accept others, without prejudice or bias. The Torah states “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17). As Jews, we are intimately familiar with what it means to be a religious minority and to face persecution.
With all this negative news, it can be difficult to find the positive stories; the places where religious freedom is thriving. Here are four stories that show positive developments for international religious freedom:
- Women of the Wall held a service at the Kotel on the morning of October 4 to celebrate Rosh Chodesh Heshvan. It was reported to be one of the calmest services in the last six months. On October 7, Women of the Wall announced that they would begin working with the Israeli government to develop a third section of the Kotel for all Jews to pray. (The press statement can be found here and Anat Hoffman’s blog on the development can be found here.)
- Turkey lifted a 90-year ban on wearing headscarves in the workplace or in schools. Headscarves had been allowed on the streets, but not in the workplace or university. Many women had not been able to participate in these activities as a result of this restriction. This will now change in Turkey.
- The UN Human Rights body sided with a Sikh man on his right not to take off his turban for passport or ID photos. Without proper photo ID, Sikh men were restricted in their ability to get drivers’ licenses or access to medical care in hospitals. Sikhs in France have been fighting a long battle over the turban and the UN Human Rights Commission support is a positive step for religious freedom.
- The sixth annual Weekend of Twinning is coming up! The Weekend of Twinning is an initiative put on by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding cooperation with the World Jewish Congress and the Islamic Society of North America that encourages dialogue and programming to build communication between Muslims and Jews, synagogues and mosques, and rabbis and imams. For more information on the initiative or to find out how you can be involved, go to our website.
Registration is now open for URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy, a new summer camp offering high-level programming in science and technology. This innovative new camp will open in July 2014 on the campus of The Governor’s Academy near Boston. URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy will attract campers seeking high-level science and technology experiential and fun learning in the summer. Campers will work alongside experienced instructors to design projects in activities such as robotics, video game design, environmental science, and digital media production.
Greg Kellner will serve as director of 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. He has been part of the URJ Camps and NFTY family for more than 20 years and most recently served as the senior assistant director of the URJ Crane Lake Camp and assistant director of the URJ Eisner Camp. Kellner says of the new camp:
What will make our camp unique is the combination of outstanding science and tech programming with Jewish learning and living in an intentional, fun and dynamic Jewish community. So in addition to hands-on, immersive learning in science and technology, campers will also explore their Jewish identities and their connections to the Jewish community,” he explained, adding that science and Judaism naturally complement one another, since “science explains the world around us, but Judaism is what gives it meaning, creating the connections and culture that are the essence of the human experience.
The new camp builds off the success of the URJ’s first specialty camp, 6 Points Sports Academy, which recently completed its fourth summer with more than 600 campers. Both camps offer two-week sessions, professional instructors and program design, and locations on the campuses of prestigious boarding schools. The Governor’s Academy, 30 minutes north of Boston, features modern educational, recreational and dorm facilities combined with a rustic campus to give a “summer camp” feel and create a safe and warm environment for campers.
Funding for 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy is made possible by the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s (FJC) Specialty Camps Incubator grant, jointly funded by The Jim Joseph and AVI CHAI Foundations. For more information about URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy, visit www.urj6points.org/scitech.
By Rabbi Richard Sarason
On Yom Kippur, the Torah is read in both the morning and afternoon services. This emulates the traditional reading practice on Shabbat (indeed, Yom Kippur is called shabbat shabbaton in Lev. 23:32 – literally, “a day of complete rest,” but understood homiletically to mean “the most important of Sabbaths”).1
The Mishnah (Megillah 4:5) lists Leviticus 16 (the description of the Yom Kippur ritual in the tabernacle/Temple) as the Torah reading for Yom Kippur (morning; there is no afternoon reading in the Mishnah). This remains the traditional Torah reading for Yom Kippur morning down to the present. The Tosefta (Megillah 3:7) lists as well the “concluding” reading as Numbers 29:7ff. (the description of the sacrifices made on Yom Kippur). Today this is read from a second scroll in traditional practice.2 The afternoon Torah reading is first mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 31a). It is listed there as Leviticus 18, the enumeration of forbidden sexual relationships (forms of incest and adultery) that render the community unclean in the sight of God. The relevance of this subject to Yom Kippur, in the view of the Rabbis, is that on the Day of Atonement, the community must stand before God in a state of purity. The reading serves as a reminder and a warning about the larger impact of these acts of sexual impropriety.
