Jan 29, 2015

Tree [a #poem]

© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
inspired by Jenni Mangel, Dan Schifrin, Susan Berrin, and Sara Bamberger

Expelled from the garden,
I became 
Noah's ark,
Joseph's coffin,
Moses' reed basket,
willow branches upon which
dislocated Jews hung their unsinging harps.

I am a cedar in Lebanon,
the doorway to a rebuilt Temple,
books burned and kissed,
a table for rhythmic banging,
the paper record for marginalized roots.

I am
the very air itself.

Jan 23, 2015


Ramah NorCal

      National Ramah Commission, Inc.
       of The Jewish Theological Seminary

January 2015 / Shevat 5775

We are thrilled to announce Sarah Shulman as the first Director of the new Camp Ramah in Northern California (Ramah NorCal), scheduled to open within the next two years.

Sarah is a dynamic Jewish community leader with 10 years of innovative program experience, including a strong track record building Ramah in the Rockies. Sarah helped develop their program, train staff, and inspire hundreds of campers during the camp's early years, helping the camp grow from an initial enrollment of 118 campers in 2010 to over 400 campers in 2015.

In her new role, Sarah will help shape our new camp's educational and programmatic vision, build a team, and work with local rabbis and community leaders on enrollment.

Sarah is currently pursuing her degree at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, and serving as the Director of Education at Ramat Zion, a Conservative synagogue in Northridge, CA. She will be based in Los Angeles until her ordination in May 2016, but will travel frequently to the Bay Area, where she will work closely with Ramah NorCal Project Coordinator Daniele Hurwitz. Sarah will receive extensive support from National Ramah and will be part of the Foundation for Jewish Camp's "New Camp Accelerator" program, funded initially by The AVI CHAI Foundation.

Originally from Seattle, Sarah attended Stanford University, where she received a B.A. in human biology. After college, Sarah lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for six years and taught at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Brandeis Hillel Day School. She also has an impressive athletic background, having competed in IRONMAN competitions and other ultra-endurance events as an accomplished swimmer, runner, and cyclist. (Read more about Sarah.)

Sarah lives in Los Angeles with her husband Nate Bankirer.Nate and Sarah met at Ramah in the Rockies during the camp's inaugural summer of 2010. Rabbi Eliav Bock, Ramah in the Rockies Executive Director, performed their wedding ceremony in Aspen the following year.

Sarah's official work as Director starts on January 26, 2015. She can be reached at sarah@campramah.org.

For questions about Ramah NorCal, please contact Rabbi Mitchell Cohen at the National Ramah Commission; Daniele Hurwitz, Ramah NorCal Project Coordinator; or one of the three co-chairs of the NorCal Board of Directors in San Francisco, Loren ShalinskyCraig Miller, and Alex Bernstein.

    Mitch Cohen
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen
Director, National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary
 Are you a Ramah alum? Use Reshet Ramah's new online community to reconnect with old friends and reminisce about those good old days at Camp Ramah. Please help us to add as many alumni as possible by joining our online community and sharing this news with your friends!
Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for more than 10,000 children, teens, and young adults annually. The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides oversight and educational planning on behalf of the network of Ramah camps throughout North America and Israel.
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Jan 20, 2015

Three shootings today are buried in the news: A Furious, Brief, Comment

Three shootings today are buried in the news: A Furious, Brief, Comment
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The three shootings today (THREE SHOOTINGS, so far) are buried in the news. A man shot a doctor inside Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, critically wounding the physician, before killing himself. Two people were killed and five others hospitalized after gunmen in a car opened fire on a gathering of more than 100 people in a parking lot in San Antonio. A 5-year-old boy found a relative's gun and shot and killed his 9-month-old baby brother in the head in Elmo, Missouri.

Today. 2015. Want to see a beloved community, folks? Demand the right to life of every vulnerable Image of God in America. This is The New Right to Life movement: the quest for Peace in Our Cities, the search for an end to this carnage.

Get angry. Get really, really angry. Cry your brains out in front of our elected officials. Give to Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Share this status update. Plug in, stay informed, and save lives.

Enough death. Enough sensless weapon-addiction deaths. Enough.

We are not resigned.

Jan 19, 2015

"Our Unfinished Society" - A Prayer Recited at the Berkeley City Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, 2015

Our Unfinished Society: A Prayer
Recited at the Berkeley City Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, 2015
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear Lord,

Your servant Dr. Martin Luther King might not have been happy to see us sitting here this morning having this very nice breakfast. He might have led us outside this fine establishment, back into Your fragile world, O God, marching our feet to the rhythmic beat of the deep rumblings of discontent (“Loving Your Enemies”, 1957), back into our streets. And so we pray this very morning to not enjoy so much of the wonderful bounty before us that we forsake the hungry, that we forget our own calamity, just yards away, and miles away, and counties and states away. But really, we know they’re right here in this room. We haven’t set them down, not even for a moment, Lord. We know, as Dr. King taught us, that “our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.”

Dr. King would have called us to know the number of children
going hungry in Alameda this very minute. To know their names and seek their welfare. He would have called us to know the number of dead, thanks to guided missiles and misguided people, woefully-ignored gun violence, and woefully-unequal systems of legislation and enforcement and incarceration in our country. He would have pointed to the immorality of unequal sentencing and the widespread use of solitary confinement. He would have had a thing or two to say about that.

Dr. King, your servant, would speak truth about the astounding costs
of financial corruption, of ongoing 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 with the “urgency of now”
a determined, measured, poetic, prophetic outrage.
He would be teaching by example
our civic duty of compassion,
the obligations of citizenship,
the nobility of non-violent protest,
the grave danger of cynicism.

