Dec 30, 2010

RECLAIMING THE BIBLE AS A JEWISH BOOK: A CNS Scholar in Residence Masorti Shabbat in memory of Dr. Jacob Milgrom, z”l

RECLAIMING THE BIBLE AS A JEWISH BOOK

A CNS Scholar in Residence Masorti Shabbat in memory of Dr. Jacob Milgrom, z"l

sponsored by the Ethelyn Simon Fund at Congregation Netivot Shalom

cosponsored by Bay Area Masorti

 

Featuring Professor Benjamin Sommer,

Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary

 

January 14th and 15th -- Enjoy a special Erev Shabbat davening, dinner, and after-kiddush learning on Shabbat day featuring Dr. Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary. 

 

  • Erev Shabbat* (Friday night) will begin with Kabbalat Shabbat at 5:30pm, followed by a catered Shabbat dinner at 6:15pm. During dinner Dr. Sommer will speak on the topic:  "The Tent of Meeting and the Presence of God.  "
  • Dr. Sommer will also teach during our after-Kiddush learning, when his topic will be "Reclaiming the Bible as a Jewish Book", specially dedicated in memory of Dr. Jacob Milgrom, z"l, a beloved member of Congregation Netivot Shalom.  (Please see below for expanded descriptions of each presentation.)

 

*The cost of Shabbat dinner is 15$/adult, 8$/child, children 0-3 free (50$ maximum per family).   No one turned away for lack of funds.  Please RSVP to Rachel in the CNS office at office@netivotshalom.org.  Childcare will be made available if requested.  After you RSVP  by emailing Rachel there are 2 options to make payment- either online at netivotshalom.org, use the "Make a Donation" Tab and put "Simon Fund Shabbat Dinner" in the description field or  send in your check to Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702.  Please write "Simon Fund Shabbat Dinner " in the memo line.

 

Expanded Descriptions of Dr. Sommer's sessions:

 

The Tent of Meeting and the Presence of God:  Nearly half the Book of Exodus describes the Sanctuary or Tent of Meeting. Generally thought of as one of the most boring sections of the whole Bible, these chapters in fact encode Israel's core beliefs about how the Creator of the universe becomes accessible to humans. These ideas touch upon notions of sacred land, sacred space, center, and periphery that might inform a committed but non-idolatrous religious Zionism – a religious Masorti Zionism that differs decisively from the messianic/idolatrous version that has won the day further to our right.

 

Reclaiming the Bible as a Jewish Book:  The past year marked the end of an era for Jewish biblical scholarship with the passing of four great Conservative/Masorti scholars who developed distinctively Jewish and original ways of reading the Bible as modern critical scholars. Professors Jacob Milgrom (beloved Netivot Shalom member), Yochanan Muffs, Moshe Greenberg,  and Moshe Weinfeld exerted extraordinary influence on both Jewish and Christian scholars who came after them. In this after-kiddush talk, Professor Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, will describe how they combined traditional Jewish learning with modern historical methods to recover lost voices of Jewish theology in the Torah, how their methods were shaped by their studies in Jerusalem and JTS, and why their perspective matters to people who want to be fully modern and fully Jewish without contradiction.

 

---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Dec 29, 2010

Masorti Teaches Torah to Haredim


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"Yellow Pages" in English translation

Masorti's "Yellow Pages" poster

Masorti Teaches Torah to Haredim with "Sages in the 'Yellow Pages'"Ad/Poster Campaign

 

Bold Message: 'Torah Unaccompanied by Work is Path to Sin'

 

Dear Friends,

 

Many Jews know that the medieval philosopher Maimonides, aka Rambam, made his living as a physician. But how many today are aware that the sages of antiquity and other great rabbis throughout history didn't simply sit around studying Torah? Rashi? A vintner. Shammai? A builder. Hillel? A lumberjack. Rav Joshua ben Hananiah? A needlemaker. Plenty of others earned livelihoods as: tailors; cobblers; orchard guards; cistern diggers; potters; surveyors; millers; porters; or distillers. In fact, according to specific references in the Mishnah and the Talmud, rabbis of old were found in just about every occupation that existed.

