NEW YORK (JTA) — When Rabbi Neal Borovitz retired from Temple Avodat Shalom of River Edge, N.J., in August, his congregation donated a Torah in his honor to a Reform Jewish summer camp. At the dedication service, Borovitz sat in the audience as his successor offered a sermon about the Torah’s history.
“And that’s when I realized that after two decades at this synagogue, I’m not the rabbi anymore,” said Borovitz, 65.
After 37 years as a rabbi, Borovitz was candid about the mix of feelings inspired by retirement — relief, excitement, uncertainty.
His situation is shared by a growing proportion of Americans — and an even larger proportion of Jews.
Nearly 20 percent of the American Jewish population is 65 or older, according to the Jewish Federations of North America, compared to 13 percent of the general population. And as growing numbers of Jewish Americans face retirement, a number of Jewish leaders are thinking about the spiritual aspects of the transition and how they can provide Jewishly inspired guidance to them.
“I want to bring the resources of Jewish life to bear on the experiences of growing older,” said Rabbi Dayle Friedman, a pioneer in spiritual guidance for the elderly.
Last fall, Friedman launched a program of discussions exploring “the rich and complex phase beyond midlife.” Known as Provisions for the Journey: A Wisdom Circle, the project aims to help Jews between 60 and 75 navigate the aging process through a combination of discussion, text study and meditation.
For Laura Jacobs, 62, Friedman’s Wisdom Circle was just one part of a spiritual transformation that began at retirement. For 22 years she headed a company recruiting professionals for health care firms. After 39 years in the workforce, Jacobs was terrified at the prospect of retirement.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life,” she said. “I had no notion of what life would be like if I wasn’t working. It made me feel as if there would be nothing for me anymore.”
Befitting a woman who had built a company from the ground floor and led it for decades, Jacobs approached the problem proactively. She began by hiring a life coach, and with his help spent the next months “researching her life,” exploring new paths and possibilities, from the synagogue to the photography studio.
She now has a daily spiritual practice in which she writes down all the things for which she is grateful. And Jacobs has become a life coach in her own right, helping clients of all ages.
“I have genuinely gotten to know myself and how I think, and what’s wonderful about life,” she said.
Joyce Norden had similar concerns when she retired several years ago. After spending her working life in education — first as a professor of medieval history at Carnegie Mellon University and later at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College — retirement showed Norden how much she still had to learn.
“I was an art historian who had never drawn a line,” Norden said. “But I was scared. I think it’s important to be passionate in this life, and I had been passionate about my work, and now what? What was I going to do?”
Norden turned to Rabbi Jacob Staub, a professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College who specializes in spirituality. She studied mussar, a body of Jewish texts dealing with ethics and moral instruction, and learned ways to connect with the divine in everyday life. Now Norden, 74, is an abstract painter, producing vibrant acrylic paintings in the styles of Kandinsky and Matisse.
“I want to live the last part of my life with the same sense of purpose I had at the beginning,” Norden said.
Helping older Jews find that kind of purpose is the objective of Rabbi Rachel Cowan’s Wise Aging Project, run under the auspices of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in New York. Cowan says programs related to aging often bring to mind issues associated with end-of-life care, but for the recently retired, issues of purpose, gratitude and understanding can be more pressing.
Cowan, 74, teaches courses in the New York area aimed at imbuing retirement with spiritual meaning and a daily sense of purpose. Many of her classes consist of discussions inspired by secular and religious texts that address issues of identity, loss and existential crisis.
“Judaism has a whole rich tradition of cultivating spiritual qualities,” Cowan says. “Some of them are things that are really important in growing and aging well. We work to cultivate capacities for patience, gratitude and humility.”
For Borovitz, spirituality remains as central as ever in his transition from the rabbinate into retirement. He has become an active participant in a minyan and fills his days with volunteering, activism and reflection. And while he was grateful to have been freed in August after 37 years of frantic High Holidays preparations, he didn’t mind the request made of him by his prayer group.
