Aug 31, 2010

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The Rabbinical Assembly August 2010 - Elul 5770
Conservative/Masorti Movement Condemns Ovadia Yosef's Hateful Speech

This past May, the Rabbinical Assembly passed a resolution on civil discourse in our society. It calls for speaking out against demonizing rhetoric and calls upon leaders to "conduct themselves according to the highest standards of civility in all public discourse." Calling for Palestinians "to perish" (see Haaretz) is unacceptable and intolerable in a civil society. Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef's words are not acceptable as words of Torah. Our tradition teaches us that the litmus test of authoritative Torah teaching is whether the words are words of "pleasantness and peace." (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 32a, based on Proverbs 3:17) Torah teachings that are the clear antithesis of "pleasantness and peace," such as those of Ovadia Yosef, must be categorically rejected.

As leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement, we deplore these recent comments of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that, like many of his comments over the years, constitute irresponsible incitement to violence. We view with hope the prospects for peace and security for Israel and her neighbors and recognize that such irresponsible and inciting comments harm these prospects at a crucial time.

As we enter a New Year of renewal and return, we call on the entire House of Israel to embrace a religious vision that is open-minded and pluralistic, respectful and peace-loving. May this year bring Peace to Israel and all the world.

Rabbinical Assembly
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
The Jewish Theological Seminary
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, AJU
Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs
Women's League of Conservative Judaism
Cantor's Assembly
Masorti Foundation
Masorti Olami
Mercaz Olami
North American Association of Synagogue Executives
Solomon Schechter Day School Association

To sign on to a similar statement as an individual, please click here.

For more information please contact:
Rabbi Jack Moline, Director of Public Policy, (703) 548-0173
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, Director of Israel Policy and Advocacy, (301) 299-0225

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Rabbi Sharon Brous in washingtonpost.com: "Supporting the mosque is the American (and Jewish) thing to do"

Rabbi Sharon Brous in washingtonpost.com: "Supporting the mosque is the American (and Jewish) thing to do"

President Obama, after saying that building a mosque at Ground Zero fit our "commitment to religious freedom,"backtracked, saying he wasn't commenting on the 'wisdom' of building it so close to 'hallowed ground.' 
A Fox News poll showed that while 61 percent of Americans believe that Cordoba House has a constitutional right to build near Ground Zero, 64 percent believe it is not appropriate to do so.

Does Obama's hedging show a lack of ethical convictions? Does Hamas' endorsement change the debate? What is behind public opposition to the site? Can you believe in religious freedom but not believe the mosque is appropriate?

Last week a group of protesters came to chant "God Hates You" outside the Jewish Community Center where I work, with children waving signs that read GOD HATES JEWS, RABBIS RAPE CHILDREN, YOUR RABBI IS A WHORE, and, of course, GOD HATES FAGS. This was their yearly blitz of Jewish Los Angeles - they targeted a number of synagogues and institutions to make sure that we, and every passerby, knew just how angry God was with us. My colleagues and I had mixed reactions as we stood at the window watching them sing and sway with their signs and their hatred. Most said: they're crazy. Let's get back to work -- we can't be distracted by their idiocy. But I found myself unable to take my eyes off them. Their rant was against Jews and gays, but it was hard not to think of the hysteria over the Cordoba House and the way that civil discourse these days has become so uncivil - so defined by hatred and fear rather than reason and empathy.

President Obama should not have backpedalled. And politicians and faith leaders should not equivocate. For survivors and families of victims, opposition to the Islamic Center is a reflection of grief, pain and fear. But for many others, opposition is rooted in the conviction - stated or unstated -- that all Muslims are responsible for the tragedy and horror of 9/11 and therefore must be held accountable. No amount of interfaith dialogue and cooperation will credential Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan against those who want to believe that, because of the direction in which they pray, they must be preparing to build a terror outpost smack in the center of lower Manhattan. Collective responsibility is a dangerous game, one I don't think any of us want to play -- whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, American. One of the great outcomes of the Enlightenment was the recognition that, despite our ongoing communal connections, we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves as individuals. For Jews, though we say kol yisrael arevim zeh b'zeh -- all Jews are responsible for one another -- we know that we are not all (God forbid) Baruch Goldstein nor are we Bernie Madoff. To condemn an entire people because of the offenses of the few would leave us all with very few friends.

