A Philadelphia resident, she founded and also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Reclaiming Judaism Press. She travels internationally much of the year as a teacher and student of Torah and Jewish spiritual practices, and in winter serves a four-month rabbi-in-residency for Kol HaNeshamah in Sarasota, Florida. A Covenant Foundation Award finalist for excellence as a Jewish educator, she was dubbed "Reb Goldie" by a Squarer rebbe in the Ukraine while teaching for Project Kesher post-Perestroika. Inventor and original co-anchor and producer of Health Watch for NBC TV 40, she presently teaches Jewish Bioethics and Pastoral Counseling for the Aleph Ordination Programs.
Along her life path thus far Rabbi Milgram has served as a Dean at The Academy for Jewish Religion, a Jewish Federation executive, Hillel director, pulpit rabbi, Jewish newspaper editor, religious school principal, Jewish camping innovator, founder of the nation's third Holocaust archive as well as serving at Princeton University, the 92nd St Y, Esalen, Bard & Gettysburg Colleges, Elat Chayyim, National Havurah Institute, and as a speaker, service, ritual and workshop leader in several hundred cities and many countries. She is presently passionately spearheading the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Institute Initiative, researched under a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, which focuses on creating meaningful and effective ways of preparing students for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. She also heads the Reclaiming Judaism "Living a Mitzvah-Centered Life" initiative in honor of Peninnah Schram.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled in [April] that women praying at the Western Wall with prayer shawls and tefillin does not constitute a violation of "local custom" or a provocation, and therefore, no justification exists for detaining and interrogating women who engage in these practices. [Haaretz] Poet Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff's response arrives in verse:
Women wearing tefillin and talit at the Western Wall. Photo: Michal Patelle.
Jerusalem Knows My Name
I can pray,
I can dance
While wearing purple and gold
In the shadow of King David's Tower,
Because this City of Gold
This City of Peace
This Jerusalem, is
Its stones are smooth from my caress.
Recognize my footsteps.
Know my name.
The Shekhina sings from my heart
In a voice soft and strong and round...
I have not forgotten Thee,
I have not forgotten Thee.
My City of Gold,
My City of Peace....
You have kept me, and
You have remembered.
You have remembered me.
Sometimes a book becomes a mitzvah because it's just what you needed to better understand how to deal with a difficult situation. My spouse and I struggle greatly with relating to our family's baal teshuvah branch — those who have chosen ultra Orthodoxy and become passionate adherents of its stringencies as their path to self-realization. Conversely, there are those who, like Yisroel Eichenstein, autobiographical author of The Rebel and the Rabbi's Son, are born into ultra Orthodoxy and ultimately choose to leave that path in order to attain the freedom to be themselves. This slender, courageous volume helped us to better appreciate how to relate to our very religious children and grandchildren, and the extremely important role grandparents of all backgrounds and practices may have in such scenarios.
Difficult to date, but definitely written prior to 87 B.C.E., when it was translated into Greek, Megillat Esther appears to have been a romance novel or satire of the Persian Empire period, incorporating aspects of the Babylonian mythological goddess Ishtar, also known as Astarte, and the god Marduk. Notice how strikingly close these names are to those of the Purim heroine, Esther, and her uncle, Mordechai. So nu? Why make Purim a sacred time for Jews?
Purim is what cultural anthropologists would term a rite of reversal. Such rites, during hard times, serves as a people's valve for letting off toxic emotional steam. The story is a political satire — where else in antiquity could Jews win at every turn? Purim is wish fulfillment within comedic relief during times of oppression — the Daily Show of its times.
Fascinating reading and learning surprises await those who dive into the vividly depicted world of Babylonian Jewry in Rav Hisda's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery by Maggie Anton who earlier brought us the remarkable historical fiction series Rashi's Daughters. Anton succeeds brilliantly in drawing us into the formative period leading up to the Talmud. This was a time when most in the third century Persian culture — men, women and children, sages and commoners, Jews and gentiles - wore amulets, incantation bowls and spells for protection from demons and disease, and in hopes of fertility, healing and good fortune. Yes, this is all well documented right in the Talmud, a typically 37 volume work that emerges after the time of this story, aspects of which are elegantly embroidered into the Rav Hisda's Daughter's narrative. Anton also incorporates Jewish ownership of slaves during this time, rabbinic laws and customs re menstruation, along with betrothal and marriage law by means of the engaging tools of good fiction.
