Feb 27, 2014

Feb 26, 2014

The ShefaNetwork Moves On


Dear Chevreh,

Over the last 9+ years, the ShefaNetwork has morphed many times, from an online conversation, to 3 conferences and a Learning Mission to the Conservative Yeshiva, to 9 journals, and, most recently to a book, archiving all of the journals for posterity. Shefa's website migrated from a yahoogroup to a formal website, and finally to the most recent incarnation as a blog: http://shefanetwork.blogspot.com/. There remains much work to be done before the mission of the ShefaNetwork, "to bring together dreamers from within the Conservative/Masorti Movement and to give their dreams an audible voice" is accomplished.

(The ongoing need for movemental healing is well-attested to by these two recent publications: today's NY Jewish Week OpEd by Jerome A. Chanes, "What Went Wrong With Conservative Judaism?" & last week's ejewishphilanthropy piece by Rabbi Eric M. Lankin, entitled "The Missing Piece.")

The important news is that that the two things everyone seems to agree upon - and care about - are:
  • 1) Conservative Jews are the majority on the ground and in leadership positions in so many national and local Jewish efforts (Avodah, Hadar, Hazon, AJWS, NIF, AIPAC, T'ruah, etc...)
  • 2) The vital middle Jewish stream must survive for the Jewish community to endure
So, as the ShefaNetwork morphs yet again into an infrequent email list and a more static website (http://shefanetwork.blogspot.com), the work goes on in many spheres, only some of which are institutions of the movement. Perhaps this is proof of the success of Schechter's desire to see our ideology spread broadly within "Catholic Israel" and Kaplan's innovative Jewish delivery systems of shuls as "Community Centers." Regardless of what has been accomplished to date, the need is ever greater for strength and dynamism throughout the Jewish institutions and far beyond. That was why, over 9 years ago, we chose the name "Shefa", to help Torah "flow" (Shefa translates literally as "flow") within the world.

May we all do our part in amplifying others' creative souls.

Kol Tuv,
Menachem

Letter to the NY Jewish Week re: 'Your Semicha Or Your Wife' (Feb. 26)"

Letter to the Editor

The accusation that Feminist Orthodoxy is Conservative Judaism in disguise might lead some to see my defense of Partnership Minyanim as proof. But I take seriously the notion that leaders from every Jewish stream can speak to and regarding each other without being marginalized nor conflated. The very framing of this issue by The Jewish Week ('Your Semicha Or Your Wife', Feb. 26) is troubling. Partnership Minyanim are not in existence because rabbis' wives have "asked for them," but rather because Jewish Orthodox leaders see them as both possible within Orthodox halacha and necessary on moral grounds. It is also problematic to advocate, as the article closes, for partnership minyanim by virtue of the fact that "the people who came like it." People like many things. That doesn't make them normative or advisable. Yeshiva University has made a serious mistake in threatening this rabbinical student, and the understanding of the issue in Jewish conversations is shoddy at best. In short: Integrity and Openness are good for the Jews.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom
Berkeley, CA

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

drought [a #poem]

drought
rabbi menachem creditor

just wells up with no warning,
flows without reason,
flooding parched heart, eyes, soul, mind.

rain, music, moment...
each conspires to bring out
what's hidden within.

#drought


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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

Feb 24, 2014

Feb 23, 2014

Global #poverty is a universal problem. We are obligated to put an end to abusive economic policies of nations and faceless corporations.

Letter To the Editor NYTimes: In Search of Concern

Letter To the Editor NYTimes: In Search of Concern
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It was painful to read Marc Tracy's review of Shai Held's "Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence" (The Prophet's Prophet, Feb, 16), not only because Heschel's profound emphasis on 'transitive concern', one spiritually mature human being's response to the needs of another, seems to have gone unlearned, but also because Held's deft treatment of Heschel's passion for truth and meaning is so quickly dismissed by Tracy (a co-editor of 'Jewish Jocks') as "opaque." Most clear in Tracy's screed is a conservative worldview that precludes the wonder of expansive theological writing and, more to the point,  ignores the lessons of prophets, as if distracted by their "big glasses." A clearer lens would have seen that Held's writing offers newcomers to Heschel a much-needed transfusion of interpersonal concern and a reminder that the present isn't so perfect.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom
Berkeley, CA

Feb 22, 2014

I have always been humbled to be my father's son.

