Jan 31, 2014

Terumah #ParshaTweet: The space between the inner architectures of 2 souls is God's sacred home. We contain more than is needed. #abundance

Fwd: New Huffington Post Blog by Chancellor Arnold Eisen: "Jewish Ethics and the NFL"

Jewish Ethics and the NFL

by JTS Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen


I love watching professional football on TV, and have loved it for as long as I can remember.

There are multiple reasons for this pleasure: vivid memories of watching games with my father, and then watching (and tossing a football) with my son; images of college dorm camaraderie that centered on viewing sports on television; the companionship of the guys in the broadcast booth. I take great satisfaction in a well-executed running play -- and delight most of all in the excitement, athleticism, and sheer beauty of a pass thrown and caught way downfield. This is magic. I am that receiver, along with hundreds of thousands of other viewers. I was him once, sort of, in the touch football games I played as a kid.

That is probably why it has become a little harder, noticeably less enjoyable, and even a source of ethical perplexity to watch the National Football League this year. I've long shuddered physically at the sight of a receiver flattened by a hard hit a second after the ball arrives, or--worse -- hit after a short pass on a slant pattern by two defenders who leave him slumped on the ground. What's new this year is the knowledge of how serious and pervasive football injuries are -- and how long-lasting, devastating, and even life-threatening their effects. The sports writer, William C. Rhoden suggested in the New York Times (January 21) that more than "big money, bright colors, [and] big risks" have made football our national pastime: "Don't discount the lure of the violence." I'm not sure he's right about that. The networks generally cut away to commercial breaks rather than linger over the body breaks on the field. Some fans may take pleasure in the sight, but I suspect I am more typical than not in the desire to turn away.

The ethical issue is not viewers' pleasure at the injuries, but our enjoyment in and support of professional football, knowing full well the damage done in the normal course of a game to players' bodies and minds. Around the time the current season began, it was announced (Ken Belson, August 29, 2013, New York Times) that "The National Football League has agreed to pay $765 million to settle lawsuits brought by more than 4,500 players and their families, largely closing the legal front in the league's battle against accusations that it concealed what it knew about the dangers of repeated hits to the head." A judge recently threw the settlement into question, unsure that the money would be sufficient to cover the medical care required. The data on concussions seem irrefutable. All of us will be aware, as we watch Super Bowl XLVIII, that in Rhoden's words, "The NFL brand of football is a particularly violent game, and every time it is played, people get hurt." We accept that. We watch anyway.

President Obama, football fan-in-chief, told David Remnick in an interview published in last week's New Yorker (January 27) that he too is concerned about these things, though he intends to keep watching. "'I would not let my son play pro football,' he conceded... 'At this point, there's a little bit of caveat emptor,' he went on. 'These guys, they know what they're doing... It is no longer a secret. It's sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?...I'm not a purist,' he said." Meaning, he is not a moral purist: he knows it is not entirely okay that millions of dollars are made -and millions of fans derive pleasure -- from a game that has broken limbs and injured brains as its inevitable by-product. The NFL knows that many families are going to be hesitant about letting their kids play the game, and that it needs to do something to ease those concerns and address moral qualms that may erode its fan base and incur incalculable liability. There have already been changes to the rules, and more are likely to be forthcoming.

I am committed to a religious tradition that commands us to try and figure out the rights and wrongs of this matter. For Jewish ethics stress, above all other things, the sanctity of human life and health. Jewish law always privileges the safeguarding of life above the preservation of property. The Talmud gives permission (indeed, it explicitly orders us) to violate the most sacred of ritual duties or prohibitions in the effort to save life, and teaches that saving a single life is reckoned as the equivalent of saving all of humanity. The priority given to life has been extended in many rules and teachings to the safeguarding of health. Two thousand years ago, when a majority of the Sages forbade Jews from participating in the events at Roman stadiums and arenas lest Jews be caught up in games inseparable from the worship of idols, one Sage disagreed: "On the contrary! It is permissible to go to the arena because by shouting you may save a person's life."