Those who love America must speak about this Center without ambivalence. It hardly helps us in the real fight against Al Qaeda when we alienate Muslims who seek to build communities of freedom, dignity and peace. It is unwise, it is unfair, and it is unAmerican. Mayor Bloomberg said that we would be "untrue to the best part of ourselves - and who we are as Americans - if we said 'no' to a mosque in Lower Manhattan... We would betray our values - and play into our enemies' hands - if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else." And he was right. Period.

I was part of a small group of clergy brought down to the ruins at Ground Zero a couple of nights after 9/11 while the fires were still burning. We were there to offer support to the rescue workers and to bear witness to the horror. I remember wondering: what would it take to redeem this broken place? To bring some healing to this shattered landscape? How will we ever recover what we have lost here? Now it strikes me that perhaps the best way to bring healing and peace to New York City, to our country and to the world, is through supporting initiatives that are dedicated to interfaith cooperation and a politics of reason and empathy rather than hatred and fear. An Islamic Center that is designed to build bridges of religious tolerance and understanding is precisely what we need.

BY SHARON BROUS  |  AUGUST 20, 2010; 7:10 PM ET

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  ||  Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Aug 30, 2010

ap: "NYC mosque debate will shape American Islam"

ap: "NYC mosque debate will shape American Islam"

NEW YORK — Adnan Zulfiqar, a graduate student, former U.S. Senate aide and American-born son of Pakistani immigrants, will soon give the first khutbah, or sermon, of the fall semester at the University of Pennsylvania. His topic has presented itself in the daily headlines and blog posts over the disputed mosque near ground zero.

What else could he choose, he says, after a summer remembered not for its reasoned debate, but for epithets, smears, even violence?

As he writes, Zulfiqar frets over the potential fallout and what he and other Muslim leaders can do about it. Will young Muslims conclude they are second-class citizens in the U.S. now and always?

"They're already struggling to balance, `I'm American, I'm Muslim,' and their ethnic heritage. It's very disconcerting," said Zulfiqar, 32, who worked for former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat, and now serves Penn's campus ministry. "A controversy like this can make them radical or become more conservative in how they look at things or how they fit into the American picture."

Whatever the outcome, the uproar over a planned Islamic center near the World Trade Center site is shaping up as a signal event in the story of American Islam.

Strong voices have emerged from outside the Muslim community. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been steadfast in his support for the project. Jon Stewart nightly mocks the bigotry that the protest unleashed.

"The sentiment, say, five years ago among many Muslims, especially among many young Muslims, was that, `We're in this all by ourselves,'" said Omer Mozaffar, a university lecturer in Chicago who leads Quran study groups as a buffer between young people and the extremist preachers on YouTube. `That has changed significantly. There have been a lot of people speaking out on behalf of Muslims."

Eboo Patel, an American Muslim leader and founder of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago nonprofit that promotes community service and religious pluralism, said Muslims are unfortunately experiencing what all immigrant groups endured in the U.S. before they were fully accepted as American. Brandeis University historian Jonathan D. Sarna has noted that Jews faced a similar backlash into the 1800s when they tried to build synagogues, which were once banned in New York.

Patel believes American Muslims are on the same difficult but inevitable path toward integration.

"I'm not saying this is going to be happy," Patel said. "But I'm extremely optimistic."

Yet, the overwhelming feeling is that the controversy has caused widespread damage that will linger for years.

American Muslim leaders say the furor has emboldened opposition groups to resist new mosques around the country, at a time when there aren't enough mosques or Islamic schools to serve the community.

Rhetoric from some politicians that lumps all Muslims with terrorists will depress the Muslim vote, analysts say.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, said in opposing the Islamic center that, "America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization."

U.S. Muslims who have championed democracy and religious tolerance question what they've accomplished. If the "extremist" label can be hung on someone as apparently liberal as the imam at the center of the outcry, Feisal Abdul Rauf, then any Muslim could come under attack. Feisal supports women's rights, human rights and interfaith outreach.

"The joke is on moderate Muslims," said Muqtedar Khan, a University of Delaware political scientist and author of "American Muslims, Bridging Faith and Freedom." "What's the point if you're going to be treated the same way as a radical? If I get into trouble are they going to treat me like I'm a supporter of al-Qaeda?"

U.S. Muslims are themselves divided over the proposed mosque.

