Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
The Jews put a lot of emphasis on the passage of time. They count the days of the calendar and the holy days of Passover and Hanukkah and other holidays, too, I’m sure. I love it because what they’re really doing is living in their days, making them count, never letting time get away from them. It’s no surprise, given their history of oppression, that they embrace gratitude as a way of life. Staying in the moment – in the day, so to speak – is my goal for this whole spiritual journey anyway, so as I looked around the sanctuary, which is round and cozy and embraces the congregation like a rib-crushing hug from your Bubbe, I tried to stop yearning for the present and just be in it instead.
As far as I’m concerned, Judaism is what religion is supposed to sound and feel and taste like and I’ll be honest: I wish I could be a Jew. It has everything I want – a strong sense of community and culture, none of the answers, all of the questions and ridiculously good deli meat.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
by Wendy Grinberg, RJE
URJ Parenting Specialist
Parents routinely describe the experience as "life changing" and their returned child as "more independent," "stronger" and "confident" as a result of the experience. Their children learned "leadership skills" and gained an "increased sense of self-esteem" and a "strong sense of self." Children learned how to live with others and how to be part of the group. Parents observe that their children return home more mature in their relationships and in their behaviors. ... Parents say that their children acquired new skills, largely because the experience allowed them to try new activities and build on strengths.
These observations are taken from the recently updated study "Limud by the Lake Revisited" about the effects of Jewish summer camp on children. I can hardly imagine a better description of the educational and growth experiences parents wish for their children. And yet, sending our kids away seems counterintuitive. How can our young children thrive without our loving, caring presence?
It strikes me that birth is just the first in a long process of gradual separation. First children physically separate, and in young adulthood we talk about cutting the proverbial umbilical cord so that our children can become independent adults. The Hebrew tzimtzum describes the contraction of the Creator so that the creation could exist; if God once filled everything, God needed to contract in order for the world to have a space to be. In that space, there is simultaneously an absence and a strong sense of an enveloping, loving presence. Both are required for individuation and actualization. In this parenting podcast, you can hear camp director Jonathan "JC" Cohen talk about how the freedom of sleep away camp gives children the chance to blossom while still in a safe, loving and supportive environment.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Poll: Over half of Egyptians want to cancel peace treaty with Israel - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The questions, he said, are about, “‘How does this Halacha, this text, apply to me?’ That’s how this deep analysis will often lead to diverse conclusions. That, ideally, should emerge not from a person’s own personal preference but from a real, honest assessment.” Loeb said that examining issues of sexuality in a nuanced way has led her to confront the question of whether she can live a halachic life.
Read more: http://forward.com/articles/137147/#ixzz1KUkESaQa
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
My grandparents were holocaust survivors. When they came to America, their primary focus was becoming American. So instead of Hebrew school, my mom was a girl scout. And instead of speaking Yiddish to their children, they struggled through English (with crazy thick accents). When we grandchildren came along, my grandfather (Papa) thought is was a good idea to get a little Judaism back into the family, so they sent us all to day school. When Passover came around, although Papa would sit at the head of the table, it was the grandchildren who led the seder. We divided up the parts and sped through the Hebrew reading and songs we had learned with energy and enthusiasm. While Papa beamed with pride and our parents enjoyed feeling like their money was well spent, everyone over the age of 11 sat watching the show, unable to follow along and unsure how to participate.
As we grew up, the old methods didn’t quite do it for us anymore either. Few 23 year olds are willing to jump on chairs and sing Hebrew songs at the top of their lungs in front of parents and friends. That said, not every great Seder includes loud outbursts of adolescent singing. In fact, some of the best don’t have any. With a bit of preparation and planning, anyone can host an engaging, interactive, totally not-lame Seder. Below are some tips.
1. ZAYDE SHOULDN’T LEAD. EITHER SHOULD YOU.
A good Seder is a group project. Get the group involved early on. Assign parts in advance to all your guests. Give them a section of the Seder; ask them to think about a creative activity, some discussion questions, or an interesting article or text that relates to their topic. Everyone in the room gets to lead a piece and feels invested in the process.
