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Showing posts from February, 2009

Seth Cohen: "Jewish Leadership at the Water’s Edge: A Call for Action"

Jewish Leadership at the Water's Edge: A Call for Action Posted by Seth Cohen | February 24, 2009
With all of the change swirling around us, it has been challenging to organize, synthesize and verbalize my thoughts on the state of the Jewish community in 2009. The organizations in which I am involved, like all of the organizations in which we are all involved, are struggling to reconcile the challenges with the needs and the resources with the requirements. And while normally I am one to encourage systematic and methodical planning, now I feel like we must boldly  lead by action. And in order to encourage action by others, we must do more than just evaluate and understand the nature of our adversity; we must fearlessly lead our communities through our challenges to reach the other side of greatness. Until now, I have not been able to articulate this strong desire to see my fellow commun…

Reminder - Tonight! "A Jewish View of Love" at Netivot Shalom with Rabbi Benjamin Segal

"A Jewish View of Love" with Rabbi Benjamin Segal
Wed, February 25, 7:30pm
Congregation Netivot Shalom
1316 University Ave, Berkeley

This event is free and open to the public.

The Song of Songs is one of the earliest, perhaps the greatest of the world's love poems, in which a picture of ideal love emerges - mutual, committed, equal, erotic and exclusive. The author, a master poet (and possibly a woman), uses interweaving scenes to reflect the story of a young couple struggling against societal standards and family pressures. Making no attempt to reduce shades of meaning to simple prose, Rabbi Segal's new commentary appreciates that complexity and nuance are poetry's greatest power. It proceeds through easily read units, layer by layer unfolding both the background and the tensions. Overviews follow - of love as reflected in the Song, on the history of interpretation and on the poet's techniques.

Join Rabbi Segal, author of the recently published "The Song of …

In Memory Of Ellen Miller, Who Is Still Alive
In Memory Of Ellen Miller, Who Is Still Alive Ellen Miller: Her one novel touched on the enduring themes of Jewish writing. by Daniel Schifrin
Special To The Jewish Week
"[Death...] is not the end of desire. This is the end of memory. An awful prospect, especially for Jews. We don't mind not being wanted. We mind not being remembered."
— Leon Wieseltier, Kaddish

I first met Ellen Miller several years ago, at a panel on new Jewish literature I was moderating for The Jewish Week at the 92nd Street Y. I had devoured her first novel, "Like Being Killed," a rigorous and hysterical work. Little did I know that this book would be her only published novel;she died in December, at age 41, of a heart attack.

No one who met Ellen ever forgot her. She was always smarter, more energetic, more compulsive and more searching than anyone else in the room. Forget about her fiction; even her e-m…

the Jewish Week: "Conservative Jewry: Toward Renewal, Not Kaddish"

Conservative Jewry: Toward Renewal, Not Kaddish
Rabbi David Lerner
Special To The Jewish Week

This is a moment of great opportunity for Conservative Judaism.  Its three major arms are undergoing changes in leadership: Arnold Eisen is serving in his second year as chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld has been chosen as the incoming executive director of the Rabbinical Assembly, and a new leader of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is being selected.

Those of us committed to Conservative Judaism should utilize this moment to make the changes necessary to ensure its flourishing, to build on the extraordinary successes of the movement of the past.  Although the movement is bleeding members and has lost much of the cachet it once had, this is not the time for Kaddish, but for renewal.

Conservative Judaism's successes

are legion. It helped stem the flow of immigrants a…

Jonathan Sarna on Jewish Philanthropy

Lessons From The Past Posted by eJP | February 22, 2009 by Prof. Jonathan D. Sarna The Jewish community grew wealthy, along with the nation as a whole, in the post-Reagan era. Arguably, more Jewish wealth was created in those good years than in all of American Jewish history put together. And since much of that wealth was created by investors and venture capitalists, it is no surprise that they brought a venture capital mindset into the American Jewish non-profit sector, promoting innovation and experimentation.We also now know that the burgeoning number of Jews in hedge funds created a dangerous sense of overconfidence. We came to believe that smart Jews could make money whatever the markets did – up or down. Most of us could not understand how they made money, but thank God if we were lucky they would let us – for a price – share in the wealth. We could expect 10% returns almost guaranteed. That, in the end, paved the way for the way not only for the great market crash, but also for…

Announcing ShefaJournal 5769: "USCJ & the Future of Conservative Judaism"

Announcing ShefaJournal 5769:1
"USCJ & the Future of Conservative Judaism"
available at

In many ways, the newest ShefaNetwork Journal is a response to the crossroads in the life of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. While the details of each contributor's thoughts might be directed towards a number of specific programs, the whole enterprise of the USCJ is the general theme. A set of potential "best‐practices" as well as a possible restructuring approach are included in this ShefaNetwork Journal, an edited version of selected posts to the online listserve of the ShefaNetwork between February 17and February 22, 2009.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to

Purim Conference: Sunday March 1!

Merkavah Torah Institute, Congregation Beth Israel, Afikomen Judaica & Congregation Netivot Shalom presents a day of learning in preparation for Purim!