When he gave his life for peoples╩╝ 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, by those who worry life will be inconvenienced by pointing out that Black lives seem to still matter less in our unfinished society. His words were honed sharp by the depth of 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, at the tender age of 39. 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 us, the way to uproot the persistent inequalities from within our society

"…is to [act] on the principle of love. …this is the only way as our eyes look to the future.” Dr. King called to us, so many years ago, to “look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make [people] better…" (“Loving Your Enemies”, 1957)

Dear God, we know we have to do much better than we’re doing, that we have to be so much better to each other, better to our world if we are to share our prophet’s vision of a beloved community. We've got so much to do, and the good news is that we’ve got Your love waiting to pour out of us and into the world. We promise, Dear Lord – that, in memory of your prophet Dr. King, we’re going to rediscover Love, this greatest of all powers. Armed with this Divine Love, we know we are stronger than the accursed weapons on our streets. We know that the beauty we channel as Your children can defeat the rampant cynicism in our country. We know that within this sacred gathering there is more than enough power with which to see this great task 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 for all, to see when pieties and niceties fall short and protest is truly called for.
- May we remember, as Dr. King taught us, that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘what are you doing for others?’”
- May we remember the power of our convictions to change the world.
- May we pause to recognize the divine image in every human being, deeper than our uniforms, deeper than our skins, as deep as deep gets.
- May we be blessed to stand together - now and for eternity - with overflowing, unconditional light and love, for as Dr. King taught us: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." (“I’ve been to the mountaintop, 1968)
- May we be worthy of the work ahead, and dare to see ourselves as carriers of this sacred prophetic work.


Jan 17, 2015

Immeasurable Comfort

Immeasurable Comfort
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

swaying left and right
quiet vibrations
fill this crowded room
with comfort.

they've gathered
in intentional response
to a loss too big for words.

they've also gathered
in accidental response
to the unspoken losses
carried deep within
each wounded heart,
bringing one other
immeasurable comfort
by just showing up. 

Jan 16, 2015

A statement on Martin Luther King Junior Day

The Jewish commitment to not only recognize but also defend the divine image of every person has long animated Jewish leaders and institutions to engage in the ongoing work of civil rights in America and around the world. Iconic photos of prophetic leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel locate Jewish leaders as active participants in society and serve as a clarion call of the yet unfinished work to ensure the dignity and rights of every citizen. On this day of celebration, Jews reaffirm their obligation to stand in solidarity with the African American community, ready to serve as supportive partners in pursuing our common sacred vision.

Jan 9, 2015

A Prayer for the Paris Jewish Community

A Prayer for the Paris Jewish Community
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Oy, God.
It hurts so very much.
Yet again.

We lift up our eyes to the mountains,
to the heavens,
and we ask with pain and fear
and determined, indefatigable hope:
how long, Adonai, how long.

Knowing Your love is abundant,
compels us see this fragile world
all deeply incomplete.

Why must it take so long for us to learn?
How can Your images,
every human being,
do such horrid things,
hating each other,
hurting each other,
killing each other?

Dear God. this hurt we know too well
has taught us to stand strong through our pain.
We will not cease our prayers, and...

...we also know that we are called,
as Your children, to take leaps of action
and to turn our pain into a clarion call:
Never Again.
That is the prayer of our bodies,
writhing in pain as we watch our sisters and brothers,
children of the House of Israel,
trapped, hurt, killed,
In a kosher supermarket in Paris.

Shopping for Shabbat is not meant to be an act of bravery,
and we call out to You in our anger and fear:
strengthen us to build this world from Your Holy Love, God.
Remind us, even today, especially in Paris today,
that we are capable of this miracle.
The world as a whole needs this message:
Love. Always. Wins.

Source of every breath,
we know that if breath is trapped in our throats,
as we witness terror for Jews and all who cherish life,
You are there too.

Dear God,
hold our hands as we pray with our bodies,
as we mourn those cut down and champion the lives of every Divine Image.

May this broken world of ours
see no more of this
and be blessed by Peace.


Rabbi Menachem Creditor
▶menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org
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Jan 7, 2015

Life Matters: A Brief Comment

Life Matters: A Brief Comment
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

As we appropriately focus on the shooting massacre in Paris, where at least 12 souls were murdered, it is worthy to point out that the world's attention seems more naturally drawn to 'this kind of' loss of life, and no one needs to use a #FrenchLivesMatter campaign to communicate this tragedy's importance. For those who have rejected the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and called to replace it with an #AllLifeMatters approach, please note that no one in the news is talking about the Tuesday bombing of the NAACP office in Colorado Springs. Yes, all life matters. But some lives seem to matter less in society's eyes. May we change all that by lifting our voices and every life's worth.

Jan 6, 2015

After Kiddush Learning this Shabbat at CNS: A Jewish Response to Ebola

After Kiddush Learning this Shabbat (Jan 10, 2015, approx 1pm)
at Congregation Netivot Shalom
A Jewish Response to Ebola
with Andrew Hanauer, Campaigns Director of the Jubilee USA Network

In the face of tragic human suffering in West Africa, what is a Jewish response to Ebola? Learn more about how an interfaith coalition - including prominent national Jewish organizations and a growing number of individual synagogues, including CNS - is tackling the root causes of human crises like Ebola. That coalition, Jubilee USA, moved the White House this fall to call for $100 million in debt relief for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Now the International Monetary Fund is debating how much debt relief to grant while calls grow - from the UN to African organizations - to cancel Ebola debt completely. Meanwhile, a new report was just released detailing just how much these countries are losing each year to tax avoidance and corruption facilitated by a broken international financial system. They're losing billions. Learn more about how these debt and tax policies impact poor communities and what faith groups can do - and are doing - about it.

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