I have always been humbled to be my father's son. His articulate, soulful comment on behalf of same-sex marriage in a Richmond, VA "Public Square" just makes me weep with gratitude for his wisdom, for his beautiful voice. (RabbiGary Creditor) --http://youtu.be/JzRErHeQVxc?t=24m20s

Feb 20, 2014

Fwd: Berkeley Men's Shelter Report - February 2014

Congregation Netivot Shalom Men's Shelter Report
 for  February 2014
 

 

 

Berkeley Men's Shelter

 

It was Super Bowl Sunday and Sochi Winter Olympics warm-up for much of the U.S.A. but for a special group of folks it was a haimish and lovely evening in the basement of the Berkeley Veteran's Building.  Of course, it started before Sunday.  Susi was going to be out of town so Dani stepped forward to develop the menu and coordinate the cooking with lots of prepatory input and guidance from Susi.  Art shopped for the fresh groceries.  Daniel ordered the staples from Costco.  Agnieszka and Ednah baked six lemon-cake loafs based upon Agnieszka's recipe lovingly translated from the Polish.  The main entrĂ©e was a delicious eggplant ragout served with brown rice, garlic bread, fresh fruit, green salad, lemon cake, iced tea.  Darek, Agnieszka, Billi, Yonit, Dani, Ezra peeled and chopped and chopped and chopped.  Shari and Steven and Joan arrived to help with the initial clean-up, then the serving and conversation with the sixty-three residents.  Doug arrived in time to help pack up the extra food for the day laborers on Fourth Street and at El Cerrito Home Depot.  Joan washed many, many pots and pans as well as serving the men with an especially caring and compassionate out look.  The team worked so well together that even though the preparation, serving, and clean-up felt leisurely we turned off the lights and pulled out of the parking lot by 7:45.  We'll be cooking again on Sunday, March 2.  The sign-up sheet is quite empty so there are lots of opportunities for folks new to this mitzvah as well as those who have served many times previously to sign-up.  Would you like to grocery shop?  We provide a list of the items needed and the shul reimburses for purchases.  Would you like to bake your favorite recipe for a very appreciative "audience"?  Would you like to help with preparation of the meal?  We gather at 5 PM and preparation takes about 90 minutes.  Would you prefer to serve and help clean-up?  Folks who like that "shift" arrive at 6:30 and work until about 8 PM.  Perhaps you could share some words of reflection on Rosh Chodesh Adar II?  Or might you be moved to donate monies towards paying for the supplies needed for the meal?  If you have other suggestions or questions about signing up please contact Ednah at edmal@aol.com.  If you're ready to boldly go where others have definitely gone before just go to http://tinyurl.com/cnsshelterdinnersignup.

 

 

 



Feb 18, 2014

Fwd: Correction to previous email: Correct Date is Sun, Mar. 2 for Ramah Info Session


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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org


CAMP RAMAH 

Information Session

Who: 
All Netivot parents and children are welcome! 
Hosted by the Ramah Service Corps Fellow for the Bay Area, Stephen "Stevo" Feinberg

 

What: 

An information and Q&A session about 

Camp Ramah, the camping arm of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism


When: 

Sunday, March 2nd, 11am until noon


Where: 

The library at Congregation Netivot Shalom, 

1316 University Avenue in Berkeley


Why: 

To find out everything you've ever wanted to know about Camp Ramah!


Bonus: 

Stevo will be passing out Ramah swag! A light brunch will also be served.

 

E-mail Stevo at sfein99@gmail.com with any questions.

 

 

STAY CONNECTED   
Facebook    Twitter      



Molly Shapiro
Director of Youth Community and Connection
Congregation Netivot Shalom

Parashat VaYakhel: "We Have More than Enough"

Fwd: Camp Ramah Info Session! 3/22 @ 11 am!



CAMP RAMAH 
Information Session
Who: 
All Netivot parents and children are welcome! 
Hosted by the Ramah Service Corps Fellow for the Bay Area, Stephen "Stevo" Feinberg

What: 
An information and Q&A session about 
Camp Ramah, the camping arm of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

When: 
Sunday, March 2nd, 11am until noon

Where: 
The library at Congregation Netivot Shalom, 
1316 University Avenue in Berkeley

Why: 
To find out everything you've ever wanted to know about Camp Ramah!

Bonus: 
Stevo will be passing out Ramah swag! A light brunch will also be served.


E-mail Stevo at sfein99@gmail.com with any questions.




