Jun 30, 2011

A Special Request: Help Fund My First Solo Album!

Dear Chevreh, 

For the past 20 years, I've been blessed to sing with musical groups, and before that I learned to express my heart's music at my parents' magic Shabbat table.  I'm proud to share that I am poised to release my first solo album!  The album, tentatively titled "Within", is scheduled for release in the early Fall – if I can secure funding.   We've recorded the tracks, and we're up to the production stage.

"Within" contains 7 songs: 4 new original compositions, one never-before-recorded song by Debbie Friedman z"l, one cover of an Ansel Matthews piece, and one collaboration with my friend and musical soul-mate Rabbi David Paskin setting of an Abraham Joshua Heschel z"l poem.  Here are two audio samples:

My dream for this album is for my music to be framed by my sacred community, Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA.  The artwork, liner notes, and harmonies will be collaborative creation contributions of members of Netivot Shalom.  (See below for the list of songs and the cover artwork: a quilt by Karen Friedman, photographed by Nadine Samuels.)

I need your help to make this dream a reality.  The music is ready to be shared, and the only factor in the way is the cost.  An anonymous donor already funded the basic recording.  I invite you to consider the following sponsorship opportunities for my album, with or without acknowledgement on the album itself, as you choose:

  • one song: $360-$540
  • album sponsorship: $10,000.

To sponsor "Within", please send a check to:


Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Congregation Netivot Shalom

1316 University Ave

Berkeley, CA


All gifts are tax deductible, and I am also glad to hear from you with any questions.  This life-long dream has filled me with incredible spirit, and I look forward to sharing it with you all.

Kol Tuv,


Quilt (C) Karen Friedman (photo credit: Nadine Samuels)

Scottish Niggun

melody: Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I and You

based on a poem by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, z"l (1907-1972)

melody: Rabbi Menachem Creditor and Rabbi David Paskin


lyrics and melody: Ansel Matthews

recorded with permission of Ansel Matthews

Yedid Nefesh 

lyrics: Rabbi Elazar Azikri z"l (1533 - 1600) 

melody: Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Eshet Chayil

lyrics: Proverbs 31

melody: Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Lecha Dodi

Lyrics: Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz z"l (1500-1580)

melody: Rabbi Menachem Creditor


Lyrics: Exodus 25:8

Melody: Debbie Friedman z"l (1951 – 2011)

recorded with permission from the Friedman family

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

Forward.com: "Gay Marriage in New York Puts Conservative Rabbis on the Spot"

Forward.com: "Gay Marriage in New York Puts Conservative Rabbis on the Spot"

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published June 29, 2011, issue of July 08, 2011.

Orthodox rabbis fought it. Reform rabbis championed it. And when New York's historic same-sex marriage bill was finally signed into law June 24, Conservative rabbis scratched their heads.

Marriage equality is a done deal in New York — the law is set to take effect 30 days from the date it was signed — but in the Conservative movement, the passage of the bill highlights the uncertainty that many Conservative rabbis feel when it comes to officiating marriage between gay men or between lesbians. Now, with their gay congregants' relationships sanctioned by the State of New York, Conservative leaders are feeling increased pressure to clarify their position on same-sex unions and to finally answer the question: How (Conservative) Jewish is same-sex marriage?

"It has really changed the game for those of us in the field," said Gerald Skolnik, vice president of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly and a rabbi at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, in Central Queens. "I think the decision of New York State will compel those in the non-Orthodox world who have in general a more tolerant, if still evolving, view about gay and lesbian relationships to get off the fence and say, 'Would I do this or not?'"

When it comes to the question of whether Jewish law permits same-sex marriage, the Reform, Orthodox and Conservative movements offer wildly varying answers that can be summed up respectively: yes, no and sort of.