The Babylonian Talmud also lists the Haftarot that accompany each of these Torah readings. The Haftarah reading in the morning service is Isaiah 57:15ff., which promises restoration and blessing to Israel if they both observe God’s holy days properly and practice social justice (“Is not this the fast that I have chosen – to break every yoke and let the oppressed go free, to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the wretched poor into your home?”). This remains the traditional Haftarah for Yom Kippur morning (but beginning a verse earlier, at Isaiah 57:14 and extending through 58:14). It serves as a wonderful counterpoint to the traditional Torah reading, which describes in detail the Temple rituals for the Day of Atonement. The Haftarah from Isaiah says, essentially, “I will ignore all of your fasting and prayers if they are not accompanied by socially just behaviors.” (Note that this reading was chosen by the Rabbis of the Talmud, not by the Reformers of the nineteenth century – who, of course, preserved it!) The afternoon Haftarah is the entire book of Jonah, and remains so today. For the Rabbis, the relevant message of this book on Yom Kippur is that God is quick to forgive those who repent of their ways and mend their deeds. If God will even accept the repentance of the Ninevites, who were biblical Israel’s traditional enemy (Assyria), should not God be willing to forgive repentant Israel? Traditionally, the Haftarah concludes with Micah 7:18-20 (“Who is a God like You, forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression? . . .You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea”). These verses further articulate the relevant theme of Jonah (and also form the core of the Tashlich ritual on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah).
Reform Torah and Haftarah readings for Yom Kippur have varied from prayer book to prayer book. All of the major Reform prayer books in Europe (Hamburg, West London, Geiger, “Einheitsgebetbuch”), and most of the early prayers books in the United States (Merzbacher, Wise, Einhorn, Moses 1893 UPB draft), preserved Leviticus 16 as the morning reading. It is only in the “official” Union Prayer Book of 1894 that this reading, with its focus on sacrificial rituals, is excised. In its place is Deuteronomy 29:10-30:6, the beginning of Parashat Nitzavim “(You stand this day, all of you, before Adonai your God”), with its directive about making good ultimate choices (“Choose life!”). In this reading, Deuteronomy’s “this day” is understood to be the Day of Atonement. Subsequent editions of UPB, as well as Gates of Repentance, shorten the reading to Deut. 29:9-14 and 30:11-20. The draft of the morning service in the new CCAR Mahzor, Mishkan HaNefesh, expands this to include Deut. 30:1-10 as well. It also gives, as a new alternative reading, Genesis 3:22-4:18 (the banishment from the Garden of Eden of Adam and Eve, who have now gained the knowledge of good and evil, and the story of Cain). The thematic relevance to Yom Kippur is the consequences for humans of moral knowledge, human transgression, and the possibility of repentance and reconciliation. Reform prayer books have all retained the traditional morning Haftarah reading, although most abbreviate it somewhat. Similarly, the afternoon Haftarah reading, the Book of Jonah, has been retained in all Reform prayer books, also generally with some abbreviation. (In particular, the psalm text at the beginning of Chapter 2, introduced as “Jonah’s prayer inside the big fish,” is often omitted.) Many Reform prayer books have also omitted the verses from Micah at the end.
It is the afternoon Torah reading of Lev. 18 that has universally been rejected in favor of some other text (and those substituted texts vary from prayer book to prayer book). Suffice it say, the listing of illicit sexual relationships was never deemed to be spiritually edifying for modern Jews. The very first Reform congregational prayer book, that of the Hamburg Temple Association in 1819, substituted selections from Leviticus 16, 17, and 18. Abraham Geiger, in his 1854 prayer book for Breslau, is the first to substitute Leviticus 19:1-18, Kedoshim tih’yu (“You shall be holy as I, Adonai your God, am holy”), the so-called Holiness Code or Moral Decalogue, which is now standard in North American Reform prayer books. Among the nineteenth-century North American Reform prayer books, only that of David Einhorn (1858, and, following him, Isaac Moses’s unpublished 1893 draft for UPB, vol. 2) also uses this reading. Leo Merzbacher’s 1855 prayer book for Temple Emanuel in New York and Isaac Mayer Wise’s Yom Kippur volume of Minhag America (1864) both use portions of Exodus 32-34, the story of Moses’s plea to God to forgive the people’s sin of making the golden calf, and God’s eventual relenting and revelation to Moses of the divine attributes of mercy and compassion (Adonai Adonai eil rachum v’chanun) that are invoked liturgically on Yom Kippur. This is also the afternoon reading in the first edition of UPB, vol. 2 (1894), as well as the revised edition of 1922. It is only the newly revised edition of 1945 that replaces this with excerpts from Leviticus 19. Gates of Repentance follows this latter reading custom, and it is one of three options given in the current draft of the afternoon service for Mishkan HaNefesh. The other two are Leviticus 16, the traditional reading for the morning service, presumably included at this point in the day to place it more proximate to Seder Ha’avodah, the liturgical recollection and verbal re-enactment of the Temple ritual for Yom Kippur (traditionally a part of the Musaf service, but moved to the afternoon service in North American Reform prayer books that eliminate Musaf). The third option is totally new, Genesis 50:14-36, relating Joseph’s ultimate forgiveness of his brothers after their father’s death, “bear[ing] witness to the power of forgiveness to heal emotional wounds,” in this case specifically human rather than divine forgiveness.
