Friday, December 24, 2010

My First Christmas Free Christmas!


Clearly I am a Jew By Choice...A Covert....


I have detailed many times my personal struggles and the complicated nature of this type of choice. Today is December 24th, and all is well, well for the most part. The main sticking point currently is in how to manage honoring one's parents/family and following one's heart, aka Judaism. This is clearly summed up in today and tomorrow.


Shabbat, December 25th 2010. I have decided that we (my husband and myself) will go to services and then drive to my parents home to honor them and be with them on their holiday. I can not figure out any other way that can hold both desires.


It is an odd feeling...this is basically my first almost totally Jewish Christmas. With the exception of visiting my parents, there has been no Christian/Christmas type activities on my part. The past three years had been difficult because of my daughter, who with my conversion lost Christmas, but now that she has gone on her own adventure, moving across the country, I have no pressure to have a tree etc.


Yet this odd feeling continues....I'm not regretting anything about my choice, it is just that old conundrum of very few Jewish memories and many many childhood christian ones. I keep asking my husband about his life experiences...his memories of December from his childhood... but then I kind-of feel like a memory vampire, taking his memories because I have none.


The energy about Christmas is all around me, despite living in a fairly Jewish area. You just can't hide from it. I work with children and families and Christmas talk has been happening for weeks. The music in my building has been Christmas themed for the entire month. My husband says he like Christmas carols, that they don't bother him. For me once again it is complicated, they are connected to memories, and childhood times of excitement and wonder waiting for Christmas and Santa. It is almost like I have to block the songs to keep from feeling odd at this time of year.


For those of you born Jewish this might be hard to understand. I just want to "feel Jewish." I want to not even have a thought about Christmas...yet right now it doesn't appear that I am close to that!


sooo Shabbat Shalom...and take a moment to consider the Jews By Choice you might know. Reach out to them at services, because they may need Jewish memories too!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Saturday December 25th 2010

If you are reading this blog, you more than likely know I am a Jew by Choice. So much has changed since I started down the path of "let me take a closer look at Judaism." A lot has happened! My third anniversary of my conversion will occur on April 1st 2011...God willing.

I am happy that I have managed to continue to evolve in my observance and practices. I have also managed to diplomatically deal with my family of origin, my Catholic, Italian/Irish family of origin. The main difficulty has been my daughter who lost Christmas with my conversion (her father, my former husband is Jewish but rejects all religion) Yet even before she moved to Portland Oregon this fall, that had started getting better too....so with her move, I have no Christmas tree dilemma!

As I put away my Hanuka decorations last Sunday, It dawned on me that this year will be the first one in my life where I have absolutely no trace of Christmas in my home. I have been trying to understand my feelings about this. I don't think I am missing it, but there is some issue of my memories. This time of year is intrinsically linked to that holiday. The songs, the traditions the religion of it all. Don't get me wrong I feel at home being Jewish, but it just seems a bit odd.

The next revelation for me is when I saw that Christmas falls on Shabbat this year. For those of you born Jewish with no mixed marriage issues , this is not a problem but for me this is BIG. One way I have kept the family quite is by attending gatherings in their homes for their celebrations. That way I am there but generally don't have to compromise much. (I will write about food wars at another time!...)

Ok I am not Shomer Shabbat but I am not secular about it either...I use the lights, shower with hot water etc...but my husband and I walk to our conservative synagogue and I don't work, shop etc..
The problem is my parents live two hours away from me.

I have envisioned the phone conversation..."hello mom,... no not coming, it is shabbat"......dead silence....the extremist word might get used...the c word...cult....and a bunch of others. There also could be some serious guilt thrown my way.

My parents are very old, they have accepted so much from me...I don't think I have the strength to hold my ground on this, this year....Does anyone know the next year this will happen?...maybe I will be on vacation for that!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sharing a Belief...

On November 23, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York joined with Rabbi Klein in a dialogue that took place at the Merrick Jewish Centre in Merrick NY. It was an important evening as a conjoint effort to begin to build bridges of understanding between the Jewish and Islamic communities began in our little place in the world. The discussion touched on many important issues. Please check out the follow link for other clips from this meeting.

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheMerrickJC.



This dialog, I believe was a hopeful thing. Often I have felt some discomfort when politics of religion have come up at synagogue. Often there is open hostility expressed about Islam from some, and perhaps less open but still there is strong distrust from others. In fact my husband is fond of telling me I live in an Utopian world...but that the rest of the world isn't there with me. Of course I am aware of the vast difficulties, pain and suffering that abounds in the world, and in particular in relationship to the Israeli /Arab situation. Yet I hold strongly to my beliefs that hope and peace are the only way. Hatred begets hatred, aggression begets aggression. Growing understand is a way of watering the seeds of hope.

I was happy to see the Rabbi go down this path. Often his very vocal and consistent support for Israel, an Israel right or wrong stance, can feel anti Islamic at times.....this just might be my perception. I too support Israel, but sometimes feel extremely frustrated by some of the actions taken there. This meeting of religious leaders has helped to calm my judging mind and water my seeds of hope that even more change is possible.

