Jun 30, 2012
Jun 29, 2012
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor
draws hot tears,
defies language's limitations,
spans the firmament,
conjures times long gone,
and refills a heart's dwindling reserves.
Are you ready to let it in?
Are you brave enough to sing?
Jun 28, 2012
Jun 26, 2012
Proud to announce my new Yom Kippur kids' book "Avodah: A Yom Kippur Story" - a rhyming riff on the kohen gadol's perspective of the Avodah service. Enjoy!
Jun 24, 2012
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Sharing Love begins
when there is
ample love within one
Love within one
is what it means to
frees one to choose
another chosen one
with ample love within.
Chosen-ness is at its best
when it is open to
seeing itself in others.
Jun 21, 2012
- A letter issued on official Israeli government stationery by Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar today called for a rally at his office this coming Tuesday. As the official response by the Masorti/Conservative Rabbinical Assembly put it: "The language used in the statement is inflammatory and inciting, referring to our members as 'terrorists' whose 'sole intention is to do harm to the holiness of Torah.'" How dare he! And how dare the State of Israel extend to him his title! He does not represent the People Israel.
- And just now in Jerusalem, Police detained a woman at the Western Wall for over three hours after she and 65 other women from Women of the Wall concluded their Rosh Hodesh prayer service. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said that Houben was detained for wearing a men's tallit, or prayer shawl, something forbidden for women by Israeli law at the Western Wall. Houben was fingerprinted and photographed in the police station, and released just over three hours later. She was also banned from going to the Western Wall for seven days, on pain of a NIS 3,000 fine.
From the #RabbinicalAssembly: A Statement on Incitement by Israeli Chief Rabbi Amar -- @rabbiassembly
Jun 20, 2012
Fwd: [Shefa] more on Koach: "Congratulations Koach Supporters. Now what?" (cross-post with jewschool)
I recently wrote about USCJ's proposal to defund their college student program, KOACH. As typical for USCJ, this plan was made without much public discussion. Even after the proposal became public, the only formal USCJ response was essentially: We wanted to make this decision behind closed doors, but someone leaked our discussion to the press. We appreciate the public discussion this has generated and, in the future, hope do a better job keeping more of our discussions regarding Koach behind closed doors.
Also as expected, people who support Koach protested. Also as typical for USCJ, their board decided it was easier to vote against the plan and continue funding Koach this year rather than make a difficult and unpopular decision. The press release says that the USCJ board decided to provide $100K of funding to keep Koach operational through December & have Koach supporters directly raise another $130K to complete the year's funding. After Koach's supporters take a deep breath, it's time to decide what's next.
When the last attempt to close Koach failed in March 2011, USCJ committed to thinking how to improve their support of Conservative college students. Since then, there's been no public discussion or programmatic innovations from USCJ and then this second attempt to defund Koach. USCJ is again committing to thinking about college students and to work on a 3-5 year business plan for Koach, but, given that (1) long-term planning for their programs is already a core purpose of USCJ, and (2) this doesn't seem very different from the commitment to rethinking college outreach only a year ago, I see no reason to assume this year will be different. USCJ CEO Rabbi Wernick even described defunding Koach for an entire year (which, I assume, would include firing or reassigning all Koach staff), as merely a "summer hiatus," with no serious explanation of how USCJ would reopen a staffless & student-less program. This suggests that engaging college students is a low priority for USCJ. I wouldn't be surprised if the sum of a USCJ designed business plan is to give $50K next year and ask Koach supporters to fund-raise $180K and give nothing the following year & ask Koach to raise $230K.
But who will spearhead efforts to put more priority on engaging college students? The Koach supporters who returned Koach to the USCJ strategic plan dispersed after that success and the recent pro Koach press release is more focused on fundraising than ideas.
Is Koach even the institution the Conservative movement needs for college student outreach? As commentators on this site have noted, Koach is a modestly successful program at best and isn't essential for Conservative life on many campuses. It's reasonably cost effective at around $77 for each of the 3000 students it reaches each year. I was a student at two universities–one with no Koach chapter, but Conservative services on Shabbat that were part of a healthy multi-denominational community, and a second with a Koach chapter, that seemed to mean little more than that Conservative Shabbat services were called "Koach services".
