Sep 27, 2011

Rosh HaShannah 5772: "A Loving Call"

Rosh HaShannah 5772: "A Loving Call"
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor
On Rosh HaShannah, after hearing the Shofar each of the three times during Musaf, we recite these words:

"May the words of our lips be pleasing to You, God, who listens, discerns, considers, and attends to the sound of our shofar blast. Lovingly accept our offering..."

God "listens, discerns, considers, and attends to the sound of our shofar blast"? This vision is of a God who needs, listens, and loves, a God Who is not content to be Alone.  The very title Melech/King, used throughout Yamim Nora'im points to this as well.  We do not believe in a gendered definition of God (nor do we deal particularly well with authority) but this title implies relationship, for what is a ruler without subjects?  And we wish it to be this way, which is why we plead "May the words of our lips be pleasing... lovingly accept our offering." As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschelz"l taught, "Judaism shows it to be a need to be needed by God."

Our communities call each of us to stretch and support their vulnerable futures. Our country is struggling to emerge from a contraction that affects many, many citizens.  The State of Israel is enduring an unparalleled moment of uncertainty.  The world is aching for a better year. 

I believe each of these calls us to lovingly offer what we can, to "avert the severity of the decree" through introspection and repentance, learning and Tzedakah - to commit our hands to the aspirational dreams our hearts express.

The shofar is jolt to the human soul, but it is also a piercing cry to God, who "attends" and "lovingly accepts" that which we offer.  With every word, spoken and unspoken, may we bring our deepest dreams just a bit closer to reality. 

The world is about to begin again.  Thank God.

May this be a healthy, safe, year for you and those you love.  

May it be a good year for our community, for Israel, and for the entire world.

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.

Sep 26, 2011

Rosh Hashana e-Shiur from the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem

Rosh Hashana E-Shiur

The Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem

The Conservative Yeshiva is pleased to bring you this E-Shiur, "Zohar on the Holidays of Tishrei" by Dr. Shaiya Rothberg.

The E-shiur can be downloaded in pdf and printed out, for your convenience. The sources in the original (Hebrew and Aramaic) with translation into English can be downloaded here.

We hope this E-Shiur contributes to your High Holiday learning!

On behalf of all at the Conservative Yeshiva, we wish you Shana Tova.

Rabbi Shmuel (Richard) Lewis, Rosh Yeshiva 

Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, Director

Sep 23, 2011

a Letter to the Wall Street Journal

I believe Tevi Troy's "The White House's Advice for Your Rabbi" (Sept. 23) was inaccurate. Rabbis have not been pressured to talk politics from the pulpit by the White House during the upcoming Holiday season.  Jewish tradition teaches Jews to "Pray for the welfare of the government, without which people would tear each other apart." It isn't political to talk about the needs of our society, which has been the thrust of the White House's message. We must be engaged in our country's welfare.  It is a Jewish communal obligation as well as a central obligation of citizenship.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom
Berkeley, CA

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.

Amitim for Grown-Ups

Amitim for Grown-Ups
with Rabbi Creditor
Tuesday Nights, 7:30pm-9pm

Dates: Nov. 8, 29; Dec. 13, 20; Jan. 3, 17, 24; Feb. 7, 14, 21; March 6, 13, 27; April 3, 17; May 1, 22
Tuition: $180-$360 for the entire series (some scholarship is available, no one turned away for lack of funds)
Please register by email to amitim4grownups@gmail.com

Have you been wishing to have an Aliyah, read Torah, and understand Shabbat morning services but don't yet have the confidence or skills?  In this brand new Adult class we will share the wisdom of "Amitim," the CNS Bar/Bat Mitzvah program!  This will be a wonderful way to gain (or brush-up on) synagogue skills, practice basic Hebrew prayer, learn how to craft a Drasha, and more!  Every class will begin at 7:30 with a "How-to" component, a 10 minute break, and then a chance for guided discussion on a range of related Jewish topics.  Participants will have the option of celebrating an Adult Bat or Bar Mitzvah, either as a group or as individuals, with support from Rabbi Creditor and Rabbi Bochner.  No Hebrew knowledge necessary, just a passionate, curious soul!  All proceeds support Tzedakkah projects at Congregation Netivot Shalom.

