@RabbiAssembly @TimesofIsrael @IsraeliPM #israel @nytimes @IsraelinUSA @URJ @USCJ @ReformRabbis
Feb 26, 2014
(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.")
- 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
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.
Feb 24, 2014
Feb 23, 2014
Feb 22, 2014
Feb 21, 2014
What do #Russia, #Uganda, & #Arizona have in common? Encoded hatred & endorsed homophobia. Arizona passes bill that lets businesses deny service to gay and lesbian customers. http://t.co/LgDFhUDLts #ashamedcitizen
Feb 20, 2014
Feb 18, 2014
Feb 16, 2014
Feb 14, 2014
Ki Tissa #ParshaTweet: Gold is complicated, usable for good or bad. A better use of precious stuff: use it to count (on) each other.
Ki Tissa #ParshaTweet: Gold is complicated, usable for good or bad. A better use of precious stuff: use it to count (on) each other.
Feb 13, 2014
After-Birkat HaMazon learning at Netivot Shalom this Shabbat: "The Prophet's Wife: Hosea and Theological Monogamy"
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!
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 schools, United 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.
Feb 11, 2014
Feb 7, 2014
Feb 6, 2014
(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.
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.
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.
Feb 5, 2014
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.
Ecaterina Burton | Advocacy and Education Coordinator
Alameda County Community Food Bank
Feb 4, 2014
Feb 3, 2014
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