Each stream of Judaism has its own legal and ethical interpretation of how homosexuality squares with Judaism. But all three denominations have paid special attention to kiddushin, the formal liturgy and ritual that are required for a wedding in order to render a couple married under traditional Jewish law, or Halacha. Without kiddushin, and several other required rites, a couple cannot be considered halachically wed no matter what else the ceremony may contain.

Reform rabbis who conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies often have a broad understanding of Jewish wedding rites, allowing gay couples to engage in ritual acts that were written with a man and a woman in mind, such as the signing of the ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, which is one of the required rites. Orthodox rabbis hew to a predictably narrower, traditional take on these religious requirement, applying them to heterosexual couples alone. Orthodox leaders, in partnership with Christian groups, secured an exemption from New York's same-sex marriage bill that protects religious organizations from being sued for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.

In the Conservative movement — which sees itself as Judaism's big tent — some rabbis borrow heavily from kiddushin and other required rites to conduct gay commitment ceremonies, while others avoid them altogether and craft their own celebrations. Still others opt not to officiate at same-sex weddings in the first place.

Conservative Judaism's waffling approach to same-sex marriage was actually born of an attempt to clarify the movement's stance on gay men and lesbians in general. In 2006, the R.A.'s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards issued two different responsa — akin to Supreme Court opinions — on gay men and lesbians in the Conservative movement. One responsum, written by Rabbi Joel Roth, prohibited all homosexual activity and kept gay students out of rabbinic schools. The other responsum, written by rabbis Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins and Avram Reisner, was much more nuanced: restrictive in some parts, but a model of acceptance in others. For instance, citing the specific wording of the Torah's ban on homosexuality, the document accepted some forms of homosexual activity but reaffirmed the Conservative ban on male-on-male anal sex. But the responsum also invited gay Jews to apply to rabbinic schools, a landmark statement that led New York's Jewish Theological Seminary to open its doors to gay students in 2007.

When it came to the issue of same-sex marriage, the document was ambiguous. "We are not prepared at this juncture to rule upon the Halachic status of gay and lesbian relationships," the document read. "To do so would require establishing an entirely new institution in Jewish law that treats not only the ceremonies and legal instruments appropriate for creating homosexual unions but also the norms for the dissolution of such unions." The document did not endorse the use of traditional kiddushin for a same-sex union, nor did it provide an alternative model for gay men and lesbians. It did, however, encourage the "celebration" of monogamous, committed homosexual unions.

"Kiddushin is between a man and a woman, and this is something different from that," Dorff said in an interview with the Forward. "The liturgy of the sheva brachot [the seven blessings] would [also] need to be changed. It does not fit into the Halachic categories or the legal categories of kiddushin."

Conservative rabbis who chose to adopt the responsum written by Dorff, Nevins and Reisner found themselves without a template for conducting same-sex unions, so they began to create their own. Some used the ketubah. Others didn't. Some used traditional blessings. Others didn't. To be a Conservative rabbi who conducts same-sex unions is to contribute to a vast and growing global patchwork of gay Jewish marital rituals. Now, Dorff, Nevins and Reisner are taking steps to rein in the rabbis.

The three rabbis are currently collecting liturgy and ritual documents from Conservative rabbis who conduct same-sex unions in an effort to synthesize and, eventually, codify the way that same-sex marriages are performed in the Conservative movement. According to Nevins, the rabbis will issue the new guidelines sometime this summer. New York's marriage law has lit a small fire under the feet of the rabbis, prompting them to move quickly to formalize the gay marriage template.

"Now that gay couples are allowed to be married in New York State, more New York-based clergy will have the opportunity to perform such weddings," Nevins said in an e-mail to the Forward. "This may accelerate the process of clarification about the format of such ceremonies but shouldn't have much impact on their ritual nature. We have separation of church and state in America, so government policy shouldn't directly affect ritual practice."