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.

"Free" or "Inspired by Violin"

"Free" or "Inspired by Violin"
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Amazing things,
those souls with strings.
Every stroke and every sound,
penetrates and swirls around.

Not suspended, undefended,
flying free, as God intended.
It touches where no word can go,
deep within, where spirit flows.

And if the blessing sought is touched,
your heart, your soul might feel the rush,
of all that is and what might be,
coursing through to set you free.

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.

Dr. Alex Sinclair in JPost: "Israel engagement is Israel’s responsibility too"

Israel engagement is Israel's responsibility too
Dr. Alex Sinclair is the Director of Programs in Israel Education for the Jewish Theological Seminary. He directs Kesher Hadash, the semester-in- Israel program of JTS's Davidson School of Education.

Most Israel engagement programs are rooted in one core underlying assumption: that American Jewish identity and life are in some way incomplete without, or at the very least can be enriched by, a relationship with Israel and Israelis. According to this assumption, the problem of Israel engagement is located entirely within the American Jewish context, and it is there that the worldwide Jewish community's efforts must be directed in order to fix the problem. American Jews are brought to Israel in order to be inspired and become connected; Israelis are sent to the United States in order to educate and inspire young Americans at summer camps; and educational researchers probe the extent to which Americans do or don't feel connected to Israel.

I certainly agree – wholeheartedly! – that engagement with Israel and Israelis has the potential to enrich American Jewish identity. However, that's only half the story, and our exclusive focus on that single assumption explains much of the malaise in Israel engagement, and in the relationship between American Jewry and Israel.

The other half of the story is that the responsibility for Israel engagement lies not only with American Jewry, but also with Israeli Jewry.

Let me highlight the problem with the following vignette. A senior Israeli academic recently bemoaned to me the disconnect between American Jews and Israel. "Why do you think American Jews don't feel connected to Israel?," she asked me. "Is it their lack of Jewish education, the fact that they don't speak Hebrew, they prefer to assimilate and be American, not Jewish... why don't they want to have a relationship with this country?" 

At no point in the conversation did she pause to wonder if perhaps Israel played some part in the disconnect. There was no soul-searching along the lines of "what is it about us that has led them to disconnect?"

In this professor's eyes, the problem of Israel engagement was entirely an American issue. Her attitude is not unique – it is shared by most of those who educate, research and write about Israel engagement. The singlelocation assumption is one of the main reasons that rabbinical, cantorial and education students who spend extended periods of time in Israel often end up feeling ambivalent toward it. They are expected to buy into this assumption, and to go back to the US and "sell Israel" to their communities, whose members are not engaging with Israel as much as they "should be." But while they are here, they experience moments of disconnection, and the single-location approach offers no conceptual foundation for integrating that disconnect into their approach to Israel engagement.

EVEN THE best recent thinking about Israel engagement does not go far enough. The felicitous phrase "hugging and wrestling," coined by my colleague Robbie Gringras, still assumes that the primary location of the problem is with American Jews, and how they relate to Israel. The notion of hugging and wrestling has been an important contribution to the field; but now we need to go further, and broaden the horizons of what we mean by Israel engagement in the first place.

Israel engagement must change from being a single-location problem to being a dual-location problem.

We need to develop a second core assumption in Israel engagement: it's not only American Jews' responsibility that they don't relate to Israel; it's also Israel's responsibility. Note the "not only... also" construction: this position is not a denial of the problematic elements of American Jewish identity and education, nor of the responsibility of the American Jewish community to do more to inspire its congregants to take on Jewish rituals, learn Jewish texts, speak Hebrew and explore Israeli culture. This position's new claim is, though, that Israel engagement must also be rooted in the consideration of Israel's part in the disconnect.

There are at least three major areas of Israeli identity, society and culture that play their part in the disconnect between Israel and American Jews: egalitarianism, universalism and meaning- oriented Judaism.

