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Showing posts from January, 2009

NY Jewish Week: "Seminaries, 92nd St. Y Forced Into Painful Cuts"

Seminaries, 92nd St. Y Forced Into Painful Cuts by Stewart Ain
Staff Writer In further signs that the deepening recession is having a major impact on Jewish universities and institutions, two major seminaries here announced tuition freezes and budget cuts, the city's largest Jewish cultural institution laid off nearly 10 percent of its staff and Brandeis University is taking  the highly unusual step of selling off its prized contemporary art collection.

"This is one of the more challenging moments in recent history," Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Arnold Eisen told The Jewish Week. The seminary has cut its current budget by $2 million and, Eisen said, "we are making further cuts in the budget for this year and will continue to do so in 2009-2010."

At Yeshiva University, Hillel Davis, vice president of university life, said Monday that there would be a series of "belt-tightening" measures in a bid to reduce expenses by about 15 percent in the nex…

Weekly Adult Torah Study - Wednesdays at Netivot Shalom!

La'asok: Weekly Adult Torah Study
Wednesdays at 1pm
@ Congregation Netivot Shalom (1316 University Ave., Berkeley, CA)

Join this new weekly opportunity for adults to learn Torah with Rabbi Menachem Creditor and Rabbi Shalom Bochner of Congregation Netivot Shalom! Each week will focus on the upcoming Torah portion, and Rabbis Bochner and Creditor will alternate each week as presenter. Sessions will take place in the library. Please bring your own vegetarian/dairy lunch.  For more information, please contact us at and consult the Netivot Shalom online calendar for updated information.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to

HAG HaHAGGADAH: A Creative Festival 5769

1. Create a Haggadah which includes  the traditional  Seder elements  in Hebrew, English and/or transliteration. If you wish to download a Haggadah text it is available in Davkawriter6 at
NEW FOR 5768 /2008 COMPLETE TRADITIONAL HAGGADAH (Paginated) With Complete Traditional Hebrew Songs and English Parody Songs: DAVKAWRITER6 

Other software editions have their own text libraries of the traditional Haggadah which you can edit, illustrate, supplement, translate, transliterate, illuminate, format, etc. as you wish. All to my knowledge can be expofrted in a PDF which is essential. Other languages for translation, commentary and transliteration will be considered and judges found for evaluation if possible.

2. You may submit your entry only in a PDF. Itt may be composed in any software  and in any operating system of your choice, including but not limited to Davkawriter6 Platinum, Mellul for Mac, Dagesh, Microsoft Hebrew W…

Some Thoughts on the CJ Website Conversation & Moving Forward

Shalom Chevreh,

I believe the energy it would take to get a CJTorah site up is enormous - and worth it.  The main page is meant to begin that process as well, holding pointers to both the internal ShefaNetwork conversation and to the wider world of Conservative Judaism.  There is a page with collections of Torah commentary from Masorti/Conservative Rabbis, one of synagogue skills, a page with links to online essays by living CJ luminaries, and much more - perhaps finding places to connect is a better use of our energies than recreating everything.  If isn't going to be a place of content but rather a meeting place for the institutional players, that's not bad.  It just isn't sufficient.  Just today, a blog post related to this was written by someone named Sam Gerber at  I have no idea who this person is, but they wrote, in a post called "Class Reflections" just today:

In ev…

This Tuesday Night: A Spiritual Check-Up with Rabbi Aryeh Ben David!

NY Jewish Week: Shuls Facing New Stresses In Recession

Shuls Facing New Stresses In Recession

Steve Lipman
Jewish Week: Staff Writer

In a normal year, Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center begins writing his Purim essay for the synagogue bulletin about a month before the March holiday. This year he's already turned his thoughts to it, a month earlier than usual.

Blame it on the recession. To save money, Rabbi Skolnik's Conservative congregation has converted the monthly bulletin into a bimonthly one, mostly online now instead of printed and mailed, which means early deadlines for the rabbi and other contributors.

