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.
New York City, NY / Falls Village, CT
Monday, December 3, 2012 / 19 Kislev 5773
The boards of Hazon and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center are today announcing the anticipated merger of the two well-respected Jewish non-profits. Both organizations are rooted in the New York area; have national impact; are known for providing transformative experiences; and in particular play a leading role in the Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement.
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:
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.
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.
My colleague Rabbi Rosalind Glazer sent the report that follows below moments ago, after emerging from the "safe room" at Kibbutz Revadim in the Northern Negev. While according to the JTA "three Israelis were killed when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit their apartment in southern Israel. The rocket that struck the Kiryat Malachi apartment on Thursday morning — one of at least 140 rockets fired from Gaza since the assassination late Wednesday afternoon of the Hamas military chief in Gaza, Ahmed Jabari — also injured a baby girl and a 4-year-old boy. A second building in Kiryat Malachi also was hit. On Thursday afternoon, two rockets hit Rishon Lezion, located about 10 miles south of Tel Aviv. Fifteen Palestinians have been killed, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported Thursday."
Now the report from Rabbi Glazer:
It is a bit strange and troublesome to be arriving back in Israel at this very time, but not entirely new or unusual for me. Having been in the states since the High Holidays, I arrived at Ben Gurion last evening (today, is my 49th birthday) and my sister Cynthia came to pick me up. When we got home we learned on the news that the strategic air strike that assasinated Ahmed Jabari had occurred precisely while we were on the road back from the airport!
The 5th annual LimmudPhilly Learningfestwill take place on April 26-28, 2013 at Friends Select School in Center City, Philadelphia. Whether you're brand-new or a LimmudPhilly regular, you'll love the choice of enlightening presenters and the company of engaging participants. As it has been for the last two years, the main conference — including Young Limmud for 3-10 year olds - will be paired with a relaxing and educational Shabbat experience.
Apply now! Community presenter applications go live.
Community presenter applications go live on the LimmudPhilly website today! Opening the floor to all members of the community is a huge part of the Limmud values, so whatever the burning question, passion project, or scholarly research, this is your opportunity to teach it to the community.
Statistics show that most of us have some family members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning where they fit in terms of gender. Loving and including our loved ones for all of who they are is what healthy families and communities do, IMHO. So it is good to learn that The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released today its first-ever index of inclusion within a faith-based community. "The Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI) provides benchmarks for gauging, and resources for improving, LGBT inclusivity policies and practices of North American Jewish communal organizations. The entire report is available at online."
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."
1. Did you see Anat Hoffman's tag line in her outreach for support of victims of Hurricane Sandy. "We are family," she writes and cites Haaretz that "Israelis have followed no event in the United States as closely as Hurricane Sandy...and fact, New York City is the metropolitan area with the second largest Jewish population of any city after Tel Aviv." Perhaps you have also seen the organization that serves Holocaust survivors soliciting Hurricane relief funds targeted for them. Never did it occur to me to fund raise based on the Jewishness of those affected — we are a human family during emergencies.
SAN FRANCISCO - The Helen Diller Family Foundation is expanding the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, issuing a national call-for-nominations to identify Jewish teens whose volunteer service projects demonstrate a determined commitment to make the world a better place. Up to ten selected teens, five from California and five from other communities across the country, will each be acknowledged for their visionary actions with an award of $36,000, to be used to further their philanthropic work or their education. Deadline for nominations is January 6, 2013.
a. Invite People In. Convince those home shivering in the remaining affected PA, NY, NJ, New England, etc. areas to come to you if they can or otherwise get out of the cold. I'm just off the phone with the Red Cross and those sticking it out are lowering core temperature, losing good judgment. Urge them to go shelters, drive to friends, huddle with neighbors. Go pick them up if feasible and they can't get to you.
b. Join our Mitzvah Storming Work Parties The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is in league with ReclaimingJudaism.org, collecting names of those willing to join work parties when the federal and state agencies give a green light. We will quickly partner with other non-profits, when they become able to move into action. NJ State and FEMA are still not allowing residents to return to homes in Atlantic City.
Assessments of what is needed in affected areas are still underway. We're grouping responses by state and country (some have responded from as far as Canada! Thank you!) When other national organizations get their lower Manhattan servers above water, we will quickly connect these lists to their efforts.
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.
For many spiritual seekers, the complaint about Judaism is that it doesn't seem like it has what it takes to be a springboard for a life of meaningful relevance. The lack of easily accessible contemporary theology seems to create a great divide between honoring the ancient and finding a way to appreciate the practice of Judaism as an integral part of everyday life. Other traditions and practices such as Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness seem to give both solace and a sense of growing personal empowerment that many Jewish practitioners seek in a harried time.
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.
Eighteen contributing authors address the volume's core question: "How might family members help the person accept the diagnosis and learn to live with its ongoing challenges?" Each chapter offers helpful perspectives and relevant skills, grounded in Jewish values, text and traditions. The authors are united by their experiences with Alzheimer's disease in their own parents, extended families and work in the field of Jewish chaplaincy and medicine.
My last review of HebrewOnLine.com led to calls from the company assuring me that they have made many improvements since my experience with them a few years ago. I received a refund and offer to try again, as well. A Philadelphia attorney wrote a response to my review to say she is studying with them and having a good experience.
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: email@example.com.
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!
This is not your Hebrew School experience. NewCaje is the conference where Jewish educators, famous and little known, come to teach one another all that's new, deep and meaningful, and emerging in the rapidly changing field of afternoon school Jewish education.
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.
Each of the four Rabbi Rami's Guides from Spirituality & Health Books is a keeper. Rich in refreshing touchstones for meaningful daily living, each pocketsize volume of the Rabbi Rami's Guide series offers a roughly 120 page essay. His contemporary theologies are liberating and inclusive and he offers us specific actions that make the world a better place in sometimes subtle and delightfully surprising ways. The first three titles are Parenting; Forgiveness; and God, and the fourth begins with a commentary on Psalm 23 which then informs the author's understanding of two of our best know mitzvot, in fact the two cited by Jesus as most important, which Rabbi Shapiro uses as a starting point for creating a lovely interfaith learning opportunity booklet. (See Mark 12:28-34, then Deut. 6:4-5 and also Lev. 18:19)
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.
— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram The President of France, François Hollande, explained to his own citizens this week that: the roundup of thousands of Jews in Paris during World War II was a crime "committed in France, by France... Not one German soldier, not one was mobilized during this entire operation." (JTA) It happens that this year my Hubbatzin Barry Bub and I visited Rivesaltes, the detention camp in France where my teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (Reb Zalman), was imprisoned for a time during World War II. Many Vichy French policies and practices imitated those of the German Third Reich; they even sought to revive some imagined "French race." Knowledge of this is being lost, studies show over 40% of French young adults are unaware that on July 16-17, 1942 the French police rounded up 13,000 Parisian Jews of all ages, they were held near the Eiffel Tower and then deported and murdered at Auschwitz. I dedicate this article to their memory.
Numerous Rivesaltes prisoners died of the work, treatment and residential conditions, including Jews, métèques (immigrants from North Africa), Tsingales (Roma/Gypsies), Freemasons, Communists, children, and others such as homosexuals and those mentally ill or disabled.
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!
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