Mar 31, 2012

msnbc.com: "Muslim Brotherhood says it will run candidate for president in Egypt election"

Muslim Brotherhood says it will run candidate for president in Egypt election

By Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC News correspondent


CAIRO -- Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has announced it will field its own candidate for Egypt's presidential election on May 23.

The announcement of Khairat al Shater's selection by the Brotherhood's executive committee is a significant departure for the group, which initially vowed it would not field a candidate from within the organization. The Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, already controls nearly half of parliament.

Before he can run, Shater must win the endorsement of 30 members of parliament (he will easily do that). But he will also need a pardon from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to overturn a previous conviction. During Hosni Mubarak's decades-long rule, Shater was imprisoned for several years more than once. A popular uprising forced Mubarak to resign in February 2011.

Shater is considered the architect of the Muslim Brotherhood's political emergence in recent years and often credited for coming up with many of the movement's policies. Shater, a millionaire businessman, also controls the group's finances.

The Muslim Brotherhood decision will certainly ring alarm bells in Washington and has already angered many in Egypt who have been warning that the Brotherhood is slowly attempting to take over all aspects of political life, including parliament, local councils, the constitutional committee and now the presidency.

Mar 30, 2012

Mar 29, 2012

NIF News

29 March 2012

Parting the Waters

Here's a cure for those of you feeling the Israel blues... Read More »

Banishing Racism with Flowers at Jerusalem Mall

Hundreds of Jerusalemites protested the violent rioting against Malkah Mall's Arab workers. Read More »

New Law Enacted to Protect Agunot

The Knesset has enacted a new law to protect the rights of agunot. Read More »

We did it! Activists celebrate postponement on planning reform

Knesset vote on anti-democratic planning reform bill is postponed. Read More »

The Sweet Taste of Justice

"I fell in love with Jerusalem and like many good love stories, it was unexpected and even fraught..." Read More »

NIF in the News

Vilification Has No Place In Debates On Israel

The NY Jewish Week,
27 March 2012

Police investigate anti-Arab riot at Malha Mall

Jerusalem Post,
25 March 2012

Tackling gender segregation in Israel

The Canadian Jewish News,
19 March 2012

A Leftist's Critique of BDS

The Daily Beast,
16 March 2012

On Topic

To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements

New York Times,
18 March 2012

Planning reform leaves citizens behind

Jerusalem Post,
14 March 2012

The religious-conservative insanity of the American right

14 March 2012


2 New Year's Resolutions That Are Easy to Keep

Many of us start the New Year with resolutions that are difficult to keep. But here are two resolutions that cost you nothing, take only minutes, should be easy to keep and can yield tremendous benefits for you and your loved ones.




Mar 27, 2012

Being a Jew

French police stand guard outside the
Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse on
Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
I shared with my Bnai Mitzvah Students today news of the attack just yesterday on a young Jew in France (click here for the article) as well as a shul voicemail I received yesterday (one of 5) from a person urgently arguing that the only way for my Jewish soul to be saved is to accept Jesus' blood as an atonement for the Jews. My thinking was/is that, while our children are blessed to grow up in the supportive Jewish environment at shul and home, both Jewish places where Jews and non-Jews love and learn and grow together, there are students in our shul's class and in their friendship circles who I know encounter much harsher realities. I shared that, though I feel incredibly proud to be a Jew, there are moments that remind me that being a Jew is not so simple, and not always the Freedom ending of the Pesach story. I told my students that, while I believe the person who left me the messages is likely in need of some help, I also felt a bit afraid - as a Jew - when I heard his voice. Sometimes, I shared, being a Jew touches the fear and uncertainty of our history.

forward.com: "Student Beaten Outside Jewish School in Paris"

"Student Beaten Outside Jewish School in Paris"


Published March 27, 2012.

A Jewish boy reportedly was beaten outside the Ozar Hatorah school in Paris by youths shouting anti-Semitic epithets.