“It’s nice not to have the pressure of preparing five Holy Day sermons this year,” he said. “But it’s nice that in this minyan that I’m involved in, they’ve asked me to give just one.”
A resolution that calls male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children” was passed overwhelmingly by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.Click here for the rest of the article...
(JTA) — A resolution that calls male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children” was passed overwhelmingly by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The council, a pan-European intergovernment al organization, debated and passed the resolution on Tuesday based on a report by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development led by German rapporteur Marlene Rupperecht. The resolution passed by a vote of 78 in favor and 13 against, with 15 abstentions.
The resolution calls on states to “clearly define the medical, sanitary and other conditions to be ensured for practices such as the non-medically justified circumcision of young boys.”
It also calls on member states to “initiate a public debate, including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching a large consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity according to human rights standards” and to “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted.”
Practices covered by the resolution include female genital mutilation, the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons, early childhood medical interventions in the case of intersexual children, corporal punishment, and the submission to or coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.
Large majorities rejected five amendments that sought to remove or alter references to the circumcision of boys. An amendment that removed a reference to the “religious rights of parents and families” was supported by a large majority of members.
“Although the adoption of this report is non-binding and does not represent any direct threat to milah, we are troubled at the readiness of the Parliamentary Assembly to dismiss the points made during the debate about religious freedom,” the Milah UK organization told JTA.
The ritual circumcision of boys younger than 18 has come under attack increasingly in Scandinavia and German-speaking European countries both by left-wing secularists and right-wingers who fear the influence of immigration from Muslim countries.
On Yom Kippur, 35 congregations across the U.S. partnered with the RAC and Gift of Life to run bone marrow registration drives. The project held many uncertainties; no one was sure if congregations or rabbis would buy into this project, or if the connection between Yom Kippur themes and saving a life would be self-evident. It turned out that many rabbis and congregations loved the project, and many were able to run with the program, with their imagination being the only limit on how to incorporate this mitzvah into the holiest day of the year. Temple Israel of Northern Westchester was one of the congregations to participate, and the coordinators of the drive there were also the grandparents of a little boy whose life was saved by a Gift of Life donation. Below is the story they shared with their congregation to encourage donations:
“Six years ago, Susan and I received a phone call that every parent and grandparent dreads.
Our 6 month old grandson was sick and no one knew why.
The finest doctors of pediatrics at Yale New Haven Hospital, and the head of pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital were baffled. Our kids entered Sloan Kettering with our grandson and lived there in a single room for five months.
The doctors finally told us our grandson would need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. If he didn’t get one and if it wasn’t successful, there was no hope for survival.
Our kids turned to the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation to find a donor and a match. It took two transplants. The second transplant was a success, and our grandson today, speaking like a grandparent, is an adorable and a special 7 year old, thanks to Gift Of Life.
One year after the transplant took place was the first time everyone would meet and learn the identity of the donor at Gift of Life’s annual gala dinner in NYC. Our son, daughter-in-law and grandson were led onto the stage. And then across the stage walked our hero, the most beautiful woman who saved our grandson’s life.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as everyone on the stage kissed and hugged. It was the first time we could really understand the saying: “One who saves a life saves the whole world.”
So you can see why when the Rabbi asked us to coordinate a Bone Marrow Donor Drive at our temple, it was a “slam dunk.” Now our Temple, along with 34 other Reform Congregations nationwide, including Fort Collins, Colorado; Greenwood, Mississippi; St. Louis, Baltimore, Atlanta; Brooklyn & White Plains, is partnering with Gift of Life and the Religious Action Center to sponsor a Bone Marrow Donor Drive on Yom Kippur.
At the Friday night Kol Nidre multi-generational service and the morning & early afternoon of Yom Kippur, you will have the opportunity to become a potential match to save a life.
Temple volunteers, who have been trained, will staff tables in the lobby to assist you. You will complete a short consent form and be shown how to swab the inside of your cheek with a Q-tip. That sample will be sealed and shipped to a laboratory for analysis and then will be entered into the Gift of Life Donor Registry.
