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Showing posts from May, 2010

Rabbi Diane Cohen: "The Change Conservative Judaism Needs"

The Change Conservative Judaism Needs Rabbi Diane Cohen

What a joy to be back in New Jersey, where I spent eight wonderful years with my community in Colonia. As I look out at the faces in this room, I can truly say that I am home. And I'm delighted to share some reflections on this week's Rabbinical Assembly international convention, held this year at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan.

The last morning of the convention, I sat in a session on mystical aspects of prayer and found myself actually "getting" the connection between kabalah (which I've never pretended to understand) and normative Jewish prayer – and there's a lot to be learned there. More important, though, was the very fact of a session on kabalah and prayer at the Rabbinical Assembly. Thirty years ago, this would never have been so. Neither would alternative minyanim that featured meditat…

You're Invited to Join the Nov. 2010 Jewish Leadership Delegation to Israel in Support of Women of the Wall

May 27, 2010Dear Friends of Women of the Wall,We are writing to invite you to join our November 2010 Jewish Leadership Delegation to Israel in Support of Women of the Wall. See details below and the pdf attached to this letter.
The delegation is being organized by the West Coast Women of the Wall Organizing Committee (i.e. West Coast of the United States).  Rabbis, cantors, board members, staff, lay leaders and other leaders of Jewish institutions, organizations and communities worldwide are welcome and encouraged to apply.  Please forward this information to all who might be interested.We will also be organizing a "Signature Campaign" for those who would like to sign their names to a brief statement in support of Women of the Wall. If you want information about our signature campaign, please send your full name and email address to
Best wishes,West Coast Women of the Wall Organizing CommitteeAbby Caplin, MD,Elie Aharon, Rabbi Pam Frydman Bau…

Redemptive Excavation

Redemptive Excavation
(C) Rabbi Menachem CreditorIt is not, as some believe, a "post-rabbinic age", but rather a
"re-rabbinic age."It is time for the Torah's meanings to be reunderstood, both by
utilizing classic rabbinic interpretations, and by replacing some of
them based on particular contemporary definitions of Authentic
Judaism.We must, as Buber put it, extricate the Torah from the "rubble of
rabbinism," but good excavation doesn't raze ruins. It carefully
reveals and recovers the beauty of a solid foundation by identifying
and removing debris. Not all earlier rabbinic scaffolding requires
replacement. Some does.I believe it is urgent that we must take our places as mythic poets
and legal decisors - as living incarnations of the sages we meet in
traditional Jewish text - and to cultivate the language of our Jewish
souls as we wield that very language (and, most importantly, the deeds
that flow so well from it) in service of the world.Our most vital tas…

Reflecting on the Real

Reflecting on the Real
(C) Rabbi Menachem Creditorin honor of Neshama CarlebachWhat do we find when we go to shul? I've been struck, over and over,
by the choreography of synagogue services. People strive to master
the 'stand-ups' and the 'sit downs', the 'bow down' and 'rise up.'Those are ritual motions. But what do they feel like? What do they
help us achieve? What, I ask, are our 'ritual emotions?' Is the
limited heart-stirring some feel despite knowing 'the right moves' a
failure of the choreography, a shortcoming of the rituals themselves?No. Ritual works. Ancient Jewish ritual works incredibly well.The difference is an open, willing heart, ready to do the necessary
work to let the needs of the world mix with the particular ingredients
of one's soul.And the only failure is not naming this expectation, this sublime
burden, and in Jewish religious leadership not challenging every
person in shul to see themselves as seekers of th…

The Jewish Week: "JTS Chancellor Charting New Course For Outreach"

Published on The Jewish Week (BETA) ( JTS Chancellor Charting New Course For Outreach [1] Gary Rosenblatt Eisen aims beyond Conservative movement to 'religious center.' Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Gary Rosenblatt Editor And Publisher Call it chutzpah or commitment — or a combination of both.Even as the Conservative movement is losing members left (to the Reform) and right (to the Orthodox), literally, the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary is setting his sights not just on survival, but on expanding the school's focus, "carefully but boldly," throughout North America.Arnold Eisen, completing his third year in his post as head of the educational and spiritual center of the movement, is launching a campaign to roll out "a new JTS mission that defines our purpose and sets our future direction," with an emphasis on "learning, leadership and vision."Considered too low-key until now b… "Facing Financial, Identity Crises, JTS To Reorient Historic Mission" "Facing Financial, Identity Crises, JTS To Reorient Historic Mission" Strategic Plan Limits Jewish Studies and Expands OutreachBy Josh Nathan-KazisPublished May 19, 2010, issue of May 28, 2010. Conservative Judaism's flagship educational institution, historically at the forefront of academic Jewish studies, has announced a new strategic plan that reduces the number of its doctoral programs and focuses more on engagement with the Jewish community. FILE PHOTO New Path: JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen says this is a time of change and challenge. The Jewish Theological Seminary's new strategic plan, described by the school's chancellor, Arnold Eisen, at its May 17 commencement ceremony, comes in the midst of a financial crisis that has rocked JTS, and a broader identity crisis within the Conservative movement as a whole."We began the process of institutional examination and renewal fully aware that this is a time …