The incident occurred Monday outside the school, which the 12-year-old victim attends. He was not seriously injured.

The attack came a week after a gunman opened fire on the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, killing a rabbi and his two young sons, and the daughter of the school's principal.

The boy in Paris reportedly was beaten about 100 yards away from the school, out of sight of police who have been guarding the school since last week's attack in Toulouse.

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/153829/student-beaten-outside-jewish-school-in-paris/#ixzz1qMNtiapX

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Tell the Supreme Court: I Support Health Care Reform

Please forward the email below to 3 of your friends right now and encourage them to add their name to our petition at http://dccc.org/Support-HCR.

You can also share the petition on Facebook and Twitter.

With your help, we can hit our 100,000 signature goal.

Thanks for your support!


Right now, the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to strike down President Obama's Health Insurance Reform law.

At this critical moment, let's show the world that we are united and strong behind President Obama's law and that every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care.

Send a message to the Court: Help us reach 100,000 strong standing up for Health Care Reform before tomorrow's final day of arguments.

I'm proud to support health care for all Americans. I'm proud that thanks to all of our efforts, millions of Americans can no longer be dropped from their coverage when they get sick. And I'm proud that when the law takes full effect, being a woman will no longer be classified as a "pre-existing condition."

Let's stand proud for health care reform:


Thanks for standing with us,


Kelly Ward DCCC
Political Director

Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee | 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-1500 | www.dccc.org | Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Mar 26, 2012

Grains of my Soul

Grains of my Soul
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Is it myself
I see in the mirror?
Is it the wrinkle of an ancestor 
I see round my eyes?
The grains of my soul 
are etched deeper than my years.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Mar 25, 2012

Trayvon Martin z"l wasn't just one of the world's children.

The fragility we feel as parents is based on a world that makes trust and security rare commodities. But Trayvon Martin z"l wasn't just one of the world's children. He was a black child murdered for doing nothing more than being black. Those who would claim that this cartoon is "playing the emotion card" are right. It's every parent's emotion, but particularly those whose identities are used as target practice. 


Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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Mar 22, 2012

Rabbi Reuven Hammer: "Tradition Today: Remembering Chief Rabbi Hertz"

Jpost.com: "Tradition Today: Remembering Chief Rabbi Hertz"
By Rabbi Reuven Hammer

The position of chief rabbi in England is certainly one of the most prestigious rabbinical positions in the Jewish world. Both the current chief rabbi and the former were made Lords, not an insignificant achievement. It should be noted, however, that the post – known in England simply the "the chief" – is not really chief rabbi of Great Britain, but chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the largest organization of Orthodox synagogues. The ultra-Orthodox have their own organization, as do the Liberal, Reform and Masorti movements, none of which recognize the authority of the chief rabbi.

As the United Synagogue begins its search for a new chief rabbi, it is interesting to look back at one of the most celebrated chief rabbis, Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz. Hertz was a graduate of the first class of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York in 1894, before the Conservative Movement as such had been created, but when the Seminary represented the approach of the Historical Positive movement in Judaism that had been founded by Zecharia Frankel. He served as a rabbi in a synagogue in Syracuse, New York, that was identified with that approach as well.

He was chosen as chief rabbi in 1913 and served in that post until his death in 1946. During that time, although he was opposed to liberal Judaism in England, he never denied his Seminary background and surely the open, inclusive attitude that is shown in his writings reflected that.

The Humash that bears his name was the most widely used Torah commentary in English-speaking synagogues for generations and was, for its day, an excellent combination of traditional Biblical commentary and modern understanding. In recent times it has fallen out of favor due to a number of factors. To its misfortune, it is both too liberal and not modern enough.

The Reform and the Conservative/Masorti movements have each produced a Torah commentary reflecting modern Biblical studies and the specific ideologies of each movement. At the same time much of Orthodoxy has moved to the Right and finds Hertz too liberal, preferring the more fundamentalist ArtScroll version.