The entire swabbing process is simple and brief. In fact, if you complete the consent form in advance (and they are available after the service in the lobby), the swabbing will take minutes. Otherwise, the form completion and swabbing takes a few minutes longer. Rabbi Jaech encourages you to leave the sanctuary during services to perform this mitzvah! No appointment needed; just show up at any time.
And maybe someday soon, or years later, you may be contacted that you are a match for someone with a life-threatening illness. At that time, you decide if you want to proceed. There is no obligation to do so. Stem cell donations, which are 80% of all procedures, are similar to giving blood. Bone marrow donations, only 20%, are a bit more involved, but both are same day out-patient procedures, with absolutely no cost to you throughout the entire process!
If you are between the ages of 18 – 60, please take this meaningful first step on Yom Kippur to have the opportunity to perform the ultimate mitzvah — to save a life!”
In the end, 35 congregations registered over 3,000 people on Yom Kippur. Temple Israel of Northern Westchester registered 173. If you would like more information on this project, or our other projects with Gift of Life, including a B’nai Mitzvah project and a Martin Luther King Jr. Day initiative, contact me at the RAC at 202-387-2800 or email me.
Thanksgiving is next month (or this month for our Canadian friends) and while it is not a Jewish holiday, you and your board can still use the essence of the holiday – giving thanks – as an impetus for recognizing the dedication of folks within your congregational community.
Many congregations rely on the hard work of board and committee members and volunteers to make their synagogue run. These people donate their time and energy, even though no one has enough of it, to strengthen the congregation and thus should be thanked. Here are a few examples (all taken from the Communicate! database) of how some Reform congregations recognize and give thanks to their leaders and volunteers.
- At Temple Anshe Hesed of Erie, PA, they have begun a Mitzvah Maker program which was designed to reward the volunteers who serve behind the scenes and often go unrecognized. (Monetary contributions are never a criterion.) Congregants nominate unsung volunteers and the synagogue’s Tikkun Olam Committee picks winners in four categories: youth; young adults; seniors; and staff members. (See Communicate 2579)
- One volunteer appreciation program wouldn’t suffice for Temple Beth Or of Everett, WA,: This congregation has two ways of thanking volunteers! The first is through a Volunteer Shabbat, during which the rabbi talks about how integral volunteers’ efforts are to the synagogue; the volunteers’ names are also printed in that week’s Shabbat bulletin as well as in the monthly bulletin. The other program is administered by the congregation’s president. Twice a year the president chooses an individual who has made an outstanding contribution of time and energy to the congregation. This volunteer is then lauded at the semi-annual meeting and his or her name is engraved on a dedicated “volunteer plaque.” (See Communicate 2077)
- Congregation Beth Tikvah of Worthington, OH, says thank you by holding an annual Volunteer Dinner and Celebration, which includes Shabbat dinner and entertainment. The highlight of the evening is a caught-in-the-act-of-volunteering photo-filled slide show. The photos are preserved on DVD and played on a large monitor during oneg. (See Communicate 2510)
- Keep in mind that it may not just be people in your congregational community who deserve thanks – it may be folks or organizations in your community at-large: Temple Beth Torah of Melville, NY, conducts an interfaith Thanksgiving service with a local Lutheran church. This church made its building available for Saturday morning worship and b’nei mitzvah services to Temple Beth Torah when the synagogue was just beginning and didn’t yet have its own building. Over the years, the relationship between Temple Beth Torah and the church has grown and now they jointly host a Thanksgiving service – a great way of giving thanks to one another for being good neighbors and positive forces in the community. (See Communicate 1464)
How does your congregation or board make Thanksgiving meaningful?
Since Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal moved from Baltimore to Israel, he has taken over a local charity and become president of his synagogue. Now Leventhal is hoping to add city councilman to his resume.Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Abraham Skorka from Argentina recently spent several days in the Vatican, hanging out with his good friend and countryman Pope Francis and staying at the guest house that the modest pontiff has made his residence.