Firstly, Israeli Judaism is much less egalitarian than American Judaism, and that causes many liberal American Jews, especially, ironically, the more committed ones, to feel disconnected from Israel. Until now, Israel engagement, rooted as it is in the single-location approach, has had no response to this problem. Our responses are usually limited to having American Jews try to just accept that Israel is a more traditional society, and brush aside their egalitarian commitments.

Instead, the Israel engagement agenda needs to turn to Israelis, and open the conversation about Jewish egalitarianism. This doesn't mean that Israelis need to change, and here American Jews may need to lower their expectations: Israeli Judaism, for all kinds of reasons, is not going to suddenly change. But Israelis do have to understand just how core the principle of egalitarianism is to the current generation of young American Jewish leaders, and just how much Israelis' dismissal of Jewish egalitarianism is not just a slap in the face, but a blow to the soul. Israeli society needs a process of political and social education that will advocate respect for women rabbis, genuine and open curiosity about egalitarian Judaism, and a willingness to seek compromises for American Jews in a variety of Jewish religious sites.

I AM under no illusions about the enormous barriers to these processes of political and social education in both the secular and religious communities. Nevertheless, anyone concerned with Jewish peoplehood and Israel engagement must put American Jews and Israelis in conversation together in order to raise these issues. This is the innovation that is offered by seeing Israel engagement as a duallocation issue: the egalitarian issue, rather than being gently side-stepped, or embarrassingly swept under the table, instead becomes a front-and-center component of activities and programs.

The second area of disconnect between American Jews and Israeli society is universalism. Some commentators argue that American Judaism has swung too far in a universalist direction. Others claim that Israeli Judaism has swung too far towards particularism, nationalism and tribalism. The dual-location approach sees the problem as two-fold: both an overlyuniversalist American Jewishness and an overly- tribalist Israeli Jewishness. Israel engagement that flows out of the dual-location approach will ask both groups, in conversation together, to reflect critically about each community's place on this spectrum.

Thirdly, liberal American Jews are used to seeing Judaism as a source of spiritual, existential, or cultural meaning. Now, to be sure, this is a double-edged sword. For every committed Jew whose life is invested in meaning through engagement with Judaism, there is another (or more) who drifts from Jewish engagement because "I don't find it personally meaningful."

In Israel, Judaism is less often seen as a source of personal meaning; observant Israeli Jews tend to observe Jewish law for other theological and sociological reasons, and, while there has in the past decade been an awakening of various Jewish renewal movements amongst so-called secular Jews, there is still a long way to go. Israelis can learn a lot from American Jews about meaning-oriented Judaism; and American Jews can be enriched by such a conversation too, especially by Israelis' insistence that personal meaning can be achieved along with, and through, commitment to the Jewish collective.

These three issues – egalitarianism, universalism and meaning-oriented Judaism – are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other important conversations to be had between Israelis and American Jews. Israeli and American Jewish educational and communal leaders must re-imagine Israel engagement so that it pushes American Jews and Israelis together, each asking how they might enrich, and be enriched by, the other. A dual-location approach, in which each side may "influence and be influenced," may yet help us figure out the Israel engagement puzzle, and reduce the disconnect – in both directions – between young American Jewish leaders and Israel.

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.

Sep 21, 2011

Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery, United Nations General Assembly

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Address to the United Nations General Assembly
New York City
September 21, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery –

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations – the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.

War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilization. But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale. It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict, while also addressing its causes.

No American did more to pursue this objective than President Franklin Roosevelt. He knew that a victory in war was not enough. As he said at one of the very first meetings on the founding of the United Nations, "We have got to make, not merely a peace, but a peace that will last."

The men and women who built this institution understood that peace is more than the absence of war. A lasting peace – for nations and individuals – depends upon a sense of justice and opportunity; of dignity and freedom. It depends upon struggle and sacrifice; on compromise, and a sense of common humanity.