He may have had in mind a gladiator who could be warned by spectators about the imminent attack of a lion. We can't be sure. There seems little uncertainty, however, that those of us who love watching football can impel team owners and players to exercise maximum ingenuity in working to preserve the game they love to play -- and we love to watch -- while changing rules, equipment, and penalties in a way that cuts down on injury and long-term neurological damage. Something has to give. I don't know what is possible and what isn't. We will never find out unless we try hard to do so, as if life itself is on the line. Not to make people like me feel better when we watch, but to protect the health and well-being of those who play. A Super Bowl L in 2016 with such changes in place would be an event worth all the hoopla in the world.


Jan 24, 2014

letter to the editor (Jewish Daily Forward, re: "Why Caleb Jacoby's Disappearance Is Our Business")

letter to the editor (Jewish Daily Forward, re: "Why Caleb Jacoby's Disappearance Is Our Business")

Jews are just like everyone else, no better no worse. Our communities and families contain mental illness, moments of triumph, domestic violence, and deep humanity. The best of these were manifest in the global Jewish community's successful efforts to locate Caleb Jacoby. I was therefore surprised to read Adena Cohen-Bearak's critique of the Jacoby family's desire to keep their son's health concerns private ("Why Caleb Jacoby's Disappearance Is Our Business", Jan. 24). If the best Jewish values led us all to participate in rescuing a person in need, why wouldn't other aspects of our "best selves" - , ie, granting a family privacy and space to heal - be appropriate? Has our pervasive technological interconnectivity surpassed the Jewish mandate to respect healthy boundaries?

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Berkeley, CA

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

Jan 23, 2014

Kosher Pop-Ups in Berkeley - A kosher fine dining experience! Sunday, Feb. 16 at the West Side Café, 2570 9th St. (X Parker)

Save the date...Spread the word...

Kosher Pop-Ups* presents

An Epic Night ~
A kosher fine dining experience

Sunday, February 16 at the West Side Café, 2570 9th Street X Parker, Berkeley

No-host cocktail hour 6-7 pm

Followed by A Modern American Meal prepared by Epic Bites
Featuring pastured Grow and Behold  beef (veg option available)

Prix fixe $54 per person ($45 veg)

Under the Kosher Supervision of Congregation Beth Israel and Beth Jacob Congregation.

*Kosher Pop-Ups is a community effort bringing unique kosher experiences to Bay Area food lovers. 
"We are here for the food and not for profit."

Seating is extremely limited.
Reservation link will open early next week, watch for it in your inbox.

Questions or more info: contact kosherpopups@gmail.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Announcing the Publication of Rabbi Creditor’s New Poetry Collection / FIERCE FEELINGS


Announcing the Publication of Rabbi Creditor's New Poetry Collection / FIERCE FEELINGS

This second collection of poetry by author and musician Rabbi Menachem Creditor reflects what foreword contributor Dan Schifrin calls "one teacher's theology of the everyday." FIERCE FEELINGS is a lyrical invitation to a sacred experience with the world.

Available at createspace.com and amazon.com! (in paperback and Kindle editions)

About Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA. Named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America, he is a published author, musician, teacher and activist who has spent time working locally, in Ghana, and in the White House to amplify the prophetic Jewish voice in the world. His most recent books are "Peace in Our Cities: Rabbis Against Gun Violence" and "Siddur Tov LeHodot: A Transliterated Shabbat Prayerbook." A frequent speaker on Jewish Leadership and Literacy in communities around the United States and Israel, he serves on the board of American Jewish World Service, the Executive Council for the Rabbinical Assembly, and the Chancellor's Rabbinic Cabinet at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

For more information about FIERCE FEELINGS and Rabbi Creditor's other books, please visit www.menachemcreditor.org.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

Announcing the Publication of Rabbi Creditor’s New Poetry Collection / FIERCE FEELINGS


Announcing the Publication of Rabbi Creditor’s New Poetry Collection / FIERCE FEELINGS

This second collection of poetry by author and musician Rabbi Menachem Creditor reflects what foreword contributor Dan Schifrin calls “one teacher's theology of the everyday.” FIERCE FEELINGS is a lyrical invitation to a sacred experience with the world.
Available at createspace.com and amazon.com! (in paperback and Kindle editions)

About Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA. Named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America, he is a published author, musician, teacher and activist who has spent time working locally, in Ghana, and in the White House to amplify the prophetic Jewish voice in the world. His most recent books are "Peace in Our Cities: Rabbis Against Gun Violence" and "Siddur Tov LeHodot: A Transliterated Shabbat Prayerbook." A frequent speaker on Jewish Leadership and Literacy in communities around the United States and Israel, he serves on the board of American Jewish World Service, the Executive Council for the Rabbinical Assembly, and the Chancellor’s Rabbinic Cabinet at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

For more information about FIERCE FEELINGS and Rabbi Creditor’s other books, please visit www.menachemcreditor.org.