La Stampa’s Vatican Insider has the story:
Never before in the history of Christian-Jewish relations have a Pope and a Rabbi celebrated their friendship by living in the Vatican together for several days, sharing all meals, including on two Jewish festivals and the Sabbath at which the Rabbi said prayers in Hebrew, and discussing what more they can do together to promote dialogue and peace in the world.
That is what actually happened over the past four days at the Vatican guesthouse (Santa Marta) where Pope Francis lives and where his friend from Buenos Aires, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, has been his guest from September 25 to this day.
“I eat with him at breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. He cares for me, and controls everything regarding my food to makes sure it is all kosher, and according to my religious tradition. These are festive days, and I have to say certain prayers at meals and, I expand the last prayer and translate it. He accompanies me together with the others at table -his secretaries and a bishop, and they all say ‘Amen’ at the end”, the Rabbi said.
Skorka, the rector of the Latin American Rabbinic Seminary, got to know the future pope in Argentina. The two men conducted a series of interreligious dialogues back when Francis was still known as Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. The dialogues were later published in book form.
Skorka told Vatican Insider that he and the pope hope to travel together soon to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
While the relationship between the two clerics does seem unique, this pope is not the first occupant of the Chair of St. Peter to have a rabbinic buddy. Francis’s predecessor, the academically inclined Pope Benedict XVI, bonded with the famously prolific Judaic studies professor Rabbi Jacob Neusner over shared scholarly interests. (Here’s a nice account from Neusner about visiting Benedict in the Vatican.)
As you probably know from the internet or CNN or this Twitter feed, the federal government has now shutdown. In response to the failure of Congress to pass a funding bill, resulting in the shutdown, Rabbi David Saperstein issued the following statement:
“On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.3 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes over 2,000 Reform Rabbis, I urge Congress to end this devastating government shutdown.
Partisan brinksmanship in Congress has jeopardized the vital safety net programs that millions rely on, including aid to struggling new mothers and their children – a service used by half of all infants in America. This is in addition to the 800,000 families of federal workers who will be going without pay due to unnecessary furloughs. Many other families will be affected by greater unemployment caused by the broad economic uncertainty. This blatant disregard for struggling and working families stands in stark contrast to today’s launch of open enrollment that enables millions of previously uninsured people to finally access health care exchanges. We call on Congress to swiftly pass a clean funding bill, restore the vital services that so many need, and halt efforts to defund or delay implementation of the core components of the Affordable Care Act”
In response to the failure of Congress to pass a funding bill, resulting in a government shutdown, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement today:
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.3 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the world’s oldest and largest rabbinic organization whose membership includes over 2,000 Reform Rabbis, I urge Congress to end this devastating government shutdown.
Partisan brinksmanship in Congress has jeopardized the vital safety net programs that millions rely on, including aid to struggling new mothers and their children – a service used by half of all infants in America. This is in addition to the 800,000 families of federal workers who will be going without pay due to unnecessary furloughs. Many other families will be affected by greater unemployment caused by the broad economic uncertainty. This blatant disregard for struggling and working families stands in stark contrast to today’s launch of open enrollment that enables millions of previously uninsured people to finally access health care exchanges. We call on Congress to swiftly pass a clean funding bill, restore the vital services that so many need, and halt efforts to defund or delay implementation of the core components of the Affordable Care Act.
Utilizing a process called the Social Sermon, I developed my Yom Kippur morning sermon this year in partnership with Facebook Friends, TED ,and a group of insightful congregants. To be blunt, this year, the whole Congregation Or Ami wrote its rabbi’s Yom Kippur sermon.
Where Great Sermon Ideas Come From
Rabbis explore sermon ideas from within the Machzor (prayerbook) and Torah, through conference calls organized by Jewish non-profit organizations, and at sermon seminars run by local Boards of Rabbis. Ideas are generated from Jewish text study, current events, issues in the public sphere, bestselling books, and powerful movies. Some clergy ask friends, colleagues, congregants for ideas. Deciding upon topics and themes for High Holiday (HHD) sermons can be a multi-month process. The social sermon encourages rabbis to engage the congregants (and other contacts in the social media sphere) in the process of exploring the topic and teasing out important themes.
