Web Feed

Syndicate content
things of interest in the synagogue world
Updated: 15 min 51 sec ago

New Book, “The Inside Story: Biblical Personalities” Claims That Women...

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 09:52

Rabbi explores feministic side of Judaism

(PRWeb June 04, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/06/prweb11911029.htm

Eight Ways Your Congregation Can Be More Welcoming for the High Holidays

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 09:00

The High Holidays are a special time in the Jewish calendar, a time when many unaffiliated Jews (those who are not members of a congregation) may feel the need to connect to the broader Jewish community. Even if they don’t attend synagogue throughout the year, the High Holidays may inspire these individuals and their families to find a congregation where they can attend services or special holiday programming.

There are several ways to leverage your congregation’s communications tools and human resources to make your synagogue more welcoming to unaffiliated Jews, especially leading up to the High Holidays.

  1. Post information about High Holiday opportunities on your homepage.
    While web users’ behaviors are highly variable, most of them are in a hurry. Realistically, users will read about 20% of the text on the average page. Naturally, they’re more likely to view information if it appears on the homepage than if they have to search through your website to find it. Make things easy on them: Let them know, as soon as they arrive at your congregation’s website, that non-members are welcome at services during the High Holidays.
  1. Post information on the website itself, never as an attachment or PDF.
    Users are easily confused when websites link them to documents that offer a significantly different user experience than that of browsing web pagesand most users don’t view a PDF file as being the same environment as a website. To avoid confusion and make sure visitors see details of your High Holidays events, post them as text on your website.
  1. Clearly list all event dates, price ranges, and congregational contacts.
    According to web user behavioral studies, the first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical in users’ decision to stay or leave. If your website lists pertinent information in a clear manner that immediately attracts viewers’ attention, you significantly increase the chances that they will see it. If users need to dig deep to find all these details, they are likely to give up and leave your site. Additionally, individuals and families who are unaffiliated with a synagogue may also feel sensitive about speaking in person about ticket prices and information, especially if they are on a tight budget. Listing event information and pricing clearly on your synagogue’s website will help them understand if your services and events are a potential fit for them.
  1. Website copy should be warm and inviting.
    Those who are not yet members of your community may feel apprehensive and even anxious about approaching a congregation, even if they are looking to belong to a community. Make sure that the language you use makes those visiting your website feel as though they are being welcomed with open arms.
  1. Clearly identify special opportunities for specific target audiences.
    Families with young children, seniors, young adults, and other specific audiences may be more inclined to contact you if they know you offer special events or different pricing options for them. If your congregation doesn’t turn anyone away based on finances, list this information, as well. Unaffiliated individuals may see your ticket prices and assume you would not be able to accommodate them if they cannot afford it. Let them know that they can be welcomed into the Jewish community even if their budget is tight; it may encourage them to pick up the phone and learn about their options.
  1. Ensure that anyone who answers the phone at your congregation knows of opportunities for the unaffiliated and responds to inquiries in a warm, welcoming manner.
    The person responding to phone calls will likely provide the first impression of your congregation for those calling to ask about your services. It’s crucial that this person be welcoming, as his or her tone can create either a gateway into or barrier from your congregation.
  2. On the day of High Holidays programming, appoint volunteers to serve as greeters.
    The High Holidays will likely mark the first time that unaffiliated individuals visit your congregation, and placing greeters at the door will help them with far more than just navigation. A friendly face to greet them creates a personal connection that can help foster a sense of belonging.
  3. Follow up with those who attend your services or programs.
    Some of those who visit your congregation during the High Holidays season won’t be seeking further engagement, but don’t assume this is the case for everyone. Make a list of all non-members who attended your High Holiday events, and assign someone friendly to follow-up with them. You can call them to wish them “Shana Tovah,” ask them about their experience at your synagogue, and invite them to upcoming events and services. Be proactive, and don’t wait for them to contact you!

Are European Rabbis Putting Stamp of Approval on Russian Takeover of Crimea?

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 08:38

Leaders of a prominent Jewish community in Ukraine criticized European rabbis who attended a Kremlin-sponsored Holocaust commemoration ceremony in Crimea.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Ukrainian Jewish leaders slam visit by top European rabbis to Crimea

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 07:22

(JTA) — Leaders of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community in Ukraine criticized European rabbis who attended a Kremlin-sponsored Holocaust commemoration ceremony in Crimea.