Feisal and his wife, Daisy Khan (no relation to Muqtedar Khan), want to build a 13-story, $100 million community center called Park51 two blocks from the World Trade Center site. It would be modeled on the YMCA or Jewish Community Center, with programming for the entire city, and would include a mosque.

Some Muslims felt from the start that the plan was misguided, given the wounds of the Sept. 11 attacks and widespread misunderstanding about Islam. Yet they felt compelled to defend the proposal when the discussion over religious freedom and cultural sensitivity turned ugly.

Days ago, a brick nearly smashed a window at the Madera Islamic Center in central California, where signs were left behind that read, "Wake up America, the enemy is here," and "No temple for the god of terrorism." This past week in New York, a Muslim cab driver had his face and throat slashed in a suspected hate crime.

The poisonous atmosphere comes at a still fragile time in the development of Muslim communal life.

Leaders have spent years trying to persuade Muslim immigrants to come out of their enclaves and fully embrace being American. The task became that much more difficult in the aftermath of 9/11. Many Muslims pulled back, convinced that if another terrorist attack occurs, the U.S. government will put them in internment camps, like the Japanese in World War II. Their American-born children, meanwhile, have felt rejected by their own country.

David Ramadan, a Muslim and vice chair of ethnic coalitions for Republican Party in Virginia, predicts that comments from political figures in both major parties will depress Muslim voting in years to come.

Ramadan and other Muslim Republicans have been pressing GOP leaders not to support a particular mosque, but to acknowledge that American Muslims have equal rights under the Constitution.

"Who wants to come into the fold of the Republican Party today, or even the fold of the Democratic Party?" Ramadan asked. "They just increased the number of independents in America."

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  ||  Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Aug 28, 2010

Blogpost from Mike's First Draft: "USCJ Districts: An Alternative Vision"

USCJ Districts: An Alternative Vision
by Michael Culp Gilboa
Last year the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, as part of its efforts to cut costs and redefine its mission, announced that it would be consolidating its 14 regions into six super-powered districts. Being a bit of a geography dork, I had one question: What are the new districts and what are their borders? So I emailed the USCJ and asked them what their new districts were going to be. I received no response to my email. A few months later I went on the website and saw that, lo and behold, the new districts had been unveiled. They are:

Metropolitan New York (METNY)
Southeast Seaboard
Pacific Southwest
Northern Pacific

Now, I wouldn't be going to rabbinical school if math were really my thing. (I'd be an astronaut.) Nevertheless, even I can tell that the six promised districts have somehow become seven. Also, there is a massive geographical disparity in the size of these districts. So I decided to do a little figuring. Here's the old region map, near as I can tell:

View Old USCJ in a larger map

And here is the new district map:

View New USCJ in a larger map

As you can see, the districts are just the former regions smashed together. While this is definitely the easiest way to consolidate, I am left wondering. The ostensible cause of the redistricting was the contraction and demographic changes that the Conservative movement has experienced. Certainly these changes have not been uniform, yet we are relying on the old borders to be part of the new solution. I am also instinctively uncomfortable with the contrast between the New York City district and my own home state's "Here There Be Dragons" district. This Central region behemoth is just a nightmare of logistics and planning, and it's hard to imagine trying to make the case that Pittsburgh, Denver and San Antonio share the same regional concerns in the same way that Staten Island and the Bronx do. Plus there are seven districts when they promised us six.

(Astute readers will note that I left Canada out of the regional calculations. Recent trends seem to indicate that they are more interested in doing their own thing anyway, and I think Conservative Judaism ought to evolve in its own way in Canada, not having to be the little brother to the U.S. movement. No offense is implied.)

I decided to fight my instincts and ignore geography, instead looking at the numbers behind the districts. According to the USCJ website, here are the number of synagogues in each district:

Northeast: 101
Metropolitan New York: 101
Mid-Atlantic: 105
Southeast Seaboard: 115
Central: 118
Pacific Southwest: 61
Northern Pacific: 29

Total: 630

Aha! This is the reason for the geographic disparity. They are trying to create an equal number of synagogues in each district. (Except for the Northern Pacific district, which really ought to have been incorporated into the Pacific Southwest. I guess that's our mystery seventh district.)

So, problem solved, right? Not really. All of this thinking of mine led to more thinking and wondering, and then I realized that I don't know why the USCJ even needs districts. What do they accomplish? What is their purpose? I've been doing a lot of reading, and I'm still not sure. I thought maybe they were to facilitate USY. As a youth organization, they have to plan events with everyone being reasonably nearby. But it turns out that USY has its own districts anyway.