Fleshing out a Topic
Over the summer, as our community struggled to deal with illnesses and deaths of beloved congregants, I knew it was time again to explore Unetaneh Tokef, the haunting prayer most remembered for its opening lines: “On Rosh HaShanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is Sealed… Who shall live and who shall die.” I read this text as a cosmic wake up call: God reminds us that “stuff” happens. Unetaneh Tokef forces us to face this reality and to decide: How are you going to deal with it?
The prayer offers three responses to the severity of life’s decree of misfortune, pain and death. We may reach around (teshuva or repentance – by fixing our relationships with those around us), reach inward (t’filah or prayer – by finding our center and the truth within), and reach up (tzedakah or charitable giving – by lifting up others we lift ourselves).
But how did this play out in real life? What lessons do people learn from enduring the hardships or challenges that life throws out way?
Facebook Friends Chime In
For assistance, I turned to Facebook and Twitter, where my personal and congregational pages yielded some poignant answers to the question, “What did you learn from going through hardship or challenge?” Responses poured in from all around the congregation and around the country. The question struck a few heart strings as people posted publicly and some privately about the tsuris (problems) in their lives. Face-to-face conversations with other community members elicited many significant lessons learned. From these responses, as well as those from people I spoke with over the course of a few months, three categories of hardship rose up as being particularly challenging: financial ruin, turmoil from dealing with children with special needs, and horrible medical diagnoses.
TED Talks Provide Inspiration
Around that time, I was watching some TED Talks and became inspired by the stories I heard. About people in challenging situations, who found meaning and purpose nonetheless. The most moving sermons include powerful personal stories to illustrate the central message. It occurred to me that rather than my telling those inspiring stories, I would ask a few congregants to tell their own stories. After all, High Holy Day services offer just the forum for Jewish TED Talks. Thus was a sermon born.
I invited three congregants reflect on what they learned personal through their personal challenge. Their initial drafts were poignant. Each participant had learned powerful lessons on how to overcome the “stuff” of life on which Unetaneh Tokef focuses. Guiding the speakers to understand how their experiences embodied teachings similar to those in Unetaneh Tokef, I worked with them to weave references into their sermonette.
Simultaneously, I crafted a short introduction – utilizing a sledgehammer, if you believe it – to sharply make the point that Unetaneh Tokef comes as a Divine wake-up call. Like a sledgehammer, Unetaneh Tokef comes to break down the walls of naivety and denial that keep us from accepting a simple truth: that between this year and next, so many will live but many will die. Some will experience success; others failure. So many will encounter the unpredictability and pain of life. We are left to discover how we keep ourselves from becoming angry, embittered, and crotchety, from giving up.
Congregants Tell their Own Stories
At different points in the service, these congregants and our president shared their stories:
- David Sackman, on the hardship of financial ruin (read his sermonette or view at 00:22:09)
- Eric and Jill Epstein, on the challenges of raising a child on the autism spectrum (read their sermonette or view at 00:33:40)
- Mike Moxness with Debbie Echt-Moxness, on living after a diagnosis of cancer (read his sermonette or view at 00:49:49)
- Hedi Gross’ presidential speech, “A Spiritual Journey” (read her speech or view at 02:34:32)
Their presentations were poignant. Worshipers sat at the edge of their seats, listening in silence. Certain moments were unforgettable: When Eric and Jill Epstein spoke just after their 14-year-old son Ethan led the congregation in prayer. When Mike Moxness was moved to tears as he recalled the overwhelming mix of sadness and gratitude. When Hedi Gross, in the traditional end-of-service presidential sermonette, recounted her Jewish spiritual journey, including their struggle with fertility issues, unexpectedly reemphasizing the theme of the sermon and service.
Suffice it to say, the responses to the Jewish-TED-talk/HHD-social-sermon touched and moved so many worshipers.
What Lessons were Learned?
- Social Sermons Work: A number of worshippers later described the Facebook discussion on Facebook as a meaningful way to get them to prepare for the holidays. Others reflected on the Facebook discussion as an inviting way of previewing am upcoming sermon theme.
