Aug 28, 2014

What Kind of "Justice, Justice" Do You Pursue?

The Torah portion Shoftim (Judges) juxtaposes ritual purity with social justice. What can human rights activists learn from the Torah's wisdom to heal a world set on fire by societal ills like Ferguson's racism, and ISIS' & Hamas' terrorism?

Aug 24, 2014

"Overwhelmed by Argument" with Josh Kornbluth and Rabbi Menachem Creditor Videos are now online!

"Overwhelmed by Argument"
with Josh Kornbluth and Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Videos of the Two-Night Conversation are now online!

(thank you to Etai Weininger and David Gill, leaders of the 
Netivot Shalom Adult Education Committee, for supporting the event!)

On August 13th and August 23rd, Josh Kornbluth and Rabbi Menachem Creditor engaged in a public conversation about Israel, Zionism, Judaism, Peace, and American Jewish activism. The description of and rules for the conversation are below. It was an intense conversation between two loving friends who both love Israel and ache for Peace, who both believe in two states and are both pained by Israeli and Palestinian deaths. The disagreements were passionate, nuanced, and respectful. This was, of course, only the beginning of the work ahead. 

We invite you to please, watch the videos. Tune in. Continue learning about ways to help. Pray for Peace.
For more from Josh, visit JoshKornbluth.com. For more from Rabbi Creditor, visit MenachemCreditor.org.

To receive information about Rabbi Creditor's trip to Israel June 21-30, 2015, 
contact office@netivotshalom.org or "like" the Facebook page for the trip at facebook.com/RCisrael2018.


We care, and because we care, we despair. Will there be any outcome for Israelis and Palestinians, for Israel and Palestine, in which both Peoples are acknowledged and respected? Where one group's national aspirations are not deemed unworthy? This is the conversation Josh wants to have, the conversation we believe we need. We need is as Jews. We need it as people. We need it as one People among many Peoples. Will there ever be a solution? We don't know. We worry. Everyone suffers when some suffer. And so someone who cares is convening a loving, respectful conversation with a very clear mandate: More hope, More dignity, More love.

Here are the rules for the conversation Josh invited us to share:

1)     If your position is that Israel should cease to exist as the Jewish Homeland, that is not the conversation we are going to have.
2)     If you believe Jews are better than Palestinians, that is not the conversation we are going to have.
3)     If you believe that only Jews have the right to a state, that is not the conversation we are going to have.
4)     If you believe Israel's concerns about security are imagined, that is not the conversation we are going to have.

The jumping-off-point for our conversations were these two books:
My Promised Land, by Ari Shavit
The Crisis of Zionism, by Peter Beinart

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com!

Aug 20, 2014

This Sunday at CNS! "First Encounters: An Afternoon of Learning convened by Shma (featuring Robert Alter, Sarah Lefton, Deena Aranoff, Susan Berrin, Dan Schifrin, Rabbi Stuart Kelman, and Rabbi Menachem Creditor)

This Sunday!   
First Encounters 
An Afternoon of Learning
Sunday, August 24th, 1-4pm 
@ Congregation Netivot Shalom
Congregation Netivot Shalom and the journal 
Sh'ma are co-sponsoring an afternoon of learning focused on "First Encounters" to ready ourselves for the month of Elul and begin the process of preparing for the High Holidays. Join Stuart Kelman, Sarah Lefton, Deena Aranoff, Dan Schifrin, Robert Alter, Menachem Creditor and Susan Berrin for an afternoon of facilitated discussion around themes of "first encounters" with: God, art, death, birth, the opening lines of Torah, and the book of Joshua.

1:00 - 1:30 Opening 
Rabbi Menachem Creditor will teach about Elul as preparation for the new year and the theme of "first encounters" 

1:45 - 2:30 - First Session Block

Sarah Lefton on first encountering the Land: When the spies, and then later Joshua and the people, first enter the Land, what does that encounter look like? Sound like? Try out the approach G-dcast uses-storyboarding and voiceover-to make sense of the story in a new way that slows down your reading and flexes your midrash muscles.