Recent olim from Ethiopia celebrate as they dance at a "Hachnasat Sefer Torah" ceremony at The Jewish Agency for Israel's Ibim Absorption Center. Photo: Ofer Baram, The Jewish Agency for Israel.
— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram
Imagine making aliyah, moving to Israel during incoming missiles from Gaza. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that yesterday, more than 500 new Jewish immigrants to Israel from Ethiopia transformed trauma into joy by welcoming a Torah scroll donated by Charles and Ariela Zeloof. Those at the Jewish Agency's Ibim Immigrant Absorption Center had spent much of last week in bomb shelters.
"It was the summer of 2001, and I was finding my seat on an Egged bus headed to Tzefat. To my left sat an elderly Ethiopian gentleman; the morning sun protruding from the window cast shadows on his face. His cane leaned against his leg, and a broad smile welcomed me for the next three or so hours. I returned the smile.
"So," which seemed like a good way to make conversation, "maybe you have a story you can share with me?"
"A story?" He was clearly puzzled, unsure how to stereotype the young, red-bearded, black-hat-wearing rabbi sitting beside him.
"You must have a story to share with the next generation."
Like an enlightened philosopher, his eyes lit up and his words began to flow:
Old wounds were opened for Holocaust survivors and those who care about them when art gallery owner, Martin Bryer, placed on show a painting made of ashes of the Holocaust victims' murdered at Majdanek extermination camp. He initially claimed his decision to have "no moral flaws" but ultimately succumbed to world-wide pressure to withdraw the painting from exhibition. This is the letter that I sent to him:
Dear Mr. Bryer:
In the 1980's in Vineland, a New Jersey Holocaust survivor went back to Auschwitz on a pilgrimage to visit the ashes of her entire family and reflect upon her experience. While sitting, her hand stroking some loose earth, she came upon a significant piece of jawbone. Distressed to the extreme, she put it into her pocketbook. Back in the states, she came into my office, when I was serving as a Jewish Federation executive, saying she'd not meant to remove it from the site, but in her distress had done so. She placed it on my desk asking what to do now.
Fugitive Colors by Lisa Barr offers a sensuous and stunning entry into the art scene in Europe during World War II. This work of profoundly engaging historical fiction delves into the passion and peril of those artists who were then in the thrall of creating a wide array of modern art genres. Entartete Kunste — "degenerate art" is the term the Nazi spin doctors created to justify prohibiting, destroying and also secretly hoarding some of the works of emerging avant garde masters such as Klee, Mondrian, Munch, Chagall, Kandinsky, Nolde and over one hundred more.
Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael and her musical and movement troupe transformed an Elkins Park Mansion into an interactive musical theater Kabbalah Salon Saturday night. Her goal:
"To educate interested seekers and artists about the Jewish esoteric tradition of Kabbalah in an entertaining manner... Shechinah, the Divine Feminie of the Kabbalists has been my path and my muse and her guiding wisdom is the inspiration behind this theatrical performance."
Mourdock said 'when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." That is magical thinking. If I (or anyone) put sperm and eggs together enough times in a test tube, a conception results, that was my will, not God's. A matter of intention, and compatibility of pH and DNA, sperm motility and many other clearly identifiable factors. Mourdock's infantile thinking (pardon the pun) demeans God, and as a woman I find his statement to be a form of religious terrorism.
The Union for Reform Judaism is proud to announce new directors for its two specialty camps. Eric Lightman will direct the new URJ 6 Points Science and Technology Academy and Alan Friedman will oversee the already highly successful URJ 6 Points Sports Academy.
The focus of God's Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living by Michael Kagan, is to inspire effective co-existence and collaborative care for the planet among members of three faiths: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. This slender volume packs a unique punch because of the author's ability to weave, intelligently and respectfully, core metaphors, principles and teachings from the three Abrahamic faiths. At the same time, it reprimands and exhorts each equally to reframe perspectives and behavior toward the greatest good for all that lives. The material affords a novel stimulus for interfaith study and has a number of components that might be productively integrated into religious services within each faith. The raging tenor of the text renders it best utilized by selecting pieces for specific occasions.
Submissions are invited of previously unpublished mitzvah-centered stories in honor of the esteemed Jewish educator Danny Siegel. Stories should be written for Jewish family reading and take the form of engaging tales of good literary quality that inspire and support a mitzvah-centered life. There will be a juried process to select stories for inclusion from among the submissions. Reclaiming Judaism Press will be publishing the volume, provisionally titled, A Family Treasury of Mitzvah Stories.