One delegate to the San Francisco Conference that led to the creation of United Nations put it well – "Many people," she said, "have talked as if all we had to do to get peace was…to say loudly and frequently that we loved peace and hated war. Now we have learned that no matter how much we love peace and hate war, we cannot avoid having war brought upon us if there are convulsions in other parts of the world."

The fact is, peace is hard, but our people demand it. Over nearly seven decades, even as the United Nations helped avert a third World War, we still live in a world scarred by conflict and plagued by poverty. Even as we proclaim our love for peace and hatred of war, there are convulsions in our world that endanger us all.

I took office at a time of two wars for the United States. Moreover, the violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place – Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda organization – remained at large. Today, we have set a new direction.

At the end of this year, America's military operation in Iraq will be over. We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq – for its government and Security Forces; for its people and their aspirations.

As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan. Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and Security Forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country. As they do, we are drawing down our own forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

So let there be no doubt: the tide of war is receding. When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical to the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength. Ten years ago, there was an open wound of twisted steel and broken hearts in this city. Today, as a new tower rising at Ground Zero symbolizes New York's renewal, al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before. Its leadership has been degraded. And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again.

Yes, this has been a difficult decade. But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace. To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution. The UN's Founding Charter calls upon us, "to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security." And Article 1 of this General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.' Those bedrock beliefs – in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women – must be our guide.

In that effort, we have reason to hope. This year has been a time of transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt. But the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination. And last summer, as a new flag went up in Juba, former soldiers laid down their arms; men and women wept with joy; and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they will shape.

One year ago, the people of Cote D'Ivoire approached a landmark election. And when the incumbent lost, and refused to respect the results, the world refused to look the other way. UN peacekeepers were harassed, but did not leave their posts. The Security Council, led by the United States, Nigeria, and France, came together to support the will of the people. And Cote D'Ivoire is now governed by the man who was elected to lead.

One year ago, the hopes of the people of Tunisia were suppressed. But they chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist. A vendor lit a spark that took his own life, but ignited a movement. In the face of a crackdown, students spelled out the word freedom. The balance of fear shifted from the ruler to those that he ruled. Now the people of Tunisia are preparing for elections that will move them one step closer to the democracy they deserve.

One year ago, Egypt had known one President for nearly thirty years. But for 18 days, the eyes of the world were on Tahrir Square, where Egyptians from all walks of life – men and women; young and old; Muslim and Christian – demanded their universal rights. We saw in those protesters the moral force of non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw; from Selma to South Africa – and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab World.

One year ago, the people of Libya were ruled by the world's longest serving dictator. But faced with bullets and bombs and a dictator who threatened to hunt them down like rats, they showed relentless bravery. We will never forget the words of the Libyan who stood up in those early days of revolution and said, "Our words are free now. It's a feeling you can't explain."

Day after day, in the face of bullets and bombs, the Libyan people refused to give back that freedom. And when they were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its charter. The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre. The Arab League called for this effort, and Arab nations joined a NATO-led coalition that halted Qadhafi's forces in their tracks.

In the months that followed, the will of the coalition proved unbreakable, and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied. Forty-two years of tyranny was ended in six months. From Tripoli to Misratah to Benghazi – today, Libya is free. Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our Embassy in Tripoli. This is how the international community is supposed to work – nations standing together for the sake of peace and security; individuals claiming their rights. Now, all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libyan government as they confront the challenge of turning this moment of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans.

So it has been a remarkable year. The Qadhafi regime is over. Gbagbo, Ben Ali, and Mubarak are no longer in power. Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him. Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open. Technology is putting power in the hands of the people. The youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and rejecting the lie that some races, religions and ethnicities do not desire democracy. The promise written down on paper – "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" – is closer at hand.

But let us remember: peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security. And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations.

In Iran, we have seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its own people. And as we meet here today, men, women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria's borders. The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice – protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. The question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?

Already, the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria's leaders. We have supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people. Many of our allies have joined us in this effort. But for the sake of Syria – and the peace and security of the world – we must speak with one voice. There is no excuse for inaction. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.

