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Showing posts from November, 2009

Masorti Foundation: Thousands Turn Out to Rally for Religious Freedom

Dear Friends,            We wrote to you last week about the planned march in Jerusalem in response to the arrest at the Kotel of Nofrat Frenkel. It was held right after Shabbat. Israeli media reported between 2,000 and 3,000 participated; that number included 400-500 from Masorti, an impressive turnout, given that those further away could not make it because of Shabbat.             I now share with you, below, a report on the march by Yizhar Hess, Executive Director of Masorti in Israel. In photos taken that evening, you will note that Rabbi Barry Schlesinger and Nofrat Frenkel are using hand held loudspeakers. That is because someone cut the wires to the speaker system.             In a related story, YNET reported over the weekend that in the siddurim (all Orthodox) in use at the main Kotel plaza, someone has torn out the "Zionist pages" that deal with prayers for the State of Israel or for the soldiers of the IDF.             We should be proud of our Masorti community in …

Nofrat Frenkel's speech at the demonstration on Saturday night in Jerusalem

Nofrat Frenkel's speech at the demonstration on Saturday night in Jerusalem:(translation by Shoshana Michael-Zucker, Kehliat Hod veHadar, Kfar Saba) __._,_.___ Friends, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples," said the prophet Isaiah. If God's Temple is to be a House of prayer for all peoples, surely it must also be one for all Jews, male and female, of all varieties and movements. The attempts of patriarchal, chauvinist ultra-Orthodoxy to turn the Kotel into an ultra-orthodox synagogue will not succeed. The Kotel is a place prayer for everyone, male and female. God gave the commandment to wear tzitzit to all Jews, male and female, without reference to their gender. However, the ultra-Orthodox man who controls the Kotel feels that women who keep this commandment are pulling the rug out of control out from under his feet. His ability to continue oppressing women and distancing them from worshipping God is in danger; …

Nofrat Frenkel in the Forward: "The ‘Crime’ of Praying with a Tallit, and a Plea for Tolerance"

Forward: "The 'Crime' of Praying with a Tallit, and a Plea for Tolerance"By Nofrat Frenkel

Published November 24, 2009, issue of December 04, 2009.
Every morning, since I was 15, I have worn a tallit for prayer in my home. During my army service, I was forced to swallow many negative comments by other soldiers who prayed in the army synagogues, some of which did not even have a women's gallery, because female soldiers never set foot in them. After leaving the army, I began to visit the Kotel every Rosh Hodesh. The atmosphere at the Kotel, the feeling that all those women praying around me were also turning to God and pouring out their hearts to Him, inspires me with the joy of Jewish fraternity. Here is one place in which, shoulder to shoulder, all the hearts are calling to God.COURTESY OF WOMEN OF THE WALL Offensive? Nofrat Frenkel was arrested at the Western Wall. Prayer at the Kotel is so different from private prayer at home…

Ynetnews: "Thousands protest haredi violence in Jerusalem"

Ynetnews: "Thousands protest haredi violence in Jerusalem",7340,L-3811967,00.html

Seculars, religious march in capital Saturday night to protest ultra-Orthodox coercion. 'We are facing danger that threatens not only Jerusalem, but Israeli society at large,' secular Jerusalem activist says

Ronen Medzini
Published: 11.28.09, 21:09 /

Thousands of secular and religious Jerusalem and out-of-towners rallied in the capital Saturday to protest ultra-Orthodox violence and coercion.

The protesters marched from Paris Square to Zion Square in the Jerusalem city'center under the banner: "Iran is here – we're sick of haredi violence."

Haredi rioters should be detained and indicted, Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said during the protest.

