Jun 30, 2012

A Misheberach for Cathy Shadd Rosenfeld

A Misheberach for Cathy Shadd Rosenfeld
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Misheberach Avoteinu Avraham Yiztchak veYa'akov, ve'Imoteinu Sarah Rivkah, Rachel, veLeah – May the One who blessed our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, bless our friend, our teacher Cathy Shadd Rosenfeld, who has, through the passion of her heart, the devotion of her soul, and the skill of her pedagogy, brought so many of us closer to Torah.

Please, God, as Cathy continues to support our community, may she know a fraction of the holiness she has helped others achieve. Help the teachers who will follow her learn from that which she has built. 

Adonai, we pray that the many generations who have encountered Cathy's Torah-teaching become themselves Torah-transmitters, so that our community's children and grown-ups will continue to find safe spaces for their own Jewish growth.

We thank You, God, for the fruitful privilege of learning Torah. We thank You for the sweetness of our teachers. And we ask that our beloved friend, Cathy Shadd Rosenfeld - and her precious family - be blessed with health, love, and life, along with the many hundreds of people whose lives have been themselves blessed by her beautiful soul.


Jun 29, 2012

Rabbi Creditor: Thoughts on the Year Gone By

A Note from Rabbi Creditor
Thoughts on the Year Gone By
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9 Tammuz, 5772 -- 
June 29, 2012
Dear Chevreh,
What a year this has been. 
One year ago our precious community was gearing up for the fight of its life. And, thanks to the accumulated wisdom of leaders spanning our 23-year history as a shul, we are surely and steadily fighting that good fight to ensure the future of Netivot Shalom. Institutional stability is not the "why" for which our community was created, nor is it the reason more and more people are finding a home at Netivot Shalom. We are a holy place full of holy people, each one doing their part in laying one more brick on the "Paths of Peace" for which we named. Netivot Shalom's "why" is, will be, and always has been too inspiring for words.


I sit in my office this Erev Shabbat to write this message as I prepare for a vacation until July 19th (though I will be here for Shabbatot and available in case of emergency). This August, I will be participating in the American Jewish World Service Rabbis' Mission to Ghana, about which I will write at a later point. 


But for now, I share a few reflections upon the year past, as we end a "typical" CNS week of 2 weddings, 2 losses, 1 engagement, Preschool camp, a magical Bar Mitzvah and we prepare to celebrate of our treasured teacher Cathy Shadd Rosenfeld this Shabbat.
  • This past year we hosted Soulfarm, Trout Fishing, Anat Hoffman, Ruth Messinger, David Mamet, Jay Mic
    haelson, Rabbi Or Rose, Rabbi Gail Diamond, Professor Arie Dubnov, and many other incredible speakers, bands, and events.
  • But more than that, this past year we took care of each other, exemplifying the Mitzvot for which there is no limit, including Bikkur Cholim, Gemilut Chasadim, Chevrah Kaddisha, and more.
  • This past year we galvanized our entire community with a Yom Kippur Appeal that raised 10X as much as the previous year's and provided our operating budget the necessary room to address the over-arching concern of the shul's mortgage.
  • This past year we published "Paths of Torah", a groundbreaking collection of Torah commentaries by members of Netivot Shalom. It has not only brought us national acclaim but also a small, steady stream of revenue to support our work.
  • This past year we "graduated" our fifth class of CNS Preschoolers, supporting their future learning with a solid base of experiential, emergent Jewish learning.
  • This past year we launched the ongoing Capital Campaign to save our shul. It is aimed at providing Netivot Shalom with enough fiscal strength to refinance our current (unsustainable) mortgage. With your support and positive response to the Capital Campaign team, we will make that necessary goal a reality.
Chevreh, if this was all we'd accomplished this past year, Dayennu/it would be enough. But, please God, may we never feel satisfied. We have much work to do on the Capital Campaign (our "how") before we can feel truly safe being and becoming the sacred Jewish home known to the world as Netivot Shalom. But we will get there. We can't not. We must, and we will. Our sacred "why" matters too much to allow any other outcome. 


May we go from strength to strength, recharging ourselves along the way so that we can be ready to do the work ahead.


Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Creditor  

Music's Power

Music's Power
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Music's Power
shatters equilibrium,
draws hot tears,
defies language's limitations,
spans the firmament,
conjures times long gone,
and refills a heart's dwindling reserves.

Are you ready to let it in?
Are you brave enough to sing?

