Aug 31, 2013

My article in J. Weekly: "What’s so high about the High Holy Days?"

What's so high about the High Holy Days?
Thursday, August 29, 2013 | by Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It's true. Shul leaders work hard during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And so this piece might come across as one stressed-out rabbi's plea for sanity. But I really do think we all have to calm down about the High Holidays. Honestly, I have no idea what makes them so "high."

Yes, the world is reborn on Rosh Hashanah and each of us is forgiven on Yom Kippur. The meanings of these holidays are profound, but there is so much missing if these days are our considered our "highest."

A full Jewish life is impossible when it is limited to the universalism of Rosh Hashanah and the forgiving power of Yom Kippur. We'd certainly be much less without them, but we're fractions of our Jewish selves if they're all we've got.

Before I go on, let me be clear about the possibilities of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in contemporary synagogue life: These are our best chances to prove we are the welcoming communities we claim to be. For many participants in High Holiday services, especially those who do not connect to synagogues any other time of the year, this is it. This is a Jewish "booster shot" that, while pale in comparison to a textured Jewish identity, touches the nostalgia of countless Jews around the world.

Three days a year — two for Rosh Hashanah and one for Yom Kippur — we are a holier people because we are a "whole-er" people. We dare not miss our chance. The greeters at the door are at least as important as service leaders. Most people don't mind if a prayer is mispronounced or a sermon goes a little too long (a rabbi's allowed to dream...), but if the person at the door doesn't communicate a joyful welcome, the whole experience will probably fail to inspire. So, despite hoping that we'll choose to raise other Jewish moments to higher prominence in Jews' lives, I do believe these days matter in our current configuration.

That being said, here's the most sacred thing we don't have when our primary Jewish communal experience is the High Holidays: Space.

So many people show up on the "hiho's" that there's barely room to turn. Just imagine if the crowds weren't there and you showed up to be inspired. And that's the key: "inspired" comes from the word that means "able to breathe." Breathing is a good thing, a holy thing. When the Torah says that God "rested" on the seventh day, it uses the word "vaYinafash" — God's soul was restored. The blessing of these days is only truly present when the re-souling continues beyond three days where we hold our breath to make room for each other. If you're a Yom Kippur Jew, check out Shabbos. It's roomy.

Also, shul regulars often grouse that "their" synagogue is annually "invaded" by throngs of strangers. It's similar to family celebrations: We don't really get the chance to connect intensely with any one relative because they're all there at the same time. My request of shul regulars: Imagine, on these intense days, that no one is a stranger. Imagine the home our synagogues could be. If we year-round shul-folk can manage to push away some of the stress of the moment and extend some radical welcome to less familiar faces, we just might have some more fun this Yom Kippur. And we might get together more often. Who knows? Share some love. It's family time.

It is my belief that the stress Jews and their families feel when we try to pack it all into three holy days calls for some healing. Let's realize that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the Jewish people's biggest annual family reunion. It's going to be a tight fit. And it's glorious to be together. Stressful and glorious.

In a few weeks, once the world is reborn and we're forgiven, let's do some dreaming about the year to come. Jewish joy and spiritual intimacy are possible in the upcoming holy days — and every day.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor is the spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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Aug 29, 2013

New CNS Adult Class: "Shacharit in 3 Acts or Who's Talking to Whom?" with Rabbi Stuart Kelman

A New Adult Education Class at Netivot Shalom!
Stay Connected to Netivot Shalom online!

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"When I pray, I talk to God; when I study
 Torah, God talks to me.

 - Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z"l


"Shacharit in 3 Acts" or "Who's Talking to Whom?"

with Rabbi Stuart Kelman

Founding Rabbi of Netivot Shalom and an Editor of Machzor Lev Shalem


Is prayer a natural art or is it an acquired skill?  Come discover why the rabbis of old created and fashioned a set of experiences and words as a response to that question. In each of the three sessions, which can be taken independently, we'll delve deeper into the words and just what it is that they are supposed to do when we say them.  It would be lovely if you have good Hebrew skills, but they are not necessary for these sessions.  And if you have your own siddur that you like to use, bring it along!


WHERECongregation Netivot Shalom

WHEN: Mondays 7:30 to 9pm

Nov.  4:  Sh'ma and its Blessings: Connecting

Nov. 11:  The Amida: Getting Intimate

Nov. 18:  Torah Service: Learning and Acting


$10 per class. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Pre-registration required. Please contact Rachel at office@netivotshalom.org to be placed on the registration list.