As near as I can tell, the USCJ has districts because it always has had them. What do they provide that couldn't be done from New York? Something I'm sure, but probably not enough to justify maintaining all of these offices. I certainly don't mean any offense against the people who work in those offices. It's just that I've been involved in synagogues in lots of different ways, and I haven't really seen these regional offices playing a role.

It occurred to me, though, that I knew what they COULD be doing. Unfortunately, this was going to involve more math. It's not enough, you see, to make sure there are an equal number of synagogues in each district. There are so many different sizes of synagogues in our movement. In fact, we have five designations for them: very small, small, medium, large, and very large. I decided to plot these out, giving one point to the very small synagogues, and so on, up to five points for the very large. After looking at some maps and doing some addition, I realized that around two-thirds of Conservative Jews live in about a dozen highly-concentrated geographic areas. Outside of those areas, synagogues are few and far between, and almost always "very small."

The purpose of districts, then, ought to be clear. The "Here There Be Dragons" section of the United States is not an obstacle to our map-making; it ought to be the guiding purpose of our organization. Concentrated Jewish communities should be paired with large swaths of land outside of their concentrated area. The inner district should then be communally responsible for building up Jewish life in their outer territory. This is a model I am happy to have borrowed from certain churches who use a diocesan system. In these churches, established diocese are often paired with "missionary diocese" where the church is growing.

Some might point out the immediate problem that Conservative Judaism in fact isn't growing. To me, that's exactly the point! Here I am proposing a model of districts that exist not just to exist, but are part of a larger vision for the future of the movement. Conservative Judaism ought to be planning and preparing itself to be a leading voice for major growth in American Jewish life. We ought to be filling in the map with mitzvah-centered communities which are repairing the world. Either that or we ought to close down.

My proposal calls for 12 districts, 11 of which exist in concentrated areas of Jewish population. Using my point system, I attempted to draw districts of around 80 points. The largest outliers were the San Francisco Bay Area, with 34 points, the Chicago area, with 49 points, and northern New Jersey, with 119 points. I considered scrapping the Bay Area district, but I found that there was no other district in which to comfortably subsume them. Also, with a 2% synagogue affiliation rate for the Jewish population, the Bay Area is uniquely primed for expansion.

The twelfth district, the Expansion District, occupies the rest of the United States. It is geographically the largest by far, but contains only one-third of the American Jewish population. It is mostly inhabited (Jewishly) by isolated communities in mid-sized cities. These synagogues ought to share a district because they share the same challenges. The single Conservative synagogue in Altoona, Pennsylvania shares more in common with the single Conservative synagogue in Bakersfield, California than it does with the many synagogues in nearby Philadelphia. For very small synagogues, size more than geography is their primary common attribute.

The Expansion District is also subdivided among the other 11 districts, relative to each district's size on the point scale. Each district is assigned a section of the Expansion District at a ratio between 45% and 55%. For instance, the New England district, which has 77 points, is assigned a section containing 42 points, or about 54% of the district's size. The 11 districts are tasked with providing material support for the Jews in their section of the Expansion District. In other words, they are responsible in that territory for Conservative Judaism's development and expansion.

For eight of the 11 districts, I drew borders that were primarily concerned with geography. Thus, southern Florida is paired with northern Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. But three of the districts have a special assignment. Metro New York, Long Island, and northern New Jersey are home to the largest and most established Jewish populations in the United States. They are also adjacent to each other and to other large Jewish populations which inhabit the highly urban east coast. Thus they have been assigned portions of the Expansion District which are not contiguous to their territory. These districts are in a special position to offer their support to a wider swath of territory, and their ready access to transportation resources makes geography less of a concern.

View Proposed USCJ in a larger map

I believe that this organization of the synagogues in the USCJ would help to establish a 21st-century purpose for the United Synagogue. It would strengthen ties between the regions, and by giving our more prosperous and larger synagogues a stake in the undeveloped territories of Jewish life, it would encourage a renewed sense of purpose for Conservative Judaism. I welcome any thoughts about this proposal.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  ||  Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Aug 27, 2010

email conversation between a shefanik in Israel and David Rotem

Congregation Netivot Shalom  ||  Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: glenn tamir <gtamir613

Dear Hevre,

I thought perhaps you might be interested in an e-mail thread I had recently with MK David Rotem, sponsor of the "Conversion Bill" in Knesset( where else can this happen but in Israel).  I think what strikes me the most is his obvious complete disregard for and lack of knowledge of the Masorti Movement.