 

In a creative response to the brewing controversy in Israel over government stipends for yeshiva students and the broader issue of ultra-Orthodox men who choose not to work, the Masorti movement has developed a Sages' "Yellow Pages," listing learned rabbis and sages by occupation, under the heading, "Torah that is not accompanied by a worldly trade will in the end amount to nothing and will lead one into sin" (Mishnah Avot, chapter 2; rulings on this basis: Mishneh Torah, "Laws Concerning Torah Study, chapter 10; and Shulkhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim, #157). Reproduced as a colorful, detailed poster and ad, (complete with illustrations and Mishnaic/Talmudic citations), the "Yellow Pages" is now appearing on posters and buses in Jerusalem.

 

The "Yellow Pages" almost immediately made it onto television news and otherwise attracted much favorable attention. In fact, the effort was so well received that a decision was made to print posters and purchase bus ads featuring the "Yellow Pages."

 

 

"Yellow Pages" on Jerusalem bus

Above you will see both the Hebrew version of the "Yellow Pages" and an English version created for our use. For more readable copies of each, log onto http://www.masorti.org/sages/sages-with-pages.php. You are more than welcome to distribute these posters either in hard copy or via the Internet. In fact, we encourage you to do so. it would be great if Jews throughout the United States saw these posters and were presented with an opportunity to learn about these developments in Israel.

 

In this email message are photographs of these posters as they appear in Jerusalem. These can also be seen at http://www.masorti.org/sages/sages-with-pages.php,

 

"Yellow Pages" posters in Jerusalem

It was wonderful how our community responded with support for the Fire Emergency Fund. In producing and distributing the "Yellow Pages," Masorti is attacking a crisis that is every bit as significant for Israel. Putting it bluntly, we cannot do this without your financial support. Please help. You may contribute online through the Masorti Foundation website at www.masorti.org, or mail your check to:

 

Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel

475 Riverside Drive

Suite 832

New York, NY 10115-0122

 

Sincerely,

 

David H. Lissy

Executive Director & CEO

Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel

 

 

To learn more, please contact:
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832
New York, NY 10115-0068
(212) 870-2216; 1-877-287-7414
http://www.masorti.org/; info@masorti.org



Dec 28, 2010

A Torah-True People

A Torah-True People
(C) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

What makes some stories so impactful is the sense that they matter. 

Characters who believe their actions will influence some sort of cosmic sequence reflect with intensity upon every choice.  We readers are privy to these internal realities/perceptions.  And, if it is a truly good story, we believe.

Torah is one such story, and the opportunity is before us to live lives worthy of its internal significance.  Every action before us carries destiny-influencing power. 

'Torah' means so much more than sacred text. 

When some refer to their lifestyles as 'Torah-true' they are demonstrating their internal sense of connectedness to history, power, and destiny.  The challenge before the Jewish People is whether the varying permutations of tradition (including even and especially the 'rebellious' strains) will sense and act in accord with their own significance to the cosmos.

This is an important story.  A well-told, urgent story of a People who are Torah, sometimes at its best and perpetually at its most fragile.

Dec 23, 2010

Rabbi Alan Lew, z"l

Dear Chevreh,

For those who aren't aware, today has been the 2nd Yahrtzeit of our colleague and teacher Rabbi Alan Lew, z"l.  Here are a few links to some of the gifts he gave:
Yehi Zichro Baruch / May his memory be a blessing,
Menachem

---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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New Class! Adult Discover Judaism Class: Life-cycles with R' Shalom Bochner, Tuesdays in January


Discover Judaism:  Jewish Life-cycles 

with Rabbi Shalom Bochner 

on Tuesdays, January 4, 11, 18, 25; Time: 7:30 to 9pm                  


The rhythm of a Jewish life is based on recognizing the sacred in moments of transition from one phase to the next.  This class will explore the prayers and rituals that have developed around birth, covenanting, coming of age, partnering, separation, and death.   Text-study and discussion will be the basis for these conversations directed toward adding meaning to our understandings of the passage of time.  No Hebrew is required for this class. Class fee: $40-$60—(sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds) 


Deadline to register: Thursday December 12/30. Please register by e-mail Rachel at: office@netivotshalom.org


---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Dec 22, 2010

Urgent Funding Request: Masorti Billboards and Bus Ads in Jerusalem

Dear Chevreh,

I am asking for your help.