“Though it was not their intention,  these actions inevitably facilitate and legitimize the seizure and annexation of [Ukrainian] territory,” the community wrote in a July 17 statement  posted on its website in connection with the ceremony a week earlier in Sevastopol.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March following the ouster of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych in a revolution that broke out over his alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia.

The delegation of 16 rabbis who visited Sevastopol was made up of senior figures from Chabad, including Binyomin Jacobs, a chief rabbi of the Netherlands; David Moshe Lieberman of Antwerp; Yirmiyahu Cohen of Paris; and Rabbi Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia.

The event was organized by the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia with funding from the Russian state and at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, organizers said.

Rabbi Boruch Gorin, a senior associate of Lazar, said the Kremlin has been actively engaged in Holocaust commemoration for the past 15 years, and that Lazar and other Jews firmly support this policy.

“When anti-Semitic acts occur here, we are very vocal,” Gorin said. “But when the government demonstrates that they want to do everything so that Jews will live peacefully — with that we are prepared to cooperate.”

But the Dnepropetrovsk statement read, “Jewish leaders consenting to participate in the actions of the occupation authorities in Crimea and Kremlin political maneuvers is a big mistake that may cause significant damage to the authority of the Jewish voice internationally. Unfortunately, this is not for the first time that European Jewish leaders are deceived by Kremlin propaganda.”

How Orthodox Agudah and Wal-Mart Money United To Back School Vouchers

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 06:00

Guess who is the largest donor to Agudath Israel? The Christian owners of Wal-Mart, who see the Orthodox umbrella group a key ally in their fight for education reforms.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Belfast Synagogue Vandalized Twice in One Weekend

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:57

A window was smashed on successive days at a synagogue in Belfast, Ireland.

Click here for the rest of the article...

The Moral Imperative of Non-Discrimination

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:39

Amidst the suffering and conflict occurring in too many parts of the world, the White House delivered good news and something to celebrate today.  Rabbi David Saperstein and I were privileged to be in the East Room of the White House this morning to watch President Obama sign an Executive Order prohibiting all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against LGBT employees and adding gender identity to federal government’s current prohibition of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Read the RAC’s press release praising this action where Rabbi Saperstein noted: “It is our moral imperative to build a fair society where all people are judged by the merit of their work and not by their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In fact, Rabbi Saperstein was right next to the President as he signed, a spot well deserved given his counsel to the White House and key groups pushing this Executive Order and the RAC’s leadership in the faith community on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (which is still stalled in the House after passing the Senate for the first time ever last November).

Sometimes Congress or the White House makes law that is more symbolic than practical in advancing social justice. Today, however, was an undeniably concrete step towards LGBT equality, as it means that lesbian and gay employees of federal contractors in 29 states—and transgender employees of federal contractors in 32 states—now have workplace protection that was sorely lacking.

Last week I was in Paris, France meeting with Stéphane Beder of the French Federation of Liberal Judaism to discuss the recent events of violence towards synagogues and Jews in Paris. One question he asked me stood out- “How do you stay motivated to work on social justice issues when progress is so slow?”

Moments like today’s signing ceremony are those that inspire and motivate me. I will never forget the joy I felt this morning as I listened to the President of the United States state these words:

“We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love – no matter what, you can make it in this country.”


Belfast synagogue vandalized on back-to-back days

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:08

(JTA) — A window was smashed on successive days at a synagogue in Belfast, Ireland.

The vandalism at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation took place on Friday night and the following day, the BBC reported. In the latter incident, the replacement window was shattered.

Police are treating the vandalism as a religious hate crime.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was “totally unacceptable” for places of worship to be targeted, the BBC reported.

Gerry Kelly, a member of the legislative assembly, condemned the attack.

“There can be no place for attacks on any place of worship, regardless of the religion or denomination,” Kelly said, according to Belfast’s News Letter. “The local Jewish community makes a valuable contribution to our society and there is no justification for hate crimes.”

It was not clear whether the attack was related to Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

An Update on “Stop the Sirens”

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 20:23

As you know, the conflict in Gaza has intensified. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Israeli soldiers killed in action, with our brothers and sisters in Israeli, and with all who are in danger.