I realize that to most/all of you, this is not some new revelation.  Perhaps it is merely a message to us that we must all focus hard on the important issues that affect us as World and especially Israeli Jews.  This is a civil rights issue so let's tell it on the mountain and reach out to the Israeli Public as best we can.  They (we) need to know about Masorti and the importance of religious pluralism.

Shabat Shalom

Glenn Tamir
Shorashim, Misgav

August 3, 2010 - Via e-mail - from Glenn Tamir to MK David Rotem:

Dear Mr. Rotem,

I have been following with interest your proposed conversion bill and I have been reading your arguments for it.  You say that you are confused why American Jews are opposed when it does not affect them but you are missing an important point.  It not that American Jews are concerned about conversions performed in America but that those Conservative and Reform Jews living in Israel - many of whom were born in Israel - will have to use rabbis who do not represent them or their religious traditions.

As an Israeli who moved here four years ago with my family, I completely agree with and support the opposition to your bill as it relegates Masorti and other non-orthodox Jews in Israel to second-class citizens.  We deserve the same civil rights to marry, bury our dead, etc... that our orthodox neighbors receive from their spiritual leaders.  Until we have these rights - perhaps under a future Constitution that will guarantee the right of this freedom of religion - I and thousands of other Israeli Masorti Jews living in Israel and millions in the US and abroad will continue to oppose the bill.

I hope now you can understand the reasoning behind this opposition and perhaps you will offer a bill to ratify a constitution or at least the option of civil marriage in Israel.


Glenn Tamir
Shorashim, Misgav


August 4, 2010 - Via e-mail - Reply from MK David Rotem:

Dear Mr. Tamir:

Thank you for your comments, and I really appreciate the fact that you are one of a very limited number of reforms leaders admitting that the opposition to my bill has got nothing to do with conversion in the U.S

Unfortunately the leaders of American Jewry claimed that they are afraid of splitting the American Jewry and are not willing to admit with the American conversion and the status of reformed and majority Jews in Israel.

Unfortunately, the reformed and massorty claim for equity, is taking as hostages about half a million citizen who are from the former Soviet Union.

Freedom of religion is a very important topic, but I am not willing to take hostages and prevent so many people from becoming a part of the Jewish nation because of this ideology.

It's a mere fact that most of this Israeli are secular and when they want religious services they go ever to any synagogue they want.

It is a fact that conservative communities did not get a grip in Israeli society.

Your rabies, would have got from the state exactly what the orthodox would have got if your numbers, And their followers would have been close to the orthodox Jews, but this is not the fact.

as to your remark about civil marriage, I ,in the name of my party" Israel betinuy", laid on the table  17th knesset, a "civil marriage" law, but this was voted against, by exactly by those people who are standing now with the conservative movements i.e ms. tzipi livni and her kadima party, Mr. Barak and his labor party.

Sincerely yours,

M.K david rotem.


 August 4, 2010 - Via e-mail - Reply from Glenn Tamir to MK David Rotem:

Dear Mr. Rotem,

I thank you for your prompt reply, and I very much appreciate the fact that you have taken the time out of your very busy schedule to write to me personally.  However, I must correct several of your statements.

I consider myself a member of the Conservative or Masorti movement - not the Reform movement to which you refered me.  I understand that like many Israelis, you see us as one but we are somewhat different.  We believe in a halachic process while our Reform brethren do not.  However, we are both very concerned about our civil rights to freely practice our traditions as citizens of the State of Israel.

I understand quite well the problem of the Jewish status of the approximately 400 thousand olim from the FSU who live in Israel.  However, the only ones who have "taken hostage" their situation are the people in the Knesset who have put in your bill that only the Orthodox Rabbinate may rule on conversions in Israel.  Would not it be more open and easier to allow those 400 thousand to have access to the rabbi of their choice - be they Haredi, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, or Conservative - to perform the conversion?  It seems to me and millions of non-Orthodox Jews that it is the desire of the Orthodox Rabbinate to be in complete control of the conversion process that is preventing the passage of your very important legislation.