Jun 28, 2012

Rabbinical Assembly Statement upon the Supreme Court's upholding the Affordable Health Care Act



The Supreme Court today decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act. We released the following statement in response:


President Obama entered office on a message of hope for all Americans, modeled most clearly in the vision of affordable health care. Americans without access to affordable health care cannot sustain hope for themselves nor for their families. The President's vision is consistent with Jewish tradition, which is unambiguous about the requirement of a just and decent society to provide a basic level of health care. We are gratified to see that American society, whose values we also cherish, also lives up to this standard... (Read more)


Additional resources on health care:

Jun 24, 2012

Ample Love

Ample Love
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Sharing Love begins
when there is
ample love within one
to share.

Love within one
is what it means to
be chosen.

Being chosen
frees one to choose
another chosen one
with ample love within.

Chosen-ness is at its best
when it is open to
seeing itself in others.

Jun 21, 2012

Today is a Bad Day for Judaism in Israel

Inline image 1

Today is a Bad Day for Judaism in Israel
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I hesitate before writing this piece, because I am afraid that someone will misread my anger at Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as anything but love for the State of Israel. But I write nonetheless, because today is a very bad day for Judaism in Israel.
  • A letter issued on official Israeli government stationery by Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar today called for a rally at his office this coming Tuesday. As the official response by the Masorti/Conservative Rabbinical Assembly put it: "The language used in the statement is inflammatory and inciting, referring to our members as 'terrorists' whose 'sole intention is to do harm to the holiness of Torah.'" How dare he! And how dare the State of Israel extend to him his title! He does not represent the People Israel.
  • And just now in Jerusalem, Police detained a woman at the Western Wall for over three hours after she and 65 other women from Women of the Wall concluded their Rosh Hodesh prayer service. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said that Houben was detained for wearing a men's tallit, or prayer shawl, something forbidden for women by Israeli law at the Western Wall. Houben was fingerprinted and photographed in the police station, and released just over three hours later. She was also banned from going to the Western Wall for seven days, on pain of a NIS 3,000 fine. 
As JTS Rabbinical Student Mikie Goldstein wrote: "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and, indeed, the whole world, where a Jewish woman can be arrested for wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) in a synagogue." Israel's Judaism is under attack from a dominating stream of Jewish Fundamentalism, funded and politically enabled by the Israeli Government.

Does this erase my fear for and commitment - financial, political, and spiritual - Israel's safety, given that over 100 missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel over the past 4 days? NO. It should, however, remind every Israel-loving Jew (and everyone else) in the world that the two-fold mission of Zionism requires a two-fold response: 1) protecting the walls of our home and 2) making sure our home is filled correctly.

Today is a bad day for Judaism in Israel. But more than that - it's a bad day for the Jewish People. With Amar's hateful letter attacking Jewish Pluralism, with the detainment yet again of women for the "crime" of wearing a tallit, there is no other time but now. But the real question is: What are you going to do about it?

Zionism remains unfulfilled as long as internal Jewish hatred is supported by the Jewish State and tolerated by the Jewish People. 


Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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From the #RabbinicalAssembly: A Statement on Incitement by Israeli Chief Rabbi Amar -- @rabbiassembly



June 2012 - Tammuz 5772 

Incitement by Chief Rabbi Amar

Amar Letter  

The Rabbinical Assembly is outraged by a letter issued on official Israeli government stationery by Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar calling for a rally at his office this coming Tuesday. The language used in the statement is inflammatory and inciting, referring to our members as "terrorists" whose "sole intention is to do harm to the holiness of Torah." 


The State of Israel and the Jewish people have learned the most bitter lesson in the murder of our beloved Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin (z"l) that incendiary language can result in devastating consequences. We speak as a worldwide Conservative community in demanding that this threat to Masorti rabbis' physical safety, not only their personal integrity, be defended. The Talmud (Arakhin 15b) teaches that hateful speech has the potential to kill. Rabbi Amar's language places all Jewish people at risk of violence, all because Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein directed that non-Orthodox rabbis in agricultural communities could be paid salaries from non-religious budgets. 


The vast majority of the world's Jews do not conform to the unfathomably hateful language of one of the two chief religious leaders funded by the Government of Israel. We ask that the resources of the Jewish state be devoted to teaching and propagating a love of Judaism and the Jewish people. As the Talmud concludes (Arakhin 15b), "What is the remedy for slanderers? If he be a scholar, let him engage in the Torah, as it is said: The healing for the tongue is the tree of life."


Rabbi Gerry Skolnik, president

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president


Download the letter (full translation)


Jun 20, 2012

Fwd: [Shefa] more on Koach: "Congratulations Koach Supporters. Now what?" (cross-post with jewschool)


Congratulations Koach Supporters. Now what?

by  [] · Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

I recently wrote about USCJ's proposal to defund their college student program, KOACH. As typical for USCJ, this plan was made without much public discussion. Even after the proposal became public, the only formal USCJ response was essentially: We wanted to make this decision behind closed doors, but someone leaked our discussion to the press. We appreciate the public discussion this has generated and, in the future, hope do a better job keeping more of our discussions regarding Koach behind closed doors.
Also as expected, people who support Koach protested. Also as typical for USCJ, their board decided it was easier to vote against the plan and continue funding Koach this year rather than make a difficult and unpopular decision. The press release says that the USCJ board decided to provide $100K of funding to keep Koach operational through December & have Koach supporters directly raise another $130K to complete the year's funding. After Koach's supporters take a deep breath, it's time to decide what's next.