When the conflict began, the Reform Movement made a decision to join Stop the Sirens, a community-wide campaign, coordinated by Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), to provide relief and support to the most heavily impacted Israeli communities. We did this rather than creating our own campaign to support our Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) congregations and the vital work the IMPJ itself is doing because we thought it was important to show support for the larger communal effort.

The campaign has already allocated $8 million for “respite and relief.”

ARZA Chair Rabbi Bennett Miller is doing a great job representing our Movement on the JFNA Allocations Committee, assuring that the allocation reflect Reform Jewish values as well as Reform Movement interests.

We could not be more pleased with the partnership we have seen from JFNA and others this week. Moving forward, we expect that the emergency campaign will also help the partners facilitate long term responses to the emergency.

To date, the Allocations Committee has approved requests for funding from the IMPJ for more than $180,000. That has allowed the IMPJ to do the following:

  1. Providing respite for children and families through programming outside of missile range:
  • This past Thursday, a group of 70 (about 50 children and some adults) were hosted by the IMPJ in Haifa through the Leo Baeck School. Due to the immense pressure they were under, the full group continued on Friday to the Lavie Forest where they were hosted by IMPJ volunteers for a weekend of programing.
  • By this Thursday, the Leo Baeck School will have hosted more than 400 people from Yerucham and other cities in the South. Today alone they hosted a group of 70 Bedouin children and their mothers. Next week both Beit Shmuel (Jerusalem) and Beit Daniel (Tel Aviv) will begin hosting as well.
  1. Emergency respite to institutionalized people with emotional challenges:
  • This past weekend Kibbutz Yahel hosted three families who are “emotionally challenged,” and this coming Wednesday and Thursday 10 families will be hosted at Kibbutz Lotan.
  • IMPJ professionals have teamed up with song leaders and cultural directors, providing activities in hostels and group homes throughout the south including in Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, and Sederot.
  1. Emergency aid packages:
  • IMPJ has prepared 800 packages and distributed 300 of them that include toys, activity books, games, and in cases where needed basic food items. IMPJ volunteers have handed these packages out and carried out activities in shelters in Sederot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Asdod, and Gedera, and in the Sha’ar HaNegev region. They expect to distribute an additional 800 packages in the coming week.

It is also important to remember that three IMPJ congregations continue to face the challenge of operating under fire. All three remain open, had services this past Shabbat, and continue to serve both their members and the larger community.

We encourage all members of Reform congregations to continue to provide funds and donations to their local Jewish Federations to assure that continued funding will be available in the coming weeks as it is likely that the current crisis will not end in the next few days. Our ongoing support for Israel and its citizens will continue to be desperately needed. More information about Stop the Sirens and how to support this vital campaign is available at www.urj.org/israel.

Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, all of Israel, and wherever there is suffering.

Anti-Israel Rioters Torch Cars, Throw Firebomb at Paris Synagogue

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 15:53

Anti-Israel protesters hurled a firebomb at a synagogue during an unauthorized demonstration in a heavily Jewish suburb of Paris.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Clashes Erupt in Paris as Thousands Rally To Denounce Israel Attack on Gaza

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 12:42

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched in French cities on Saturday to condemn violence in Gaza, defying a ban imposed after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and clashed with riot police.

Click here for the rest of the article...

French Jews Fight Back Against Anti-Israel Mobs at Synagogues

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 07:40

French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next may turn out to be a historic turning point.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Modern Music With Minimalist Roots

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 17:35

Bang on a Can’s performance at the Jewish Museum is a reminder that Minimalism influenced music just as much as it influenced visual art.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Colleagues, friends and family gather to remember Rabbi David J. Forman

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 13:54

By Terry Hendin

Some 65 people ranging in age from a few months to 95 years old gathered in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood on Monday, May 19, 2014 at the Kehilat HaDror Community Garden.  The Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood was the home to our colleague, mentor, teacher and friend, the late Rabbi David J. Forman. Rabbi Forman was the long time Director of NFTY in Israel programs who passed away in May, 2010.  A human rights activist, author, lecturer and gifted teacher, David’s memory is cherished not only by his loving extended family, including his wife Judy and daughters Tamar, Liat, Shira and Orly, but also by a devoted group of former classmates, colleagues and friends.

Rabbi Shaul Feinberg, Terry Hendin, and Rabbi Stuart Gellar join together for work in the garden.