There are many needs out there.  But this one represents a revolutionary and muscular PR effort from the Masorti Movement, one which has already created a stir in Israel.  I'm asking for your help so that it will successfully reach into and spark the imaginations of Israelis who have lost hope in a healthy Judaism.

This Masorti Billboards and Bus Ad Campaign was featured last night on Israeli TV (Channel 2).  We are hoping to come up with enough money to put up posters and billboards and ads on buses in Jerusalem and other locations.  The cost would be about $20,000.  

The billboards are a statement from Jewish tradition: "Torah that is not accompanied by a worldly trade will in the end amount to nothing and will lead one into sin."  There is a list of rabbis throughout Jewish history who worked in the world.  This is a challenge to those who believe that insularity and entitlement are Jewish values, and should be funded by Israel.  
I'm asking for your help.  Today.  We need it.

Please make your tax-deductible check out to "The Masorti Foundation" and send it to: 

Bay Area Masorti
c/o Rabbi Menachem Creditor
1316 University Ave
Berkeley, CA 94702

With your help, a vital, modern, pluralistic Judaism will gain strength in our home in Israel.  It's not too late to make this healthy dream a reality.

Todah Rabbah,
Menachem

---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Dec 21, 2010

Help Send Children to Ramah in 2011


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Ramah: The Best Investment
in Strengthening the Jewish Future
December 2010
Tevet 5771

Please consider making a 2010 year-end contribution to our Ramah scholarship funds.

Donate Now

Camp RamahDear Friends of Ramah,

Now is the time when thousands of children and teens throughout North America are sending in their applications to spend a wonderful summer at Camp Ramah. Unfortunately, particularly given current economic conditions, many families do not have the financial resources to come to Ramah to meet new friends, experience new activities, and strengthen their commitment to Jewish life and Israel.

In addition to our general scholarship fund, we are seeking funding to support families of children with special needs to attend one of our outstanding Ramah programs. Our inaugural Ramah Galil Ride 2011 will raise funds specifically for special needs program scholarships. We invite you to sponsor a rider or make a general contribution.

In the paragraph below, Yoni Goldstein of Ramah Canada describes the impact of the Tikvah program on camp life:
The special needs program at Ramah benefits not only the children who it serves directly, but also the entire camp community. During my early years as a camper, it was hard for me to see beyond the obvious differences these campers presented and to appreciate the range of contributions they brought to our community. That changed when I was fourteen and I spent the summer working closely with the children in the special needs program. The relationships which developed helped me realize how much these children had to offer.

Please click here to make your donation today to help support Ramah scholarship funds or any of the Ramah camps and Israel programs. You may contact us at info@campramah.org to discuss planned giving opportunities or other types of donations.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2011.

With deep appreciation,

Charles T. Mann, M.D., President
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, National Director
Amy Skopp Cooper, National Assistant Director
 
National Ramah Commission, Inc.


Dec 20, 2010

A Special CNS After-Kiddush Talk on Jan 15th -- RECLAIMING THE BIBLE AS A JEWISH BOOK: THE LEGACY OF JACOB MILGROM, YOCHANAN MUFFS, AND MOSHE GREENBERG

A Special CNS After-Kiddush Talk on Jan 15th
RECLAIMING THE BIBLE AS A JEWISH BOOK: THE LEGACY OF JACOB MILGROM, YOCHANAN MUFFS, AND MOSHE GREENBERG
Speaker: Professor Benjamin Sommer, 
Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary
at Congregation Netivot Shalom - Shabbat, Jan 15th 

The past year marked the end of an era for Jewish biblical scholarship with the passing of four great scholars who developed distinctively Jewish and original ways of reading the Bible as modern critical scholars. Professors Jacob Milgrom (beloved Netivot Shalom member), Yochanan Muffs, Moshe Greenberg,  and Moshe Weinfeld exerted extraordinary influence on both Jewish and Christian scholars who came after them. In this after-kiddush talk, Professor Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, will describe how they combined traditional Jewish learning with modern historical methods to recover lost voices of Jewish theology in the Torah, how their methods were shaped by their studies in Jerusalem and JTS, and why their perspective matters to people who want to be fully modern and fully Jewish without contradiction.