30 minutes of preparation a few nights before the Seder will go a long way. You can ask guests to lead sections, but you can’t expect a Seder to run itself entirely. Look through your haggadah, take notes, decide in advance what pieces you want to skip or definitely want to do. Write out a few questions and ideas that are interesting and relevant to your guests.
3. USE PROPS!
No matter your age, throwing ping-pong balls at people is fun. So is flinging plastic frogs at your sister. Party stores carry lots of options for plagues. Don’t go with the pre-packaged kits, be creative and make your own.
4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT HAGGADAH.
While you may be nostalgic for the Maxwell House version of the past, it is time to graduate to something more interesting, relevant and user friendly. My favorite right now is: A Night To Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices.
5. BUT DON’T READ IT.
No one wants to sit and read a book for two hours. Be creative about how you retell the story. Come up with games and activities. Bring in contemporary articles about the Arab Spring or the need for a livable wage for discussion or consider including a supplement or two (or three). Put on a play. Just don’t sit in one place and read a book in a foreign language that no one understands.
6. ASK REAL QUESTIONS.
Find ways of inviting everyone’s voice into the room early on. Ask a question that everyone can answer no matter their age, connection to or understanding of the tradition. What makes you feel like a slave? Are there people in our society today that need redeeming?
7. EAT EARLY!
Hunger always gets in the way. The dipping of the parsley actually took the place of the salad course in ancient Rome. Bring back the salad course! Try dipping other things- potatoes, salad, artichokes. Just no matzah yet!
8. GET IN THE MOOD.
This isn’t a formal dinner; it’s a themed dinner party. Wear (or bring) costumes. Decorate part of your house like the desert or a parted sea. Set up a comfortable space for good conversation – no one said a Seder had to take place around a table in a formal dining room. Sit on the floor or on couches. Provide pillows (or invite guests to bring their own) to recline on.
9. GET RID OF THE GUILT.
Pay less attention to what you think should happen at a Seder or your Seder last year, and more attention to who is in the room and the experience you are having in that moment.
10. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS.
Lots and lots of wine! 4 cups doesn’t mean 4 sips. So lean to the left and down that entire glass of cheap kosher merlot.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
It reminds me, frankly, of several very strident Unitarian Universalists I knew in college. I know, you're thinking, "UUs? STRIDENT?" Well, these cats were; something to learn from.
I know a lot of people who would give their life for Chabad. And for a long time, I never understood why. These people aren’t orthodox. But Chabad is the greatest thing to them since sliced bread and is responsible for anything that they do in the realm of Jewish. On top of that, our boy Shmuley Boteach recently wrote that Judaism is under “Chabadization”.
Why do people love Chabad so much? I think it’s because Chabad know’s they’re awesome and don’t give a damn what you think.
Take a look at the first sentence of the Chabad FAQ page:
Chabad-Lubavitch is a philosophy, a movement, and an organization. It is considered to be the most dynamic force in Jewish life today.
I like how assertive that is! Frankly, it’s manly. If Chabad were a man, it would be the kind of man that other men want to be and that women want to have a one-night stand with.
Compare that to statements on the Reform website:
The great contribution of Reform Judaism is that it has enabled the Jewish people to introduce innovation while preserving tradition, to embrace diversity while asserting commonality, to affirm beliefs without rejecting those who doubt, and to bring faith to sacred texts without sacrificing critical scholarship.
This statement really bothers me because it’s boring. But also, its tone is very apologetic. It’s like the Reform movement is sorry that it’s innovating and that it promises it’s still traditional Judaism. I think more people would support the Reform movement if their statement said, “look, this isn’t Orthodoxy. This isn’t Israeli-approved Torah derech. Deal with it. We’re 40% of the population and growing.”
OK, so what does the Conservative/Masorti movement have to say for itself?
What is Masorti Judaism? This is not an easy question to answer.
Wow. You are part of something and you can’t even explain it. Maybe that’s why Conservative Judaism is in decline.
Chabad has taken over the Jewish world because it’s bold. You may not like it, but it doesn’t care. And people, I think, respect that. No one likes a wimp.
So my question is this: why is Chabad so bold and why are the other movements (Orthodox and otherwise) so passive?