The occasion was the 3rd Annual Activity Day organized by the Rabbi David J. Forman Memorial Fund based in Jerusalem.  The multi-generation friendly project included work at the garden, clearing the ground to lay a path, pruning trees, weeding, planting flowers and creating mosaic markers naming the various species growing in the garden. Rabbi Ezzie Ende, a former NFTY in Israel group leader and educator who now serves Kehilat HaDror lead us in a brief study related to the counting of the Omer, tying this in to the history of the Kiryat HaYovel neighborhood and Rabbi Forman’s deep commitment to human rights, tolerance, democratic and Jewish values, youth and the nurturing of pluralistic communities. Some of those present briefly spoke about social justice projects they are involved in.  This was very much in the spirit of Rabbi Forman who always was involved in social justice and human rights initiatives.

Throughout the year, this area is used by the school and general community and particularly by members of Kiryat Hayovel’s fledgling Reform congregation, Kehilat HaDror which began as an offshoot of the veteran congregation, Kehilat Kol HaNeshama.  Kabbalat Shabbat, holiday services and activities take place here during mild weather.  Summertime movie nights, children’s birthday parties and hands on environmental education all occur in this charming ‘pocket’ garden in a neighborhood whose population is for the most part invested in preserving a balanced well-integrated pluralistic community.

Four generations of the Forman-Haberman family were present and 3 generations of Rabbi Forman’s friends and colleagues many of whom had been or continue to be professionally affiliated with NFTY and NFTY in Israel.

Courtesy of the family of Rabbi David Forman

The Rabbi David J. Forman Fund was established to perpetuate the legacy of David’s Jewish social activism, leadership in Jewish education, promotion of justice as a rabbinical vision, and the need to work indefatigably and without illusion for peace, justice, and human rights.  The Fund is devoted to activities that demonstrate a passion for the Zionist enterprise, helping to build a more just Israeli society, and the enhancement of Jewish Peoplehood.   The annual Activity Day, Human Rights Awards and Scholarships are some of the areas sponsored by the fund. For more information about the Rabbi David J. Forman Fund email: rabbiformanfund@gmail.com

Black Hats and Wigs Do Not an Orthodox Jew Make

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 20:00

Why do some Orthodox Jews do things that seem so un-Jewish? Avi Shafran has an answer — they go through the motions of ritual without embodying true belief.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Stones Thrown at Dutch Chief Rabbi's Home

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:37

A chief rabbi of the Netherlands said unidentified individuals hurled stones at his home in what he said was the second anti-Semitic attack on him in a week.

Click here for the rest of the article...

Home of Netherlands chief rabbi attacked

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 11:20

(JTA) – A chief rabbi of the Netherlands said unidentified individuals hurled stones at his home in what he said was the second anti-Semitic attack on him in a week.

Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs said the latest attack took place at 5 a.m. Thursday, when two stones were hurled through a window of his home in Amersfoort.


An earlier incident outside his home on July 10 ended without damage, he said. Jacobs’ home has been targeted five times in recent years, he told JTA.

“The fact that these attacks are recurrent shows the depth of hatred that exists against Jews,” he added.

On Thursday, the pro-Israel organization CIDI prepared for a support rally to express solidarity with Israel for its military operation against Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza. Israel launched the operation last week amid ongoing rocket fire on Israeli cities and towns.

One Israeli and more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, which triggered a wave of anti-Semitic incidents across Western Europe and especially France.

Anti-Israel protesters said they would hold a counterdemonstration opposite the CIDI rally at Amsterdam’s Dam Square.

Khalid Sinouh, a goalkeeper for Rotterdam’s Sparta soccer team, called CIDI “a criminal organization” and a “pro-apartheid organization” on Twitter on Thursday, the Telegraaf daily reported.

The Walkman Generation – NFTY in the ‘80s

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 05:00

By Rabbi Roxanne J. Schneider Shapiro

More than the Jewish people have kept the Sabbath; the Sabbath has kept the Jewish people. – Ahad Ha’am

When I reflect on NFTY in the ‘80s, I would revise Ha’am’s quote to:

More than Reform Jewish teenagers have kept NFTY; NFTY has kept Reform Jewish teenagers.

I cannot speak for all who were involved in NFTY in the ‘80s, but for me, NFTY was a holy sanctuary – it was what I would refer to as a beit midrash (house of study), beit t’filah (house of prayer), and a beit k’neset (house of meeting), all in one.