---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.


A Meditation Upon Giving a Bat/Bar Mitzvah their Tallit

A Meditation Upon Giving a Bat/Bar Mitzvah their Tallit
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The tallit I am about to give you is heavy.  

Even if the material is light, the meaning is something I pray you will feel very deeply.  When some prepare to wear our tallit, they recite a mystical saying about "God wearing Light like a garment."  I don't know what that means, but I believe there's something to think about.  Maybe once you wear this tallit, perhaps on a day when no one else is watching, you and I will be able to talk about how it felt.
  
When I look at you, growing older, my heart stops.  You are not the small child I wept over.  My tears today come from a different place.  You aren't as innocent as you once were.  And I share with you an understanding gained over time that a tallit is not only an object of beauty.  Jewish hands have sometimes trembled holding our holy objects.  I pray that you feel protected and safe in your tallit, that you only know the pride and joy it holds.  But I know that your eyes are wide open.  And I can't simplify the world you clearly see.  It can be beautiful, but it isn't always.

Some people wear their tallit over their heads during deep moments of reflection.  A tallit helps you see with your eyes closed.  The strings are tied in special ways and remind us that we're tied to each other, tied to Jewish history, tied to God.  I give you this tallit with a heart full of hope and full of anticipation for the person you are becoming.  

May you feel lifted as it rests on your shoulders.  

May you feel my love every time you wear this tallit.

---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Masorti Foundation: Conversion Bills Update


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Dear Friends,
 
A further update on the conversion bill.
 
Natan Sharansky has written a letter to Jewish Agency leadership which has now been made public, so we can share it with you. It is both reproduced below and accessible via this link: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/update-on-idf-conversion-law/.
 
We are encouraged by the steady support of Natan Sharansky and, here, in the United States, by the efforts of Jerry Silverman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federations of North America.
 
You will recall there are two pending conversion bills: Rotem I, which would enhance the power of the Chief Rabbinate, which we oppose; and Rotem II, which would make IDF-sponsored conversions independent of the Chief Rabbinate, which we support.
 
There does not currently appear to be a likelihood of action in the next week or so on Rotem I. We are monitoring the situation and will let you know of significant developments.
 
Sincerely,
 
David H. Lissy
 
Executive Director & CEO
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judasim in Israel
 
_____________________________
From Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Executive, Jewish Agency for Israel:
 
Dear Friends,
 
Last week, a bill dealing with conversion in the IDF passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset. The bill known as the Military Conversion Bill and authored by Israel Beitenu MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov, has prompted heated debate and political wrangling among the government coalition partners.
 
The Jewish Agency's position on this bill is clear: we fully support its passage into law because it puts to rest some of the doubts cast recently on conversions conducted in the IDF and supports and protects the Nativ project.
 
Through the Nativ conversion program, housed and funded by the Jewish Agency, the IDF offers a unique and crucial opportunity for soldiers during their army service to participate in an intensive eight-week course of study in Jewish identity.
 
The course gives an opportunity for a broad and deep study of the principles of Jewish identity and the meaning and practice of Judaism's primary mitzvot. The final stage of the program, for those who choose to proceed, is preparation for conversion through the IDF rabbinate's conversion courts.
The project has been a celebrated success. More than 1,000 men and women in the army undergo conversions each year, representing a significant percentage of the total number of conversions taking place in Israel annually.
 
In addition to funding from the government and the army, the Jewish Agency invests $1.5 million each year from our core budget together with our partners in the Diaspora. Another $1 million comes from the Genesis Fund. Discussions are currently underway with the army about expanding this program.
 