"One time it's a parking lot, another time it's Intel, and in another case it's the Pride Parade," he said. "These are merely excuses for shows of force, viole…

blog post by Zachary Silver: "Schechter's Yahrtzeit: Sunday, 12 Kislev; The man who was named after a day school"

"Schechter's Yahrtzeit: Sunday, 12 Kislev; The man who was named after a day school"
Zachary Silver, "Magash haKesef)

This post is long. But Solomon Schechter (1847-1915, הרב שניור זלמן בן יצחק הכהן) is a man whose ideologies are the foundation of my worldview. So read to the end. See who this man is:

There are portraits throughout JTS of great minds of the past.

There's a cluster right next to Alperin Lobby.

Cyrus Adler guards the bathrooms on the first floor.

Abraham Joshua Heschel gets his spot in the library.

But Solomon Schechter's portrait gets its own location. His piercing eyes stare out of a face with a disheveled beard, his body draped in an enveloping red cloak. In some ways it's a little like Hogwarts, Schechter's eyes following you each time you head to the cafeteria line.

Mel Scult's article on Schechter in Tradition Renewed dubs JTS "Schechter's Semi…

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg in the Forward: "Adults, Who Happen To Be Young(er)"

Forward: "Adults, Who Happen To Be Young(er)"
OpEd By Danya Ruttenberg
November 25, 2009
Rabbi Steven Wernick, the new head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, has made it clear that one of his priorities for the organization is outreach to Jews in their 20s and early 30s. As Conservative Jews gather for the USCJ's biennial in Cherry Hill, N.J., December 6 — the first of Wernick's tenure — and begin to chart a new course for the movement, it's worth considering how best to go about pursuing this important goal.Obviously, there are a lot of exciting possibilities when it comes to enfranchising and exciting 20- and 30-something Jews. But there are also some pitfalls that are common in efforts to reach this particular demographic.Thinking in terms of "getting the young people" has too often led to programs that have the potential to fail on at least one of two counts.On the one hand, people can spot an attem…

Thanksgiving 2009: "Giving Thanks"

Thanksgiving 2009: "Giving Thanks"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

in memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg z"l, who died in an attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai on Thanksgiving 2008


The experience of Thanksgiving resonates with so much of Jewish tradition. Family, feast, gratitude, and harvest are part of many Jewish holidays, and some scholars believe that Thanksgiving is, at least in part, based on the holiday of Sukkot.  There are even those who offer special Tefilot/Prayers for Thanksgiving.  None of these necessarily fit our theologies, our American identities, our understandings of history - but they do point to an attempt to connect Judaism with an American identity.

Consider this one by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi:

"In the days of the pilgrims, the Puritans, when they arrived at these safe shores, suffered hunger and cold. They sang and prayed to the Rock of their Salvation. And You, standing by them, roused the caring of the Nati…

a sweet Amitim pic from today

may all our learning be so photogenic!
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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Masorti Foundation: Jerusalem Rally to Protest Kotel Arrest

Nofrat Frenkel Dear Friends, I am writing with an important follow-up to the story about the arrest in Israel at the Kotel of Nofrat Frenkel, a young medical student active in the Masorti movement since childhood. Nofrat was taken into custody for the "crime" of wearing a tallit and holding a sefer Torah during a Rosh Hodesh gathering of 40 women. Nofrat has since written a sensitive, moving reflection on the incident. It appears as a "Letter from Jerusalem" in the forthcoming edition of the Forward newspaper, and I encourage you to read it: I am also pleased to report that Nofrat's arrest has apparently hit a nerve among Israelis, the tens of thousands who are fed up with the repressive tactics of the haredim when it comes to expressions of religious freedom in Israel. Masorti and many other organizations are sponsoring a rally to "liberate the Kotel a second time" will take place in Jerusalem at the end of this Shabb…

[Shefa] ShefaJournal 5770 - "HaNefesh v'HaGuf" - Call for Submissions!!!