- Jewish TED Talks Inspire: In comments about the High Holidays, this multi-speaker sermon topped the list of worshiper kvells (positive comments). Unanimously, post-service comments called the congregant presentations inspiring, powerful, very real, and intensely thought-provoking.
- Rabbinic Tzimtzum Fosters Deep Reflection: As clergy “pull back” from their up front role as sermonizer to work in partnership with congregants to craft a Jewish teaching, the message becomes that much more influential. In an increasingly do-it-yourself Jewish world, involving other Jews in the teaching/preaching/liturgy leading roles cements their relationships to the community, the synagogue and the rabbi.
- Weaving in New Technologies and Methods Animate Communities: Darim Online and The Convenant Foundation introduced me to the Social Sermon. TED Talks inspired me to invite congregants to speak. Just Congregations of the Union for Reform Congregations taught me about listening campaigns. eJewish Philanthropy constantly pushes me to explore new perspectives and methods. Visual T’filah of the Central Conference of American Rabbis propelled me to rethink the entire worship experience. Finally, Rabbi Eugene Borowitz’s 1973 essay, Tzimtzum: A Mystic Model for Contemporary Leadership, has long goaded my rabbinic style to pull back to invite others in.
What’s next? Already, congregants are wondering which congregant speakers will elucidate which themes next year. And so am I – but I do not expect to wait until the High Holidays to invite my congregation to write my next sermon!
Originally posted at Or Am I?
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The National Jewish Democratic Council named Rabbi Jack Moline, a prominent Conservative movement rabbi, as its new director.Click here for the rest of the article...
Pope Francis has won praise for his move towards a more universalist church. What would stop Israel’s chief rabbis from following the same path?Click here for the rest of the article...
With Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the liberal Orthodox rabbinical school founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss, set to install Rabbi Asher Lopatin as its new president next Sunday, the haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America is coming out swinging.
The 13-year-old rabbinical seminary always has been a flashpoint for traditionalist Orthodox critics, largely because of Weiss’ controversial actions, including ordaining women Orthodox clergy.
But what has Aguda’s hackles up this time is a roundtable discussion at the Oct. 6 ceremony honoring Lopatin that will feature leaders from the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements. Aguda says the ceremony “does violence” to Orthodox principles.
Here’s the statement:
The forthcoming installation of a new president at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is scheduled to include a “Roundtable” entitled “Training New Rabbis for a New Generation,” featuring the newly installed YCT president alongside four representatives of the non-Orthodox rabbinate as presenters. This is a deeply troubling, and telling, development.
Throughout its history, our people have been afflicted with schismatic movements and sects at odds with the mesorah, or religious tradition, bequeathed to us at Har Sinai.
Sometimes such “new approaches” openly rejected the Jewish religious heritage, like the movement that introduced itself in the nineteenth century as “Reform.” On other occasions, the break with the Jewish past was more subtle, as in the case of the “Conservative” movement, whose name, though, was quickly belied by its actions.
Torah giants of decades past warned us to not allow any blurring of lines between the world of Jews who maintain fealty to the Jewish past and “new Judaisms” espousing theologies incompatible with our mesorah. They accordingly forbade “multidenominational” religious ventures of any sort.
Groups that ignored that wise counsel have come and gone, even as the movements they sought to treat lightly have gone on to even more blatant rejection of our heritage, redefining their “Judaisms” according to their own lights and the whims of the times.
Countless Jews have been led down the path toward Jewish oblivion by the mesorah-rejecting rabbis of the non-Orthodox movements. That an ostensibly Orthodox rabbinical seminary would now provide a prominent public platform for leaders of those movements to share their wisdom on the subject of training new rabbis is irony of the most bitter kind.
A yeshiva is a place where Jews rigorously pursue the timeless truths of Torah. That leaves no room for those who reject the very concept that such timeless truths exist. The forthcoming YCT installation ceremony does violence to this essential principle.
Amid calls to ban the ritual circumcision of boys in Scandinavia, the Council of Europe is slated to vote on whether to define the practice as a “clear human rights violation.”Click here for the rest of the article...