A few blocks away, the calls to Rabbi Yehuda Oppenheimer at the Young Israel of Forest Hills for contributions from his discretionary fund are coming in more frequently, and more plaintively, than in past years.

Rabbi Oppenheimer blames it on the recession.

In the past, calls for help with tuition payments, food or other staples were spora…

from JTS: Chancellor Eisen's Inaugural Reflections

Greeting the New Day in America
January 20, 2009Decidedly religious imagery framed today's inauguration, as it has done in every other inauguration before it. One could not help but note God's presence, whether standing at the Capitol as I did or watching the turning of history on TV with virtually every other American. God's blessing was invoked at the beginning of the ceremony and again at its conclusion; at a key point in between, President Barack Obama declared, "This is the source of our confidence—the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny."

We Americans, regardless of creed, seem united in the recognition that we need God's blessing if we are to live up to what we wish for ourselves. As President George Washington put it some 220 years ago in the pleasingly indirect and humble language characteristic of our nation's founders,"It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to the …

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg answers Bill Moyers

Dear Bill Moyers,

I have been a long time fan of Bill Moyers and an admirer of your work in many areas – including the Genesis series in which my wife participated.
For this very reason, I was deeply dismayed to read an excerpt of the transcript of your comments on the Gaza war on the Friday night Journal program.  I believe that you made a serious moral misjudgment on the invasion and then compounded your error with two applications that are beyond the pale – even more so for someone of your stature and judgment.

1.      You acknowledge Israel's right to defend its people but then allege that Israel's decision to invade Gaza constitutes "waging war on an entire population."  You allege that "by killing indiscriminately the elderly, kids, entire families, by destroying schools and hospitals" Israel "spilled the blood that turns the wheel of retribution."

You ignore that Israel has bombed only Hamas military posts, command headquarters and points of …

a beautiful post by Nigel Savage, founder and exec director of hazon

New York -- Monday night, 19th January 2009 / Going from MLK Day into President Obama's Nigel Savage
Dear All,Sometimes people ask me why I came here to found Hazon. Today, on Martin Luther King Jr Day and less than 24 hours before Barack Obama swears the oath as President, I want to give part of the answer.I think you have to grow up somewhere else – as a Jew in England, for instance – to understand that the United States is a Jewish country. It is not only a Jewish country: it is also a Buddhist country, a Moslem country, an Italian country, a gay country, an Hispanic country. But it is, to me, a Jewish country, as it has been for Jews since before the War of Independence.  Remember that in England the Archbishop of Canterbury still sits, by right, in the House of Lords.  If  Prince Charles followed Tony Blair's example and converted to Catholicism he would forfeit his right to the throne. In France one may still talk of a "Frenchman" and presume a n…

JTS: MLK & Abraham Joshua Heschel

JTS's presentation from
Since 1986, Americans have celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring one of America's most revered civic leaders.The Jewish Theological Seminary stood together in mourning upon learning of the death of Dr. King. Two prominent individuals at JTS spoke about the impact Dr. King had on the JTS community and the world at large. Their remarks are available online for the first time.Seymour Siegel, former JTS professor of Ethics and Rabbinic Thought, spoke at a memorial for Dr. King at JTS on April 5, 1968. His speech can be found here.On April 7, 1968, Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of JTS from 1940–1972, spoke on NBC television, mourning the loss of Dr. King. This powerful text can be viewed here.
Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr."Heschel was professor of Jewish Ethics and Mysticism at The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary from 1946 to 1972. Once he became involved in the civil rights…

[Shefa] JTA: Ziegler-Schechter split highlights Conservative divisions

Ziegler-Schechter split highlights Conservative divisions
By Ben Harris · January 15, 2009

NEW YORK (JTA) -- In a further sign that the American and international wings of the Conservative movement are moving in different ideological directions, a Los Angeles rabbinical seminary has ended its longstanding residency program with Machon Schechter in Jerusalem, the only institution that ordains Conservative rabbis in Israel.