Throughout the region, we will have to respond to the calls for change. In Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail over a corrupt system. America supports their aspirations. We must work with Yemen's neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible.

In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability, but more are required. America is a close friend of Bahrain, and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition bloc – the Wifaq – to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is responsive to the people. And we believe the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart.

Each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically. But we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly. Those rights depend upon elections that are free and fair; governance that is transparent and accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; and justice that is equal and fair. That is what our people deserve. Those are elements of a peace that lasts.

Moreover, the United States will continue to support those nations that transition to democracy – with greater trade and investment, so that freedom is followed by opportunity. We will pursue a deeper engagement with governments, but also civil society – students and entrepreneurs; political parties and the press. We have banned those who abuse human rights from travelling to our country, and sanctioned those who trample on human rights abroad. And we will always serve as a voice for those who have been silenced.

Now I know that for many in this hall, one issue stands as a test for these principles – and for American foreign policy: the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May. That basis is clear, and well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn't the goal we seek – the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.

Peace depends upon compromise among peoples who must live together long after our speeches are over, and our votes have been counted. That is the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That is the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is the path to a Palestinian state.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There is no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. And it is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can achieve one.

America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let's be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.

These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other's shoes. That's what we should be encouraging. This body – founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide; dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every person – must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live in peace and security, with dignity and opportunity. We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other's hopes and fears. That is the project to which America is committed. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.

Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must also recognize once more that peace is not just the absence of war. True peace depends upon creating the opportunity that makes life worth living. And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of human beings: nuclear weapons and poverty; ignorance and disease. These forces corrode the possibility of lasting peace, and together we are called upon to confront them.

To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Over the last two years, we have begun to walk down that path. Since our Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and smugglers. Next March, a Summit in Seoul will advance our efforts to lock down all of them. The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in a half century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve deeper reductions. America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons, and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

As we meet our obligations, we have strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. To do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them. The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful, has not met its obligations, and rejected offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps toward abandoning its weapons, and continues belligerent actions against the South. There is a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace demands.

To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity. In this effort, let us not forget that we have made enormous progress over the last several decades. Closed societies gave way to open markets. Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we can do. Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions from poverty. Yet three years ago, we confronted the worst financial crisis in eight decades. That crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year – our fate is interconnected; in a global economy, nations will rise, or fall, together.

Today, we confront the challenges that have followed that crisis. Recovery is fragile. Markets are volatile. Too many people are out of work. Too many others are struggling to get by. We acted together to avert a Depression in 2009. We must take urgent and coordinated action once more. Here in the United States, I have announced a plan to put Americans back to work and jumpstart our economy, and committed to substantially reduce our deficit over time. We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenge. For other countries, leaders face a different challenge as they shift their economies towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation. So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth. That is what our commitment to prosperity demands.

To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves. And today, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act. Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and support organizations that can reach those in need. And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men, women and children. Our common humanity is at stake. Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other. That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demands.

To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our systems of public health. We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. We will focus on the health of mothers and children. And we must come together to prevent, detect, and fight every kind of biological danger – whether it is a pandemic like H1N1, a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease. This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to affirm our commitment to meet this challenge. Today, I urge all nations to join us in meeting the WHO's goal of making sure all nations have core capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012. That is what our commitment to the health of our people demands.

To preserve our planet, we must not put off the action that a changing climate demands. We must tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce. Together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all of the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made. Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers are economies, and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.

And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs. No country can afford the cancer of corruption. Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies. That is why we have partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on Open Government that helps ensure accountability and empower their citizens. No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere. And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women's Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.

I know that there is no straight line to progress, no single path to success. We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories. But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations – to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families and our God. To live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.

It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn this lesson over and over again. Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet that is precisely why we have built institutions like this that bind our fates together – because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war; freedom is preferable to suppression; and prosperity is preferable to poverty. That is the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens.

When the corner-stone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, "The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man's aspirations." As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that is a lesson that we must never forget.

Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. Together, let us resolve to see that it is defined by our hopes and not our fears. Together, let us work to make, not merely a peace, but a peace that will last. Thank you.