Hoping for hope is a good thing!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Made Me Cry

I work for myself as a mental health/LCSW therapist. This time of year can be difficult for many people...yet many people because they become so depressed don't show up for their appointments. This leaves me in an awkward spot. If they actually cancel I can then plan my time, but if it is a no show, I must hang around just in case....all this to say...

I HAVE WAY TOO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS!

so I was trolling you tube and found this amazing video. It comes from the folks at Yad Vashem. They have so much material up on the web...I believe it is a good use of my force down time.....
What brought tears was the footage of the little children singing HaTikvah. Considering this film is from the early 30's ....need I say more.



"Wedding of Frime Chaye Rivke Shapira - daughter of Grand Rebbe Eleazer Shapira of Munkatch, author of Minchas Eleazer (d. 1936), to Rabbi Rabinowitz in March 1933. She was the mother of the present Munkatcher and Dinover Rebbes. Complete version. Includes other scenes of Jewish life in Munkacs, Hungary, both of secular and religious Jews. 1. Wedding. Huge crowds of well wishers gather in the streets on the occasion of the wedding of the Munkacs Grand Rabbi's 18 year old daughter, Frime Chaye Rivke. The Munkatcher Rebbe makes a speech in Yiddish exhorting Jews in America to continue to keep Shabbos (to observe the sabbath day). The wedding party then enters the synagogue grounds, and the cantor sings blessings beneath the wedding canopy (chupah). The wedding concludes with festive hasidic music. Newspaper accounts indicate that some 20,000 people attended the celebrations. 2. Secular Jewish children singing in Munkatch. 3. Traditional Religious Jewish children studying in Orthodox Religious School in Munkatch. 4. Book peddler and weaver in Munkatch. 5. Secular Jews dancing in Munkatch."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Finding Hope & Cute Boys Singing!

Last night my husband was laughing with/at me about how happy I was to light our menorah. He said "we need to get some little kids for you!"...I told him I am making my Jewish memories. We have been going through some very trying times of late; Jobe like times. Yet to engage in a joyful celebration, if only the two of us, is special to me. I embrace it and drink it in. I am determined not to give into the negative thoughts despite much serious illness in my extended family, sister, sister's partner and my mother.

I light the lights to shine into my heart, into other's hearts and to light hope in me! I find peace in the ritual and hope in the flames....

soooo now for the cute boys!.........




Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rabbi Klein Video

A New Light (mp3): My Jewish Learning

A New Light (mp3): My Jewish Learning

Free Mp3 to Rock Your Hanukkah from the Jewniverse

How do you make your Hanukkah a little bit warmer? By bringing it in with some friends, of course. Three great singers--Naomi Less (who fronts the band Jewish Chicks Rock), Chana Rothman, and Sarah Aroeste (who you might remember from our video How Jews Look)--teamed up to record a great new song, "A New Light," which you can download as an mp3.The title refers to Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, but it also gives a nod to the Hebrew prayer "Or Hadash," one of the blessings before the Shema. In three languages--English, Hebrew, and Ladino--the singers belt out a song that's soulful without giving up its catchy pop. "You're the one who can ignite/Thanks for lighting up our lives," they sing on the chorus--which could be a prayer, or it could be a shout-out from each of these excellent singer/songwriters to the others.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

mmmmm donuts



HAPPY HANUKKAH!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eruv Nonsense


My husband and I have been talking about possibly selling our house and moving near the water. This has been a dream of my husband's for many years and he believes, due to many causes and conditions this might be obtainable for us at this time.

Being an entrepreneurial type, I very quickly thought if we go forward with this plan I should send information on our house to the various Orthodox synagogues near us. I live very close to one and within walking distance of another. I went on line to find out about their communities and Rabbi's etc.

Both web pages had information about my area's Eruv. I studied the map and was excited to see that my house is in the middle of the Eruv. This makes for wonderful possibilities for helping me sell my house....

But something about the Eurv map was deeply disturbing to me. It made me more than a bit angry. I attend a large egalitarian conservative synagogue. The eurv clearly leaves my synagogue out! I know nothing about the politics and or history of this but to look at the map they had to make an effort to skip us!

I guess I could bring this up with my rabbi...but again it is another one of these disturbing "them" "us" Jewish moments that leaves me sad.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mindfulness Jewish Style/Happy Thanksgiving!


Mindfulness Jewish Style brought to you by the rabbi at the Merrick Jewish Center.

Mindfulness is an interesting tool/philosophy/life style/practice...I try to live it. This week has been a lesson in mindfulness. One way to describe mindfulness is as awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience. Basically not privileging experiences...or not subcategorizing things presumptively as good and bad.

My daughter has recently moved across the country and due to this, and other causes and conditions including the death of my mother in law with in this year we were going host a very small thanksgiving for my brother in law and his partner. I was not happy with this. Thanksgiving is supposed to be for large families etc. so my brain and emotions kept telling me. I then tried to rally others to come and join us and my sister and possibly my brother and his girlfriend said yes. I had been feeling the loss of late and getting melancholy about not being able to have a large family with whom I can share holidays and was letting folks know this. Not so mindful of me, but I continued to try to manufacture this Thanksgiving. Then fate kicked in. First my brother and his girlfriend cancel...then the worst part...I got the flu...I have been sick since Sunday and today is the first day I can read and write (Wed.)....thanksgiving, or at least the thanksgiving of my projections/attachments is cancelled.