Masekhet Megillah:
The Gantse Megile and a Bisele Talmud
(The Whole Megillah and a Bit of Talmud)

Sessions with Merkavah Instructor Dalia Davis & students of the
Merkavah Talmud program.

Sunday, March 1, 9:30am – 1:00pm
Congregation Netivot Shalom
1316 University Avenue, Berkeley

Light Refreshments Served
$25/$15 for Students or Sliding Scale
Childcare: $5 for the Day (RSVP Needed for Childcare)
Scholarships Available

9:30-9:45am Registration
9:45-10:00am Opening Remarks
10:00-11:15am Dalia Davis: Talmud Megillah Revealed
11:15-11:30am Refreshments

11:30-12:00noon Workshop Session 1
Bella Barany: Leprosy or When to Wear Gloves
Alice Webber: Are We Drunk Enough Yet?
Sara Horowitz: TBA

12:05-12:35pm Workshop Session 11
Ruchama Burrell: Those Were the Days
Rena Fischer: Jerusalem, Shiloh and the Place of the Holy
Serach Brac…

Keep Lieberman out of the government

Keep Lieberman out of the government  - 02:30 20/02/2009
By Haaretz Editorial

Israelis still don't know who won last week's elections, or who will put together the next government. The only clear result is that Avigdor Lieberman is trying to dictate the nature and composition of the new coalition.

This is evident from the conditions he demanded of Likud and Kadima for Yisrael Beiteinu's joining the government and from his appearance yesterday at the President's Residence, where he stipulated that he wanted a broad coalition headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel's democracy is breaking daily records of degradation. The large parties, failing to win broad public support, are wooing a politician who conducted a racist campaign against the state's Arab citizens and is suspected of grave criminal acts. They are allowing him to determine who will head the government and who its partners will be.

In exchange for Lieberma…

two weeknight learning series with Rabbi Creditor coming up at Netivot!

The Laws of Pesach
with Rabbi Creditor
Tuesday nights at 7:30pm
March 17, 24, 31; April 7

The traditions surrounding the holiday of Pesach are both fun and challenging at times.  During this four-part series, Rabbi Creditor will present traditional and modern Jewish texts which inform some of the ritual and emotional experiences of Pesasch.  This class is beginner-friendly, and all texts will be available in English translation.  A $30 materials fee is suggested, and registration is required with Rachel in the Netivot Shalom office. 

Gemara Berachot: An Ancient Book of Blessing
with Rabbi Creditor
Tuesday nights at 7:30pm
May 5, 12, 19, 26

Jewish worship transitioned from a sacrificial system into a system of verbal prayers over a long period of time.  The decisions and struggles of the early rabbis who revolutionized Jewish Prayer are collected in the Talmud, also known as the Gemara.  The Tractate Berachot is one of the earliest conversations about Jewish Prayer, hinting at some of…

[] USCJ & the future

Dear Chevreh,

What a magnificent conversation Zack pushed us into!  Whereas there is certainly so much work to do at the USCJ, this conversation points to some of our deepest dreams for what that work is meant to accomplish.  Shefa, back when it was founded, first slid into "kvetch-fest" territory.  Some of the earliest Shefaniks suggested what has been articulated once again in this thread:  that's not the best use of this forum, nor will it make the difference so urgently needed in the institutions of our Movement's continuum. 

So perhaps the question is this:  What is the reason USCJ must exist?  In other words, since a mission-statement explains "why I exist in the world", let's pretend there isn't already a mission and we have been charged by the USCJ leadership with crafting mission language worthy of the dreams and capable of meeting the needs of our Movement.  Let's craft that language together, on Shefa, and see what comes of it.  

There …

Rabbi Gordon Tucker on Michael Fishbane and Neil Gillman

Facing a Difficult FaithBy Rabbi Gordon Tucker
Doing Jewish Theology: God, Torah & Israel in Modern Judaism
By Rabbi Neil Gillman
Jewish Lights Publishing, 304 pages, $24.99Sacred Attunement
By Michael Fishbane
The University of Chicago Press, 246 pages, $30.00On a recent Rosh Hashanah, one of our preschoolers stopped me in the hallway of the synagogue and asked me, point blank, "Is God real or pretend?" Adults often ask the same question, though rarely as directly or even aloud. And when they do ask, it is very much an adult question, born of the heartache of difficult faith.Two books, both published in 2008, deal in different ways and in different styles with many of the aspects of this modern predicament."Doing Jewish Theology" is a collection of essays by Neil Gillman, former dean of the Jewish Theological Seminary's Rabbinical School. He is also a longtime professor of Jewish philosophy at the JTS. Gillman is a prolifi…

MERCAZ USA Purim Appeal

MERCAZ USAFebruary 2009Purim is Coming!Shvat 5769MERCAZ USA Joins With The American Zionist Movement In Its Purim Connection 2009Bring a Smile to a Child's Face – Construct a Bridge to an IDF Soldier – Develop a Connection to Masorti Communities A cease fire is in place and an uneasy quiet has enveloped Israel. Children in the south have returned to their schools, but the psychological impact of the rockets and terror remains. Soldiers have withdrawn from Gaza, but the order to return to the battlefield could be given at any time. You can make your presence felt in Israel, where our people need you most. Give light, gladness, joy and honor to the Children and Soldiers from the Masorti Congregations in Israel's southern region, including: the Neve Hanna Children's Village in Kiryat Gat, Netzach Israel in Ashkelon, Etz Haim in Ashdod, and Eshel Avraham in Be'er Sheva.Make your contribution to the AZM Purim Connection! Light up a…