LESS WELL known is Hertz's commentary on the prayer book which was issued following his death in 1946, although major portions had been published during his lifetime. Unlike the recent Daily Prayer Book of the current chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, Hertz's was evidently not intended for synagogue use, but for study purposes and thus never replaced the standard "authorized" Singer's prayer book.

A glance at Hertz's work, however, reveals how startlingly open was his approach. It certainly reflects quite a different time in the history of British Jewry, one in which the chief rabbi felt quite free to utilize non-Orthodox authorities in his commentary and to voice unusual views.

Hertz quotes liberally from non-Jews including William James, Joseph Addison, Matthew Arnold, George Foote Moore and many Christian biblical scholars. Even more startling is the fact that he quotes from non-Orthodox rabbis, including Solomon Schechter and Leo Baeck. He even includes twice a long excerpt from Cyrus Adler, a non-rabbi who was president of the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary of America, calling him "a noble Jew," and also quotes Moses Mendelssohn and Kaufman Kohler, the president of the Reform Hebrew Union College! 

No less daring for his day was his statement that an intensive Jewish education must be extended to "every Jewish boy or girl" (page 120) and his statement that some think the Messiah may be Israel itself (page 254). In his comments to the blessings in the early morning service thanking God who "has not made me a heathen," "not made me a slave," and "not made me a woman," Hertz quotes a Prof. Abraham Berliner, who urged that these three be eliminated and replaced with the words "who has made me an Israelite."

Hertz concludes, "He has rightly maintained that 'to be filled with gratitude to God for having allotted to me the distinction of participating in Israel's mission and destiny, is surely far more expressive than the present negative formula'" (page 21). I agree, but I also wonder if Hertz were alive today, would he be considered as a suitable candidate for the position? 

The writer, former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly, is a twotime winner of the National Book Award. His latest book is The Torah Revolution (Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Mar 21, 2012

Half my heart will be in Boston on April 2

 -- Click Here! -- 

Half my heart will be in Boston on April 22, celebrating my precious friends Stuart and Susan Goldstein Salzberg at Chaijinks 2012! If you can be there, go! The Kehillah Schechter Academy is a holy Jewish community, and the Salzbergs are a huge part of why. 

 -- Click Here! -- 

VaYikra 5772/2012: "The Sacrificial Call"

VaYikra 5772/2012: "The Sacrificial Call"
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Parashat VaYikra contains echoes of the past few weeks. We just finished the book of Shemot/Exodus, and this week we begin the book of VaYikra/Leviticus. The end of Shemot is all about the building of the mishkan, and so, true to Jewish tradition, the journey forward remembers the past. The final verses of Shemot read:

"...When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of God filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the God filled the Tabernacle... over the Tabernacle the cloud of God rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys. (excerpted from Ex. 40:33-38)"

So strange that Moses, after dedicating years to connecting the Israelites to God, can't enter into the very structure he has helped create for that same purpose. And why? Because there isn't room. God's presence is so filling - so "Present" - that there just isn't room for anyone. Even Moses. What must it have felt like to be Moses - closed out of the very place he could have received the ultimate validation, the deepest comfort?

Consider the Jewish mystical notion of "Tzimtzum," contraction. Jewish mysticism teaches that, in order to create the world, God needed to not be everywhere and everything. After all, how could anything independent exist if God were everywhere and everything? And so God pulled back some of God's Self in order to provide physical space and spiritual independence. Tzimtzum helps address questions regarding free will, suffering, and existence.

The same model holds true for human relationships. I think of my precious children. If I wasn't ready to do Tzimtzum, to contract myself enough to give them the room to make their own decisions - decisions that I might not make nor approve of - I shouldn't have had a child. If we aren't ready to do Tzimtzum and thereby provide "space" for our partners to act and think independently from us we aren't prepared to be a couple. All healthy relationships include Tzimtzum and are infused with the obligation to grant others the right to inhabit their own place.