Beginning this fall, third-year students at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies will spend their Israel year at the Conservative Yeshiva, a co-educational institute for Diaspora Jews housed at the Fuchsberg Center of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, the movement's North American synagogue umbrella. The change was announced last week in a memo to the United Synagogue's staff and board members.

"The Ziegler School and the Conservative Ye…

A Memory of Rabbi Alan Lew, z"l

Shalom Chevreh - this memory of Rabbi Lew is written by a student of his, and is a beautiful testimony to but a part of a special man named Alan Lew.  May his memory be for a blessing, Menachem A Memory of Rabbi Alan Lew, z"l Shalom Spencer For many years I was wrestling with a profound issue that perhaps has effected many Jewsof this generation. Having been alienated from Judaism though still participating I took up the practice of meditation. Issues still came up but there was no one to answer these complex issues. I migrated to California and discovered the work he was doing w/ Norman Fischer and began attending some of their retreats and classes. Needless to say I received a great deal. Then Rabbi Lew authored three books all addressing profound issues that spoke to me and I am sure others. I read and continue to read these books as sources of inspiration. One day I asked R' Lew in a private session what to do about my continuing anguish. I attend minyans but cannot "ge…

a beautiful piece of Torah by Rabbi Alan Lew, z"l

Dear Chevreh, Today's loss of Rabbi Alan Lew z"l is the loss of a very special person, whose teaching will continue to resonate.  May his blessing be for a memory, Rabbi Creditor from: THIS IS REAL AND YOU ARE COMPLETELY UNPREPARED by Rabbi Alan Lew Every year before the Days of Awe, the Ba-al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, held a competition to see who would blow the shofar for him on Rosh Hashanah. Now if you wanted to blow the shofar for the Ba-al Shem Tov, not only did you have to blow the shofar like a virtuoso, but you also had to learn an elaborate system of kavanot -- secret prayers that were said just before you blew the shofar to direct the shofar blasts and to see that they had the proper effect in the supernal realms. All the prospective shofar blowers practiced these kavanot for months. They were difficult and complex. There was one fellow who wanted to blow the shofar for the Ba-al Shem Tov so …

NY Jewish Week: CAJE Seen Struggling To Survive

CAJE Seen Struggling To Survive by Carolyn Slutsky - Jewish Week Staff Writer
The Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, the largest organization of Jewish educators in North America, is experiencing major financial problems and may be forced to cancel its annual conference and close its doors altogether.

"We'd love to be able to put on an amazing conference and build upon everything we've done," said Jeffrey Lasday, CAJE's executive director, noting that last year's conference, held at the University of Vermont, attracted 1,500 mostly supplementary school educators from across the country and Israel, the largest number in seven years.

But the reality looks less hopeful. Observers say CAJE is carrying a debt estimated at around $500,000 and that, as one put it, "if they pull through it's going to be ... a

In fact, Donald Sylvan, president of the Jewish Edu…

VaYigash 5769: "The Possible Blessing of Encounter"

VaYigash 5769: "The Possible Blessing of Encounter"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

   - wishing a Refu'ah Shleiman to Yedidya Schlessinger, wounded in Gaza
   - in memory of Alan Eisen z"l,
father of Chancellor Arnold Eisen
   - with thanks to Vicky Sommer

I've been spending some time with Martin Buber recently, preparing for a public conversation with my friend Josh Kornbluth, as part of his monologue at the Contemporary Jewish Museum entitled "Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?"  Buber is one of 10 Jewish portraits in museum's exhibit, and is himself an intriguing character in the worlds of philosophy, Zionism, and human interaction.  His general approach is articulated well in this quote, taken from Aubrey Hodes' "Martin Buber: An Intimate Portrait":

"I do not accept any absolute formulas for living. No preconceived code can see ahead to everything that can happen in a man's life. As we live, we grow and our …