Be The Change! - Just City Leadership Institute (for Rising High School Juniors and Seniors)



Jan 22, 2014

NJ Jewish Standard: "Conservative youth seek campus revival"

NJ Jewish Standard: "Conservative youth seek campus revival"

Cranford grad student leads push to restore college outreach effort

Douglas Kandl of Cranford, a founder of Masorti on Campus, said the Shabbaton in February will be + enlarge image

Douglas Kandl of Cranford, a founder of Masorti on Campus, said the Shabbaton in February will be "about how to bring Conservative Judaism to your campus."

+ more images

A February Shabbaton, whose aim is to reinvigorate Conservative outreach on campus, is modeled on the annual Koach Kallah, above, now on hiatus along with the organization.

If you go

 What: Masorti on Campus Shabbaton

Where: Jewish Theological Seminary, Manhattan

When: Friday-Sunday, Feb. 21-23

Fee: $90 (includes all meals and programs); students are urged to contact their campus Hillel and other sources for further support.

Registration: masorticampus.org


Visit the NJJN Community pages for the Events Calendar, Synagogue listings, Obituaries, LifeCycle events and more!

by Joanne Palmer
Jewish Standard

January 22, 2014


Last year, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the Conservative movement's affiliated congregations, discontinued Koach, the movement's main outreach program to college students.

The move disappointed many in the movement, who noted that according to USCJ's own strategic plan, adopted in 2011, "a continuing presence on campus for Conservative Judaism is vital to maintain the bridge between our high school students and the young adult post-college generation."

Some alumni of Koach are now trying to restore that bridge and are putting together a new organization, Masorti on Campus. The result of a meeting between students and representatives of various Conservative groups, the fledgling organization is offering a Shabbaton, based on the signature Koach Kallah — an annual gathering of students that featured workshops, community service, text study, networking, and Shabbat observance. They hope it will be the seed of a new Conservative movement on campus. (Masorti is the name the Conservative movement uses outside North America.)

The event, to be held Feb. 21-23 at the Jewish Theological Seminary, will include Arnold Eisen, the chancellor of the movement's flagship seminary, plus Torah study and practical advice on growing Conservative Judaism on campus.

Douglas Kandl of Cranford, who recently graduated from Pace University and is about to start a graduate program there, is a founder of Masorti on Campus.

The Shabbaton is the result of a meeting Kandl and other students had with representatives of Conservative movement groups, including JTS, the Los Angeles-based Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies, Women's League for Conservative Judaism, the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, the National Ramah Commission, the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Argentina, the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and two organizations representing the movement outside North America, Marom and Masorti Olami.

"Some of them" — particularly Women's League — "are giving us money, and some are giving us advertising," Kandl said.

The goal is to draw 80 students; after two weeks, 25 had registered, which puts it firmly on track, he said.

"I was really involved with Koach in its last year," Kandl said. "We tried to save it. We were out at the Salute to Israel Parade [in New York City] in 2012, getting signatures; we got about 1,000 altogether." Kandl also helped raise about $100,000, which, when matched by USCJ, renewed Koach for a year until the organization decided to put the program on "hiatus."

"What happened next was that a lot of students reached out to me, saying that they wanted to do a Shabbaton on campus, something like the Koach Kallah, so we decided that it would be our starting point," Kandl continued.

"We also hope to run an Onward Israel trip through the Jewish Agency, and we hope that we will have a program to Israel that will combine an internship and Jewish studies in the summer of 2015."