But then something happened between rolling in pain, and being hot and cold with fever...I remembered mindfulness...as the hours have very slowly ticked by, too sick to do anything I am concentrating on the present moment. Not what is missing, what is lost or wanted.
And now I smile as I truly give thanks that I can read today....and that gastric and respiratory distress is lessening. I am grateful for my non toothache!
I am grateful for the wonderful man I call my husband who has taken care of me despite a high degree of whining and moaning...I am grateful for the two dogs who both stayed with me when I needed them and got lost when I needed them to.
I am grateful for so much.

I hope you find your grace despite or in-spite of what your thanksgiving holds for you!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Complicated III or My Daughter on the Oregon Trail

My daughter and her boyfriend left for Oregon today. They have
been living with my husband and I since the Summer. It has been a complicated time. I love my daughter and want her to be happy. We all know it is best for her and happier for her to be on her own, yet Oregon is sooooo far away!

My daughter and I have been through a lot together...and now she embarks on a phase of her life that I hope is full of the promise she anticipates. I have changed and I must accept that she gets to change too!

Anyone out there know about Jewish Portland?...I will be visiting her often.......

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

4:22 PM


"We'd like to remind you that this evening's candle lighting time is 4:22 in Merrick, NY.Saturday 5:22 Havdalah."

Thusly the weekly shabbat email reminder began.....

Yikes!....4:22 pm!

The reminder went on to mention pre-planning so one could lite candles in the meditative sereneness required by this ritual act. Yet 4:22 for someone in the secular world of work is a tough one. I am lucky I work for myself and set my own schedule but it still can be difficult even with that great advantage. I am sure I will be home in time with some sort of dinner ready made, more than likely bought if I am being totally truthful!

But with the encroaching winter light signaled by the early candles, the very early chunakah this year, the pending move across country of my only daughter and her boyfriend, the recent death of my former mother-in-law, the death within the year of my current mother-in-law, my own mother's medical issues, my sister's cancer diagnosis and treatment...well I guess you get the picture....I am having some struggles.

The other day I was feeling grateful, and I still am, but I am also feeling a bit melancholy, wishing I could patch together some sort of holiday gathering. I missed out on family Jewish celebrations being a convert and all, but I still want to experience it!

I am going to get the nerve up and try to put together a party...it tends to be a time of year for families but I just may be able to find enough loose souls to come and light candles and sing songs with me!....Please wish me luck!

Shabbat Shalom

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Treat......


Today's Fact brought to you by National Jewish Outreach Program


(I just love these emails...daily little bits of Jewish factoids to brighten my day!)


Rachel: The Great Romance
The story of Jacob and Rachel is as close to true romance as one finds in Biblical literature.

Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebecca, went to the home of Laban (Rebecca’s brother) to find a bride. (In those days, marrying first cousins was not uncommon.) Jacob arrived at a well that was covered by a large stone. When Jacob asked the gathered shepherds if they knew his uncle, they pointed to a young shepherdess approaching the well and announced that this was Laban’s daughter Rachel. They also explained to him that they were waiting until all of the local shepherds arrived at the well to roll back the rock and distribute the water. Jacob immediately rolled the rock away himself and gave water to Rachel’s sheep. Laban agreed to let the smitten Jacob marry Rachel, if Jacob first worked for him for seven years.

When the wedding day finally arrived, however, Laban decided that it would be very embarrassing if his younger daughter, Rachel, were to marry before her older sister, Leah. Therefore, without any warning, he ordered Leah to don her sister’s wedding veil secretly and be wed to Jacob without his knowledge.

Rachel now faced a great dilemma. She could fight for her right to wed Jacob as promised, or she could expose the plot, humiliate her sister in public and bring great shame to the entire family. Putting her sister’s honor before her own, Rachel gave Leah the secret signs that she and Jacob had prepared in case of just such a likelihood, so that Leah could marry the man Rachel loved. When the festivities of Jacob and Leah’s wedding were completed a week later, Rachel and Jacob were wed and Rachel became his second, but more beloved, wife.
Ok love that story....!
I picked the name Rachael in one of those unconscious wonderful monuments...(see the very first post on this blog for the details) Yet despite not having put much thought into the name...it so fits my new wonderful life!
I spent much of the past weekend sunk into the past...the death of my former mother-in-law sent me on a personal history tour that was filled with many emotions. But today I am experiencing my grateful energy....the energy of mindfulness and gratitude for my current life.
Dare I say, despite much to be concerned about...(I will spare you the agony list!) I am more or less pleased with my life and the people who populate it!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

To Anonymous

To Anonymous

I am not orthodox...but I try to hold the line on writing on shabbat...but I do read my computer on shabbat...when I saw your comment...which you will see , that I did post...I took a few moments to think about it....
You must know me I am sure..or why would you be anonymous and why would you be so condemning of me. Who ever you are, I want to say I am sorry for any pain I may have caused you.

no pain was intended...these were my feelings.....feelings and perspective can be problematic...and I am sorry

I had shared the post with my former husband for his review.....we talked about it...he had no issue with what I said about him....he did not mention any feelings about what I wrote about his mom...I have reviewed what I wrote and made changes to make it clearer.

when you see me at the funeral please try to remember I use this blog to work out my experiences and feelings. Hopefully you read some of the other things here to get an idea.

