Next week fifteen RA-colleagues will be spending a week together in Berlin. Through our association with Germany Close Up, we will be exploring issues of Jewish memory and will meet with German politicians and educators to discuss how Germany approaches Holocaust education.
This week our director of public policy, Jack Moline, attended a program on the new report on Muslims in America conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center. The report indicates that are many areas of consonance between Jews and Muslims. For Jack’s report on the event and the full findings from the Gallup Center follow below:
By Marc Soloway
As the light fades this evening on another hot and dry Colorado summer day, the fast of Tishah B'Av will begin, with its mournful mood and its very important reminders to us. As many of you know, I have just returned from a life-changing trip to Ghana as part of a delegation of young rabbis with AJWS (American Jewish World Service.) What I witnessed there was a very complex array of joy and inspiration; pain and sorrow; hope and courage; hunger and desperation.
By Mauricio Balter
A few days ago, I stopped writing this letter, because on Sunday a ceasefire was announced. Today, on Wednesday, we heard the sirens again. I am writing to share with you some of my experiences and feelings.
I did not think that I would be writing a war journal again, and despite the fact that the hope for peace still rings within me, reality demands attention.
Last Shabbat (August 20), I came as usual to our shul, Congregation Eshel Avraham in Beersheva. It was 9AM. One minute before the services began, the siren sounded. We all ran into the small shelter in our building. We took into account that we have less than 60 seconds, according to the Home Front Command, to find cover.
By Julie Schonfeld
By Dina Shargel, Ritual Director, Temple Israel Center, White Plains, NY
By Arthur Lavinsky, Beth El Congregation of Phoenix
Excerpted from a sermon delivered on December 17, 2011.
By Jan Caryl Kaufman
On July 29, 170 members of Jewish social justice organizations met at the White House with administration officials and agency representatives. The day was organized by Jewish Funds for Justice and Progressive Jewish Alliance (which recently merged). It was part of the White House’s summer of focus on faith-based and community organizations. All the other gatherings have been issue-oriented. This event was the only one focused on a particular community.
By Daniel Burg
Originally posted on The Urban Rabbi
The strangest thing about our Friday Jewish Social Justice Roundtable gathering at the White House is that most of us never set foot in the White House. For several hours during the afternoon, we sat in an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as various Administration representatives and dignitaries shuttled back and forth through underground tunnels between our room and the house that is actually white.
Finding a relationship with a city and its inhabitants upon arrival takes time and sifting through my own preexisting relationship with Berlin in particular and Germany in general in the wake of modern history seemed even more daunting. And yet, hitting the ground running, hearing the questions of the Germany Close Up director, Dr. Dagmar Pruin allowed me to recognize that my questions had a receptive audience and familiar terrain and in fact were deepened by her sensitive rendering and reflection of tumultuous history and ambiguous identity.
In telling a story, what is included and what drops away? We are commanded to remember, yet we are not told how. Perpeuating memory is rigorous and takes discipline and keen self regard. As we walked the streets of the Mitte district reclaiming Jewish Berlin for ourselves, we preceded the tour with a living vital minyan with Rabbinerin Gesa Ederberg in the New Synagogue and afterward, seeing the exhibits at the German Historical Museum. Past, present and future commingle as we enter this rare time of engagement, growth and possibility—as guests of Germany Close Up and as supportive colleagues and friends within the Rabbinical Assembly. A good grounding.
Rabbi Neil Blumofe, Austin, Texas
This has been a whirlwind week for us here in Berlin where we have learned about how Germans have confronted their past and are looking to their future.
This Shabbat, in Parashat Tetzaveh, we learn about the ner tamid. We can compare the ner tamid -- a main focal point in the Temple -- with European Jewry. Considering the horrific history our people in this part of the world endured during the last century, it is crucial to remember that this Jewish community's light was never fully extinguished -- it is eternal.
In the past few days, we visited a concentration camp and several Holocaust memorials. That is precisely what one would expect our group to experience here in Berlin. But that is only the first part of the story. We also visited a liberal rabbinical school (Abraham Geiger College), progressive synagogues (like our own Masorti congregation), Jewish centers, a Masorti nursery school, kosher restaurants, and Jewish museums. We learned how German school children are confronting their nation's history during the Shoah. We are a group of fourteen rabbis who spent an entire morning in the German Foreign Ministry being briefed on international relations by a high level, career diplomat. We were hosted at a luncheon on the top floor of the Reichstag, looking out on Berlin. We had a glatt kosher dinner with our Protestant colleagues, exchanging theological viewpoints and perceptions about memory over shnitzel and goulash.