Whether or not the new template will mimic the required traditional rites remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, some Conservative rabbis have successfully used kiddushin and the other required rites with same-sex couples. "So far I have only done one. It was pretty similar [to a heterosexual Jewish wedding]," said Rabbi Gordon Tucker, a member of the R.A. who formerly served on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and is an advocate for acceptance of gay men and lesbians in the Conservative movement. "There were brachot over two cups of wine that were appropriately worded [for two men]. There was a ketubah that was appropriately worded. I guess to someone sitting in the back row, it would look like a wedding."

Other rabbis remain uncomfortable with the idea of using required traditional rites for heterosexuals in a gay wedding. Skolnik was recently asked to officiate at a same-sex wedding ceremony — his first invitation to do so.

"I said, 'I work out of a traditional background,'" he said. "They regard it as a wedding. I am still in formation. I am trying to find a way to do this that I can live with, a way that I can be faithful to my tradition and still honor my appreciation of the fact that gays and lesbians deserve to be recognized in the eyes of God."

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at feedback@forward.com

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/139292/#ixzz1QmMYUz64

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

Jun 29, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Tamuz

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Read all about  Sivan srevices!

"Praying and chanting with Women of the Wall continues to teach me about the ways that women can come together to advance not only our standing but also our understanding of Judaism."
- Liz Piper-Goldberg


Join us to celebrate Rosh Hodesh Tamuz at the Kotel on Sunday, July 3, 2011 at 7 AM!
Please bring your own siddur.

If you would like to lead a part of the service or hold our Sefer Torah, please contact us.

To sponsor this month's oneg, please contact us.

הינכן מוזמנות לתפילת ראש חודש תמוז ביום ראשון ה-3 ביולי בשעה 7:00 בעזרת הנשים של הכותל המערבי, ובהמשך, קריאה בתורה בקשת רובינזון.
אנא הביאו עמכן סידור.
  אם את מעוניינת להיות חזנית, לקרוא בתורה או להחזיק בספר התורה, אנא כתבי אלינו

אם ברצונך לקחת חלק במימון הכיבוד שלאחר התפילה, אנא  כתבי אלינו


לפני כשבוע ציינה משפחה אחת כואבת, ועמה עם שלם, חמש שנים לחטיפתו של החייל גלעד שנים. חמש שנים שלמות, יותר מ-1,800 ימים, שהילד שהפך לילד של כולנו יושב בחדר קטן וחשוך, בלי לראות את משפחתו, בלי לדעת מתי, אם בכלל, ייצא משם. חמש שנים שבני משפחתו לא יכולים לחבק אותו, לתת לו נשיקת לילה טוב, להתקשר לשאול מה שלומו ואם הכל בסדר. מאז חטיפתו של גלעד נושאות נשות הכותל מדי חודש תפילה מיוחדת לשלומם של השבויים והנעדרים, ובמרכזם גלעד. הפעם, חמש שנים בלעדיו, תוקדש תפילת ראש חודש תמוז לשלומו ולשובו. אביבה שליט, אמו של גלעד, הוזמנה לתפילה, במהלכה גם יוטמן בכותל פתק הקורא לשחרורו המהיר, בחתימתן של נשים יהודיות בארץ ובעולם. בימים אלה, בהם עתידו של גלעד אינו ידוע, אנו לא מפסיקות לחשוב עליו, ומתפללות לשלומו


It was only a week ago that a family in despair – along with the entire nation – marked the fifth anniversary of Gilad Shalit's kidnapping. It has been five years, more than 1, 800 days that a child of ours is sitting in a small dark room, never seeing his family, not knowing if and when he'll be free. Five years that his family members can't hug him, give him a good night kiss, or call to ask how's he doing and if everything is fine. Since Gilad's kidnapping, the Women of the Wall are saying a special prayer each month for the safety of Gilad and all the captive and MIA soldiers. This coming Rosh Chodesh, five years after the kidnapping, the Tamuz service will be dedicated to Gilad's safety and fast return. Aviva Shalit, Gilad's mother, was invited to the service, when we will put a note into the Kotel that was signed by our worldwide supporters asking for Gilad's quick release. During these days, when Gilad's fate is unknown, we will keep him in our minds and pray for his safety.