Life is complicated, relationships are complicated and divorce is very complicated...please consider all the shades of grey in terms of relationships, feelings and emotions. Of course I am sad about Dorothy...that is why I needed to write.

as for you...whoever you are, once again...I'm sorry

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's Complicated II Dorothy

Baruch dayan emet

My former Husband's mother died.

I was married for 20 years and was introduced to her a year or two before my marriage. Dorothy and I always had an interesting relationship...oh did I remind y'all my first husband was Jewish...and at that time I wasn't.

I married a secular Jewish man who one might use the label of "self hating Jew" to describe him. He has disdain for all things Jewish but to be fair he has disdain for most things religious. He would say he was biologically and or culturally Jewish but would call most ritual mumbo jumbo or voodoo.I carried the "Jewishness" of the family from a ritual standpoint for my daughter... I made sure she had connections to it and made my own attempts at home based events such as Hanukkah.

as I was saying, my relationship with Dorothy was complicated. I believe Dorothy was a product of her age and generation. In her time I think she was an ambitious woman who had dreams and aspirations that were slightly out of her reach, of course not due to her. She was smart, almost sassy and always had an opinion on any topic that might manifest. In some ways she was admirable for having carved and cobbled a life together out of the strands she was given...in other ways I found her difficult to get to know, at times she appeared to be not the most warm individual,but that could just be my perception. To me, she always felt as if there was a distance that could never be transversed.This could be due to the many difficulties she had encountered in her life.

Yet over my tenure as daughter-in-Law...the first daughter-in-law...(there is another, daughter-in law...I experienced this as complicated as it can be in most families) I did much care taking. Yet no matter how long I was in the family I think in a mostly unconscious way, I felt I was labeled as the "other". Even at times when it was clear she was having much difficulty with my Jew from birth daughter-in-law counterpart (this in the beginning of her entry into the family...). I was still the non-Jew.(of course this could have been my own "stuff"!)

I have a number of memories but one of the most lasting was our Passover ritual. It was difficult to get the family to decide when we would gather. I most often would insist on the appropriate nights, first or second... but the difficulties would mean sometime yes and sometimes no. She had hagadhs from the 50's or 60's they had Elsie the cow on them!...and every year she would precede to ask/tell me what was happening at the Seder table. may I add not in the most affectionate way!...not mean mind you, just very practical...20 years of this...as my daughter got older it became a game between us as to when Grandma would educate me on all things Jewish. In fact I was the one who wanted to "do" Passover fully with some spirituality....clearly I was not supported in this endeavor.

Once the divorce word crossed our collective lips (my husband and me)I never saw her or his family again.It is important to note that I hold the land speed record for divorce. Having uttered the word in January, entered mediation in February we had a completed agreement by the beginning of May. That part of my life was disappeared they all were gone not to be seen again....that is until Dorthy became sick.

Over the past year the lung issues she had been dealing with for many years had finely been labeled Lung Cancer. as she and her family struggled with choosing the right directions, I had a far off sideline seat. My former husband and I now have a respectable amiable relationship. We are not sharing holidays and hanging out together, but we can talk, share in events that are important to our daughter and in general be ok with one another. Then as it became clear to me, (I used to work as a social worker in an oncology department) that Dorothy would not find her way to a remission, closing this chapter of my life seemed important.

I ended up seeing her during one of her last hospitalizations. It was somewhat awkward. My new found Jewishness was a major part of the conversation. One thing she said did make me smile. she said "you were always more Jewish than all of us."

so now Dorothy is of blessed memory...
Hamakom y'nachem etchem b'toch sh'ar availai tziyon ee yerushalayim

Woman of the Wall in the Post

http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=194099



400 world rabbis ask police to protect Women of the Wall






Kotel’s rabbi: I call on them to behave according to the customs of the area and not to insult the sensitivities of the other people praying.

More than 400 rabbis from around the world have signed a letter asking Jerusalem police to protect women at the Western Wall who want to pray and read the Torah together, one year after nursing student Nofrat Frenkel was arrested for taking out a Torah in the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza.

Frenkel is a member of the Women of the Wall organization, which advocates for women’s rights to perform religious actions, such as wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah, at the Western Wall.

The letter, organized by Los Angeles Rabbi Pamela Frydman, asked the mayor and police chief of Jerusalem to “immediately institute and enforce a zero-tolerance policy against attacking women in any way whatsoever, including throwing chairs and feces-filled diapers and other objects at women who pray together.”

The letter, co-authored by 28 rabbis, has also been signed by close to 500 other individuals and organizations from various Jewish denominations across the world, bringing the total to over 900 signatories. It was also sent to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, along with other prominent politicians.