As we batten down the hatches in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, there are many mitzvot to undertake for family and neighbors. Here are several that come quickly to mind that I haven't seen on the standard sites to help us prepare.
Call elderly neighbors and those who are disabled and/or unemployed, physically ill or emotionally fragile to ask if they need help bringing things in from outside, property and auto protection, make sure they secure sufficient food, water and batteries. You might bring them in to stay in a guestroom to reduce fear and isolation, ensure warmth and safety.
Are you the wrong person to be alone right now? Call friends, family and neighbors and arrange to stay with them. Bring provisions, flashlights and batteries to help out. Far better safe than sorry.
Make a regular check-in plan for while the storm rages, if electric goes out, keep these short and reassuring so as not to lose all your battery.
Now and during the storm, start collecting things to donate to those who will have had major losses, talk together about a family tzedakah plan for funds to donate as well.
No one to reach out to? E-mail me and our team at PJVoice will do our best to respond.
New Skills for Jewish Educators through Distance Learning
3 Mmm: Maggid, Mitzvah & Mussar is a new distance-learning certification program for Jewish educators, tutors, counselors & youth leaders. This two-year program is designed to advance the skills of Jewish educators, camp counselors, and youth leaders yearning to effectively engage students and transmit the meaning, relevance and joy of Jewish learning and living. Training will focus on the skills of Jewish storytelling and spiritual development (hashpa'ah), coupled with depth studies in the texts, practices and methods of mussar (ethical development) and mitzvah. Core faculty are Peninnah Schram, Rabbi Goldie Milgram, Arthur Strimling (and colleagues). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today USCJ is coordinating a Global Sh'ma FlashMob in support of Jewish pluralism in the face of the arrest of Anat Hoffman for chanting the Shema at the Kotel. Those in the states are timed to those held today in Israel.
KOACH is asking kehillot, members, friends and affiliates and everyone who cares about this matter to gather to recite or sing the Sh'ma, adding a short statement about who they are, where they are located and why they support the cause of religious pluralism in Israel. Each public Sh'ma recitation and statement should be filmed (keep it low-tech; smart-phones are fine) and then immediately posted to this Facebook page.
If you can't make it, then do this with your friends, classes, groups all week somewhere!
Today is the Jewish festival of Tu b'Av, which after Tisha b'Av, brings the message that we can overcome trauma, live again and find. First, we have to love ourselves and have inner strength and conviction we merit existence and support. The photos chosen for this article show an expression of love, remembrance and resistance. I never thought a tattoo could bring me to tears again after seeing number tattoos on Shoah survivors. But these photos are powerful, too, because they are about resistance.
With much difficulty and the necessity of a personal courier to hunt for it in Israel, my shul, Lower Merion Synagogue, was able to screen the documentary film, One of the Lamed Vav, about the life of Rav Aryeh Levin, whose biography was titled, A Tzaddik In Our Time. (Lamed Vav refers to the 36 righteous people hidden in our midst, according to mystical lore.) Our Rabbi Emeritus, Abraham Levene, then spoke about his esteemed grandfather to an audience of seniors. I took privilege in attending, although I was not a member of the target audience.
The dimming of America's liberty, justice and mitzvah-centered, rather-than self-centered approach to existence is sad and frightening. Here are words of inspiration given by my colleague,
Rabbi Dan Gordon, June 9, 2012 at the Texas Democratic State Convention. As the daughter of a veteran, of blessed memory, I appreciate his words all the more.
The audience roared to its feet at the conclusion of the premiere of the new opera, Slaying the Dragon on Thursday night, with music by Michael Ching and an original libretto by Ellen Frankel. Perhaps you know the name, Ellen Frankel? Former long-time CEO of Jewish Publication Society and author of numerous books, a life-time goal, to create opera was satisfied in this powerful event at the Prince Music Theater in downtown Philadelphia. A renaissance woman among us and there's another week of performances ahead!