Rabbi Stuart Kelman examines what to expect when you're not "Expecting":  Before entering the tahara room for the first time, one conjures up all kinds of thoughts and images. Is this what it's really like to encounter the 'meitah'?

2:45 -3:30-Second Session Block

Robert Alter examines the opening words of the Torah, Breishit Barah Elokim, In the beginning, God created the world: What does the grammar and vocabulary of this sentence tell us about the writer's conception of creation and the world?

Deena Aranoff explores the metaphor of birth coursing through the shofar service: Hayom Harat Olam, Today, the world is born. This session will explore the social, ethical, and theological implications of the use of birth imagery in our account of creation of the world.  

Susan Berrin and Dan Schifrin on having sacred experiences in "unexpected" places.  "God was in this Place, and I did not know..." (Martin Buber walks into a museum...) We will explore the ways art and museums can function as a "holiness accelerator," and how the experience of responding to art can help us shift from a materialistic "I-It" orientation to the more spiritual "I-Thou" in the rest of our lives.

3:30 - 4:00 shmoozing and refreshments

BIOS of Presenters  
Robert Alter is Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written about literary aspects of the Bible and translated a substantial part of it.

Deena Aranoff is assistant professor of medieval Jewish studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her interests include rabbinic literature, medieval patterns of Jewish thought and the broader question of continuity and change in Jewish history.
Susan Berrin is the editor of the journal Sh'ma.

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

Rabbi Stuart Kelman is the founding rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom and the academic dean of the Gamliel Institute, an online course of study for Chevra Kadisha.

Sarah Lefton is the Founding Director of G-dcast, the non profit Jewish animation and app studio that's produced over 100 animated shorts on Torah and Talmud, and 6 apps for preschoolers about the holidays.

Dan Schifrin is the Ideas columnist for "J," and the moderator of the upcoming "In Conversation" series at the Jewish Federation of the East Bay. He recently stepped down as writer in residence and curator of interpretation at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where he worked on the exhibition "Beyond Belief: 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art," in conjunction with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Congregation Netivot Shalom 
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Calling all members!!! - We are looking for volunteers to host new members.  What does hosting a new member entail?  Here are a few ideas; please feel free to add to this list: Inviting a new member to a Friday night Shabbat dinner; including other NS members on your guest list so the new member can meet additional people; saving a seat for the new member at services; answering any questions the new member might have; basically becoming a welcoming face and friend to the new member.  If you would like to be called upon to host a new member, please send an email to membership@netivotshalom.org and put HOST VOLUNTEER in the subject line.  Thank you so much!!
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Ferguson and Israel: One Rabbi's Reflection

Ferguson and Israel: One Rabbi's Reflection
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

On the one hand, there's no comparison. No group or individual's pain is the same. But, given the media's part in the chaos of violence in Ferguson and Israel, observers' readiness to categorize those fighting for their dignity, their children's very lives, and given the sense of the world not 'getting it,' Black and Brown Americans can understand what Jews have experienced throughout time and in these harrowing days, as missiles and bullets fly, media spins, and people judge without any understanding the facts on the ground.

One more linkage between Ferguson and Israel: Restraint. The raw power of those under assault could easily explode but is instead being channeled by the clear moral thinking of leaders in an impossible situation.

Since none of us are sleeping, perhaps we can be anxious in solidarity, navigating our ways through unending night.

We will see better days, my sisters and brothers. We will overcome these horrors. We must.

° menachemcreditor.org
° netivotshalom. org

Aug 19, 2014

Never Again is Right Now

Never Again is Right Now
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

"For every thing there is a time." For Jews, now is the time realize that, though we have our passionate inner tensions as a People, the world sees us as one thing, one group deserving of hatred, unworthy of self-determination, an ever-displaced People. No more. We are wanderers no more. We have come home, and we will defeat those who try to kill us. And there are those in this world who want to kill us. They are trying tonight though missiles, they tried today by savagely beating a Swedish woman for wearing a Jewish star necklace, they tried yesterday by attacking a synagogue in Geneva, and they tried last week by declaring an "Israeli-free zone" in England. It is that brutally simple.

