His patience and willingness to restate his message is impressive, given how slow the uptake among congregations worldwide seems to be, at least in this reviewer's experience. And as times are changing, the direction of relationship-building is changing, as Wolfson indicates in a telling quote from a congregational leader:
We thought Shabbat would be a doorway to relationships. We learned that relationships are a doorway to Shabbat.
This volume, about a Jewish mixed-race woman raised by her Christian grandparents in a rural area, seems to be intentionally designed as a tool for provoking discussion about race, prejudice, interfaith encounters, the Jewish mourning practice of sitting shiva and saying Kaddish, and dysfunctional families.
As an educator always looking out for high-school-level stories that reveal family diversity, the story also raises important psycho-dynamic issues: that some people do change over time, and how projecting expectations onto others can lead to devastating cruelty.
The violence of the rape and trauma scenes seems quite accurate. Shiva scenes of the Jewish week of mourning after burial reflect the unfortunate and common practice of people giving advice to the primary mourners. Our tradition teaches us to listen to feelings, and not offer fixes. Even so, Kaddish works its magic:
For a few brief moments, I no longer feel like a stranger, but part of something larger, grander than myself. We were brought together by death, but we're held together by the demands of life. That peace and comfort stays with me even as the circle breaks up.
A publication of the Conservative Movement's Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, the volume is a collection of essays by Jewish men offering intimate sharing from issues of their current lives. The intent is to stimulate men into returning to synagogue life through participation in male support groups.
The book has its problems, such as the absence of talk about the range of masculinities within gender, as in GBTQIA and a stunning absence of essays relating to maleness and social justice.
That said, many essays do reflect a poignant honesty about these Jewish mens' encounters with life's inevitable challenges.
One should keep in mind that such studies only document what had been, and typically miss the exciting new approaches across the flow of Jewish history, that percolate in every age, and sometimes catch on big time.
As announced in the Biennial, URJ membership is no longer required for attendance at its conferences, camps and youth groups. Many of the best innovations and innovators of our times, from within Reform, Jewish Renewal, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism, were in evidence.
Each attempted fusion worked elegantly and authentically, maintaining the heart and structure of Jewish prayer while riveting the 5,000 participants even during lengthy Shabbat services. Choreographer Liz Lerman led prayer through authentic movement, for example, and virtually everyone participated (see video).
The Tikvah Fund now accepts applications for its Spring and Summer 2014 Advanced Institutes.
The Fund is an educational organization aiming to promote Jewish thought on the questions of human life, and the challenges that confront the Jewish people.
The seminars will run 1-3 weeks. Institute participants will receive a stipend that will cover living expenses in New York City during their time there, as well as their investment of time.
Among the faculty for the 2014 Institutes are Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Shearith Israel, William Galston of the Brookings Institution, Start-up Nation author Dan Senor, and acclaimed novelist Dara Horn.
One Egg is a Fortune, edited by Pnina Jacobson and Judy Kempler, is three books in one: a high quality gourmet Jewish cookbook, a table book of magnificent food photographs, and an anthology of fascinating narratives from fifty contributing authors from around the world.
The editors put ten years into developing this beautiful volume, and it is perfect as a gift.
Taste test? The closest to that that we can do is to offer a section from the narrative of the former United States ambassador, Dennis Ross, and his excellent recipe as well. B'tayavon!
Ross' narrative and salmon fillet recipe follow the jump.
Crossing Cairo is a fascinating and useful read for potential travelers to the region, armchair adventurers and also for those who contemplate the lessons of personal experience and history.
The book is a memoir of the 2006 six-month stay in Egypt of a Jewish couple and their children, aged 12 and 17.
As the author, Rabbi Ruth Sohn, pointed out in her prologue, 80,000 Jews lived in Egypt in the early 1940s, and today, there are barely any remaining Jewish Egyptian citizens. She finds them though, and introduces us to their story and takes us to what remains of Jewish sacred spaces.
She also makes interesting connections with local Muslims and other groups, and so is able to give us a window into the daily lives of those with cultural norms quite different to those of the West.