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The National Jewish Democratic Council named Rabbi Jack Moline, a prominent Conservative movement rabbi, as its new director.
Moline, the rabbi at Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Va., since 1987, will assume the post in January, according to an NJDC statement released Monday. He will step down from his suburban Washington pulpit.
He chaired Rabbis for Obama during the last election, but he also has served as a Conservative movement liaison to leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties.
The appointment of Moline follows a period of turmoil for the NJDC. His predecessor, David Harris, resigned earlier this year, and Harris and the group faced a defamation lawsuit from Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and a prominent funder of Republicans.
A federal court in New York dismissed the lawsuit on Monday.
(JTA) — Amid calls to ban the ritual circumcision of boys in Scandinavia, the Council of Europe is slated to vote on whether to define the practice as a “clear human rights violation.”
The definition is included in a report on circumcision and female genital mutilation that was submitted recently to a vote by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an international organization whose resolutions are nonbinding. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday.
“Circumcision applied to young boys clearly is a human rights violation against children,” reads the report, which was brought before the assembly for approval by Marlene Rupprecht, a lawmaker from Germany and rapporteur for the council’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.
The vote on the report, which is titled “Children’s Right to Physical Integrity,” coincides with calls by health officials and politicians from Scandinavia to ban non-medical circumcision of boys younger than 18.
On Saturday, Sweden’s children’s ombudsman and several other health care officials penned a statement that appears to specifically target the Jewish custom of circumcising 8-day-old babies.
“Circumcision without medical grounds can only be performed if a boy is of an age and maturity required to understand the information and consent to the surgery,” according to the statement, which was published in the Dagens Nyhet daily.
Muslim circumcision is mostly performed at an older age, often when boys are at least 7 or older.
Norway’s children’s ombudsman reacted to the Op-Ed by reiterating the position that non-medical circumcision of boys is a human rights violation — a stance also held by counterpart organizations in Finland, Norway and Denmark.
Last week, a motion calling to ban the practice was submitted to Sweden’s parliament by two lawmakers from the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party. Earlier this month, Denmark’s left-leaning Social Liberal Party passed an internal motion in opposition of ritual circumcision of boys.
“This is the first time in recent memory that aggressive political attacks on milah have found a legitimate vehicle at the European level,” Milah UK, a British nongovernmental organization working to defend Jewish circumcision of boys, told JTA in a statement on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe vote.
While the report will remain nonbinding even if passed, “it does clearly demonstrate that the sustained campaign to conflate the deplorable practice of female genital mutilation with milah is gaining traction at the highest levels,” according to Milah UK.
A ceremony held in a Copenhagen synagogue marked the 70th anniversary of the rescue of most of Denmark’s Jews from the hands of the Nazis.Click here for the rest of the article...
It seems Ivanka Trump may really be just like us — at least like those of us who get all dressed up and trek to synagogue by foot on the holidays, anyway.
Guesses were made as to where Trump, who is eight months pregnant, was headed as she walked the streets of Manhattan with hubbie Jared Kushner and their 2-year-old daughter, Arabella Rose. Trump was wearing a “skirted power suit” and a hat.
“The trio looked off for an important lunch or perhaps a meeting with her father, Donald Trump, who is known for dressing up daily in grey suits and pink ties,” the story states.
Perhaps, but we have another theory: The glam fam was shul-bound!
We don’t have confirmation, but the evidence is strong. Thursday was Shemini Atzeret, so it seems highly likely the Upper East Side dwellers were going to Kehilath Jeshurun on E. 85th St., where Trump converted prior to the couple’s wedding. Plus, it isn’t the first time the Trump-Kushners have been photographed on their way to synagogue.
If we’re correct, surely Trump’s hat, which the Daily Mail calls a “60s era fashion statement that looks like something Holly Golightly would have worn,” is not merely a fashion statement, but a hair-covering device as well. Funny — we pegged her as a doily-wearing type.
The alleged shooter of a rabbi in southern Russia was killed in a raid by Russian security forces.Click here for the rest of the article...