Feb 13, 2014

After-Birkat HaMazon learning at Netivot Shalom this Shabbat: "The Prophet's Wife: Hosea and Theological Monogamy"

After-Birkat HaMazon learning at Netivot Shalom this Shabbat: 
"The Prophet's Wife: Hosea and Theological Monogamy"
with Rabbi Menachem Creditor


The biblical book of Hosea frames the covenantal relationship between the Jewish People and God as similar to that of spouses. And when Israel strays from God, the prophetic language is one of betrayal. Hosea is led to reenact this dynamic of faithlessness in his own life, leading the reader to wonder: is there hope? can love endure? what does God need? is that a workable theology for a modern Jew? Come join the text-study/conversation this Shabbat in the library of Netivot Shalom following Kiddush!

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

Francine Klagsbrun in the Jewish Week: "What Conservative Judaism Has To Offer"

What Conservative Judaism Has To Offer
Tue, 02/11/2014
Francine Klagsbrun
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Francine Klagsbrun
Francine Klagsbrun

It's hard to be in the middle. Politically, the far right has put mainstream Republicans on the defensive, and the left has sent centrist Democrats scurrying to identify with populism. Religiously, fundamentalism on the right has opposed any form of change, and an aggressive atheism on the left has mounted a war against traditional beliefs. Yet, while the extremes may sometimes foment revolutions, the middle keeps society going. And the middle is the hardest place to be.

"I'm a Conservative Jew, always in the middle," I've often said jokingly to explain some moderate position I've taken in one area or another. But now the Conservative movement has come under attack, not from extremist groups but from within the movement itself. In recent months, ever since the Pew Research Center's survey documented a devastating drop in the number of Jews affiliated with Conservative Judaism, a dispute has raged in this newspaper and others about that fall-off. The most damning criticism came from Daniel Gordis, himself a Conservative rabbi, now living in Israel, in his "requiem" for Conservative Judaism published in The Jewish Review of Books. Although there have been a slew of answers to him, mostly from the movement's professionals, as a passionately committed Conservative Jew, I feel a need to join the conversation.  

Ironically, some of my passion for the movement grew from being a congregant in Belle Harbor, Queens, of Daniel Gordis' grandfather, Rabbi Robert Gordis, one of the most influential spokespeople for the movement through his sermons and books. That, and studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary. And spending summers in Camp Ramah. The Conservative Judaism I absorbed from all those sources challenged the Orthodoxy of my earlier years by making me think seriously about what I observed and why, what our texts taught and why I instinctively loved them, what Judaism had to offer within the larger constellation of religions. What I absorbed from these sources also was a deep and abiding understanding of the ethical thrust of our religion. That understanding led to my involvement in Jewish feminism and the effort to give women full equality within the movement.

Daniel Gordis takes a swipe at "the movement's infatuation with biblical criticism," yet critical scholarship is one of the most intellectually exciting contributions of this denomination. Understanding the similarities and differences between the flood story in the Bible and those in other early cultures, for example, does not diminish the Bible but opens broad vistas into the world in which our religion developed. If biblical criticism challenges the traditional belief in the entire Torah as revelation from God, it also invites us to see divine inspiration throughout it.

Too intellectual? It has been said that the numbers have fallen because people want a more spiritual orientation. Maybe. But numbers are tricky. JTS' David Kraemer teaches Jewish texts to a "Torah group" of some of the city's leading writers and artists of varying ages. If asked, few, if any, would identify with Conservatism; most are unaffiliated. Yet, to a great extent their understanding of Judaism is shaped by the Conservative ideology they imbibe along with professor Kraemer's fine teaching. Should they be counted as Conservative Jews?

Then there are the non-denominational or "independent minyanim," whose members do not want to be officially affiliated with any movement. Most of these people are young, and most are products of the Conservative movement — the Solomon Schechter schoolsUnited Synagogue Youth, and Camp Ramah. They are seeking their own spiritual paths, as young people do, but many embrace the Bible and textual study no less than did earlier generations. Back in the 1970s, the chavurah movement also rejected established congregations for different kinds of minyanim and a countercultural interpretation of the texts that reflected those times. When they grew older, many of the chavurah members became Conservative and community leaders.