The upcoming convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving is not quite as rare as some have claimed.
Some of our older readers have already celebrated Hanukkah on Thanksgiving, and our younger readers may do so again, despite widespread Internet hoaxes claiming this has never happened before, or that it will not do so for 79,811 years:
So what has made this fallacy viral, and how does it happen that there were also times in years gone-by with convergences as well?
Some of the fallacy impact came from an article in the Boston Globe which reported a "calculation" that Thanksgivukkah "won't repeat for another 79,043 years." They also reported:
The magic struck last November, when Dana Gitell, a marketing specialist at NewBridge on the Charles, a Dedham retirement community, was driving to work.
She knew the holidays were going to overlap this year "because I had seen a list of holiday dates on the back of a Combined Jewish Philanthropies calendar," recalled Gitell, the wife of Seth Gitell, a former Menino press secretary now working for House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.
She was mentally running through a list of clunky names for the phenomenon — Hanukkahgiving? — when the more melodious Thanksgivukkah came to her.
Gitell, her sister-in-law, and a friend — an artist with New Yorker covers in her portfolio — promptly designed Thanksgivukkah illustrations and contacted ModernTribe.com, a hip Judaica site. Together, they created products including cards and a $36 T-shirt that reads "Thanksgivukkah 2013: 8 Days of Light Liberty & Latkes."
An article in Haaretz noted that she did not have permission to use the image she chose and received a cease and desist order on October 5.
A story found in the Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi, Baba Metziah, Chapter 2, Halacha 1) recounts how just after a rebbe bought a new donkey, one of his yeshiva students found a precious jewel in a small sack hanging on a rope tied around the donkey's neck.
The law was that anything that comes with a purchase belongs to the new owners. What would the rebbe do? Accept it as providential good fortune, or return the jewel?
The rebbe taught his student to return the stone, for sometimes one must go further than obeying the law in order to maintain peace.
Life has recreated the dilemma of our midrash this week, with the rabbi who bought a desk and found a bag filled with $98,000 hidden behind a drawer within it.
It takes a remarkable soul and talented writer to accomplish the simplicity, elegance and gentle support accomplished in Sheri Sinykin's award-winning children's book Zayde Comes to Live with illustrations by Kristina Swarner. Zayde is Yiddish for grandfather and the grandparent does not need to live in your home for this powerful book to have great value. When family dynamics allow for it, the reciprocal love, between a grandparent and a grandchild can be one of life's most precious and memorable gifts. Even so a great challenge arises for those who live long enough, as the grandfather explains simply and clearly to his little granddaughter:
"My body is getting tired. I know you can see this. Soon that outside part of me will return to the earth."
The granddaughter responds with the eternal voice of the child to ask: "But what happens to the inside part of you?" It is here that we realize just how tenderly and accessibly the author has come to our rescue in the pages that have lead up to this poignant moment.
Have you been wanting the courage to go down and visit congress to express your views? This video, taken yesterday of Philadelphia Rabbi Arthur Waskow leading the way, shows one clear and compelling way to do so. Filmed by an unnamed participant yesterday during a clergy visit to the office of House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Rabbi Waskow is joined by Gerry Serota of New Jewish Agenda, and Rabbi David Shneyer of Am Kolel, a greater Washington area congregation.
Seventy colleagues from a wide array of religions joined the effort, part of a Capitol Hill Pilgrimage with locked-out federal workers. Their goal: To urge an immediate end to the government shutdown and urgent passage of laws to prevent a default on the US debt. While Cantor wasn't in his office, interns and staff received what must surely have been an unforgettable delegation.
The Off the Derech (off the path of Orthodoxy) Facebook group is for people who have left Orthodox Judaism. I am one of several moderators on the group. This past Friday, one of our members, Deb Tambor, committed suicide. She was 33 and had left the Orthodox community.
What many don't know is that when you leave Orthodox Judaism for the secular world, and you fight for custody of your kids, you don't always win. The ultra-Orthodox community turns against you for leaving, and then turns your children against you. That is what happened to Deb.