Copyright © 2011 Women of the Wall, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Women of the Wall
POB 31936
Jerusalem, Israel 91319

Jun 28, 2011

Fwd: ISNA Joins Interfaith Leaders at Faith Shared Event to Promote Religious Tolerance at National Cathedral

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ISNA Joins Interfaith Leaders at Faith Shared Event to Promote Religious Tolerance at National Cathedral


Source: ISNA




(Plainfield, IN, June 28, 2011)  Worshipers attending Sunday service at the Washington National Cathedral in D.C. this past weekend were of a much more diverse variety than usual.  Joining Christian worshipers were members of the Muslim and Jewish community for a special interfaith service focusing on promoting religious tolerance in our communities.   ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid joined Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman, Assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth Zion, and Reverend Dean Lloyd of the Washington National Cathedral, to lead prayers and speak during the interfaith service.

The holy books of all three Abrahamic faiths were on display during the service and in place of the traditional Sunday mass, each faith leader led recitations from their own holy books that focus on respect for diversity.  "God could have made all of us look the same and go to the same temple or same church, but God willed that humans are diverse," stated Imam Magid.

This service was a part of a larger Faith Shared campaign led by the by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First.  The Faith Shared campaign is an initiative to help correct the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims within American society.  The goal of the campaign is to promote interfaith events throughout the nation at churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship to create understanding between faith communities.    


In addition, the campaign uses photos, videos, and print coverage from around the world of their faiths promoting tolerance and interfaith understanding to combat the mis-conception that Islam does not promote tolerance or that people of different faiths cannot support one another, particularly members of the Jewish and Muslim faith.

For more information on Sunday's events, including some beautiful photos, please click here. 



Sarah Thompson
ISNA Communications Coordinator

Alex Sinclair on JPOST: "The demagoguery of ridicule"

JPOST: "The demagoguery of ridicule"
06/27/2011 23:55 


In recent months, many commentators have criticized the weakening commitment of young American Jewish communal leaders – rabbinical, cantorial, and Jewish education students – to the State of Israel. As the director of a new semester-in- Israel program for students at the Davidson School of Education of the Jewish Theological Seminary, I would like to suggest that these critiques are fundamentally flawed on at least three different levels: politically, educationally, and thirdly, and most significantly, in their conception of Jewish peoplehood.

On a political level, it's true that some American rabbinical, education and cantorial students hold "left-wing" opinions (although, in my experience, most cohorts contain students with views from across the political spectrum). Left-wing young American Jewish leaders have been attacked as "naïve" and un- Zionist, and that's not only unfair, but also intellectually lazy.

These left-wing students' views are no different from those of many Jewish Zionist Israelis who strongly disapprove of the current government's handling of the conflict with the Palestinians.

If the American students are naïve about Israel's security, then so are countless Israeli politicians, military figures, and cultural thinkers. Now, it's okay to say that you think they are wrong, but it's not okay to delegitimize and condescend. The demagoguery of ridicule is all too common in the Israeli political arena; when it comes to Israel-Diasporarelations, we must raise the debate above that unhelpful level.

From an educational perspective too, the all-out attack on liberal American rabbinical, cantorial and education students is highly flawed. Even if the critics are right, even if these students are well-meaning, liberal fools – you know, "conservatives who haven't been mugged yet", as the old insult goes – even if that's the case, the confrontational nature of the demand that they admit to the error of their ways is totally misguided. All good educators know that you have to start with where the learner is.

The American philosopher of education John Dewey warned us, in several different books and essays written over several decades, that presenting the subject matter as an external, teacher-decided, "fait accompli" to the learner, will lead to educational failure. If your learners don't like Shakespeare, you can't hit them over the head with a bound copy of his complete works and shout at them "but you should like Shakespeare."