Recently, I invited Nochi Dankner, chairman of IDB, a well known Israeli businessman and philanthropist, to visit the Nativ program on the Kiryat Moriah campus in Jerusalem. He and his entourage were profoundly moved by the participants' commitment and excitement about their Jewish studies and he suggested that even his own family and friends, all of whom were born Jewish, could benefit greatly from the caliber of the Jewish education provided in the course. At the end of his visit Nochi Dankner announced that the IDB group would contribute $350,000 to this crucial program, becoming the first Israeli philanthropist to join this very worthwhile program.
 
In recent weeks, we have seen concerted attempts to weaken the effectiveness of this project by undermining the independence of the IDF rabbinate from the office of the chief rabbinate, and calling into question the validity of the IDF conversions. It is this threat which prompted the hasty presentation of the Rotem-Ilatov bill to the Knesset plenum.
 
At the same time rumors have arisen in the Israeli press suggesting that in order to prevent strife between coalition members, a compromise deal is being developed that could bring about the simultaneous approval of both the Military Conversion Bill, which we support, and the earlier "Rotem bill" dealing with civilian conversion that we vehemently oppose in its current form.
 
I want to reiterate that the Prime Minister has stated emphatically that he is opposed to such a deal. You may recall that the Prime Minister stood up to the heated political pressure just a few months ago, and repeated his assurances on this issue to our Board of Governors meeting in October and in his public address to the General Assembly Plenary in New Orleans this past November.
 
In the meantime, we are nearing the end of the six-month moratorium during which all sides of the conversion debate refrained from unilateral steps through courts or legislation. We are working diligently on all levels to extend this period in order to have enough time to develop a compromise on this issue. Both the Reform and Conservative movements have already agreed to an extended moratorium, and together with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, we are looking for a similar commitment from the relevant political quarters.
 
I hope this update was useful and I assure you that we will keep you informed in real time regarding any new developments about this issue, which we believe is vital to the future unity and strength of the Jewish people.
 
With warm regards,
 
Natan Sharansky
 
To learn more, please contact:
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832
New York, NY 10115-0068
(212) 870-2216; 1-877-287-7414
http://www.masorti.org/; info@masorti.org



Dec 19, 2010

Additional Resources for "Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: Some Starting-Texts for a Conversation"

Additional Resources for "Israelis and the Jewish Tradition: Some Starting-Texts for a Conversation"


---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Dec 17, 2010

a crosspost with ShefaNetwork.org from David Lissy, exec director of the Masorti Foundation

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Lissy <dlissy@masorti.org>
Date: Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 10:53 AM
Subject: [Shefa]
To: Shefa Network <shefa@yahoogroups.com>
 

I have attached a PDF as well as the link below to an excellent opinion piece by Emily Levy-Shochat, Chair of the Masorti movement in Israel, in today's Jerusalem Post weekend magazine.  I hope you will find it of interest and give it wide distribution.

Shabbat Shalom.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=199694

 

David H. Lissy

Executive Director and CEO

Masorti Foundation

475 Riverside Drive    Suite 832

New York, New York  10115-0122

212-870-2216

dlissy@masorti.org

 

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jta: "Barriers broken, female rabbis look to broader influence"

JTA: The Global News Service of the Jewish People

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Barriers broken, female rabbis look to broader influence

By Penny Schwartz · December 13, 2010

NEWTON, Mass. (JTA) -- Lynne Kern knew at 13 that she wanted to be a rabbi, even though in 1970 there were no female rabbis to act as role models.

So Kern became a writer, eventually winning a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

But she never forgot her passion, and in 2001 she completed her rabbinic studies and was ordained as a Conservative rabbi at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

Now, four decades since her bat mitzvah, Kern is working with filmmaker Ronda Spinak on a documentary about female rabbis. Kern was behind the camera in Boston last week filming a panel discussion by the first four women to become rabbis in their respective denominations.

The latest addition to the group was Rabba Sara Hurwitz, who had the title, a feminized version of "rabbi," conferred upon her about a year ago by a Modern Orthodox rabbi, Avi Weiss.

The Dec. 6 event was the first time that the four women -- Hurwitz, Reform Rabbi Sally Priesand, Reconstructionist Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Conservative Rabbi Amy Eilberg – had ever appeared together. An audience of 600, men and women, packed the sanctuary at Temple Reyim, outside of Boston, for the program.