Peace is a commitment the Jewish People makes to the world. But it is a commitment premised upon us being alive to fulfill it. And we have no intention of dying. We've got work to do, ancient work under incomprehensible trials.

Never Again is not a past-tense commitment for a Jew. Never Again is right now.

Aug 18, 2014

Conservative Movement Solidarity Mission to Israel: First Day Update

Conservative Movement Mission to Israel Update
August 2014 - Av 5774
Day 1 - August 18, 2014 (View Pictures)

Update from Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg: 
Over 50 people gathered at the David Citadel Hotel this evening to open the Conservative Movement Solidarity Mission.  Our delegation includes 15 rabbis, 2 cantors, several other synagogue professionals and many lay-leaders.  We're proud that such a large group has joined our mission with little notice. 
We opened tonight with greetings from Yizhar Hess, Executive Director of Masorti Israel, Laura Lewis, Executive Director of the Masorti Foundation, and Shueli Fast, the new Chair of the Masorti movement in Israel. Then our chairs, Felipe Goodman and Bob Slosberg facilitated a conversation where participants described how they came to be part of the mission and what they hoped to gain from it. Barbara Goldstein of Roslyn Heights, NY said "I came because I needed to be here." Many others echoed her sentiments. Some were here earlier in the summer, but felt they needed to come back now. 
After dinner, Felipe introduced our speaker, Hon. Professor Sholomo Avineri of Hebrew University. He spoke about the difference between what might have ideally happened between Israel and the Palestinians and what the reality is. He noted that the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were stuck and have been for a while. His suggestion was that both sides look to build trust wherever possible rather than looking to resolve their conflicting narratives. By taking small steps, we can start to find our way out of the conflict. He said that partial solutions that deal with details rather than with resolving narratives are most likely to move peace negotiations forward. But he also noted that even gestures that build trust take sacrifice and political will. The group was left with much food for thought as we begin our first full day on the ground in Israel tomorrow. 
The RA expresses its thanks to Yizhar Hess for all of his help in planning this mission and especially for the last minute schedule changes.  He has worked tirelessly for the past week.
We go to bed tonight uncertain if there will be a ceasefire tomorrow or not. Either way, we will head to the South where we will visit with our kehillot in Ashkelon, Beersheva and Omer, visit an Iron Dome battery, and meet with soldiers. We look forward to the chance to hear from colleagues and community members and bring them hizuk.

Photos from today are posted on Facebook.
You can also follow @rabbiassembly and #CMinIsrael for live updates. 

Calling all Pounding Hearts

Calling all Pounding Hearts
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

If only the world weren't on fire
then my heart would stop pounding.
But if both fire and pounding heart are true,
then we know two things:
we are alive and we are needed.

Calling all pounding hearts:
Keep beating.
There's a consuming fire
burning out there.
And we'll never make it
if you give up.

° menachemcreditor.org

Aug 16, 2014

The Jewish People as a Tribal Family: an iEngage Conversation

The Jewish People as a Tribal Family: an iEngage Conversation
With Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Sunday, August 17 – Davening at 9:30am, Learning at 10:30am
Congregation Netivot Shalom

There is a widely-held belief that the Jewish People are more divided today than ever before – a claim that questions the sustainability of the shared enterprise of Jewish sovereignty. In this conversation with Rabbi Creditor, we will explore how the Jewish tradition conceptualized the Jewish People as a Tribal Family, it recognized that Jewish collective identity was always a divided and tribal one, requiring the balancing of collective consciousness with individual and tribal sensibilities.

This talk is part of an ongoing series sponsored by Congregation Netivot Shalom in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. It is free and open to the wider community. Donations of $5 are optional and support ongoing educational opportunities at Netivot Shalom.