When the last attempt to close Koach failed in March 2011, USCJ committed to thinking how to improve their support of Conservative college students. Since then, there's been no public discussion or programmatic innovations from USCJ and then this second attempt to defund Koach. USCJ is again committing to thinking about college students and to work on a 3-5 year business plan for Koach, but, given that (1) long-term planning for their programs is already a core purpose of USCJ, and (2) this doesn't seem very different from the commitment to rethinking college outreach only a year ago, I see no reason to assume this year will be different. USCJ CEO Rabbi Wernick even described defunding Koach for an entire year (which, I assume, would include firing or reassigning all Koach staff), as merely a "summer hiatus," with no serious explanation of how USCJ would reopen a staffless & student-less program. This suggests that engaging college students is a low priority for USCJ. I wouldn't be surprised if the sum of a USCJ designed business plan is to give $50K next year and ask Koach supporters to fund-raise $180K and give nothing the following year & ask Koach to raise $230K.

But who will spearhead efforts to put more priority on engaging college students? The Koach supporters who returned Koach to the USCJ strategic plan dispersed after that success and the recent pro Koach press release is more focused on fundraising than ideas.

Is Koach even the institution the Conservative movement needs for college student outreach? As commentators on this site have noted, Koach is a modestly successful program at best and isn't essential for Conservative life on many campuses. It's reasonably cost effective at around $77 for each of the 3000 students it reaches each year. I was a student at two universities–one with no Koach chapter, but Conservative services on Shabbat that were part of a healthy multi-denominational community, and a second with a Koach chapter, that seemed to mean little more than that Conservative Shabbat services were called "Koach services".

I realize that many of the people who signed the 'save Koach' petition are leaders in the Conservative movement who were influenced by Koach. Still, Koach doesn't have a far reach even on the 25 campuses with chapters. Inreach and outreach to the relatively few students who attend retreats each year is probably worth the modest cost. Losing Koach & the people it currently benefits would definitely be bad for the Conservative movement. But "Let's not make things worse," is hardly a good long-term vision for USCJ or Koach.

I've heard some people say, that we can't expect much from Koach for $230K per year, but I haven't heard what we would expect from a million dollar or even larger Koach. For those of you who were pushing to save Koach, now what? Where is Koach spending its money well? What could it do better with or without a modest increase in funds? The Save Koach FAQ lists a few things that Koach does, but not why these are part of Koach, or why Koach is the right organization to do them.

What could make Koach an actually indispensable organization? How can it better engage volunteers, other Jewish professionals near colleges, and become more relevant for students? For those not connected to the Conservative movement, how could a national organization with a goal of supporting egalitarian observant Jewish life have improved your college experience? Why should the broader Jewish community and potential donors care about Koach?

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Jun 19, 2012

A Geniza Kavannah

A Geniza Kavannah
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

inspired by Lisa Orson, 
and with gratitude to Sinai Memorial Chapel

[to be recited before burying sacred Jewish items]

Though we are saying goodbye to you, our sacred items,
we say "Hadran Alach - we will return to you."

Through reading and experiencing what you contain and suggest, we have grown as human beings and as Jews. We have discovered more about God and the world through the gifts you were. May we be blessed to learn ever more, knowing that wherever we find ourselves on our Jewish journeys, we have reached this far thanks to you.

We gently place you in the earth, reuniting you with the raw creation to which all things return. In the names of all Jewish students and teachers who were, are, and will be, we humbly thank you.

Jun 18, 2012

Korach 5772/2012: "Trust"

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Korach 5772/2012: "Trust"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The story of Korach might not seem obvious for discussing relationships.  After all, Korach and his followers, after contesting the rights of Moses and Aaron to lead the Israelite people, were devoured when

"the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households. ...They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation. (Num. 16:31-33)"  

Not what we pray for in healthy relationships, to say the least. And yet there is a message to be learned, perhaps in contrast to the Torah's narrative. What was Korach's crime? What was so awful that it merited this devastating a response? Korach, a cousin Moses and Aaron, rose up

"against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord's congregation?' (Num. 16:2-3)"

The accusation, while certainly rebellious, is compelling. Korach's assertions that "all the community are holy" and that God "is in their midst" don't seem wrong.  In fact, they are confirmed by other similar biblical phrases, such as "Let them make for Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Ex. 25:8)" and "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, Adonai your God, am Holy. (Lev. 19:2)" There is deep truth in Korach's words, a truth which resonates for the community. We should remember that he managed to rouse more than 250 Israelites against Moses, who has, time and time again, been the agent of God's Word and stood in the breach, protecting the people from God's Wrath.