Also, your comments about the lack of acceptance of the Masorti traditions by the Israeli People are incorrect.  In fact, there are many thousands of Israelis - Sabras included - who have discovered Masorti Judaism and are active members of this movement.  While our numbers are much smaller than those of the Orthodox, they have grown over the years.  This, in spite of the lack of state funding and support for our leaders and institutions which is routinely provided the Orthodox groups and the Chief Rabbinate.

My personal experience has shown that when secular Israelis discover the Masorti way, they are very accepting and encouraged to become more traditional in their Jewish practices. Perhaps this is because our traditions teach them how to retain their Jewish values in the context of the modern world that they live in.

I want to personally invite you to come visit my yishuv of Shorashim to see our community and to witness the fact that most of our new members are not Anglos like me but native Israelis who were looking for a way to live in the modern world while keeping their Jewish faith and traditions.  There are many other communities in Israel that are growing and that reflect this progress.

As for your comment about certain Knesset leaders who have opposed your introduction of a "Civil Marriage Bill" I can only infer that their reason for not supporting it was due to the included amendments, like those in this "Conversion Bill", which do not allow for the level of equality necessary for support of the legislation.  I would be very interested in reading a copy of your proposed law if you would be kind enough to send it to me - in Hebrew or English.  Nothing of course was ever received....

While the issue of freedom of religion may not seem to be of the same importance as the Jewish status of those 400 thousand Israelis who came from the FSU, I am sure that there is a way to craft your bill to provide a remedy that meets both the needs of your constituents and the concerns of the millions of Jews who are voicing their concerns to you and the Prime Minister.  I know that you will have much support from Israeli and Diaspora Jews if you followed this inclusive path.  You might be surprised to know that I voted for your party in the last elections for Knesset.  Support that I have been criticized for but would very much like to continue to show in the future.

May Hashem give you the strength and vision to help lead our People towards a future that keeps Clal Israel together so that we may move forward as a nation and deal with the important issues that we all face now, and in the future.


Glenn Tamir
Shorashim, Misgav

...There have been no further replies from MK David Rotman.........

looking for a 1st-2nd grade teacher

Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley's Conservative, egalitarian congregation,  is looking for a 1st-2nd grade teacher for the school year which runs September 14, 2010 through May 17, 2011 with breaks for Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving and winter vacation.  The school meets on Tuesday and Thursday 3:45 - 5:45. 

The qualifications for the position are:

1. Fluency in modern Hebrew and passion, skill and experience with teaching Hebrew
2. Desire to work in an egalitarian, traditional, participatory setting
3. Creative approach to teaching using games, movement, skits. etc.

The salary is $35 - $55/hour based on experience

Applicants should send a resume to Rabbi Shalom Bochner, the Director of LifeLong Learning for the congregation at: education@netivotshalom.org or call 510-549-9447, ext. 104

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  ||  Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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Two letters to the J -- aug 27, 2010

Two letters to the J  -- aug 27, 2010


What if 

What if those who imagine theirs was the prescription for addressing the complexities of the UC Berkeley campus committed to 10 hours each volunteering at Hillel?  Having spent considerable time with Berkeley students, on and off campus, it is my firm belief that the clarity these comments claim would be a bit less, and the support of Hillel quite a bit more.  We have work to do as a community to strengthen our ties to Israel.  Attacking the very Jewish organizations and leaders who fight for these ties is, at best, a waste of limited communal resources.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor



Taking Inventory

In response to the many comments already posted here:  If you had stood on campus with me, Rabbi Hanan Alexander, Consul General Akiva Tor, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, Rabbi Judah Dardik, and Rabbi Adam Naftalin Kelman, you would channel the overwhelming passion you are demonstrating here to raising funds for Berkeley Hillel, which defends Israel on a daily basis while providing a strong and diverse Jewish home on campus for the next generation of Jewish leadership.  If those Jewish college students read the hatred and unvarnished rhetoric in these comments, they will be appropriately discouraged from ever joining the conversation.  I encourage everyone in our community to stop typing and to start preparing for the Cheshbon HaNefesh (soul-inventory) with which every Jew must engage in advance of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor



Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Aug 26, 2010

You're Invited - The Art of Living 2010

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Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak Street
Oakland, CA

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Sunday October 10, 2010 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Add to my calendar
Dear Friend,

You are cordially invited to join JFCS/East Bay for our fourth annual Art of Living gala event.
We look forward to a festive evening of celebration, community, and animation, with great food and exciting raffle prizes.
Please click below to RSVP and purchase raffle tickets.