Even if the critics are right about these students, angrily telling them that they're wrong is futile. There are genuine debates to be had about particularism and universalism, about Jewish ethnicity, about the "protestantization" of American Jewry, and in many of those debates I am also concerned with the positions of some sections of American Jewry; but you are not going to educate young American Jewish leaders by ridiculing them.

Haranguing is not the same as education.

THIS BRINGS us to the third flaw, which is the most serious, and the one that highlights a critical debate that the Jewish world needs to have. It's a conceptual question about what Jewish peoplehood is, and about what the rights and responsibilities are of Jews throughout the world, in both the Diaspora and Israel. Many Israeli critiques of young American Jewish leaders are, at their core, classic Zionist "negation of the Diaspora" positions: Israel is the center of the Jewish world; Israelis know best about Israel's problems; Diaspora Jews should support Israel come what may, and refrain from criticizing Israel in public, and be very cautious about doing so even in private.

This approach may have worked in the early years of Israel's existence, but it's counter-productive today. Silencing the American Jewish voice will not lead to greater feelings of Jewish peoplehood; the opposite is true. Instead of telling these young American Jewish leaders that they "should" feel more connection with the Jewish people and Israel, we would do better to give them the space, the tools, and the legitimacy to become true partners in the serious conversations that the Jewish people should be having with itself, about itself; and we should enable Israelis to enter those conversations as equal, not superior, partners.

These conversations must get to the heart of the core questions about Jewishness in the contemporary world. For example, it may well be true that American Jewry has become overly focused on questions of privatized religious meaning, to the detriment of its sense of ethnic ties and particularism, as Steven M Cohen and Arnold Eisen pointed out over a decade ago. But it's also true that in Israel, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, and Judaism has become far too particularist, far too tribal, and has lost its sense of liberal universalism.

Here, then, is the real issue for anyone concerned with Jewish peoplehood today: our people is split between two poles, each of which needs rebalancing by the other. Yes, American Jews need to be exposed to the remarkable, inspiring experience of Israeli Judaism as public,sovereign space, the vibrancy of Israeli ethnic-religious- cultural creativity, a society whose foundational civic narratives are rooted in Jewish texts and language. American Judaism is the poorer for the lack of such exposure.

But the traffic must not be one-way. Israeli Jews need to be exposed to the remarkable, inspiring experience of American Judaism as an open, pluralist way of life, which can speak to different people in different ways; to the vibrancy of American Jewish vehicles for personal spiritual meaning; and to a religious community that has succeeded in having Jewish messages inspire and infuse hundreds of thousands of non-Jews. Israeli Judaism is the poorer for the lack of such exposure.

Both American and Israeli Judaism are, on their own, at best, incomplete, and at worst, fatally flawed. Open, honest conversations between American and Israeli Jews can help each group see their own flaws, and become healed by the other's strengths. Israeli Jews are really good at pointing out the weaknesses of American Judaism, but they're not so good when the tables are turned. Instead of ridiculing American Jews, Israelis should look inwards, and do some soul-searching about Israel and Israeli society. Parts of Israel are indeed inspiring and thrilling; other parts are depressingly backward. American Jews can help, if only Israelis would listen. And if American Jews felt that Israelis were more open to listening to them, perhaps they would in turn want to listen back.

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

Jun 27, 2011

What If?

What If?
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

What if...

...books only answered
questions actually asked?

...people listened intently
for those real needs?

...time's passage affirmed
decisions already made?

...life allowed for
its own peaceful unfolding?

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
netivotshalom.org ::  menachemcreditor.org

This email was sent from my phone.  Please forgive any typos.

Jun 23, 2011

jweekly: "Lawsuit aims to axe circumcision bill from S.F. ballot"

Lawsuit aims to axe circumcision bill from S.F. ballot
Thursday, June 23, 2011 | by dan pine

If Jennifer and Jeremy Benjamin have their way, San Franciscans won't get a chance to vote on the proposed circumcision ban this fall.