Korach's charismatic ability led people against Moses. But what would have happened if Korach had channeled his righteous indignation and magnetic personality in the service of the People, offering Moses his help instead of trying to assert his own leadership? Korach could have become a revered teammate to Moses by offered his help, instead of questioning the authenticity of Moses' authority.

And this suggests a lesson for those in collaborative leadership roles. Korach wanted a job Moses didn't even want for himself, one which Moses' reluctance made him supremely qualified to perform and for which Korach's over-willingness made him especially unsuited.  Think of what these two strong personalities, these two different people, could have achieved had they been in partnership for the sake of the people! Think about what beauty could have unfolded had Korach decided to trust Moses and participate in fulfilling the mission instead of undermining both.

Korach and his followers experienced a descent when the earth swallow them.  But somehow, according to biblical tradition (see Num. 26:9), Korach's children don't die.  Their descendants are later, in fact, credited with several chapters of Psalms, all of which reflect musically upon the enduring possibilities and values of life (see Ps. 49, for instance).  As Rabbi Perry Netter has written, "Korach is the symbol of rebellion and conflict and despair; his sons are a symbol of hope."

While every relationship comprised of people with strong personalities has its share of struggle, the possibilities embodied in trusting collaboration are hopeful beyond words. 

Upcoming Events @CNS!

Upcoming CNS Events!
CNS Geniza-thon!
 We have a Geniza at shul, a hidden holding-place for documents inscribed with God's Name. If you yourselves have any holy Jewish items requiring burial, please bring them to shul office by Tuesday Morning. Learn more here!
(July 24th & 25th)
with Rabbi Creditor
  • NSLogo  
This Wednesday at 7:15am! 
Rosh Chodesh Tammuz Minyan!
With the month of Tammuz, we begin the period of consolation and reflection that culminates in the following month's observance of Tisha b'Av. With the fast of Tzom Tammuz, which falls this year on July 8th, we remember Nebuchadnezzar's breaching of the walls of Jerusalem, one of the events that led to the destruction of the First Temple. Please join us for this Rosh Chodesh observance and help to make a minyan, so that the Torah can be read.
the CNS Children's Book Drive! 
The Richmond Kaiser Pediatric Clinic where CNS member Susan Lawrence works offers used 
children's books in the waiting room, for entertainment while waiting-- but more importantly to give the message of valuing reading. Kids are encouraged to take a book home if they like it. While some Richmond families are affluent and literate, most are far from being so fortunate. This Mitzvah-effort gives them books to read at home as well. Recently the community member who had been collecting books moved, so there are no more used books in the waiting room. We are asking CNS members to donate books that their children are done with. Please bring your gently-used or new children's books to shul!

Jun 15, 2012

What do we do with "Sacred Trash?"

A Note from Rabbi Creditor
What do we do with "Sacred Trash?"
25 Sivan, 5772 - June 15, 2012
Dear Chevreh,
a document from the Cairo Geniza
We have a Geniza at shul, a hidden holding-place for documents inscribed with God's Name. The adding of specific Hebrew names for God onto paper transforms them into something more than they were. The same can be true, I believe, in a person's life. Jewish tradition guides us to collect those changed-things, and to treat them with reverence. We do not throw them away as we would "common" things (though we continue to learn that considering any of our world's resources as "common" invites additional problems, with potentially cosmic implications). 
The sheer volume of Jewish text-learning we do at Netivot Shalom does create the need for
Solomon Schechter exploring the Cairo Geniza
collecting and carefully disposing of these documents, as well as tefillin, tallit-fringes, and o9hter ritual items. So: What do we do with this "Sacred Trash?" 
We bury it. We treat holy objects connected with God's Name similarly to the way we treat people, themselves Images of God. We sometimes even add some holy items to the grave during a funeral for this very reason. This coming week CNS Member Sam Salkin, executive director of Sinai Memorial, will help collect those items from our shul's Geniza for burial. If you yourselves have any holy Jewish items requiring burial, please bring them to shul office by Tuesday Morning.
This practice is one of the lesser-known, but it holds tremendous wisdom. As CNS member Dan Schifrin recently wrote in the New York Jewish Week:
"Ultimately, Sacred Trash - like Judaism's constant engagement with the past - 
asks us to see the messy creation and containment of Jewish text and wisdom as a holy endeavor."
May we treat each other, the earth, and this messy life we share - in moments of birth and in moments of loss - with sacred care.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Creditor


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