SPECIAL OFFER: Join at or upgrade to the Family Membership at the Oakland Museum of California and an anonymous supporter will donate $50 to JFCS/East Bay. Simply write "JFCS" in the Comments field when you join.

Rabbi Jason Miller on Forward.com: "Rescind the Ban on Attending Interfaith Weddings"

Forward.com "Rescind the Ban on Attending Interfaith Weddings"

Op Ed By Rabbi Jason A. Miller

Published August 25, 2010, issue of September 03, 2010.

When I decided to become a rabbi in 1996, I visited the Jewish Theological Seminary, my future rabbinical school. Along with sitting in on some classes, I stayed in the apartment of four first-year rabbinical students. I still recall a discussion we had at the Shabbat dinner table. One of the rabbinical students raised the question of what would happen if one of their siblings became engaged to a non-Jew — could they even attend the wedding?

The Rabbinical Assembly, Conservative Judaism's rabbinic organization, lists attendance by a rabbi at a wedding between a Jew and a non-Jew as a violation of its "Standards of Religious Practice" in its code of professional conduct. The underlying rationale is that a rabbi's attendance at an interfaith wedding would be perceived as condoning intermarriage.

While the recent wedding of Chelsea Clinton to Marc Mezvinsky renewed age-old debates about intermarriage, for Conservative rabbis in particular it has spurred discussion about the R.A.'s policy. This is because JTS's chancellor, Arnold Eisen, attended the couple's post-wedding reception.

Eisen — who became close to the groom when he was a professor at the couple's alma mater, Stanford University — is not a rabbi. Yet chancellors of JTS are considered by some to be the Conservative movement's titular heads. Is it possible for the chancellor of JTS to attend an interfaith wedding reception without implicitly sending a message either about the Conservative movement's attitude toward intermarriage or, more specifically, about the appropriateness of the R.A.'s policy?

In truth, if Eisen were not such a high-profile figure, he would not have been breaking new ground. In practice, the R.A.'s policy has left considerable room for interpretation. Some

R.A. members distinguish between attendance at an interfaith wedding ceremony and the reception that follows. Others disagree, arguing that the wedding ceremony is directly connected to the actual ceremony and attendance at either could be perceived as tacit approval. Some rabbis, however, have simply flouted the policy, quietly attending interfaith wedding ceremonies of relatives and friends.

The R.A.'s code states that violations of standards of religious practice "usually result in expulsion from the Rabbinical Assembly." Rabbis who officiate at interfaith weddings face the prospect of stern sanctions from the R.A., and in practice have generally chosen to resign their membership in order to avoid public controversy.

I am not, however, aware of any instances in which rabbis who simply attended interfaith weddings (and I know more than a few who have) faced repercussions from the R.A. Indeed, one widely held view among R.A. members is that the real purpose of the attendance ban is to give Conservative rabbis who personally oppose attending such weddings a ready excuse when invited.

Nevertheless, the policy presents many of us with profoundly difficult choices. A couple of years after I was ordained at JTS, I chose not to attend my first cousin's wedding to a lovely, albeit non-Jewish, young woman. I explained that my wife and I would not be attending because my rabbinic association forbade it. My refusal to attend (he knew better than to ask for me to officiate) led to animosity from other relatives and a fractured relationship among cousins.

In light of the fallout from that decision, I made a much different decision several years later. When I received an invitation to the wedding of a close childhood friend, I didn't allow the fact that her bashert wasn't a "member of the tribe" to deter me from replying "yes" on the RSVP card. I don't believe anyone in attendance saw my presence as an acceptance of intermarriage. My intention was only to show support for my long-time friend and to ensure the couple knew that the Jewish community wasn't turning its back on them.

The R.A. isn't about to allow its members to officiate at interfaith weddings. But the attendance ban, which is listed in the code of conduct alongside the officiation ban, is a different issue. This policy forces rabbis to choose between violating a rule and slighting loved ones. The policy, enforced or not, adds pain to an already difficult situation for families. It sends a message that Judaism puts tribalism before dignity and respect.

It is time for the Rabbinical Assembly to rescind its policy banning its members from attending interfaith weddings as guests. If outreach to interfaith couples is a goal for our movement and our community, then the insult of refusing to attend their weddings is counterproductive.

Rabbi Jason A. Miller is rabbi of Tamarack Camps and director of the Kosher Michigan certification initiative.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  ||  Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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