"These women were part of my narrative, part of my story that I tell," Hurwitz told JTA. "To be standing in front of these real pioneers, it was an overwhelming sense of awe."

The Dec. 6 program, titled "Raising Up the Light," was sponsored by the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. In a stirring tribute, 50 female rabbis from around the region who were in the audience were called up to the bimah to join the panelists at one point during the event.

"When I started, there was no one. I was alone," Eisenberg Sasso said. "Now I wasn't alone anymore." 

Priesand was the first woman to break the rabbinate barrier in the United States when she was ordained by the Reform movement in 1972. The Reconstructinist's Eisenberg Sasso followed a year later. It was more than a decade before Eilberg's ordination in 1985 by the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Today there are 167 female Reconstructionist rabbis -- approximately half of the rabbis ordained by the movement since 1974. The Conservative movement has 273 female rabbis worldwide among the total of 1,648. The Reform movement says it has 575 female rabbis in North America.

The first woman worldwide to receive the title of rabbi was Regina Jonas, a German woman who was ordained in 1935. She never had a pulpit but worked as a traveling rabbi for a time, eventually dying at Auschwitz in 1944.

Hurwitz is the only Orthodox woman with the title of rabba; Weiss has said he will not bestow the title upon future female graduates of the institute he is launching to train women. The main Modern Orthodox rabbinical association, the Rabbinical Council of America, has ruled against the ordination of women as rabbis.

With the barriers in the non-Orthodox movements long broken, some female rabbis say it's time to move beyond talk of how they were pioneers to discuss how they are influencing the general Jewish community.

"It's time we got beyond how innovative it is to have women rabbis," Rabbi Barbara Penzner, who was ordained in 1987 at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, told JTA. "These are women who've made significant contributions to Jewish life."

When Priesand started out, she was the only female student at Hebrew Union College. Now she's the rabbi emeritus at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, N.J., where she served as the spiritual leader for 25 years. Priesand credits women not only with pushing their way into the rabbinate, but also with changing the way men practice the trade, making male rabbis more open and nurturing.

Eilberg's rabbinic work has been focused largely in pastoral care through hospice, spiritual direction and conflict resolution. She also directs an interfaith dialogue program in Minneapolis.

While these are areas not exclusive to women, Eilberg said in an interview, the responsibilities require deep listening skills -- skills with a strong resonance among women of her generation.

In interviews for her documentary with more than 25 female rabbis, Kern found a common thread in their pursuit of creating community through prayer while engaging in social action.

Anita Diamant, founder of a Boston-area mikvah called Mayyim Hayyim and author of the best-selling novel "The Red Tent," said that many of the ceremonies observed at the mikvah by women and men owe a great deal to the insights and efforts of female rabbis who were ordained in the last 30 years.

Hurwitz, whose ordination was met with a sharp rebuke in some Orthodox circles, is the only one of the four first female rabbis who does not embrace full egalitarianism. Women cannot perform some ritual roles in Orthodoxy, she said, such as leading certain parts of the prayer services. But, she noted, women can serve in significant rituals and lifecycle events, such as officiating at weddings and funerals.

Hurwitz is now the dean of Yeshivat Maharat, which trains Orthodox women to become spiritual leaders, and a member of the rabbinic staff of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where Weiss is the spiritual leader.

Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, does not believe that Hurwitz's breach of the Orthodox line on female rabbis will lead to a shift within that community on the ordination of women. And outside the Orthodox community, he said, some congregations have concerns that the rabbinate is becoming feminized and, as a result, men are retreating from synagogue life.

Synagogues increasingly are being perceived as women's prayer spaces and not male-friendly, Brandeis professor Sylvia Barack Fishman found in a 2008 report published by the Hadassah Brandeis Institute.

Sasso Eisenberg, who yearned for the company of women during her student days and early years as a rabbi, said a sense of sisterhood is very important to her. But she also feels strongly that women should not focus on setting a separate table.

"Ultimately what we want to do is bring women's voices and stories to the traditional table of Jewish life," Sasso Eisenberg said.

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---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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