Congregation Netivot Shalom | | info@netivotshalom.org | http://netivotshalom.org
1316 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702

Aug 28, 2013



Rabbi Julie Schonfeld in JPost: "Leveling the playing field of religious struggle"

August 28, 2013 Wednesday 22 Elul 5773 11:08 IST print gohome
Print Edition
Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Leveling the playing field of religious struggle
Should the Israeli people decide to separate synagogue and state, we would likely support that position, but until then, the playing field of ideas must be made level.
These have been a few puzzling days as a large platform now referred to as "Ezrat Yisrael" appeared with short notice and some confusion at Robinson's Arch, the area at the southern end of Jerusalem's Western Wall.

As we all await a clearer picture of the policies and plans the Israeli government intends to oversee regarding this space, it behooves us to review how Robinson's Arch came to be a venue for egalitarian, pluralistic customs.

For more than two decades, two equally brave and righteous religious struggles have taken place in the shadow of growing extremist Orthodox control of the Kotel: Women of the Wall's battle for a women's Rosh Hodesh minyan in the women's section and the struggle of the Masorti Movement to attain a fully equal prayer space at Robinson's Arch, a right promised by the Ne'eman Commission in 1998 and reaffirmed by the decision in the Israeli Supreme Court (in a case brought by Women of the Wall regarding their presence in the women's section) in 2003.

Three central issues dominate our immediate attention: acknowledgement of steps forward for religious legitimacy in Israel; redoubled, unified efforts to fight for full equality, especially equal government funding of non-Orthodox Judaism; and recognition of the ongoing sacrifices of both Women of the Wall and the Masorti leadership at the Kotel.

The Masorti Movement came to Robinson's Arch in 1998 in a compromise that emerged from our movement's desire to worship at the Kotel free from violence and harassment. Over the past 12 years, Masorti rabbis, quietly and without fanfare, have stewarded prayers in this archaeological park, with vastly insufficient Israeli government support.

Masorti rabbis did this carrying prayer books, tables and Torah scrolls in and out of the site on their backs without cover from rain or sun.

Because we needed, immediately, a place to pray, the Masorti Movement accepted the Robinson's Arch compromise while affirming in writing that we need a fully suitable solution.

The number of worshippers at Robinson's Arch annually has grown from a few hundred to 20,000 last year. With the government's construction of this platform, 450 egalitarian worshippers will now be able to pray comfortably at one time in several minyanim.

During these same years, several thousand Masorti Jews, including hundreds of our rabbis, have prayed with Women of the Wall, bearing the intolerable abuse WoW suffers at the Kotel, as egalitarian Masorti minyanim also did, and even getting arrested alongside WoW.

But praying is not an act of solidarity, it is an act of worship.

Women of the Wall's adherents do not hold by the Masorti Movement's halachic understanding of gender-egalitarian prayer. Our movement's religious needs will not be fulfilled even when Women of the Wall are finally permitted to pray in the women's section of the Kotel.

The Masorti Movement's obligation to our own values and our own adherents is to make egalitarian worship at Robinson's Arch the most inspiring it can be, as we have already done for 12 years.

However painful the sacrifices, every egalitarian minyan that took place at Robinson's Arch in these 12 years (including many for Israelis of diverse religious outlooks and Israeli and American public officials and their families), every prayer uttered in that remarkable historical setting has been, for the Masorti Movement, a triumph of Masorti religious values and a victory for future generations of Judaism.

At one and the same time that Robinson's Arch has become an anchor and wellspring for us, the very same place feels like the back of the bus to Women of the Wall.

Predictably and authentically, the platform that sprung up under the feet of those who worship there regularly feels like progress, and to those who wish to pray at the northern end of the Kotel feels like a betrayal. For each of us, it is our truth.

THE STRUGGLE for full equality at Robinson's Arch is also very far from over, even though in the long view we believe that this gradualist strategy has been the right one because of the number of Jewish lives we were privileged to inspire by our presence there. We seek full equal treatment including equal funding for religious streams, a value enshrined in the basic laws of Israel and upheld in multiple Israeli Supreme Court decisions.

Only with equal funding for liberal and egalitarian Jewish expressions, including the Masorti and Reform streams, for synagogues, mikvaot, education and rabbis' salaries, will Israelis have the opportunity to learn about Judaism in a noncoercive way. Without full religious equality throughout Israel, including equal funding, even the total implementation of the so-called Sharansky plan at the Kotel would be little more than a Potemkin village, painting a misleading picture of the immense inequalities left unresolved.

The question of whether there should be separation of synagogue and state is a complex one that is widely debated, including among members of our own movement. But as a practical matter, the $600 million Israeli taxpayer-funded Orthodox mega-monopoly makes it impossible for any other Jewish messages to be heard in the Israeli public square.

At this point in time, a fair and level playing field with the full equality already enshrined in Israel's basic law is the most pragmatic and effective means to bring the most opportunities to discover Judaism to Israel's Jews and to overcome the damage to the Israeli soul done by decades of coercion.