Sep 20, 2011

It's Real

It's Real
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It's real. It's real.
All I can think to say...
Words escape me,
and my heart begins to shake.

That sound, 
that primal scream of broken-ness,
I fall into it, broken myself, 
shivering in awe at its call.

I shake 
into one, 
into three, 
into nine,
into one...


"Baby N’ Me!" At Congregation Netivot Shalom

0bayi-lucu.jpg   Baby N' Me!toddlers.jpg

At Congregation Netivot Shalom

Wednesdays, 9:15 am -10:30am

Oct. 26; Nov. 2, 9, 16, 30; Dec. 7, 14

$10/session, $60/season


Join CNS Preschool Director Lauren Kindorf in this new offering 

at Netivot Shalom for babies, toddlers, parents and caregivers!  

We'll meet on Wednesdays for stories, songs, parachutes, parenting discussions, and more!


Please register with Lauren at (510) 549-9447 x110 or preschool@netivotshalom.org.

Sep 15, 2011

What Color are Jews?  Exploring the Diversity of Our Community Locally and Globally
Local photographer, Bryan Schwartz documented the global Jewish community in his exhibit, Scattered Among the Nations, which opens Sept. 18 at Temple SinaiScattered Among the Nations challenges the stereotypes of what Jews look like. 

Date:    September 18    
Time:    5:00-7:00pm
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Information: Dawn Kepler, dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org
Co-sponsored with Temple Sinai & Lehrhaus Judaica
Dawn C. Kepler, Director
Building Jewish Bridges:
Embracing Interfaith Couples
2736 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA  94704
Scattered Among the Nations  View a magnificent photo exhibit of Jews around the globe. Opening night with speaker & photographer, Bryan Schwartz.  Sept. 18 at 5pm in Oakland. Call for details.

Sep 14, 2011

PLO official: Palestine should be free of Jews

First Published:   20:03 , 09.14.11
Latest Update:   00:42 , 09.15.11


Statehood Bid
Photo: ReutersAbbas. Seeking Judenrein? Photo: Reuters 
click here to enlarge text click here to enlarge text
PLO official: Palestine should be free of Jews

PLO ambassador to US says 'after 44 years of occupation, it would be in both peoples' interest to be separated' adding that Palestinians need separation to work on national identity. US diplomat subs remarks 'despicable form of anti-Semitism' 
Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON - The Palestinian Liberation Organization's Ambassador to the US Maen Areikat said Wednesday that any future Palestinian state must be free of Jews. Speaking to reporters in the US he said, "After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated."


Areikat made the statements after being asked about the rights of minorities in a future Palestinian state, USA Today reported. He declared that the PLO seeks a secular state, but that Palestinians need separation to work on their own national identity.


Related stories:


Later Wednesday, Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud al-Habash dismissed Areikat's statements, saying that the Palestinian state is to welcome members of all faiths. He asserted that any media attempts to manipulate anti-Jewish statements are politically motivated.


He added that the Palestinian Authority and its ambassador to Washington have a clear stance on the matter.


Palestinians expected to win overwhelming majority (Photo: AFP)
Palestinians expected to win overwhelming majority (Photo: AFP)


Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein also responded to Areikat's remarks. "After an unending de-legitimization campaign and attempts to brand Israel an apartheid state, it appears it is the Palestinians who seek apartheid.


  • For full coverage of PA's UN campaign click here  


He said the statements are reminiscent of Nazi slogans. "His comments conjure up Judenrein motifs. I wonder if Areikat's remark that both peoples must live separately means that one million Arab-Israelis are not part of his people."


Areikat's comments caused a stir among Jewish leaders. Elliott Abrams, a former US National Security Council official, said in response that according to such plans, Palestine will be the first to officially prohibit Jews or any other faith since Nazi Germany, which sought a country that was judenrein, or cleansed of Jews.


Abrams described the demand as "a despicable form of anti-Semitism" adding that a small Jewish presence in a future Palestinian state would not hurt the Palestinian identity.