Special Message: Hayom Update and an Invitation

Shalom Chevreh,
As we prepare to receive Revelation this evening, I share with you the message (below) from Rabbi Michael Siegel, chair of Hayom: The Coalition for the Transformation of Conservative Judaism.  It is also with a deep measure of pride that I point to the "Transparency and Congregational Involvement in the Process" in Rabbi Siegel's message, in which he explains that the ShefaNetwork will be the venue for discussion of many of the issues raised by the Hayom/USCJ joint project, the Strategic Planning process for the USCJ.
May the Torah we receive strengthen the communities which serve as Her Conduit,
Chag Sameach, Menachem
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

[From Rabbi Michael Siegel]
Chevre:I wanted to share the progress of the work of Hayom.Included in this email are excerpts of a recent progress report that was shared with the members of Hayom.As you can see, we are moving forward in a very positive w…

Rabbinical Assembly Announces New RA-Camp Ramah Partnership

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here Dear Friends of Ramah:

I am delighted to let you know that Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly, recently announced the launch of the Rabbinical Assembly-Camp Ramah Partnership, a renewed effort by the RA to promote the Ramah experience as a crucial ingredient for Jewish identity growth. On Monday, May 24, I will address the Rabbinical Assembly Convention to discuss this exciting new initiative.

I encourage you to read Rabbi Schonfeld's wonderful article below. This article, emphasizing the importance of Ramah camping, appeared in the April-May 2010 RA Newsletter and announced the establishment of this joint venture.

Best regards,
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Ramah Director
Summertime on Jewish Time by Julie Schonfeld, RA Executive Vice President With the approach of summer, I am delighted to direct your attention to the launching of an important new venture: the Rabbinical Assembly-Cam…


(C) Rabbi Menachem CreditorPregnant women of all colors, all shapes, gathered with curiosity, to
buy, to see, to explore with tangible wonder... So magnificent to
imagine the images of God waiting to emerge from the safe, warm, wet
places. And for us all to be in a big, enclosed space, all safe,
bumping into each other, smiling, laughing... What a world it would
be if we'd see and experience our enclosed atmosphere as our womb,
each of us safe and waiting, the totality of God's Images waiting with
a smile, even when we bump into each other, not seeing in the dark,
but knowing we're Loved.--
Sent from my mobile device---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Fwd: [Shefa] The Jewish Week: "Misunderstanding Diaspora Jews" - letter from David Lissy

Misunderstanding Diaspora Jews David H. Lissy With regard to Stewart Ain's article ("MK, Non-Orthodox Clash On Conversion," May 7) and MK David Rotem's assertion that "he denied promising to withdraw the [conversion] bill if he failed to win the support of ... leaders ... here," I can tell you I was present at four of his meetings and he often made just such a statement. It was then generally followed by the comment he would tell the olim from the former Soviet Union to blame the Americans for the lack of progress. The sad part of Rotem's visit was not that we failed to agree, but that it became clear he simply does not understand diaspora Jewry. Thus, when he says we should not care about his bill because it does not affect conversions here (a statement which is not clearly certain) he fails to understand our link to and deep concern for the Masorti and Reform movements …

Fwd from the Masorti Foundation: "Have You No Shame?"

If you're having trouble viewing this email, you may see it online. Dear Friends,             Even for those passionate about the cause of pluralism in Israel and respect for non-Orthodox streams, this is a story that prompts disbelief.             Noa Raz, a young woman who is a product of the Masorti movement and its NOAM youth group, was physically assaulted in the Beersheva bus station by a haredi man. Why? Because he could see t'fillin strap marks on her arm and called her an "abomination."             Noa reports she was grabbed and kicked and the man otherwise attempted to hurt her. Fortunately, she was able to break away and run to her bus. A police report has been filed. A translation of a story that appeared in Hebrew on YNET on May 13th appears at the end of this message. Noa has also already been interviewed on at least one major Israeli radio station.             While this may be just one man and one incident, it is part of a disturbing pattern of d…

[Rabbi Gary Creditor's Blog] Israel (The People) Has A Responibility for Israel (The State)

Israel (The People) Has A Responsibility for Israel (The State)Rabbi Gary S. CreditorRichmond, VirginiaMay 14th, 2010 many as will hear these words at our Shabbat services, I am thankful that many more will receive them on our synagogue's listserv. I write this to call your attention and as a call to action. I really need much more time that allotted for this evening. I truly wish that it was Yom Kippur and I was speaking to the whole congregation face to face.Two weeks ago I issued a rhetorical challenge: If Israel did not exist, who would follow a Theodor Herzl - a pied piper with a pipe dream - to create it? One hundred and twenty-five years ago we had nothing. Pogroms were raging in Eastern Europe. The Holocaust was on the distant horizon. Today we have a State. Sixty-two years ago the United Nations called it into being. Can anybody here imagine living as a Jew today without having the St…