The Shabbaton will be modeled on the Koach Kallah, but there will be significant differences. "Thekallah was more about Jewish learning," Kandl said. "We will have Torah lishma sessions, but it will be more about how to bring Conservative Judaism to your campus." The Shabbaton will feature PresenTense, an organization that works with Jewish startups, and will be coordinated by Megan Goldman, a rabbinical student who led a Shabbaton with similar ideas last year, Kandl said.

Galvanizing students

Marc Gary, executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at JTS, represented the seminary at the discussions that gave birth to the Shabbaton. He said that the seminary, like most of the rest of the movement, is working to keep college students connected.

"It is a mistake to infer from the decision of one organization to discontinue a particular college program that there is a lack of commitment among the leaders of Conservative Judaism to our college students," he wrote in an e-mail.

In a later phone conversation, Gary cited as examples of new initiatives the Nishma program, begun last summer, which provided 15 students with intensive Torah study at JTS. "We will have maybe 20 students this year, maybe more," he said.

He also talked about Reshet Ramah, a new program aimed at graduates of the highly successful network of summer sleep-away and day camps that span the country. "A significant number of Ramah staff already are on college campuses," he said. "And we have had some alumni events where we partner with Reshet Ramah here, and it attracts college and graduate students. It is a strong recognition on the part of Ramah and JTS that we already have thousands of present and former campers and staff on college campuses already."

And, of course, there is the Masorti on Campus Shabbaton.

"One of the great strengths is that it is a student-led organization, without a top-down structure," Gary said. The program's goal is to train leaders, who "will go back to their campuses and galvanize students there. It is a different concept, that students will be most effective in galvanizing their own communities."

Eric Leiderman of Englewood, a senior at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, is Masorti on Campus's director of institutional advancement.

"There are a significant number of students across North America who consider themselves to be committed Conservative Jews, or who identity with the movement as closest to the way they interact with Judaism," he said. Those students "find significance in following Halacha and have egalitarian values," he said.

"We are trying to fill the void that was left when Koach was shut down," he said.

"I think there needs to be more on campus for progressive Jews in general, not just for Conservative Jews," said Kandl, who grew up in USY, the Conservative movement's youth group, and was active in Jewish life on campus, including Hillel. "The URJ" — the Union for Reform Judaism — "doesn't have a college program right now. The market is only Chabad, Aish, and the Orthodox Union.

"We want to fill that gap."

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

Will healing wait for a shooting on every block, in every school, theater, and political gathering, until the dead are piled in our streets?

Jan 21, 2014

Every Person is Holy (A short channeling of Rav Kook)

This Sunday: the CNS Ritual Fair!

CNS Ritual Committee & Adult Education Present:
The CNS Ritual Fair!
This Sunday, Jan. 26, 9-12:30

Want to learn how to....


... lift a Torah?

... lead some davening?

... sing a Shabbat song at home?

... take on a new mitzvah?


The CNS Ritual Fair is a great opportunity for members to learn and teach each other the "how-to's" of Jewish practice! Come for a part, stay for the whole experience - every mitzvah is yours for the learning!


9am - tefilin workshop/how-to (CNS Library)

9:30 - Sunday Morning minyan

10:00(ish) - 10:30 nosh n' schmooze

also at 10am -- "Out of the Mouths of Babes "-- What exactly are Netivot Shalom's Preschool children chanting at morning circle time?  How do the songs go and what do they mean?  Join Rabbi Dorothy Richman for interactive learning as we delve into adult discussions about some of the blessings our children say each day.  (This is the first of three sessions, followed by sessions on February 23 and March 9.)

10:30 - Other Sessions begin (rotations until 12:30) including:

  • How to lift & dress the Torah
  • How to have an aliyah
  • how to blow shofar
  • and more! (if you'd like to learn a particular ritual, it's not too late to ask! Just show up and speak with Claire, who will help you on your Jewish journey!)

for more information about the ritual life at Netivot Shalom, please email Claire Sherman, CNS RItual Committee Chair, at ritualchair@netivotshalom.org!

Jan 20, 2014

A Prayer in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A Prayer in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Adapted by Rabbi Menachem Creditor from a prayer by Rabbi Lilly Kaufman (http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/story/prayer-honor-martin-luther-king-day?tp=205)

Dear Lord,

We know Dr. King would have faced hard facts today, and he would have made sure we faced them right by his side.