“It is extremely important to us that there always be a place for haredi men and women in a way that is comfortable for them and in accordance with their understanding of Halacha,” said Frydman, who is the director of the Holocaust Education Project at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles, and was ordained through the Jewish Renewal movement.

“But it is equally important for us that those of us who are Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal that we have a place where we can pray in accordance with our understanding.”

Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said that the police would respond directly to the authors of the letter.

“The Women of the Wall are welcome, like every Jewish woman, to come to the Western Wall,” Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, chief rabbi of the Western Wall, told The Jerusalem Post. “It is forbidden for anyone to harm them, as violence is totally forbidden at the Western Wall. Together with this… I call on them to behave according to the customs of the area and not to insult the sensitivities of the other people praying.”

Another police source pointed out that the women were arrested after engaging in activities that were forbidden by Supreme Court decisions.

“On the one hand, they’re breaking the law, and on the other hand, they’re asking for expanded protection in order to break the law,” said the police source.

On Monday, when the women mark the new Hebrew month of Kislev, Nofrat Frenkel will lead services to mark the one-year anniversary of her arrest. She was arrested after attempting to bring out the Torah in the main women’s section, which is against the law.

“It was the global support we received that put the wind in our sails,” said Frenkel in a statement. “After my arrest, Jews in both Israel and the Diaspora understood that we have to win this battle by foot.

Men and women, from all sects of Judaism, have arrived monthly to pray with WOW at the Kotel and insist on their right for freedom of worship.”

The Women of the Wall has also started a campaign asking women around the world to send photos of them reading and holding Torahs, in order to illustrate that this is a worldwide movement. They have collected more than 4,000 photos.

“Israelis have given up on the Wall,” said Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall and the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, who was also arrested at a Women of the Wall event six months ago. “They feel uncomfortable there... People have made them feel as if they’re not coming home, but trampling on someone else’s place. There are territorial behaviors, saying, ‘Wear something different,’ ‘Move from here,’ ‘Move from there.’” Frydman is currently leading a delegation to Israel of around 20 people, both men and women, to support Women of the Wall and attend Monday’s Rosh Hodesh service.

“There’s a saying, ‘Respect comes even before Torah,’” Frydman said. “We believe it’s important to respect the haredi way of worship, and our way of worship as well.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Am Not A Sheep


I had heard about the famous/infamous Pew Trust Forum poll. The take away I remember was that most folks didn't know about their own religion, never mind the religion of others. Additionally I remembered Jews and Atheists did the best. In fact my Rabbi even rolled that information into one of his sermons. So when today I saw on a friend's facebook post a link to their site and a with a mini poll/survey I went right to it!

http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/index.php

How much do you know about religion?
And how do you compare with the average American? Here's your chance to find out.
Take our short, 15-question quiz, and see how you do in comparison with 3,412 randomly sampled adults who were asked these and other questions in the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. This national poll was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life from May 19 through June 6, 2010, on landlines and cell phones, in English and Spanish.
When you finish the quiz, you will be able to compare your knowledge of religion with participants in the national telephone poll. You can see how you compare with the overall population as well as with people of various religious traditions, people who attend worship services frequently or less often, men and women, and college graduates as well as those who did not attend college.
now go take the test...then come back here and keep reading

I took the test and the results for me, raised Catholic, a Buddhist Unitarian Universalist who converted to Judaism, were predictable, I got all the answers right. I am not proud of this nor surprised by this, but what did shock me was how simple it was. They do a wonderful job of breaking down their data so that you can see who got questions right and wrong broken out into many different categories. I feel dismayed about the polls results. These questions were basic, nothing jumped out as esoteric or overly challenging.

And once again, my own experience with this quiz pointed out my unique conundrum....even though I do not believe I need reminding, but there it was....I fit nowhere near any majority and or any mainstream demographic group.
I spent a good amount of time when I was younger lamenting my plight of perpetual outsider when it comes to how I view the world...the shorthand I came up with was "I am not a sheep." I tend to go out there on my own, searching and questioning. But that can be a dangerous place to be and would think there is some protective energy with being just like all the other sheep. but anytime I attempted to put on sheep clothing, my true nature shown and I was found out.

So far, I must say ,the synagogue I am calling home has accepted my non sheep self. In fact in some ways I think they find it interesting. I bring life experiences and organizational experiences that can be a positive addition to our shull....I feel at home organizationally but more to the point I am home religiously and spiritually.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vacation in Italy

Right after my husband and I broke our Yom Kippur fast we left for Italy and spent 18 days exploring the country!....But it has been crazy since our return and it has been hard to get back into the swing of things....including getting back into the blog thing..none the less I thought I would start to post some of my "Jewish Themed" photos from this grand adventure....

ok....now for those of you who don't know...this is Vatican City....the place where the Pope lives...
and yes I went in...I went into many churches.....I know, not Orthodox of me...but I truly believe I went into these places because of art and history not to worship and or pray...

and look what I found in the floor of former living quarters of the popes! There were a whole bunch of them!