The Jewish mom and dad, along with several other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court June 22 to remove the proposed ban from the

Nov. 8 ballot.

The suit, which was formally announced in a press conference on the steps of City Hall this week, claims that a city has no right to ban and criminalize legitimate medical procedures, such as circumcision, which are regulated by state law.

John Arntz, the San Francisco director of elections, and Lloyd Schofield, who is spearheading the municipal ballot measure to ban circumcision for males under the age of 18, were named in the suit.

Co-plaintiff Leticia Preza speaks June 22 on the steps of S.F. City Hall, flanked by (from left) co-counsel Nicole Aeschleman, attorney Michael Jacobs and mohel Dr. Brian McBeth. photo/jcrc/minh la
The Benjamins, San Francisco residents who have a son and a daughter, say they simply want the freedom to continue the tradition of brit milah, as practiced by Jews for thousands of years.

"Circumcision is really important to how we practice Judaism," Jennifer Benjamin said. "Our [5-year-old] son is circumcised, and if we had another [boy] it's something we would do again. The idea that they would ban it in the city was actually shocking."

The list of plaintiffs includes not only a handful of Jews and two big Jewish organizations, but also Leticia Preza, Kashif Abdullah and Sheila Bari — all practicing Muslims.

"Circumcision is required for Muslim males and we chose to circumcise because of our faith," Preza said in a press release. "This ban specifically targets a religious practice of Islam. San Francisco is a city that prides itself on diversity and pluralism. [The proposed ban] threatens San Francisco values and should be stopped."

The lawsuit's other plaintiffs are the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and several local Jews, including Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe of San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El and his wife, Yael Frenkel-Jaffe.

"We believe the voters don't actually have the ability to vote on this," said Abby Michelson Porth, JCRC associate director. "Their interests have been pre-empted by the state legislature, which has affirmatively legislated that it has the right to regulate physicians' practice, not municipalities."

According to a statement released by the JCRC's Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom, the lawsuit cites a statute which denies municipalities the power to "prohibit a healing arts professional licensed with the state ... from engaging in any act or performing any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that license."

"We think it's a very strong legal argument," said Michael Jacobs, a partner at the Morrison and Foester law firm, which is representing JCRC in the case pro bono. "[The opposition] is going to have a hard time developing persuasive counter-arguments. It's misleading to the electorate, which does not have the power to enact this initiative."

According to Jacobs, the courts usually expedite pre-election challenges such as this, and are more often supportive of them when the suits cite a statutory prohibition.

"This goes to a superior court judge," he added. "We could get a ruling as soon as the third week of July. [Ban proponents] might appeal, and then that would be  expedited, as well."

Though the suit stresses statutory arguments against the ballot measure, the plaintiffs say they have additional reasons for fighting it.

"This measure would put me and hundreds of other doctors in jail for performing a procedure with known health benefit and global health implications," Dr. Brian McBeth said in a press release. McBeth is a registered mohel in California who works in the department of emergency medicine at San Francisco General Hospital.

Proponents of the measure, in general, are relying on the genital mutilation argument. Matthew Hess of San Diego, who wrote the ballot language for the San Francisco measure, called it a "double standard" that cutting the genitals of girls is illegal but cutting the foreskin off boys is acceptable.

"We're not trying to stop people from getting circumcised if they want to," Hess was quoted as saying in the Santa Monica Daily Press. "We just want to protect children from getting it forced on them."

Since the measure qualified for the ballot a few months ago, opponents of the circumcision ban have expressed confidence that voters would reject it.

Still, the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit are against letting the voters decide the matter.

"There are times you have to fight things that go against everything we stand for," Jeremy Benjamin said. "I'm sure it would be squashed at the polls, but we have to be proactive."

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

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