I realize that many of the people who signed the 'save Koach' petition are leaders in the Conservative movement who were influenced by Koach. Still, Koach doesn't have a far reach even on the 25 campuses with chapters. Inreach and outreach to the relatively few students who attend retreats each year is probably worth the modest cost. Losing Koach & the people it currently benefits would definitely be bad for the Conservative movement. But "Let's not make things worse," is hardly a good long-term vision for USCJ or Koach.
I've heard some people say, that we can't expect much from Koach for $230K per year, but I haven't heard what we would expect from a million dollar or even larger Koach. For those of you who were pushing to save Koach, now what? Where is Koach spending its money well? What could it do better with or without a modest increase in funds? The Save Koach FAQ lists a few things that Koach does, but not why these are part of Koach, or why Koach is the right organization to do them.
What could make Koach an actually indispensable organization? How can it better engage volunteers, other Jewish professionals near colleges, and become more relevant for students? For those not connected to the Conservative movement, how could a national organization with a goal of supporting egalitarian observant Jewish life have improved your college experience? Why should the broader Jewish community and potential donors care about Koach?
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Jun 19, 2012
and with gratitude to Sinai Memorial Chapel
Though we are saying goodbye to you, our sacred items,
we say "Hadran Alach - we will return to you."
Through reading and experiencing what you contain and suggest, we have grown as human beings and as Jews. We have discovered more about God and the world through the gifts you were. May we be blessed to learn ever more, knowing that wherever we find ourselves on our Jewish journeys, we have reached this far thanks to you.
We gently place you in the earth, reuniting you with the raw creation to which all things return. In the names of all Jewish students and teachers who were, are, and will be, we humbly thank you.
Jun 18, 2012
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
The story of Korach might not seem obvious for discussing relationships. After all, Korach and his followers, after contesting the rights of Moses and Aaron to lead the Israelite people, were devoured when
"the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households. ...They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation. (Num. 16:31-33)"
"against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord's congregation?' (Num. 16:2-3)"
The accusation, while certainly rebellious, is compelling. Korach's assertions that "all the community are holy" and that God "is in their midst" don't seem wrong. In fact, they are confirmed by other similar biblical phrases, such as "Let them make for Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Ex. 25:8)" and "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, Adonai your God, am Holy. (Lev. 19:2)" There is deep truth in Korach's words, a truth which resonates for the community. We should remember that he managed to rouse more than 250 Israelites against Moses, who has, time and time again, been the agent of God's Word and stood in the breach, protecting the people from God's Wrath.
Korach's charismatic ability led people against Moses. But what would have happened if Korach had channeled his righteous indignation and magnetic personality in the service of the People, offering Moses his help instead of trying to assert his own leadership? Korach could have become a revered teammate to Moses by offered his help, instead of questioning the authenticity of Moses' authority.
And this suggests a lesson for those in collaborative leadership roles. Korach wanted a job Moses didn't even want for himself, one which Moses' reluctance made him supremely qualified to perform and for which Korach's over-willingness made him especially unsuited. Think of what these two strong personalities, these two different people, could have achieved had they been in partnership for the sake of the people! Think about what beauty could have unfolded had Korach decided to trust Moses and participate in fulfilling the mission instead of undermining both.
Korach and his followers experienced a descent when the earth swallow them. But somehow, according to biblical tradition (see Num. 26:9), Korach's children don't die. Their descendants are later, in fact, credited with several chapters of Psalms, all of which reflect musically upon the enduring possibilities and values of life (see Ps. 49, for instance). As Rabbi Perry Netter has written, "Korach is the symbol of rebellion and conflict and despair; his sons are a symbol of hope."
While every relationship comprised of people with strong personalities has its share of struggle, the possibilities embodied in trusting collaboration are hopeful beyond words.
Jun 15, 2012