He would know the number of children
going hungry in America this very minute.
He would know the number of dead,
thanks to guided missiles and misguided people
and woefully-ignored gun violence in our country.
He would have had a thing or two to say about that,
Would have called not just for a no-shots-day,
but for a mentality that tolerates no shots any day.

Dr. King, your servant,
would speak truth about the astounding costs
of financial corruption, of institutionalized inequality;
he would have forced us to see the costs of "free trade":
27 million people today still cursed to live in slavery.

He would have seen beyond the numbers,
to the faces of people.

He would be preaching now
a determined, measured, poetic, prophetic outrage.
He would be teaching by example
our civic duty of compassion,
the obligations of citizenship,
and the grave danger of cynicism.

He would challenge the damaging notion
that money equals speech in a democracy.
When he gave his life for peoplesʼ rights
of speech, and assembly, and the vote,
it was for people who had no money to pay for speech.
They knew speech as an unalienable right,
and their wealth of spirit sufficed.

Dr. King had faith in a few great things:
one was our essential American dream.
Not a middle-class American dream,
or an upper-class, a working-poor,
or an impoverished-class American dream.
But the defining American dream
which lifts up those who are bowed down.
The abiding American dream
of liberty and justice for all.

Dr. King asked of God in 1964:

... grant that we will always reach out
for that which is high,
realizing that we are made for the stars,
created for the everlasting,
born for eternity.

And he taught us in 1967:

…Power at its best is love
implementing the demands of justice,
and justice at its best is power
correcting everything
that stands against love.

Dr. King's story is not to be appropriated as a tool for easy comfort and self-satisfaction by the established, by the well-off. His words were honed sharp by the depth of his righteous rage at society's inequalities. And those dreams he dreamed are, and forever will be, dreams worth dreaming. We lost our teacher so many years ago. But we have not lost his challenge to not search for consensus but to mold consensus by the power of our convictions.

We gather this morning to remind each other how to dream and how to act in Dr. King's spirit. For as he taught, "We must learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools." And we'd like to not be fools, Lord, alone in our suffering. We've got so much to do, and the good news is there is more than enough power in our community with which to see it done.

And so we pray:
·       May we learn, Dear God, to reach again for that which is high.
·       May we be blessed to pursue justice.
·       May we remember the power of our convictions to change the world.
·       And may we be blessed to stand together - now and for eternity - with overflowing, unconditional love.


Jan 16, 2014

walking with a friend

Walking with a Friend
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

weeping with the heavy beauty
feeling deeply known
sensing my heart in the past
walking with a friend
knowing the future requires more
from this older soul
than one life can provide
praying with trembling hands
in this virtual land
of dark and light
white fire on black fire

Jan 15, 2014

Two New Adult Classes at Netivot Shalom on Mikveh and Jewish Practice at Home!

CNS Adult Education Presents Two New Classes!
The Logistics of Jewish Practice in the Home

Mikveh: the Mitzvah of Transformation

The Logistics of Jewish Practice in the Home

 Thursdays, Jan. 23, Jan. 30, and Feb. 6

7:30 to 9pm in the CNS Library

This class is free and open to all. 


Being Jewish is a way of life. We do not live our lives at the synagogue. How do we create the feel and reality of a Jewish life in our homes and families? Come to this class if you want to explore ways of creating a home that feels more Jewish. Whether single or partnered; gay, transgender, straight; with or without children--join us as we learn how to bring a stronger Jewish presence into our 21stcentury homes, traditional and nontraditional alike. Led by Robin Braverman, with contributions from others, The Logistics of Jewish Practice will address the how-to of many elements of Jewish practice at home, from building a Jewish library to how to make Shabbos at home and prepare for Pesach. The class will be directed towards the particular interests, questions and challenges of participants, so please send questions or topics in advance, along with your intent to register, to Robin Braverman atrivkah48@sbcglobal.net.

Mikveh: the Mitzvah of Transformation

with Judy Massarano

Mondays, March 3 and 10

7:30 to 9pm, in the CNS Library

Class fee: $20 ($10 per class). No one turned away for lack of funds.