Looking for Me in This Great Big Family by Betsy R. Rosenthal is a powerful free-verse lament about the burdens of growing up in a large family. Laments are an important part of mobilizing oneself toward healing. This novel offers numerous worthwhile teachable moments for parents and educators who gift or assign it. The rising rates of unemployment and economic hardship worldwide allow these colorful and instructive Depression-era laments to take on new and helpful resonance. This novel is empowering, not depressing, because a lament is a form of reaching out, a burden being recognized and shared when we lighten it through
"Outside the box and over the top interesting", is how participant Ron Siegel, described his 2012 LimmudPhilly this past weekend. "National leaders and the best of local teachers came out and gave their best. We were like drinking it up." Exclaimed 20 and 30-something Anna and Beth Silver. Sophie Mellon added: "Just today, I learned how to encounter a homeless person in one session, Jewish traditions about creating social change in another, and then I attended a Jewish theater event, a very hot Maccabeat concert, and the discussion at lunch about Jewish values and health insurance, I learned a ton."
A last minute wonderfulness.... Spiritual preparation for Passover in three, 2 minute visualizations, by Rabbi Joyce Reinitz, also a psychotherapist, who specializes in Jewish healing using the therapeutic guidance modalities developed by her honored teacher, of blessed memory, Madame Colette Aboulker-Muscat.
Limmud Philly 2012, Friday April 27 through Sunday, April 29! PhillyLimmud is a widely acclaimed festival of Jewish learning and culture where 70 amazing presentations are scheduled this year.
Be sure to stop by the Philadelphia Jewish Voice table in the Hall of Community Organizations to express your Jewish media needs and views to members of our editorial team, and to receive a free Philadelphia Jewish Voice bumper sticker. You will also have the opportunity to buy autographed copies of Rabbi Milgram's new book Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning, and just-released decks to Mitzvah Cards, in support of LimmudPhilly and the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.
Rabbi Goldie Milgram, our Judaism Editor, will be teaching, among more than 70 amazing presentations scheduled:
Mark your calendars for
What Jewish person can live with the knowledge over 18% of Philadelphians live below the poverty line? Many suffer malnutrition due to poverty; over 12% of Jewish Philadelphians are impoverished to the point of needing help with affording food. There are things you can do immediately, beginning with watching the 4 minute video on the right.
Washington, DC - Jewish Women International (JWI) announces the release of the first in a series of study guides related to Women, Relationships and Jewish Text. Rethinking Purim is designed to spark new conversations about relationships by offering a fresh look at old texts. The guides are a project of JWI's Clergy Task Force on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community, a group of prominent clergy committed to promoting Jewish responses and resources that end violence against women. Three more guides will be released in the coming year, each relating to a Jewish holiday.
Rather than post a new story, please note that this morning Komen restored Planned Parenthood for now. Hadassah sent out a press release that they are grateful for this about face. Grateful? How about relieved and vigilant. I'm keeping my money on Planned Parenthood.
I hope the analysis below that I posted yesterday remains in your saved email to use the key points for future such situations.
The Komen situation is a fundamental abrogation of Jewish values and any breakdown along Republican and Democratic lines on this one is a dangerous and false dichotomy. I've today been able to speak "off the record" with several Komen employees at a variety of regional levels.
Apparently some of their staff are tendering resignations, many more are wrestling with themselves over whether to do so, given the high national rate of unemployment.
There are only two ways to raise your children: you either shut them down or you open them up.
If you shut them down you raise them in a zero-sum world of winners and losers. You teach them that the world is a pie of fixed size, and that if they want more they must see that others have less or perhaps nothing at all. This is a fearful world of endless and often violent competition and retribution; a world of haves and have-nots; a world of us versus them where the ends (the success of us) justify the means (whatever secures the failure of them).
If you open your children up you raise them in a nonzero-sum world where abundance is the norm, and while there will still be winners and losers-those who have more and those have less-it is not a world that allows some to have nothing. This is a world rooted in compassion rather than competition; a world of us and them rather than a world of us versus them.
PJVoice readers will surely love, as the cover copy indicates: "to dive into these sixty inspiring and provocative adult-level mitzvah stories crafted by leading Jewish storytellers, rabbis and authors from across the full spectrum of Jewish life. These juried, newly-minted tales reveal how each mitzvah, when carried out with understanding and creativity, becomes a rich source of spirituality and meaning." Mitzvah Stories cultivates respectful Jewish community and facilitates engaged Jewish living. Meant for reading and retelling across the generations, Mitzvah Stories shows us that Judaism is a spiritual practice.
Information on the companion deck of 52 professionally illustrated Mitzvah Cards follows the jump.
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