Should the Israeli people decide to separate synagogue and state, we would likely support that position, but until then, the playing field of ideas must be made level.

It is only the slightest bit more level today. But it's a start.

The writer is a rabbi and executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

To join Rabbi Creditor's email listsend a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Shana Tova! All your latest news from MasortiUK

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noam summer 2013

Noam Summer Camp 2013 a massive success!

With over 200 young people involved in 5 camps in both Wales and France, Noamnikim enjoyed a summer full of creativity, engaging education and a chance to meet new friends for life.

Camp is a chance to push boundaries and create experiences that will last for a lifetime. The success of the camps was down to our phenomenal Madrichim and Roshim who ensured that everyone involved felt part of another amazing Noam Summer.

"Summer 2013 was a truly rewarding experience for all of us involved in making it happen. The Noamnikim enjoyed themselves and had a great time both doing fun activities and engaging in some meaningful educational events too! Bring on the next Camp!", says Sam Schryer, Mazkir, Noam.

This year, we are celebrating 25 years of Noam and we all hope that the magical memories of Camp can be replicated for many years to come.

Thanks to everyone who attended!

kelim 2013 1a

Kelim class of 2013

Kelim 2013 - a never to be forgotten experience!

This years Kelim programme took 9 UK students to study at the Conservative Yeshiva, Jerusalem.

Students on Kelim 2013 enjoyed 3 weeks studying at the Yeshiva, immersed in its summer course and 1 week processing the experience together.

They also journeying through the 4 main areas which make up Jerusalem's identity, accompanied by key Jewish texts, experiencing Israeli life and culture.

The Kelim participants lived together in a communal flat for the 4 weeks, which enabled a strong group dynamic and support to be formed.

The majority of the group had been participants of Noam's gap year programme in Israel – Drachim, the previous year. Kelim is a natural progression in developing their connection to their Jewish identity, this time focusing on academia - their ability to grapple with Jewish texts, learn Hebrew and develop their skills in prayer.

A large percentage of the group also attend universities with very few Jewish students, which limits their ability to practice and further their Jewish education. Kelim provides them with this amazing opportunity of a once in a lifetime experience.

kelim 2013 2

Kelim - studying at the Conservative Yeshiva


Click to book

Your Timetable:

09.45-10.15 - Registration

10.15-11.00 - Introduction & Welcome from Clive Sheldon QC, Co Chair, Masorti Judaism & Liz Oppedijk

Keynote: Michael Wegier, UJIA Chief Executive - What is a Jewish Leader?

Select from 5 sessions in three different time slots:

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon – Purpose Driven Synagogue

Matt Plen – Power, Relationships, Strategy: How to Get Things Done

Andy Zneimer – How to Woo the Press: On Getting Editorial

Masorti Europe Board Meeting

Chazan Jacky Chernett, Chazan Jason Green & Laurence Jacobs – Music of the Soul: Engaging our Communities in Prayer

Rabbi Joel Levy – Catastrophic Failures of Leadership

Dina Ben Ezra – Group Dynamics & Communication (in French)

Miriam Benchetrit – Developing a Strategy for Local Fundraising

Stephen Ross – We're All in This Together: Rabbis, Professionals and Lay Leaders

David Leigh – Increase Your Impact: Getting the Most Out of Your Community Leadership

Rabbi Chaim Weiner – The Answers Rabbis Give to Rabbis

Phil Austin – Does Change Have to Be Painful?

Jason Caplin – Social Media & How to Harness Its Power

Charlotte Fischer – Developing Volunteer Leaders

Nick Gendler – What is Coaching and What is Your Coaching Style?

16.15-17.00 - Final Panel Session
This session will include a panel of guest speakers from Israel who will discuss the challenges of Zionism, Aliyah and leadership within the Masorti movement.

Copy this link into your browser to book:


Cost £20 (includes lunch and tea) - £10 low income concessions

Registration closes Monday 30 September 2013

Contact enquiries@masorti.org.uk for more information

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Click to book


For more information click here

Can you help Jewish Genetic Disorders UK (JGD UK)?

JGD UK is a charity that works to improve the awareness, diagnosis and management of Jewish genetic disorders.

We are holding an education event at NNLS on 14 November 2013 to inform and raise awareness for the first ever community screening day.

The screening session will allow people to come and get genetic testing for 9 severe Jewish genetic disorders. To offer the screening effectively we need to raise awareness about the relevance and importance of genetic testing in the community, and hope to do this through our education event on the 14th Nov.

Please come along and tell everyone you know about this important charity and this key event.

Email: info@jgduk.org
Postal Address: Jewish Genetic Disorders UK
PO Box 65520
N3 9BU
Telephone: 020 8123 5022

For more information about the charity please see our website http://www.jewishgeneticdisordersuk.org/

Thank you.