Aug 15, 2014

Two Years After Ghana

Two Years After Ghana
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
with immeasurable gratitude to AJWS for opening my eyes

Two years ago my soul was torn apart and I was redefined by my exposure to the world as it is. I stood among redeemed slaves in Ghana, and saw how little I knew, confronted with my own limits and with the sudden, blinding knowledge of my own power and responsibility. I pledged, right then and there, to hear and see and feel with my one raw heart as much as I possibly could, so that I might act rightly in the world and have no reason for shame nor reproach at the end of my days. 

Today I affirm that commitment and cry freely with the recognition that, despite my best efforts, it will never be enough. 

Our task is to serve and to lift this broken world of ours one inch closer to heaven, for our children's sakes, and for theirs as well. May we do good during our numbered days.
° menachemcreditor.org
° netivotshalom. org

Overwhelmed by Argument: A Conversation on Israel (Part I)

Aug 14, 2014

Strong Enough for Conversation

Strong Enough for Conversation 
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Here's what I believe: we are strong enough to be who we are. There's nothing less than the world at stake, and toward that vital task, I'm done making my advocacy about trying to change minds. Instead, I'm speaking my truth, and if it changes minds, fine.

So, when someone I love challenges me, I have to decide if that's a conversation worth having. If they're asking me how I feel, then I'll participate. If their goal is to tell me my feelings are illegitimate, they're not really my friend. As we learn in Pirkei Avot (an ancient Jewish text): "Love that is conditional won't last. Love that is unconditional will last."

Perhaps some of the arguments we've been in are not actually conversations, nor affirming. We should be speaking our truths, not debating, if we want to be part of the conversation our broken world truly needs.

Aug 8, 2014

Pro Israel, Pro Peace

Pro Israel, Pro Peace
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I just received a "messaging email" from J-Street, which read "We will be pushing the American Jewish community to rally behind peace efforts with at least as much enthusiasm as it rallied for Israel during this crisis." This is far from the most worrisome email I've received, but I share here my own hurt at its phrasing, which suggests that Israel rallies (including the one at which I spoke in SF this past Sunday) was not a rally for peace. Nothing could be further from the content and tone and message of the Israel rallies I've read about and participated in.

The rallies for Israel I know about have been pervaded by prayers for peace. (The SF one this past Sunday was framed by the Israeli college students who convened it singing Lennon's "Imagine!") The JStreet email poses a dichotomy where I sense an important synergy pulsing within the Zionism I witness pouring out from within the American Jewish community. A "Zionism" that doesn't trumpet peace is a false representation, and it concerns me that JStreet would misframe the best parts of what's happening in the Jewish community today in a misleading and harmful way. Yes, there are those who disagree with what I've stated here about American Jewish Zionism, but they are on the far fringes, I believe.

Said simply: To be for Israel is to be for peace. Any other language denies my own Zionism commitment, and the ones I feel echoing in the Jewish community today.

Aug 5, 2014

Toward Jewish Healing and Post-Tisha-Be'Av Re-entry into the Universe

Toward Jewish Healing and Post-Tisha-Be'Av Re-entry into the Universe
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

There MUST be Jewish space and time for Jews to mourn Jewishly for Jews. We spend so much soul-power being universalist activists,  as we must, as Judaism calls us to do. The universe is big enough for our particular pain too. Only then, when we unabashedly cry as Jews for Jews as we unabashedly cry as Jews for humans, can we claim to be healing this deeply broken world - as Jews.