This is a changing country. The light of our Jewish brothers and sisters here is not only still kindled, but it is burning bright.
Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin
Rabbi Jason Miller
Many, many images of God have been lost in earthquake and fire and mighty waters just yesterday. And so we turn to You, Adonai, and we ask for Your strength and comfort.
We open our hearts one to the other as brothers and sisters struggling in Your world. "Above the thunder of the mighty waters, more majestic than the breakers of the sea is Adonai (Ps. 93:4)." Be with us as we offer what we can, through prayer and action, to our sisters and brothers who are suffering in Japan and who stand on alert around the world.
We ask for You to be the still, small voice after the fire, allowing space for mourning and hope in the face of tragedy. We see Your sheltering Presence and Your holy tears in the receding waters of the Tsunami and in the rescue work being carried out by so many for the sake of a fragile world.
May it be Your will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, to send healing to the injured and comfort to those in mourning. May You be with those who are engaged in the sacred work of rescue. Be with us as we bring shelter, food, and water to those in need.
May we merit to save many lives.
May those effected by this disaster know Your comfort.
May we act when we learn how we can help.
May our world be blessed by peace.
-by Rabbi Menachem Creditor
We are proud to launch the new face of rabbinicalassembly.org.
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The misleading statement by Agudath Israel concerning Magen Tzedek is a misrepresentation of a very important development in kosher food production in America. Magen Tzedek is based on our assertion that biblical and rabbinic law mandate fair treatment of workers (בל תלין), humane treatment of animals (צער בעלי חיים) and care of the earth (בל תשחית and שמירת הארץ) which can be translated into measurable standards applicable to commercial food production. These standards were developed in collaboration with SAAS, an organization acknowledged worldwide for its expertise in ethical certification programs.
We are appalled that Agudath Israel sees in ethical certification for kosher food an effort that “corrupts halakhah.” All Jews recognize that Judaism is a religion built upon ethical precepts. A central purpose of Jewish observance is to make us more decent and moral people, more capable of carrying out God’s vision of a just world.
We flatly reject Agudath Israel’s false accusations that we “harbor no respect for the very concept of halakhah.” We have always maintained that the Magen Tzedek would only be awarded to products already bearing kosher certification. Yet, we maintain that mitzvot bein adam l'makom (commandments between humanity and God) do not take precedence over mitzvot bein adam l'havero (commandments between one person and another).
Maimonides said that in fulfillment of Jewish life “one must be strict in their behavior and still go beyond the letter of the law (לפנים משורת הדין)." We see our role as ensuring that such is the case in the production of kosher food. Just as we would never delegate to the government to determine what constitutes proper kashrut certification, neither should we leave to the government enforcement of Jewish norms regarding ethical behavior. Instead of dismissing the work of one another, we call on all Jews to work together to ensure that our actions are truly a kiddush hashem--a sanctification of God's name.
Magen Tzedek affirms the eternal wisdom of Torah by bringing the moral values of Jewish religious tradition to bear on the daily operations of industrial food production, bringing more Jews to value the beauty of kashrut and Jewish observance assuring that we feel truly fulfilled when we sit down around our tables for a meal.
Contact: Rabbi Morris Allen, (651) 452-2226, email@example.com
Rabbi Michael Siegel, (773) 868-5110, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am starting in a new pulpit on July 1st, and Eit Ratzon was very helpful. Rabbis Schoenberg and Lebeau emphasized the importance of building relationships and gave specific ways to do so. Among the techniques discussed were understanding personality types, learning the congregation's history and stories, and active listening. I also learned elements of a positive installation, advice on first impressions, and how to manage expectations. I enjoyed seeing over thirty colleagues and synagogue leaders as well. I now have much to share with my lay leaders so we can lay the groundwork for a lasting relationship.
Reflection by Rabbi Michael Pont
By Ashira Konigsburg, Associate Director of Rabbinic Services, RA
Another year has gone by already? Perhaps it is because time seems to fly that we find ways to mark the new year. Both the Jewish and secular calendars have developed traditions and customs surrounding timekeeping.