Teens in the ‘80s were learning about Judaism ‘on the go.’ We were the “Walkman generation.” Finally, we could take music with us. This represented more than just music on the go ― for us it was the beginning of portable Judaism. I practiced for my bat mitzvah service with a cassette tape in my Walkman. I could play my tapes of NFTY I, II, III, IV, V, and my MoVFTY mix tapes over and over in the car, on a walk, and at NFTY events. Our music and our experiences were not limited to places where a music box could be plugged in; rather, they were everywhere. We were learning that Judaism was not limited to our homes and synagogues―it could be taken with us.

In high school, we learned English, science, and history, but NFTY was where we went to really learn about the world around us. We explored social justice issues that were in our own backyards, not just talk about them. NFTY was a safe space where we could ask questions, be vulnerable, and learn. We explored gender issues, the nuclear arms race, Black-Jewish relations, AIDS, and hunger. We craved the lessons and the chance to learn more―to uncover the truths that the world was not yet speaking about openly. We wrestled over the fact that we used the term “J.A.P” with our Jewish friends, but cringed when we heard others refer to us that way. We were introduced to and inspired by Anselm Rothschild, a young Jewish composer who served as faculty at Kutz, and for many of us, our first connection to someone who would die of AIDS. These discussions and these interactions brought us out of our secular worlds of avoidance of sensitive topics, and helped us to become the shapers of our world.

We were all so committed to believing that “Ani v’atah n’shaneh et ha’olam” (You and I can change the world). We sang the song with passion and we believed. We joined hands, studied issues, and we acted. We stood proud for Operation Moses (Ethiopian Jewry) and against apartheid (South Africa), held hands (Hands Across America 1986), and marched on Washington (Soviet Jewry 1987). NFTY resolutions became our mantras. We boycotted grapes and Nestlé products, believing with all our might that if we all joined in, we could make a difference. And when businesses changed their practices for the better, and when people gained their freedoms, we knew that we had played a part.

When I peruse Facebook these days, and consider the lives of all of those who made my NFTY experience what it was, I am impressed by all we have sought to do. From those who now serve their cities and states as elected officials to those who work in social service agencies and as teachers, from those who raise their children to be caring individuals to those running businesses that promote good values and ethics, and, of course, to those who have chosen the Jewish professional world to touch the lives of teens (thanks to those who made a difference in their own lives), I know that it is in no small part due to their experiences with NFTY in the ‘80s.

We thought then that we kept NFTY strong, but really, NFTY made us strong. And I bet, if you ask NFTYites of the 1980s, we will tell you that, despite all the challenges we know we have faced and still will face, ultimately, we believe that together, “you and I can change the world.”

Rabbi Roxanne J. Schneider Shapiro is the rabbi and Director of Life Long Learning at United Hebrew Congregation in St. Louis (the only congregation that can boast having two former NFTY Presidents currently serve as its rabbis). After being a devoted MoVFTYite, serving as Regional President and Regional Secretary, she was NFTY’s North American President (1989-1990). She was YGOR (Rockdale Temple) Advisor in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and became a NFTY-OV Life Member in 2001. She has been honored to have a true recognition of what l’dor vador (from generation to generation) means as her former congregant, Andrew Keene, was elected NFTY President this past year.

Utah man gets five years in prison for firing on synagogue

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 09:39

(JTA) — A Utah man was sentenced to five years in prison for firing a gun at a Salt Lake City synagogue in 2012.

Macon Openshaw, 22, of Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty on April 16 in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah to firing three rounds from a handgun at Congregation Kol Ami, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. The shots broke windows and damaged the window casings.

Openshaw admitted to firing at the synagogue because of its Jewish character.

“Religiously motivated violence cannot be tolerated by civil society,” Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels said in a statement. “The department stands ready to combat violence based on a person’s religion and will continue to prosecute these hate crimes vigorously.”

Openshaw also was ordered to pay $1,969 to the synagogue to pay for the damage caused by his attack.

Utah Man Gets 5 Years for Shooting at Salt Lake City Synagogue

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 08:38

A Utah man was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday for shooting into an unoccupied synagogue in Salt Lake City in what federal authorities said was an attack motivated by religious bias.

Click here for the rest of the article...