A special call for short stories by Reclaiming Judaism Press focuses attention upon the need for stories that reflect the great diversity among Jewish youth and families.
Scheduled for a 2014 fall release, the emerging collection from the jury's process for "A Family Treasury of Mitzvah Stories" revealed gaps in coverage when it came to lives that include: GBLTQ, immigration, special needs, interracial, interfaith, Middle Eastern and Sephardi Jews and neighbors, Jewish cultures outside of the U.S., and progressive gender roles.
Founder and editor in chief of Reclaiming Judaism Press, Rabbi Goldie Milgram, called for submissions of stories that reflect youth and family diversity, while deepening appreciation and understanding of the vast array of Jewish spiritual practices, each of which is termed a mitzvah.
Rabbi Milgram practices blowing the shofar as Kabbalah4all.com's leader David Aharon Curtis prepares to begin his service.
— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram
On Erev Rosh Hashanah, my ankle was too swollen and painful to even hop over to the car to attend the services. That created a rare rabbinic opportunity for me: attending free High Holiday services on-line.
I did not know what to expect at all, as I had only accidentally tripped over the possibility, when researching a quote online earlier in that week. Here is how it works, at least with Kabbalah4all.com, and the golden-voiced, inclusive service leader, composer of Jewish music, David Aharon Curtis.
Everything on the website, including Shabbat and festival services year-round, is for free. I registered as a member, and downloaded the evening section of the High Holiday Prayerbook, (machzor). Before sundown, I logged in for the Rosh Hashanah evening service.
When children die indiscriminately at the hands of a dictator, our natural instinct is to protect and prevent.
— by Adam L. Beitman
This week, as the government is carefully building up public support for intervention in Syria, a consideration of recent history and the current situation in the Middle East presses itself upon us. More than anywhere else in the region, the dynamic in Syria illustrates the complexity of America's conflicting foreign policy considerations, along with the impossibility of determining where our strategic interests (however conceived) reside.
When children die indiscriminately at the hands of a dictator, our natural instinct is to protect and prevent. Our impulse to stop these abuses, however we can, is the right one. Yet, beyond that impulse, current U.S. foreign policy toward Syria has no clear goal.
It's not that often when Labor Day and Rosh Hashana fall so close together on the calendar. This year, there's one pressing Labor Day issue that should concern the entire Jewish community of the United States — the pitiful state of the federal minimum wage.
It's not a secret that the federal minimum wage isn't a living wage. At $7.25 an hour, today's full-time minimum wage worker makes just $15,080 a year. Even with two people working minimum wage jobs, the income is hovering at the poverty level — if they are even lucky enough to have full-time jobs.
More after the jump including this year's Presidential Labor Day Proclamation.
Now on display in a one woman show Observations at the Reading Public Museum that continues until September 14, the large canvass titled 1945 (Bendheim Remembrance) attracts rapt and immediate attention. Ownership of the painting quietly changed hands during the opening weekend, shortly after Alison Rotenberg brought her husband Dr. Larry Rotenberg MD, a child survivor of the Holocaust, over to see saying: "We're buying this." The Rotenbergs plan to temporarily place the work in their Reading, Pennsylvania home, for depth of contemplation and then move it to a more permanent, public venue.
Those who like step-by-step, New York Times-level recipes, where nothing is taken for granted about prior ingredient or utensil knowledge, will greatly appreciate Susie Feishbein's Kosher by Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, tips and techniques to make anyone a better cook. This volume is part of a continuing series, which demonstrates each vital step through the vibrant photography of John Uher. Fishbein, a widely published cookbook author, also teaches on cruise ships, offers week-long culinary adventures in Israel and Italy, and has been profiled through the media.
Dr. Joseph Rosenstein, the series creator of Siddur Eit Ratzon , offers authentic, refreshing and accessible approaches to fashioning a healthy, meaningful Jewish prayer life. This isn't a denominational publication — whatever your degree of orientation to Judaism, his approach will delight, inform and awaken. I'm giving birth to this review after nine months of praying the new Siddur Eit Ratzon collection, because I want you to know about this body of work in time to obtain copies to partner your high holiday experience.