What do we see in the end of Exodus? There isn't room for Moses because God is SO present, because God does not do Tzimtzum, does not provide space for Moses. This week's Parashat can be read as a response to last week's: Look at the very first verse of VaYikra: "God VaYikra/Called to Moses and Laymor/spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting... (from Lev. 1:1)" There is a peculiarity to the way scribes write the word "VaYikra/Called"- the letter Aleph is smaller than the other letters. We'll return to the "small aleph" in a little bit. For now, look at a different aspect of this verse. The word "VaYikra" seems to mean the same thing as the word "Laymor." Look what Rashi comments on this verse:

"For every thing and for every utterance and for every command a "calling" came first. It is a language of embrace, the language that the helping angels use, as it says, "And one would call ("kara," the same word as "called" in our verse) to the other (Is. 6:3)." But for the prophets of the nations who worshipped the stars and told horoscopes it was revealed to them in the language of impermanence and impurity, as it says "And God manifested (VaYikar) God's Self to Balaam (Num. 23:4)."

Rashi explains that the term "VaYikra/Called" actually is God's embracing invitation to Moses, perhaps in contrast to the excluding Presence of God at the end of Exodus. In this light, VaYikra's very opening is Tzimtzum, of a Divine contraction which grants room to another. But look closely at what Rashi is saying. Angelic calling (kara) is a divine embrace, but inauthentic prophecy (VaYikar) is impure. The Hebrew, again, is the center of Rashi's comment. Notice how similar the word "VaYikar/Manifested" is to "VaYikra/Called."

What is the difference between VaYikra and VaYikar? The letter Aleph- the small aleph.

The difference between being included (Moses) and being excluded (Balaam) is a little Aleph. Whereas in Shemot there wasn't room for Moses, the "small aleph" of VaYikra re-invites Moses in to sacred intimacy. In fact, one of the explanations of the small Aleph is that, originally, the Torah was written without spaces between the words. The aleph became lost between the words. Our small aleph is the result of scribal tzimtzum- the scribes found room to allow a letter to exist.

And so we see that Tzimtzum is the difference between "in" and "out."

Tzimtzum is the heart of a mindful, relational practice. When I recognize the power of someone close to self-determine, my life changes. I become freer. A quest for God requires honest and open self-reflection and the recognition that God's image is just as surely in the face of another as it is in mine is key. Did I give up some control over my life by becoming a father, a life-partner? Absolutely. Am I willing to continue working on my own Tzimtzum? With all my heart.

I pray that the same intentionality with which we invite a place for God's Presence we also open our arms and synagogues and friendship circles to all who wish to join in sacred relationship. I pray that God's act of Sacred Tzimstum be reflected in the ways we decide who is "in" and who is "out."

Are we prepared to sacrifice of some of our control?

Mar 18, 2012

New Audio-Shiur! "The Legacy of Moshe Rabbeinu"

New Audio-Shiur! "The Legacy of Moshe Rabbeinu"
Sinai Memorial Chapel Zayin Adar Lunch 5772
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

What are some lessons we can learn from Moshe Rabbeinu? At the Zayin Adar lunch for Sinai Memorial Chapel, Rabbi Creditor gleans lessons from the life of the greatest and most humble prophet. -- http://soundcloud.com/rabbicreditor/the-legacy-of-moshe-rabbeinu

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Mar 13, 2012

Rabbi Creditor: Words Like "Chocolate"

a note from Rabbi Creditor
Words Like "Chocolate"
19 Adar, 5772
March 13, 2012
Dear Chevreh,


First, a joke I remember reading as a child in The Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Rosten:


There once was a Russian man who received a telegram from his wife which read: "DOCTOR SAYS OPERATE OPERATE." The husband then cabled back immediately this telegram: "DOCTOR SAYS OPERATE OPERATE." This exchange aroused the suspicions of the authorities, who immediately investigated to see if this was some secret code. But the husband protested that the authorities were simply misreading the telegram. Clearly what the wife said was: ¨Doctor says operate. Operate?¨ And the reply: ¨Doctor says operate?! Operate!!¨


What sounds like one thing can mean quite another. It all depends on context.