- The only other occasion during the Jewish liturgical year on which the Torah is read in both the morning and the afternoon services is Tisha b’Av.
- Traditionally, the relevant paragraph from Num. 28-29 that deals with the sacrifices for the particular festival being observed is read on each festival from a second scroll. Reform reading practice omits these readings on account of their sacrificial content. (When a day with a special, second Torah reading falls on a Shabbat that also happens to be Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of a new month, there is also a special reading for Rosh Chodesh, so that three scrolls would be used. That is why, according to tradition, every congregation must own at least three Torah scrolls, so as not to burden the congregation with the need to roll a scroll from one place to another during the course of a public Torah reading.)
Dr. Sarason is Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Thought and the Associate Editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual. He was ordained at HUC-JIR.
U.S. rabbis in the Reform and Conservative movements tend to be dovish on Israeli-Palestinian peace policies, according to a study.Click here for the rest of the article...
Shots were fired at the synagogue of Yekaterinburg, the Russian Jewish Congress said, breaking windows but not injuring anyone.Click here for the rest of the article...
WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. rabbis in the Reform and Conservative movements tend to be dovish on Israeli-Palestinian peace policies, according to a study.
Asked whether Israel should freeze settlement building, 62 percent of the rabbis agreed to a “great extent” and 18 percent agreed to “some extent,” according to the study commissioned by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, which was released Tuesday.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes any such freeze before a final-status agreement with Palestinians.
About one-third of the rabbis said they avoided making their views on the topic known, with 18 percent saying their private views are more dovish than those they express publicly and 12 percent saying their views are more hawkish.
The rabbis overwhelmingly expressed attachment to Israel.
“As many as 93 percent say they are very attached to Israel, a figure about double that found in many studies of rank-and-file American Jews,” the study said.
The rabbis tend also to be liberal, with 85 percent approving of President Obama’s job performance.
JCPA in its study emphasized that the survey, conducted online from May to July, was not fully representative.
The 552 rabbis were selected because their names appear on JCPA email lists, some dealing with pro-Israel issues, others dealing with classically liberal campaigns such as gun control.
Additionally, the study noted, “opt-in” survey results are seen as “suggestive” and treated with greater caution than surveys that seek random samples.
Very small percentages of the respondents were Orthodox and Reconstructionist, JCPA said, and 70 percent of the rabbis worked in congregations.
“The non-representative nature of the sample obviates strictly generalizing to the universe of American rabbis,” the study said. “However, the pattern of relationships between and among measures can nevertheless prove instructive, as the findings point to patterns that are consistent with side knowledge and social theory.”
by Mark S. Anshan
The Women of the Wall issued a statement this week in which its chair, Anat Hoffman, said
“…we are prepared to be the catalyst and leaders of building a new, equal third section for all Jews to pray and celebrate at the Western Wall.”
This is a bold step for Women of the Wall, given that it changes the original focus of its organizational objective – permitting women the freedom to choose the manner in which they prayer at the Kotel in the current women’s section.
In the proposed equal and fully integrated third section of the Kotel, there would be an area set up for Orthodox women who wish to pray as they choose but separately from men. This is a rational and sensible compromise to a complicated issue.
The more serious immediate challenge for Women of the Wall is maintaining support within its own ranks. As noted in their statement, the organization’s executive board went through “…a comprehensive and emotionally trying decision-making process.” One can expect that there are strong differences of views among its membership, and this could potentially cause problems for Women of the Wall in maintaining a strong public profile.
It’s important for members of a nonprofit advocacy organization like Women of the Wall to understand and appreciate that the organization needs to constantly think about and reflect on its objectives and strategy, taking account of changes in the political environment in which they are operating. While not compromising on the fundamental principles for which they were established, it is understandable and acceptable that such an organization should review its objectives, respond to the political situation, take account of what realistically can be achieved, and alter the strategic focus accordingly.
In response to the movement for change at the Kotel and the mounting support for an egalitarian prayer section, Women of the Wall’s executive board, by declaring its support for such a section and undertaking to be a leader for such innovation, has exhibited strong and positive leadership. Women of the Wall will now take a clear and decisive leadership role that can be of great assistance in achieving the overall objective for many Jews who desire the creation of an egalitarian section.
This decision will be a difficult one for some of Women of the Wall’s members to understand and accept, but hopefully, on thinking about the need to alter course at critical times in one’s effort to bring about change, they will come to fully support their leaders.
Mark S. Anshan, a member of the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees, is the immediate past president and a third generation member of Holy Blossom Temple (Toronto). He serves on several URJ committees, has served as a Vice-Chair of the URJ, and is an active supporter of URJ Camp George. Mark, a lawyer, lives in Toronto with his wife, Brenda. Their son, Micah is completing his MA, and their son, Adam is entering his fourth year in business at Dalhousie University.