Call for Submissions for ShefaJournal 5770:

"HaNefesh v'HaGuf: The Relationship Between Conservative Judaism and the Conservative Movement"

This journal will be focusing on both the current states of Conservative Judaism and the Conservative Movement as well as their relationship past, present and future. For the purposes of this journal, we will define Conservative Judaism and the Conservative Movement as follows:

"There is a large difference between Conservative Judaism and the Conservative Movement.  One is a system of ideas and commitments; the other is a series of institutions born during particular moments in attempts to give the dream a body, a vehicle for becoming real."
–Rabbi Menachem Creditor, "Shmirat HaGuf: Caring for the Body of Conservative Judaism"

Shmirat HaGuf and the resulting conversation will be a large part of the journal. However, seeing as Shefa has always been a place for us to dream about both Conservative Judaism and the Conserva…

Alban Institute: "Small is Beautiful"

by Wendy McCormick

"People don't realize we've been doing 'small group ministry' for 150 years!" This comment from the leader of one of the many small congregations across the country got a laugh from the ministerial association of a small southern Indiana town, but any leader of a small congregation would recognize the truth in the comment. Small congregations often feel isolated from the bigger congregations in their communities and denominations, and even looked down upon by a culture that promotes the notion that bigger is better, but many of these congregations are thriving.Statisticians tell us that while the majority of church members in the U.S. attend a large church, the majority of congregations are small. Many of these congregations provide an anchoring presence in the rural or small town communities they call home, and some offer services and programs to benefit the community at large …

Reflection: Being a Sacred Vessel in Moments of Tension

Reflection: Being a Sacred Vessel in Moments of Tension
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The human body, according to Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia, is a fragile sacred vessel. His program of Jewish learning, therefore, involved altered modes of breathing and bodily vitality to prevent physical harm to the student of the spirit. For every human being is a bridge between this world and heaven, and every bridge needs support. Especially when the load being carried is great.

Those whose work includes channeling the divine and supporting others are placed frequently in the immediate intersection of Mercy and Judgment, Limitless Compassion and Structural Integrity. When in a difficult position, the person whose profession is a sacred calling can be torn between relinquishing integrity for the sake of Love and maintaining integrity for the sake of Sustainable Love. This doesn't allow the answer to be "yes" every time, and a caring person suffers when the required answer is "no.&qu…

Winter 2009/2010 Issue of CJ: Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism

Winter 2009/2010 Issue of CJ: Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism
ColumnsLETTERSIn A Tale of a Movement, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's DR. RAYMOND B. GOLDSTEIN challenges our congregations to take action to keep Conservative Judaism vibrantCORY R. SCHNEIDER of Women's League for Conservative Judaism encourages Weaving Passions into ActionsThe new president of FJMC, MARK BERLIN, describes The Long Arm of the FJMCArticlesThe Bookshelf
RABBI NEIL GILLMAN discusses some new books that highlight aspects of Jewish history and traditionWhy I Am A Conservative Jew
DR. FRED PASSMAN'S autobiographical essay traces his search for a Jewish community that meets his needs spiritually, intellectually, and rituallyStudents Talk About Conservative Judaism
Five Koach leaders – participants in United Synagogue's college program – talk about their relationship to the Conservative movementReclaiming Poland
During an emotional tour of P…

Fwd: Jay Michaelson on Magen Tzedek (Hekhsher Tzedek)

From the Forward
Magen Tzedek: Model of the Jewish Future or Show Without an Audience?The PolymathBy Jay MichaelsonPublished November 18, 2009, issue of November 27, 2009.
The problem seems not to have changed. Back when I was at college, the egalitarian services couldn't get a minyan, and so, while I didn't like Orthodox liturgy, and didn't approve of the mechitza (prayer barrier), I still schlepped up the extra flight of stairs to the traditional minyan, week after week. Whatever my personal preferences, it seemed that only Orthodox Jews cared enough to make the system work.

Today, I feel like the challenge remains the same — only writ much larger. Historically, progressive Jews have had trouble mustering the same degree of zeal as traditional Jews, whether regarding synagogue affiliation, in-marriage (and affiliation post-intermarriage) or any number of other values. This, the Orthodox often say with a degree of deserved smugness, just goes to sho…