EU's Ashton with Saeb Erekat (Photo: AP)
EU's Ashton with Saeb Erekat (Photo: AP)

The UN's General Assembly is scheduled to address the Palestinian bid for recognition next week, with Israel, the US and several European states strongly opposing it. The Palestinians are slated to win an overwhelming majority at the Assembly as it is controlled by Arab and Muslim states.


Nevertheless, any such resolution would not have practical significance and in order to be accepted as a full member in the UN the PA will need Security Council endorsement.


Meanwhile, Jordan's foreign minister said Wednesday his country supports a Palestinian drive for recognition at the UN but prefers negotiations toward creation of a Palestinian state.


Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told reporters that Jordan supports the Palestinian campaign, but it should take into account the rights of Palestinian refugees, the fate of Jerusalem and the borders of a future Palestinian state.


He said the "best way" to attain statehood is through "direct negotiations."



Last-ditch effort to prevent UN vote

Meanwhile, a high-level US team kicked off a new round of shuttle diplomacy on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to contain the diplomatic fallout from the Palestinian statehood push, but the odds of a breakthrough appeared slim as the Palestinians pledged to go ahead with mass rallies to draw world attention to their bid.


US diplomats Dennis Ross and David Hale arrived late Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. They were to travel to the West Bank on Thursday to talk with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. No breakthrough has thus been achieved.


In addition to the US efforts, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and special international Mideast envoy Tony Blair have been meeting with the sides this week. US officials said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been in touch with both Ashton and Blair in recent days.


Barak urged Ashton to prevent the Palestinians from tabling a resolution proposal.


Ashton is proposing a three-part plan: Grating the Palestinians UN observer status similar to that of the Vatican, issuing a Quartet statement accounting both the Israeli and the Palestinian needs, and a UN chief pledge the put forward a recognition resolution in the future.


Germany is opposed to Ashton's plan which has not won European consensus. The US, on its part, wants the plan to be presented to allow each side to voice its reservations.


Both Israel and the Palestinians oppose the plan.


AP, Attila Somfalvi and Elior Levy contributed to this report





JTSblog: The Value of Denominations in Judaism

[object Object] 

Dear JTS Family,

Why does Judaism have denominations, and what do these branches add to the Jewish story?

This week, in "The Value of Denominations in Judaism," I join the lively conversation that continues to take place on the JTS blog with a look at the way Judaism and our religious communities have evolved. The Conservative Judaism blog is a place where Jews can share their experiences and discuss their beliefs on a variety of topics. Read the essay and let me know what you think.

You can also review the responses to my essay by Julie Schonfeld and Adam Roffman.

Visit the "Conservative Judaism: A Community Conversation" blog—and follow me on Twitter @Arnold Eisen (twitter.com/ArnoldEisen) as well.


arnold eisen signature 2

Arnold M. Eisen
The Jewish Theological Seminary

red banner

Sep 13, 2011

An Open Letter in support of MOCHA

To Executive Director: Masako Kalbach, masako@mocha.org, Chair of MOCHA Board: Hilmon Sorey, hilmon@sandler.com
From Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA (netivotshalom.org)

Dear Masako Kalbach and Hilmon Sorey,

I am a rabbi of a Jewish congregation in Berkeley, and I can only imagine the many, many letters, let alone the social media blitz that has attacked MOCHA for the decision to cancel the exhibit featuring children's art from Gaza.  I wish to offer my support, and the support of my community, and our gratitude for your decision.  I have experienced great hatred aimed at many kinds of people since arriving in the Bay Area 5 years ago, and was proud that, just this past Sunday, my Jewish community stood and prayed with our Turkish Muslim friends at the Pacifica Institute for the health of American and the world.  I am a rabbi who prays for a Palestinian State to emerge safely, someday soon.  

I am so sorry for the inundation you must be dealing with.  It should alert us all to the highly politicized campaigns being wielded surrounding Israel/Palestine.  I am here to assist you to engage and share the conversation, should you ask.

With prayers for peace,
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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.

Total Pageviews

Shavuot: The Torah of Tenacious Love