Come learn the traditional roots of this mystical and practical mayim mitzvah, as well as modern uses by people of all ages and genders. We will look at a variety of sources and engage in both group and chevruta (study partner) learning.  To register for the class, please email office@netivotshalom.org.

A Rabbinic Comment on Messianic Politics

A Rabbinic Comment on Messianic Politics
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon brought to light a deep problem within the State of Israel and the People Israel when he called Secretary of State John Kerry's pursuit of peace in the Middle East 'messianic.' By doing so, he placed visible daylight between Israel and its best ally, the United States of America. He also worsened Israel's global diplomatic relationships, already strained under Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's indelicate leadership.

Interestingly, this time even Lieberman criticized Ya'alon, saying "Having a public, boisterous debate is not right and it does not contribute to either of the parties. There is no place for personal attacks, even if there are occasional disagreements."

But that's only different in extent from the extremist political activists who burned Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin z"l in effigy seeing themselves as disconnected from his assassination.

And, bridging different spheres of our increasingly inter-related (or "flat") political world, it is only somewhat different from the National Rifle Association (NRA) condemning a resident of Florida who had a concealed carry permit shooting and killing a father for texting in a movie theater (they didn't, by the way). Of course they do not support murder, but they do prominently feature such statements as were made by Bill Whittle, a Fox News guest, Pajamas Media commentator and former National Review Online contributor, who shared the following at a rally for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX):

 "You will see a lot of cars coming west heading east on Interstate 10, and they're going to have California license plates on them. Now, if you see these cars pull into rest areas or hotels or restaurants, that's fine; wave goodbye, make sure they go out on the Louisiana end. But if you see them pull off into residential areas, you need to open fire on these vehicles immediately. Immediately. Not with 9mm or AR rounds; you need to put mortars on those things, you cannot take any chances."

When politics become infected by extremism, when politicians forget their roles as stewards of society, when elected officials sound like internet trolls, and when the dream of negotiated peace sounds messianic, we're in serious danger.

An ancient Jewish teaching says, "I believe, with a whole faith, in the coming of the Messiah. Though he may tarry, I will wait."

Waiting is not an option for our world. The Messiah has taken so long he's become a political punchline.

We have work to do, and a society to rebuild. Let's begin by only electing leaders who sound like our best selves.

Rabbi Gerald Zelizer in the New York Jewish Week: "Conservative Movement’s Impact On The Left And Right"

Conservative Movement's Impact On The Left And Right
Tue, 01/14/2014
Rabbi Gerald Zelizer

First the Pew survey, then the eulogies for Conservative Judaism. Compared with ten years ago, the absolute number of Conservative Jews has declined precipitously. It has the lowest retention rate among the three major denominations. Worst of all, only 11 percent of respondents under the ages of 30 define themselves as Conservative. But hold on. 

It is true that the Conservative Movement is not doing so well.

It is also true that Conservative Judaism is doing quite well.            

Conservative Judaism, as contrasted with the Conservative Movement, is a particular approach to Judaism. It stands for "tradition and change," or as someone called it "authenticity and relevancy." It also means analyzing Judaism's sacred texts, like the Hebrew Bible, historically and scientifically. Conservative Judaism understands those texts as shaped by both indigenous "Torah only" authors and themes, while also impacted by the forces of societies and religions that surrounded ancient Israel. Gauging by those two core definitions, Conservative Judaism is flourishing, even if some of its institutions are not. How so? Because the two lenses of tradition and change, and the historical study of Judaism's sources, increasingly shape the vision of movements both to the left and right of my own. Indeed, these two core principles of Conservative Judaism have permeated both Reform and Modern Orthodoxy.

The shift of Reform towards tradition has been widely observed. The new Reform Prayer Book is more traditional, Shabbat and kashrut are given a higher priority in terms of observance, and it is commonplace for worshippers wear a kippah and tallit. In addition, strong support of Israel and the Hebrew language are now central to the Reform movement.

All these late 20th century tilts to tradition followed the pattern of Conservative Judaism and Solomon Schechter, but a century later.

Modern Orthodoxy, however, has moved in the opposite direction. In significant ways, it too has liberalized towards Conservative's "change."