©2013 Masorti Judaism | Alexander House. 3 Shakespeare Road. London N3 1XE   

Aug 27, 2013

Youth Programming at Netivot Shalom!

Youth Programming at Netivot Shalom!
Ketzev: the Netivot Shalom Youth Chavurah!
(visit our blog!)
Ketzev Staff
Judy Massarano, Educator

Ziva Trau, Hebrew Specialist
Abby Streusand, Educator

Welcome to a New Year of Youth
 Programming at Netivot Shalom! 
Please read below, and please also be in
 touch with me any time! 
- Molly Shapiro, CNS Director of Youth Community and Connection
Amitim, meaning friends and fellowship, is Netivot Shalom's B'nai Mitzvah program. Amitim provides a community where students and families share a special learning and growing experience together. This program helps to provide a foundation of Hebrew and synagogue skills, as well as, Social Action and Tikkun Olam.  Check out our blog at cnsamitim.blogspot.com and email Eliana Kissner at amitim@netivotshalom.org for more information!

Shabbat B'Yachad welcomes all families with children under 5-years-old!  We meet in the Preschool Room on the 2nd and 4th Shabbatot at 11 am.  Shabbat B'Yachad is coordinated and led by our very talented Liora Brosbe and offers a program of songs, prayers, stories and snacks.  For more information please email sby@netivotshalom.org.  See you there! 

Ma Tovu welcomes all Kindergarten through 6th graders every Saturday morning from 11 to 12:15! This program is a great way to share Shabbat at shul, learn some tefilot, and have fun together with friends! Ma Tovu begins Oct. 5th!

Ketzev: Netivot Shalom's Youth Chavurah is committed to creating a sense of belonging, Jewish rhythm, and a foundation of Hebrew.  Ketzev, meaning Rhythm, will create a warm environment for learning and growing for the Kindergarten through 5th graders who attend. Ketzev will be taught by an amazing staff of Ziva Trau, Judy Massarano, Abby Streusand, and Rabbi Creditor on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.  Check out our blog at netivotshalomyouth.blogspot.com and email Serena Heaslip at youthed@netivotshalom.org for more information!
Stay Connected to Netivot Shalom online!

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Amitim: the Netivot Shalom Bnei Mitzvah Program!

Eliana Kissner, Director of Amitim

Liora Brosbe, Shabbat B'Yachad coordinator

Congregation Netivot Shalom | | info@netivotshalom.org | http://netivotshalom.org
1316 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702

Laughter doesn't make light of loss; laughter makes LIFE of loss.

I've just got to say, after the torrent of life moments that have touched me today: Life is really fragile. Don't miss it, folks. Say I love you every chance you get.

Aug 25, 2013

"Thanksgiving Torah: Jewish Reflections on an American Holiday" - call for submissions

"Thanksgiving Torah: Jewish Reflections on an American Holiday" - call for submissions!

The forthcoming book entitled: "Thanksgiving Torah: Jewish Reflections on an American Holiday", edited by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, explores the intersection between Jewish heritage and American values. Thanksgiving Torah deals with themes of: how we tell our stories, how ritual brings people together, how a Jew celebrates as part of a greater society, how Jewish citizens are called to civic engagement, how heritage can endure even when a narrative changes over time, and much more. There are several "Jewish Thanksgiving Prayers", and a children's story. (more submissions along these lines are welcome as well.)

Please note; This project will not generate any income for the editor or the contributors. All proceeds from this book benefit the "Reverse Hunger" campaign of American Jewish World Service (you can learn more here: http://ajws.org/reversehunger/). 

Pieces of any length are fine, up to 1200 words. Please include a short bio with your submission. Submissions are due Oct. 10th. Please send all submissions to rabbicreditor at gmail dot com.

Spent the morning crying over (& through) Heschel z"l with friends. One gem: "To be invested with dignity is to represent more than oneself."

Aug 23, 2013

A Guide to Judaism: A Class for All Considering Conversion

A Guide to Judaism:
A Class for All Considering Conversion
with Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Teaching assistants: Kate Smallenburg Burch, April Oldenburg,
Jacob Richards, Justin Garland, Caroline Taymor

Wednesday Nights, 7:30pm-9pm
2013: Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 -- Nov. 6, 13, 20 -- Dec. 4, 11, 18
2014: Jan. 8, 15, 22 -- Feb. 5, 12, 19, 26 -- March 5, 12, 19, 26

Class fee (for all 22 sessions): $360 (no one turned away for lack of funds)

Space is limited. Please contact Rachel at office@netivotshalom.org for more info and to register!
Congregation Netivot Shalom – netivotshalom.org  

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