The Morality of the Gaza War

The Morality of the Gaza War - David Forman (Jerusalem Post)
Now, after the war in Gaza, every Arab country and every terrorist organization knows that Israel, no matter which political party heads the government, will no longer play by conventional rules, feeling itself restricted by international pressure or restrained by internal moral discussions. From now on, should we be forced into war with our sworn enemies, we will use all the power at our disposal to defeat them. If they come after our civilian population, their civilian population will be endangered tenfold. We must liberate ourselves from making moral comparisons to demonstrate to the world how ethical we are. Even if we were to prove not only the justice of our cause, but the utter brutality of Hamas, it would matter little. Should we not unleash our strength to combat a terrorist ministate that turns …

Applications now being Accepted for Groundbreaking Conflict Transformation Program (Please forward on)

Groundbreaking Conflict Transformation Program Launches for Fourth Straight Year

What happens when you put 24 university students in the former Yugoslavia for a summer to learn about resolving ethnic conflict? And what happens when 12 of these students are Palestinians and 12 are Jews? Welcome to the groundbreaking Vision Program!

This ten-month fellowship, affiliated with the University of San Francisco's Center for Global Education, begins with a month-long trip to the Balkans, meeting activists and scholars alike in Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovnia. Students study the Balkan wars of the 1990s in an effort to re-examine the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the academic year immediately following the summer students engage in two four-day conferences, aimed to empower them to engage with students on their campus, and organize campus and community presentations, helping them articulate their own activist voices.
The Vision Program's goals are to (a…

Narrative Leadership in Changing Times

Narrative Leadership in Changing Times by Lawrence A. Golemon

I recently traveled to a charming clapboard church in the middle of an East Coast city to visit with an interim minister nearing the end of a two-year term. "These are good people," this gifted pastor and preacher told me, "but they are a bit stuck in their way of doing things." When I inquired how, she said, "They have enshrined the past of a long pastorate and live their faith as a form of nostalgia." Contrast that to my visit with a relatively new pastor serving in an urban setting in the Midwest. "This church was long known as the 'community church' but lost that connection as the neighborhood became multicultural and economically challenged," this pastor, a skilled community organizer, recalled. "But you appear to have recaptured that image," I said. "What changed?" His reply revealed an important insight. "We rediscovered being a 'com…

"Healing from Despair: Choosing Wholeness in a Broken World" - Mon., March 23rd, 7:30 pm

Mon., March 23rd, 7:30 pm
Congregation Netivot Shalom

Join a conversation with Rabbi Ellie Spitz, author of "Healing from Despair: Choosing Wholeness in a Broken World. (Jewish Lights, 2009)" This new book, which will be available for purchase and signing at the event, explores the nature of personal suffering and brokenness and the potential for personal crisis as a source of strength and renewal instead of despair and death. Examining the personal journeys of biblical and historical figures such as Moses, Maimonides, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Buber - as well as the author's own personal experience with despair - it looks at brokenness as an inescapable element of the human condition. It traces the path of suffering from despair to depression to desperation to the turning point - healing - when first-hand knowledge of suffering can be transformed into blessing.

Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz is the author of Does the Soul Survive? A Jewish Journey to Belief in Afterlife, Past L…

haaretz: "Conservative rabbis call for official dissolution of Israel's Chief Rabbinate"

Conservative rabbis call for official dissolution of Israel's Chief Rabbinate
By Shlomo Shamir (New York) and Raphael Ahren

A body of Conservative rabbis passed a resolution yesterday calling upon the government of Israel to "privatize the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and dissolve it as a governmental organization." The motion was approved at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement, known in Israel as the Masorti movement, which this week convened in Jerusalem. More than 300 rabbis participated in the four-day convention, most of them from the United States.

In the first initiative of its kind by a respected American rabbinic institution representing the second-largest stream in American Jewry, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is described as "a structure that is outmoded and unnecessary" and one that "misrepresents the nature of Judaism to the world at large, even to Jews."



Jerusalem Post: Who Is A Zionist?Rabbi Reuven HammerWho is a Zionist? That is a question that I thought about a great deal this week when I participated in the annual convention of the international Rabbinical Assembly in Jerusalem together with hundreds of my fellow rabbis from around the world. The organization itself, as well as the worldwide Conservative/Masorti Movement of which it is a part, certainly considers and always has considered itself Zionist, as do the overwhelming majority of its members even though they do not live in Israel. Of course the answer depends upon one's definition of Zionism. Those who subscribe to the classic political Zionist definition held by Ben Gurion among others, namely that a Zionist is one who lives in Israel or at least actively intends to do so, would say that they are not Zionists. It seems to me that that definition has long been abandoned by most Jews and that Zionism today means believing and actively supporting Israel a…