This is the Synagogue in Florence

more photos tomorrow!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gemar Chatimah Tovah


I am wishing all Tsom Kal.....

I am truly inspired! I have been in a good space and have been able to channel kavanah....hopefully when my stomach starts to grumble and I start to feel a bit dehydrated I will be able to continue to find that higher place.

Last night we had a synagogue board meeting. Nothing unusual in that...but the Rabbi in a few moments before we got into it talked about our theme...or better yet our aspiration...."Aim Higher"

Weather in prayer or service our aspiration is clear to aim higher...I am wishing all the same...to find a place in their hearts and homes to aim higher!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jews in Space and Other Fun Stuff

One of my favorite Web sites in my "Jew-niverise" is My Jewish learning http://www.myjewishlearning.com/ they have always had wonderful emails and learning opportunities. Recently they have started something called Jewniverise. It is an email of fun, funny or interesting factoids. I have found it immensely interesting. below is the one I found in my inbox this morning.




September 7, 2010
Rabbis in Space

Jack Dann is a brilliant science fiction writer. He's also Jewish--though in much of his writing, that’s merely a fun background fact. But Dann's classic short story "Jumping the Road," originally published in 1992, is a wonderful exception to the rule
--a story about aliens, Jews, and Jews who are aliens.

In the far future, humans discover a planet named Ulim (similar to the Hebrew word for "world") with a small population of native Jews. These alien Jews have a parallel history to Earth's Chosen People--they have the same Torah, the same rituals, the same Hebrew language, and even wear the same kind of tallit (prayer shawl) as their cousins across the galaxy. But the Ulim Jews are only three feet tall, with scaly alligator skin.

A Hasidic Master on Earth sends the fun, grumpy Isaac ibn Chabib to Ulim to investigate. Soon, he unearths a much larger (and stranger) story than simply two parallel Jewish histories. We won't give away the whole plot, but let's just say that it involves plum brandy, time-traveling talmudic rabbis, and a whole lot more.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Personal Selichot




Our synagogue was having a very lovely program on Saturday night. First our Rabbi joined forces with the local Modern Orthodox Shull to do an educational round table, then we would walk to our synagogue at 11:00 pm for our Selichot service.....

I am sure it was great......but I wouldn't know...I fell asleep! Yup missed the entire thing sleeping on my couch!

I felt terrible about this, but what could I do! The following day my husband and I had plans to spend some time at the beach. So I decided to have my own personal Selichot moment.

I took the copy of the new conservative Mahzor to the beach and read it. Ok I feel some what like a study nerd!...but the new edition is wonderful!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rabbi Dan

The below post came via my Facebook link to New York City's 92nd Street Y in Tribecca, the newer location for the famous NYC Jewish institution. It is a magnificent place, and if you are in the neighborhood check out their cafe it is yummy and Kosher.

Yet the reason for this post is I guess is why the Orthodox keep men and women separate at most all times..... CHECK OUT THE RABBI!

Ok, I will be 50 years old in March, and more than likely have shirts older than this guy...but it struck me he isn't hard to look at.I don't mean to be objectifying him. I am sure he is extremely learned and has a wonderful spirit. But I must say I have not met many Rabbis that look like that!

Shabbat Shalom Y'all!




Friday, September 03, 2010

Google CEO Has 92YTribeca Rabbi Dan Thinking
Dan Ain, 92YTribeca’s new Rabbi-in-Residence, is thinking about the High Holidays. Specifically, his thoughts have turned to the new technological world we live, with astonishing access to information:



Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, was recently quoted in The Wall Street Journal, commenting on a society where “...everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time.” He predicts that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites. Has technology really taken us to the point that we all need to change our names because of some careless photo posted years ago? Have we become that unforgiving?

If the web means the “end of forgetting” as outlined by a recent New York Times Magazine cover story, then we truly have all begun to see our lives through a technological lens.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide us with the opportunity to get back to using our own eyes, our own senses, so that we can reconnect with the person we want to be, as opposed to what our technology needs us to be. Maybe then we can remember how to forgive each other and forgive ourselves, without having to resort to changing our names.

Celebrate the High Holidays with Rabbi Dan when he leads Rosh Hashanah services on September 8th and 9th, and Yom Kippur services on September 17th and 18th.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Elul Time


As I have done in the past 2 years, I am taking the month of Elul as a time to try and deepen some connections, understanding and knowledge about my chosen faith. It is also the time of year when I make some extra time for play...Well it is truly more than play...I use the month to make my own New Year cards.
As I make each one I try to be mindful of the reason for the cards. I use the making of them almost like a meditation.

The only thing that gets complicated for me, is who to send the cards to. Now that I am a board member the list could be very long!...yet I want to try and keep my intent and spirit the same.

Wish me luck!...I have a lot more cards to make!

Friday, August 6, 2010

love's Delima


My conversion, My marriage, My kosher kitchen, My choices. All have been full of deep contemplation. I can say with a clear mind and heart that I have chosen for myself this new life. But there is someone who has not made any of those choices and yet now, even more acutely than ever before, has to live with them.