Why Do People Love Chabad So Much?
Monday, April 11, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Rabbi Zvi Anshel HaLevi Leshem
(Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the full PDF with sources)
1. Some of the oils designated as "kitniot" or "only for those who eat kitniot" are permissible also to Ashkenazim (even according to the position which prohibits kitniot oil), such as peanut, soy, canola and cottonseed oils.
2. Some of the products that are labeled "for those who eat kitniot only" are permissible according to all opinions, since the ratio of kitniot ingredients is less than 50%, and they are therefore annulled in the majority of non-kitniot ingredients. Additionally the kitniot ingredients are often oils such as soybean, that were never included in the prohibition, or derivatives of these oils. Only those foods in which the kitniot ingredients constitute the majority are prohibited. Therefore, many dairy products, "kosher for Pesach" cookies, chocolates and more, which are labeled "kitniot" or "only for those who eat kitniot" or "for those who eat liftit" (liftit and lecithin are both types of canola) are completely permissible for Ashkenazim.
3.Quinoa, which is a very new food (other than for native South Americans), is permissible.
4. There is no problem for an Ashkenazi to be a guest of a Sephardi on Pesach and to eat food prepared in vessels that were used to cook kitniot, even within 24 hours of the meal. This is true since if the kitniot themselves can be annulled in a mixture of a majority of other ingredients, their taste is certainly annulled. Moreover, even if the food contains a kitniot ingredient, as long as it is not the majority and is not recognizable as a separate element of the dish, it is also permitted.
5. Those people who have thus far been careful not to purchase any food item labeled "for those who eat kitniot only", because they believed that this was in fact the Halacha, are not considered to have accepted this as their custom; it is at best a "mistaken custom" and they are not required to perform "vow annulment" in order to eat such items.
6. It is a mitzva to publicize this decision, which is based upon the traditional Halachic methodology of the great authorities throughout the generations, and not upon looking for unnecessary stringencies.
A CALL TO ACTION
SB30 has cleared the Senate and is ready to go to the full House for a vote as early as Thursday, April 14! We need all of our supporters to contact their representative and do one of two things: If your representative is listed as a co-sponsor of the bill, thank them for their support. If your representative is not listed as a co-sponsor (indicated in bold), request that they vote YES when the bill comes to a vote in the House!
Please call only during normal business hours. The best time to actually reach your representative is Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday after 12:00 PM. If your representative is not available to take your call, please leave a message of support and include your name and address to indicate that you are a constituent. If your schedule allows, go to Dover and meet your representative in person.
Please forward this email to your friends
State of Delaware
House of Representatives – 146th General Assembly
Dennis P. Williams - D 1 Wilmington North Dennis.Williams@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
Stephanie T. Bolden - D 2 Wilmington Central StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Helene Keeley – D 3 Wilmington South Helene.Keeley@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Gerald Brady - D 4 Wilmington West Gerald.Brady@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Melanie George – D 5 Bear/Newark (302) 744-4126
Debra Heffernan - D 6 Fox Point Debra.Heffernan@state.de.us 302-744-43511
*Bryon H. Short - D 7 Brandywine Hundred Bryon.Short@state.de.us (302) 744-4297
*S. Quinton Johnson, IV - D 8 Middletown Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
Rebecca Walker - D 9 Middletown Rebecca.Walker@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Dennis E. Williams - D 10 Talleyville Dennis.E.Williams@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
Gregory Lavelle - R 11 Sharpley Greg.Lavelle@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
*Deborah Hudson - R 12 Fairthorne Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
*John L. Mitchell, Jr. - D 13 Woodcrest John.L.Mitchell@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Peter Schwartzkopf – D
(Majority Leader) 14 Rehoboth (302) 744-4351
*Valerie Longhurst – D
(Majority Whip) 15 Bear
Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*James Johnson - D 16 Swanwyck JJ.Johnson@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Michael Mulrooney - D 17 Pennwood Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Michael A. Barbieri - D 18 Stratford Michael.Barbieri@state.de.us (302) 744-4192
*Robert Gilligan - D (Speaker) 19 Sherwood Park Robert.Gilligan@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Nick Manolakos - R 20 Limestone Hills
Nick.T.Manolakos@state.de.us (302) 744-4321
*Michael Ramone - R 21 Drummond Hill
Michael.Ramone@state.de.us (302) 744-4108
*Joseph Miro - R 22 Pike Creek Valley Joseph.Miro@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
*Teresa Schooley - D 23 Newark Terry.Schooley@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
Edward S. Osienski - D 24 Beechers Lot Edward.Osienski@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*John Kowalko - D 25 Newark South John.Kowalko@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*John Viola - D 26 Newark John.Viola@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
*Earl Jaques - D 27 Caravel Farms Earl.Jaques@state.de.us (302) 744-4142
William J. Carson - D 28 Smyrna William.Carsom@state.de.us (302) 744-4113
Lincoln D. Willis -R 29 Dover West Lincoln.Willis@state.de.us (302) 744-4033
William Outten - R 30 Harrington Bobby.Outten@state.de.us (302) 744-4083
*Darryl M. Scott - D 31 Dover Darryl.Scott@state.de.us (302) 744-4083
E. Bradford Bennett - D 32 Dover South Bradford.Bennett@state.de.us (302) 744-4351
Harold J. Peterman - R 33 Frederica Jack.Peterman@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
Donald Blakey - R 34 Buchanan Acres
Donald.Blakey@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
David L. Wilson - R 35 Bridgeville David.Wilson@state.de.us (302) 744-4150
Harvey R. Kenton - R 36 Milford/Milton Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
Ruth Briggs King - R 37 Georgetown/Lewes Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us (302) 744-4251
Gerald W. Hocker - R 38 Ocean View (302) 744-4171
Daniel Short – R (Minority Whip) 39 Seaford Daniel.Short@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
Clifford Lee - R 40 Laurel Biff.Lee@state.de.us (302) 744-4171
John Atkins - D 41 Millsboro John.Atkins@state.de.us (302) 744-4082
A letter to progressive U.S. Jews: These are your people
We have lost perspective in this endless war. In a kind of affirmative action, some progressive American Jews support, identify with and help Palestinian victims of the conflict, while shunning, or worse, blaming the Israeli victims.By Bradley Burston
Please try to imagine what it’s like here. It's Shabbat, a gorgeous day in a place where a beautiful day has no equal on earth. And a place where the most beautiful of days are often also, hands down, the most horrific.
My wife and I are running along the side of a mountain near our home. We can see Gaza from here, and also the kibbutzim and the towns and villages that border it. Israel and Palestine are at war.
Down the mountain and to our left, many of the most progressive of all Israelis - the most consistent in their championing of Palestinian independence, the most vocal in their defense of human rights and a viable, just Mideast peace - are directly in the sights of Hamas gunners.
"J Street should donate armored school buses, they should donate Iron Dome batteries" my wife says. The Iron Dome is Israel's most revolutionary weapon. All it does is intercept and kill incoming rockets.
Alone of all weapons on both sides, Iron Dome leaves people alive – on both sides of the border.
Down the mountain, friends of ours, friends as close as blood, are trapped in shelters. They are unable to explain to their children and grandchildren why today – like yesterday, and the days before that - they cannot go outside, why the entire family, or several families, must sleep in one cramped armored room, and why some families don't even have that to protect them. Why the explosions don't stop. And why they don't know how long it's going to be before they will.
They cannot explain to their children, or to themselves, why, when the alarm sounds, some families must run outside and take cover in a large sewer pipe, where as many as six other families may be taking cover. Why it took so long for the authorities to budget and build shelters. Why there are so few Iron Domes, and none nearby.
Looking down from this mountain, I'm thinking about the people we come from, our eidah, the branch of the Jews we belong to. Americans. Progressives.
The most radical, the most progressive single step that our people can take right now – and in some ways, the most dangerously unpopular – is to be moved to positive action to come to the aid of the civilian victims on not one, but both sides.