I don't mean to minimize the dangers in the Pew study's findings. The news of a vast decrease in Conservative membership has been distressing and frightening for the movement, and Conservative leaders need to keep grappling with ways to reverse those statistics. Reaching out to non-denominational groups might be a start. Those on the inside need to show these young people that the Conservative tent is broad enough to incorporate their ideas and practices and could, in fact, be invigorated by them. The Conservative movement has been too important to individuals and the community to fade away. It has influenced Reform Judaism in its move closer to tradition. It has influenced the Modern Orthodox in their move toward including women in religious ritual and leadership. It has been a consistent voice for Klal Yisrael, all the Jewish people, and willing to compromise to keep the community together.

In short, it has held the middle, so hard to do, so necessary for Jewish life.

Francine Klagsbrun's latest book is "The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day." She is currently writing a biography of Golda Meir. 

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

Feb 6, 2014

Tetzaveh 5774: "Leadership Always For and Sometimes Within"

Tetzaveh 5774: "Leadership Always For and Sometimes Within"
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Varying modes of leadership are important to identify, especially in moments of emerging need.  

For a community, these transitions can include urgent financial decisions, membership growth/shrinkage, strategic professional transitions, etc.  For a nation, they can include popular revolution, dramatic economic shift, international relations, and more.  But in any and every setting in which a specific leadership-style is healthy and effective, it is perhaps only so in that specific moment and circumstance.  The very same approach might be unhealthy in another time, another place and, in fact, many factors determine whether or not a certain leadership methodology is appropriate.

We read in Parashat Tetzaveh of the clothing for the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol.  Aaron was the very first in this line, his clothing both fabulous and complicated, burdensome and ornate.  The instructions for the priestly clothing are intricate, including a gold headband which read "Holy to God" and a robe with pomegranate-shaped bells which sounded out with any movement.  Aaron was a human being like any other, but could not move around inconspicuously.  He and his descendants were servants of God, chosen from birth for a role that designated them different.  We might imagine that they were hyper-aware of how they were seen by others.  They were from the people, but not "of the people" in important ways. 

They were not the same as their community - they stood apart.

Parashat Tetzaveh is unique in that it the only Torah Portion following Moses' birth in which his name does not appear.  Some suggest this is due to his initial reticence at the burning bush to be God's emissary to Pharaoh, which thereby charged Aaron with a new role of Priest.  The focus of the Parashah on Aaron's clothing could, according to this reasoning, offend Moses, and so Moses' name is not mentioned, out of a sensitivity to his feelings.  Their distinct roles, different models of authority and service, were, perhaps, a source of tension to which the Torah's text is sensitive.  

But there is another interpretation, one which suggests that Moses' textual absence is due to the challenge he poses to God in a later moment.  Incensed at the Israelites for the sin of the golden calf, God commands Moses to "step aside" to allow God to destroy the Israelites and begin again with Moses.  Moses steps into the breach and refuses to allow God to act, saying "You may not do this, and if You do, erase me from Your book!"  God relents, but the threat has an effect and Moses' name is removed from this week's Torah portion.  Moses' interconnected-ness with his people is powerfully demonstrated in his willingness to take a difficult stand in a tense situation, acting in the best interests of the people. 

He is one of them, not separate, as Aaron and the priests seem to be.

Aaron is a necessary part of a community.  Sometimes a religious leader must stand separate, as a symbolic exemplar, wearing her sacred purpose on her sleeve (or forehead).  Sometimes a religious leader must be indistinguishable from his community, willing to be anonymous in the service of a shared cause.

It is a true ongoing test of a leader to stand always for and sometimes within their community, judging each moment and determining an appropriate response, acting with devotion and temerity, even and especially when it is uncomfortable.


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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

From Ruth Messinger: Your Rabbinic Signature Matters


We Believe
Dear Friends,

 Act Now - Stand with LGBT Ugandans
I am writing with an urgent request for you to sign on to a letter from rabbis that asks the President of Uganda to veto Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This bill threatens LGBT people in Uganda and is a grave violation of human rights.

On Monday, February 10th—Day of Global Action Against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill—we will deliver your signature, along with those of other rabbis, to Ugandan embassies and key U.S. decision-makers, so that Ugandan President Museveni receives your message.

First introduced in 2009, the bill seeks to strengthen existing penalties in Ugandan law against homosexuality. It also seeks to criminalize the “promotion of homosexuality,” which includes funding organizations that serve LGBT people—something that AJWS has been doing for years. The bill remains one of the most abhorrent manifestations of discrimination against LGBT people worldwide.

AJWS’s Ugandan partners have asked for our strong support in urging President Museveni to strike down this hate-filled bill. We are joining with our coalition partners—and with leaders like you—to take action at this critical time.