Erica Brown's Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe aims readers toward heightened self-awareness, through both traditional and self-help approaches. She does this in order to advance our capacity for teshuva — correction of our foibles and realignment of relationships as the pathway to increased happiness.
Similarly to the approach of Rabbi Abraham Twersky, the talented addictions counselor, Brown analogizes teshuva to "recovery." Each chapter is based on a different verse of al cheyt, the prayer where we knock on the door to our hearts in Gestalt-like fashion, in hopes of awakening awareness and heightened authentic teshuva.
Tisha b'Av is a fast day in which we are turning our consciousness away from food, and onto how we tear down the fabric of society when Jews hate one another. Such hatred is traditionally given as the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple and is invoked in regard to other tragedies that have beset our people. A recent JTA article mentioned a video recently posted online, of a "Shas" (Sephardi Orthodox) rabbi declaring Jews in "knitted kippas," i.e. modern Orthodox Jews, to be "Amalek."
"Amalek" refers to the mitzvah of stamping out those engaging in pure evil. This evil is associated with those who assaulted the weak and elderly Jews at the rear of the Israelite exodus through the wilderness, later with Haman and his family in the Purim story, and eventually with Hitler and Nazism. Take a deep breath — and before vilifying the rabbi above, as he has reportedly done to other members of the Jewish people — let us not dare to be so easily goaded. Let's rather "be peace" and maintain an intention within our Tisha b'Av practice of creating room for the many religious and secular cultures within Judaism. I so deeply want to be what I am asking for — to "be peace." Yet, can I? Can you?
Rachel Coles' use of science fiction and fantasy in Pazuzu's Girl allows her to creatively convey a contemporary version of the immigrant family's teen-parent cultural divide: the agility of youth in adapting, prejudices encountered, and the parental frustrations and foibles. Written in the action language and imagery style of a teen movie, the literally alien father, daughter and her peers also suffer the horrific overreaction of the single parent father with his super-temper and super-powers. Another theme is the daughter's learning to respect and love a human student who isn't so much hot and hip as genuinely supportive and caring. Pazuzu's Girl raises a fundamental question for teens: when to obey a parent, and when parental commands must be set aside for the sake of survival.
Theological inquiry and Jewish learning are traditionally embedded like subtle gems in the Chelm genre, and Schuman has not missed a beat on this score either. The illustrations, by Kevin Kuhne, are so clever and lively that one can also get drawn into the story through them. The pacing and parsing of the narrative has the tone of a great storyteller. Good fun and solid musing, all in one.
Do you appreciate a good collection of Jewish sources on a topic, presented in a very readable way? One that guides you toward reflection upon your own prejudices and predilections? One that provides a review of the related research literature and a psychological approach to helping you to evolve into a better, more aware person? Then Baseless Hatred by Renee H. Levy might draw you in during the first half of the volume, and that would be a dayenu, i.e. it would be enough to justify encountering it.
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.
Two Jewish women, Anna and Fran Simon, both of Denver, Colo., became the first same-sex couple to be issued a Civil Union, license at a midnight ceremony on May 1 in the Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder. Rabbi Steve Booth participated in the rite, as well, having long-served beside them as an activist in this cause. In fact, it wasn't the Simons' first marriage ceremony.
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.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is an online non-profit volunteer based community newspaper serving the Philadelphia Jewish Community since 2005. We are dedicated to addressing the important social, political and cultural issues facing our community in a spirit of honesty, integrity and diversity.
Your tax-deductible donations will help give Voice to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish Community.
To pay by credit card or paypal, click here:
or send a check to:
Eric Smolen, Treasurer,
Philadelphia Jewish Voice,
327 Pembroke Road,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is organized pursuant to
Pennsylvania's non-profit corporation law. We have tax-exempt status under IRS
Code Section 501(c)(3). Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of
For more information about the Philadelphia Jewish Voice visit