Somewhere, we have lost perspective. In war without end, in inhumanity without boundaries, we have lost some of our own humanity. In a kind of affirmative action, driven by the one-sidedness, the chauvinism, and the exclusionism of the pro-Israel establishment, it has been the fate and the practice of some progressive American Jews to support, identify with and help Palestinian victims of the conflict, while relating to Israeli victims with a cold shoulder, or worse, with victim-blaming.
It is seven in the morning. By seven in the evening, scores of rockets and mortar shells will have been fired at the people who are as close to us as blood. It is clear enough to see the southern coastline, where two and a half million people, non-combatants on both sides of the border, are breathing only erratically, knowing that every one of them could be a target.
This is a test for progressives.
It is crucially important that the New Israel Fund and other organizations – all of them groups of warm hearts rather than cold shoulders - continue their work for the benefit of Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and other non-Jews in Israel. But it is no less important that these groups, be they J Street, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Meretz USA, Tikkun, the Jewish Voice for Peace and many others, take further steps for Israeli Jews literally under the gun.
My wife is right. There is much more that our people, progressive American Jews, can and should do to demonstrate humanist concern on this side of the border.
This could mean adopting communities, raising money to see to their needs and, in particular, their defense.
It's time. Days like this. This is when it matters.
Friday, April 8, 2011
The Progressive Judaism and Masorti movements are demanding that the defense minister and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff appoint a Reform or Conservative military rabbi to provide religious services to non-Orthodox Jewish soldiers.
In a letter sent by leaders of the two moments to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, they claim that the current Military Rabbinate cannot or is not interested in providing the religious needs of soldiers with a different worldviews, and therefore the IDF must give them an alternative.
Soldiers facing difficulties
Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center and Rabbi Mauricio Balter of the Masorti Movement note in their letter that there are dozens of active Reform and Conservative congregations in Israel, and that thousands of citizens take part in their activities.
"The Jewish soldiers serving in the army reflect the composition of the Jewish population in the country, which is mostly non-Orthodox," the two write, demanding that the IDF treat all its soldiers equally and respect their freedom of religion.
"Currently, religious services in the IDF are provided exclusively by the Military Rabbinate, which is affiliated with and operates as part of Judaism's Orthodox stream. This situation means that the needs of soldiers affiliated with Judaism's non-Orthodox streams are not met throughout their military services – compulsory, career and reserve service.
"The commanders in the different units and the elements in charge of providing religious services in the units are unfamiliar with the nature of the non-Orthodox religious services, and therefore cannot meet different demands in this context."
The letter, which was also sent to Major-General Avi Zamir, head of the IDF'S Personnel Directorate, and Chief Military Rabbi Brigadier-General Rafi Peretz, includes examples from recent years of difficulties encountered by non-Orthodox soldiers: A commander's refusal to exempt his soldiers from the daily shaving duty during the Counting of the Omer, because they don't wear a skullcap; rejecting female soldiers' request to hold a women's prayer at their base's synagogues; and denying a bereaved family's request to hold a Reform funeral for a fallen soldier.
"We believe soldiers interested in non-Orthodox religious services should have the option to turn to a Reform or Conservative military rabbi, who will be able to provide individual religious services to soldiers, instructions to the commanders, and advice on religious affairs," Kariv and Balter explained.
"We would be happy to hold a dialogue on this important issue with the authorized elements in the defense establishment and IDF, in order to find a suitable solution, which would guarantee an equal and honorable response of religious services to non-Orthodox soldiers as well."
Rabbi Balter said he had appealed to the chief of staff and defense minister after "soldiers belonging to the Masorti Movement, a Zionist movement which encourages its youth to serve in the army, expressed their distress and need for spiritual support matching their way of life."
According to Balter, "Every soldier who dedicates his time, and sometimes risks his life for the State, is entitled to religious services in accordance to his faith."
Rabbi Gilad Kariv added, "The IDF is the people's army, and the central place where the Israeli communities meet with each other. It's only natural that this should be expressed in the service of Reform and Conservative rabbis alongside their Orthodox colleagues out of mutual respect and a common desire to serve the State of Israel."
The IDF Spokesperson's Office said in response, "The discussed letter has been received by the IDF. The response will be given directly to its senders, and not through the media."
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.
In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.