My daughter, who had been living in an apartment with her long time boyfriend, has come to live with my husband and I, with the boyfriend in tow. College is completed and employment with enough pay to continue living in New York City has been difficult to secure, so here they are!

I love my daughter, but this is hard. She has accepted my husband of two and a half years. She supports my career changes. (I now work for myself as apposed to my previous management job at a large psychiatric hospital) but the "Jewish Stuff", her words, has been much more difficult. She tells me that she sees that I am happy but then says "I just don't see the purpose of this kosher stuff." I explain it is what I do and that it is important to me. But this is the moment that keeps on giving.

The kitchen is the epicenter or in other words, ground zero of this new challenge. My kosher kitchen has been a difficult thing for me to conquer! It has been a work in progress with my determination to climb the ladder of observance. Each step of the ladder involves so much learning, practice and patients with myself and others.

But now the invasion has occurred. I did an initial overview and this was accepted. "Ok these dishes, this cabinet these bowls etc...dairy" and so on. But trying to explain that dairy is more than just a bowl of cereal with milk is much harder.

The separation problem is much bigger. I was in another room and I heard my daughter and the boyfriend talking...I think I hear "cheese burger"...but the moment passes and they decide on something else. I make a mental note talk to them about mixing meat and dairy....

I love my daughter and want her to be comfortable in this her new home even if it is temporary situation. This is a struggle for all of us and I know this will be one of the most difficult challenges I have faced since my choice to convert.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lets look At What Is Wroking!

Stories about cooperation for the greater good. Brought to you by Israel21c.


go to the below link for a story of how we can find common ground.
Throwing out the garbage together environment

this story is moving and shows good stuff!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Will She or Won't She



Well It is official...another mixed marriage. The below article will give all the Jewish details...but the much hoped for conversion clearly had not occurred.

In my conversion class there were women from all different ages and stages. Who knows what the future may bring. If the happy couple wants children that is another time period when the thought of religious conversion comes into play.

I must admit I was hoping that she had already dunked....

http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/07/31/2740286/rabbi-co-officiates-at-clinton-wedding
Rabbi co-officiates at Clinton wedding
July 31, 2010

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Chelsea Clinton was married under a chuppah in a ceremony co-officiated by a rabbi.

Rabbi James Ponet, head of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, was joined by Rev. William Shillady, a Methodist minister. Clinton and the groom, Marc Mezvinsky, reportedly were married under a chuppah, in a ceremony that featured friends and family reciting the seven traditional blessings and a ketubah, the traditional Jewish wedding contract. The event took place Saturday night before the end of the Jewish sabbath.

Mezvinsky, who is Jewish, wore a yarmulke and prayer shawl.

Ponet, a Reform rabbi, has been the Jewish chaplain at Yale since 1981. He currently teaches a college seminar with Dr. Ruth Westheimer on “The Family in the Jewish Tradition," according to the bio on the Slifka Center website. He and his wife, Elana, also "lead a weekly discussion in Slifka Dining Room on the value of peace in Jewish life and thought."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

MO Protest




Rabbi clashes with Israeli embassy in Washington over Western Wall arrest


Modern Orthodox rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld enraged by Israeli silence over arrest of woman whose crime was holding a Torah scroll.

Hoffman, founder of the Women of the Wall movement, was arrested on July 13 for carrying a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, which Israeli courts have prohibited women from doing. Herzfeld, along with dozens of protesters, demonstrated at the Israeli embassy in Washington following the event.

"He basically blackmailed us and made some headlines at the expense of the [Israeli] ambassador [to Washington]. These North Korean-style negotiations are not in the spirit of our relationship with the Jewish community," a source at the embassy told Haaretz.
The source quoted the letter, penned by Herzfeld, which read "I have invited Ambassador [Michael] Oren to come to Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue to explain this arrest. So far we've received no word from him on whether or not he will show up. But if I don't hear from him by tomorrow morning, then I will be forced to announce a public protest in front of the embassy."

"We are dealing a lot with the Women of the Wall story," the diplomat said. "The ambassador met with the Chief Rabbi and with the minister of the interior to discuss this matter. The way Rabbi Herzfeld chose to deal with it looked more like a public relations exercise. He called on the ambassador 'to come out and say that he is ashamed of this policy' – that's not how sensitive issues are dealt with. It was not appropriate and it left an unpleasant impression that the organizer seeks press coverage and ignores the serious and quiet work done by the embassy to deal with this issue."

Rabbi Herzfeld told Haaretz that his intention was to make the responsible side feel uncomfortable.
"The Israeli government did not criticize it at all. Michael Oren didn’t say anything about it. So if we keep silent, at a certain point we become associated with this policy," he said. "Women and men in our synagogue – it affects all of us and it is starting to embarrass us."
"We are an orthodox synagogue and there is a phrase – silence is like acceptance. Our question to them was: do you agree with that? And the answer was: we don’t know the facts. And I say, I am sorry, it's not good enough. You had 10 days to check. There is a YouTube video of the arrest with the facts," the rabbi went on to say.