° menachemcreditor.org

Aug 2, 2014

Now Published: The Hope: American Jewish Voices in Support of Israel

Dear Friends,

The Hope: American Jewish Voices in Support of Israel, a rapid-response book project on behalf of Israel, has now been published, and is available on Amazon. The book's table of contents is below, with some FB tags embedded. The contributors to the book are:

Shira Dicker, Jonathan Horowitz, Nora Gold, Leah Israel, Rabbi Ben Goldstein, Rabbi David Baum, Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin, Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Rabbi Yael Splansky, Rich Moline, Alyssa Pinsker, Michael M. Rosen, Debra S. Rappaport Rosen, Rabbi Adam Raskin, Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, Josh Buchin, Rabbi Dan Cohen, Esther D. Kustanowitz, Rabbi Steven C. Wernick, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Stacey Robinson, Talia Liben Yarmush, Tamar Barbash, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Rabbi Michael Berk, Rabbi David Ackerman, Rabbi Mark Bloom, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, Yael Massen, Erika Dreifus, and Alden Solovy

The book is currently available for $11.39 on Amazon here: amazon.com/Hope-American-Jewish-Voices-Support/dp/1500695343. All proceeds from "The Hope" are directed to supporting The Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin

PLEASE spread the word in whatever way you'd like. The variety of voices is significant - we have demonstrated a pluralistic American Jewish Zionism that flies in the face of a perception that Jews are fragmented on Israel. We are not. Not in moments of threat, not in moments of less-threat. (We haven't yet gotten to moments of peace, but we'll, I'm sure, be thrilled to face that challenge when that blessed day arrives.)

But for now, I still sit in sadness. This email was interrupted by at least four missiles fired by Hamas into Mordecai, Karmia, Netiv HaAsara, Hof Ashkelon, and Zikim. We have much work to do in the days, weeks, and years a head on behalf of our People, and I can only pray that this collection-of-our-hearts-in-book-form gives our sisters and brothers in Israel a dose of much-needed strength. 

If you are in the Bay Area, I look forward to seeing you at "The Bay Stands with Israel" Rally at noon: https://www.facebook.com/events/1447561722188395/

Hazak ve'ematz, and may it be a Shavuah Tov,

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com!

1 Introduction: The End of Theory
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

7 Cataclysm from Left Field
Shira Dicker

11 Have No Fear at All
Jonathan Horowitz Jo Ho

15 Sirens and Solidarity as Rockets Fly from Gaza to Israel
Nora Gold

19 I chose this life 
Leah Israel

23 One Nation, One Heart
Rabbi Ben Goldstein

27 Reviewing Our Difficult Journey
Rabbi David Baum

35 It’s Hard to Pray for Peace
Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin

39 A letter to friends who want to understand 
what is happening in Gaza
Rabbi Mordecai Finley

45 Dream Treaties
Rabbi Yael Splansky

49 So May it Be
Richard S. Moline

57 The Accidental Zionist
Alyssa Pinsker

65 Why We’re Moving Our Family 
into a War Zone
Michael M. Rosen 
& Debra S. Rappaport Rosen

71 I’m Done Apologizing for Israel
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

75 Reflections upon Returning from Israel
Rabbi Adam Raskin

85 Comfort Our People, 
Compassion for All God’s People
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz 
& Rabbi Menachem Creditor

89 Israel: A Triptych
Esther Kustanowitz

101 Seeking Balance in a Time of Disequilibrium: 
Thoughts for Tisha B’Av 2014
Rabbi Steven Wernick

107 Battling Hate on All Fronts
Rabbi Rick Jacobs

113 My Heart is in the East
Stacey Robinson

119 What Can I Do?
Talia Liben Yarmush

123 Two Words
Tamar Barbash

127 The Heart and Soul of Israel
Rabbi Michael Berk

131 The Key Word is “And”
Rabbi David Ackerman

135 Red Alert Jerusalem
Rabbi Mark Bloom

139 We Stand Together
Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner

143 Why I am Going to Germany
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

Poems and Prayers

149 I Know You Sleep In A Bomb Shelter
Yael Massen

150 A Prayer for these 90 Seconds
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

151 Questions for the Critics
Erika Dreifus

152 Prayers for Israel, for Peace, for Humanity
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz

158 A Prayer for Hope
Stacey Robinson

160 For Peace in the Middle East
Alden Solovy

163 Contributors

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