Prenuptial agreements, encouraged by the Rabbinical Council of America, have since the 1990s offset the unilateral power given to men to initiate or refuse a get, or religious divorce. "Prenups" provide that even when the couple ceases to share a residence, the husband's obligation under Jewish law to support the wife becomes legally enforceable as long as they are married. This is a strong incentive for the husband to acquiesce and initiate the get. The Orthodox prenup follows by decades the so-called Lieberman Clause of the Conservative ketubah, which already in the 1950s required a recalcitrant husband to have the Rabbinical Assembly bet din adjudicate his arranging a get after a civil divorce.

Bat Mitzvah is becoming a norm in many Modern Orthodox synagogues, emulating the Conservative ritual begun in the 1920s. To be sure, Orthodox synagogues do not allow the girl to have an aliyah and read the Torah as in many Conservative synagogues. But depending on the synagogue, girls celebrate this rite of passage in creative ways, like chanting a non-Torah text before the congregation; delivering a d'var Torah; and/or leading services in a separate women's only group.

And note the increase in women yeshivot and hakafot on Simchat Torah, even in Israel!

Regarding the scientific and historical approach to sacred texts, the Maggid imprint of the respected Koren Press offers "contemporary approaches to traditional texts." Its salesperson at a recent United Synagogue convention pitched the books as "incorporating modern Biblical scholarship" to the traditional texts.

My roots and allegiance to Conservative Judaism run deep and wide. My father, a graduate of JTS, served a Conservative Congregation in Columbus, Ohio for over 40 years. My own service here in Metuchen NJ is approaching 45 years. I attended Camp Ramah, served as president of USY in my youth, and later was president of the Rabbinical Assembly.

I am saddened by the struggles of our movement and am confident its leaders will find the means of revival. If not, though, I am sanguine that Conservative Judaism lives because much of its take on tradition and change has leaked into Reform and Orthodoxy. According to Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna, "Solomon Schechter never wanted to create a separate movement." It was the Conservative ideology he hoped would embrace much of American Jewry. It increasingly has.

Rabbi Gerald Zelizer is spiritual leader of Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen, NJ.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

Jan 14, 2014

A Torah Scroll From War-Ravaged Poland was Just Lost in Jerusalem. Please spread the word to your networks!!

A friend of a friend just shared an incredible story about her family's Torah. It was brought out of war-torn Poland and left in Jerusalem for safe keeping. Now it is missing. The family is feeling the loss of this treasure and continues searching.
Please spread the word to your networks. You never know what might lead to the missing Torah.

equally vulnerable

equally vulnerable
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

today's headlines roar: bans and bodies drop
twelve-year-olds and ex-cops with guns
a father can be shot for texting
two fathers can be a family
all equally vulnerable

Jan 13, 2014

Pacifica Institute: Interfaith Conversations with Rabbi Marvin Goodman

Interfaith Conversations


Rabbi Marvin Goodman

Executive Director
Board of Rabbis of Northern California
Marvin Goodman was ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological of America in 1975. He studied at the seminary after having earned his BA from Indiana University in 1970. Between 1975-1988 he was the Executive Director of the Northern California Region of the United Synagogue of America, as well as the Regional United Synagogue Youth Director. During that time, he was very instrumental in the development of Camp Arazim.
In 1988, he became the rabbi of Peninsula Sinai Congregation, a conservative congregation in Foster City, California. During his 19 years as Peninsula Sinai's rabbi, he worked on developing programs and activities, which helped the members of the congregation feel and know that they were part of a caring community. In 2006, he became the Executive Director of the Northern California Board of Rabbis, and the Rabbi in Residence of the Jewish Federation. He is married to Deborah Kelman and has two daughters, Rena and Naomi. He traveled to Turkey as part of a Pacifica Institute trip in 2009.

Expanding Your Universe of Obligation

After traveling to India on a service mission this past summer, Rabbi Goodman's understanding of his responsibility to people in the Developing World has dramatically changed. He will share his experience with you and urge you to consider expanding your universe of obligation.
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Time & Date

Pacifica Institute East Bay Branch
979 San Pablo Ave. Second Floor
Albany CA 94706

Jan 26, Sunday. Free brunch starts at 10 am, talk starts at 11.15 am.
Admission is free.   Kids are welcome.  On-street parking free on Sundays.

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