Please urge President Museveni to veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill NOW.

  In solidarity,
  Ruth W. Messinger
  President, AJWS
www.ajws.org
45 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212.792.2900
© American Jewish World Service 2014. All rights reserved. 

Feb 5, 2014

ACCFB: This Farm Bill won't stop us


As you may have heard, Congress passed the Farm Bill with $8.6 billion in SNAP cuts.

We are not happy with this outcome, but the Food Bank is proud to have been part of a national movement to preserve and protect SNAP in an incredibly divided Congress. Six months ago, we were looking at $40 billion in cuts to SNAP. The $8.6 billion in cuts to SNAP means families will have less money to buy the food they need, but we stopped many horrendous amendments that attempted to kick whole groups of individuals off the program entirely.

What you can be proud of is that Alameda County's Representatives voted against the Farm Bill. Representatives Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell and Mike Honda all voted "no." They stood up for our community and the 850,000 households who will have less food on their table due to this Farm Bill.

We want to let you know that this Farm Bill won't stop us from continuing to advocate for a future where poverty and hunger don't exist in our country.

Over the next few months, we will focus our attention on policy changes specifically within California. From our state budget to various laws, there's much we can still change to bring California's own poverty rate down, which is the highest in the nation. While we may not be able to move national policy forward on poverty due to federal gridlock, we know we can change California's direction. It's what we've been doing for the past 15 years and with your support, we don't plan on stopping. We will let you know when you can take action to shift state policies.

In solidarity,

Cat Burton

Ecaterina Burton | Advocacy and Education Coordinator
Alameda County Community Food Bank | 7900 Edgewater Drive | Oakland, CA 94621
(510) 635-3663 ext. 307 | Fax (510) 635-3773
eburton@accfb.org www.accfb.org


Alameda County Community Food Bank



Feb 4, 2014

Fwd: Remembering Well: the Adar CNS Yahrtzeit Letters


NSLogo
 
A Note from Rabbi Creditor
Remembering Well: 
The CNS Adar Yahrtzeit Letters 

4 Adar I,  5774 // February 4, 2014 

 

Dear Chevreh,

 

We generate monthly letters to all members whose losses are recorded in our Yizkor booklets. This year is a Jewish leap year (you learn more about that by clicking  here), which means that there is one additional month of Adar on the calendar. So, the question arises: when our loved ones have died during (a non-leap year) Adar, in which month of a leap year (in which there is Adar I and Adar II) do we mark their Yahrtzeits?

 

This is incredibly important, as the way we measure time speaks to our groundedness in an ever-shifting universe. It is also fascinating to see how the halachic tradition has responded to the complexity of time. It is also timely, as our Adar II letters went out "by mistake" in our Adar I yahrtzeit mailing.

 

Rabbi David Golinkin, marking his own father's passing during Adar I some years ago, wrote a  Teshuvah (a halachic response) to this question, saying that:

 

"...since the custom of yahrzeit and mourner's kaddish arose hundreds of year after the Talmud, there is no clear consensus as to whether an Adar yahrzeit should be observed in Adar I or Adar II. Furthermore, there is not even a clear consensus among Ashkenazim or Sefaradim. Personally, I prefer the custom of Adar II. Since Purim is observed in Adar II, this is the month which most Jews today consider the "real" Adar. However, it is perfectly legitimate to observe a yahrzeit in Adar I following the many opinions and precedents found above. Finally, while I do not recommend observing a yahrzeit in both Adars, it is certainly understandable how this custom arose, given the lack of conclusive proof for the other two opinions."

 

Therefore, even though the letters we sent out for this year's Adar I yahrtzeits included those that might also have been appropriate for Adar II, we can feel comfortable remembering our loved ones well this month. The halacha contains enough flexibility to render these acts of memory sacred moments that could not be wrong.

 

rabbi creditor

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Creditor
  
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Congregation Netivot Shalom 
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Be your own holy self today. Do your best to navigate through the universe doing as much good and as little harm as any holy soul can.

Feb 3, 2014

One Virginia Rabbi's Commitments to Equal Marriage

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor's writings on Equal Marriage:

Our Vision of Society Requires 
A "No" Vote on the Marriage Amendment 
or 
"Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself" 
November 3rd, 2006



The Revelation of an Embrace: A Vision of Conservative Judaism

The Revelation of an Embrace: A Vision of Conservative Judaism (c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor in honor and memory of my teacher, Rabbi Nei...