Pesach is coming up soon, and with it culinary tradition and memory. Matza balls that float (or don't), chopped liver (here's a great recipe for a Pesadik  vegetarian version), and, for me, the greatest foodstuff that came along with Pesach was chocolate. On this holiday of freedom, I and my sisters were free to indulge in lots and lots of chocolate: macaroons, jellies, nuts, creams - even orange peels. (I never really understood that one, but didn't let it stop me.)

But what sounds like one thing can mean quite another. I never thought to ask where all that chocolate came from. Perhaps I imagined Kosher Willy Wonka and redeemed Oompa Loompas creating Jewish holiday treats. But this Pesach there will be no chocolate at my Seder Table. Why? Because, as Danish journalist Miki Mistrati exposed in his heartbreaking
 documentary "The Dark Side of Chocolate", filmed during his visit to Cote d'Ivoire, not only are children working in the world's cocoa fields, many are trafficked there, working involuntarily,and in hazardous conditions. There is no Kosher for Pesach Fair Trade Chocolate to date.


So what does "Chocolate" mean? It all depends on context. 


Similarly, I just finished my learning with the Shorashim Hebrew School and Amitim students. I shared with them Rosten's joke, and then asked them if they had friends who did not know what the word "Netivot" meant. Most raised their hands. Then I asked the children to tell me what I meant when I used the word "Netivot." Most pointed to our shul itself. But I didn't mean our shul. I was referring to the city of Netivot in Israel where, just hours ago, a Grad rocket fired from Gaza exploded in a parking lot, injuring more than 20 people. Imagine reading the headline: "Rocket hits Netivot parking lot." You can. Just click here.


Context matters. It takes an understanding of context to truly hear, to see beyond words into reality. And we can do something about that. 
Fair Trade Judaica is working toward a world inwhich Jewish consumers recognize fair trade as an expression of core Jewish values, seek out fair trade Judaica products, and use their purchasing power to support thriving


The Arava Institute of Kibbutz Keturah (which counts Rom Rosenblum and Debby Graudenz among its visionary founders) prepares future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region's environmental challenges. With a student body comprised of Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis, and students from around the world, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies offers students a unique opportunity to study and live together for an extended period of time; building networks and developing understanding that will enable future cooperative work and activism in the Middle East and beyond. Support the Arava Institute's vision of Israelis and Palestinians collaboratively envisioning a sustainable world by clicking here.


As we will say at our Seders this year about Matzah, the bread of our freedom:
All who are hungry, let them enter and eat.
All who are in need, let them come celebrate Pesach.
Now we are here. Next year in the land of Israel.
Now we are enslaved. Next year we will be free!
Let's do our part in bringing this Jewish vision of universal liberation just one step closer. 

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Mar 11, 2012

Letter to the SF Chronicle in response to Jon Carroll's "Dead Souls on Our Conscience" (March 9)

Jon Carroll's "Dead Souls on Our Conscience" (March 9) is the worst kind of lie, because some of it is true. He convincingly demonstrates President Obama's reticence and Republican Presidential candidates' readiness to launch a military attack on Iran. But then Carroll launches his own war of words on America's greatest ally in the Middle East, saying, "Israel is an ally, but it's not a very nice one. It keeps saying rude things about us; it keeps threatening us. Heck, you'd think it was Iran." It is impossible to confuse Israel's sometimes terse political language with Iran's demonstrated violence against its own citizens and others. Israel and the the United States have much in common: a democracy under attack from its own fundamentalist strains and a defensive global posture given a precarious and volatile world. Heck, you'd think Carroll equates rudeness with enmity.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Berkeley, CA
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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