Herzfeld stressed that he is an ardent supporter of Israel. "Many times I stood there counter protesting voices against Israel - it is something I take pride in. But I had two reasons to protest this time - I wanted Anat Hoffman to know she was not alone, that there are people who supported her and other women's right to hold a Sefer Torah. She had the right to do it based on a freedom of religion, but also from a halakhic (Jewish law) perspective, I think it's definitely permissible."

"If the government of Israel is going to continue with this type of action, they should know it's not acceptable and they will hear it from us," he said. "Some people say 'don’t raise your voice, it will embarrass Israel' But even they won’t defend the policy. How can Michael Oren and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu defend this policy?"

"Michael Oren was in my synagogue at Rosh ha-Shanah when the Torah was passed to the women's section. That demonstrates clearly that he doesn’t have an ideological problem with this," Herzfeld continued.He confirmed that embassy officials asked him not to demonstrate. "One of their arguments was that the ambassador had already discussed it directly with Netanyahu in a private meeting after the previous arrest. But clearly this quiet diplomacy is not having an effect. What could have an impact is if the government understands that there will be negative publicity."

Following the demonstration, Herzfeld was invited into the embassy to talk, but he wasn't placated. "The only thing they said is that they don’t know the facts yet. I am sorry – 10 days after the arrest, they still don't know the facts? It shows they don’t take it seriously. It’s not going to blow over."
"One of the reasons I went out there is because I heard from a lot of people in our synagogue how upset they were about it. Most of the people in our synagogue are strongly affiliated with Zionism and support of Israel – and they tell me how outraged they were. I felt that this arrest was like a punch in the face."

Rabbi Herzfeld said that his invitation for Oren to visit the synagogue still stands. "I invited him to come at any point. He knows how to get here. He’s been here before. But he refused to come. If he doesn’t want to address these concerns, what should we do? Just be quiet?"



Monday, July 19, 2010

The Conversion Carousal


The conversion carousal goes round and round...if you pay too close attention you might fall to the ground, not enough watching you may miss the golden ring...and you better watch out for the devistation that could bring......

a smathering of the more recent "news"

Op-Ed Contributor
The Diaspora Need Not Apply
By ALANA NEWHOUSE

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/16/opinion/16newhouse.html?_r=1&ref=opinion


Non-Jewish, until proven otherwise
by Rivkah Lubitch

http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3896261,00.html

Netanyahu says he will oppose conversion bill
By ARON HELLER (AP)

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jM6aBRPdyhkPppg6lryZftNL2wzQD9H1HE5O0

Interior Minister Yishai: Absence of conversion law poses danger to Jewish people
Netanyahu, who opposes law giving the rabbinate sole control over conversions, says issue will tear the Jewish people apart.
By Barak Ravid and The Associated Press

http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/interior-minister-yishai-absence-of-conversion-law-poses-danger-to-jewish-people-1.302602

RCA Statement Regarding The Rotem Knesset Legislation Pertaining to Conversions(Monday, July 19th, 2010)
http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/65903/RCA-Statement-Regarding-The-Rotem-Knesset-Legislation-Pertaining-to-Conversions.html

Doing Tisha B'Av

I "do" Tisha B'Av...many would think...so what, your Jewish,right?...well it appears that in my world, a Conservative Synagogue in suburban New York, compared to Yom Kippur, not so many take on the mitzvot of this day. I will go tonight, I will fast, I will go tomorrow.Yet I find this ritual hard. It is hard to fast no matter when it is done, but without the collective energy of the full community I find it harder. There is something empowering when we all do it together. I do try to summons up the energy to think about all the other Jews in the world who are participating in this ritual and use that to help, but there is something different about the power of the collective energy when you are in the middle of it.

Perhaps I am missing the point, but I also find it difficult to get "sad" for this day when thinking about it in the traditional way...the destruction of the Temples etc.... I tend to think about it as the day we use to remember all the suffering, all the pain and all the terrible things that have occurred to the Jewish people throughout the eons. I am basically very happy, I use the practice of mindfulness to help manifest more peace and more serenity in myself daily. To purposefully throw myself into sorrow, can be tough for me. There is enough current suffering in this world that I do not think we need to conjure up more. I am not an ostrich I know there is "bad stuff" happening everywhere, yikes even in my neighborhood...but to dwell on suffering is difficult. I prefer to think of it as honoring those who have suffered and honoring our collective traditions.

How do you do Tisha B'Av?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Knesset lobby discusses freedom of prayer



http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=181352

at Western Wall
By JONAH MANDEL, GIL SHEFLER AND GREER FAY CASHMAN
07/14/2010 02:02

US Jews continue to slam passing of conversion bill as ‘divisive.’
Talkbacks (12)
A day after Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall prayer group, was detained for holding a Torah scroll at the Kotel, the Knesset Lobby for Civil Egalitarianism and Pluralism held a preplanned discussion Tuesday on the freedom of all Jewish streams to pray at the Western Wall.

MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima) and Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who head the new lobby, led the chorus of speakers from numerous liberal religious and civil groups condemning Hoffman’s arrest and noting the importance of making the Western Wall a site where any Jew could freely express his or her religious beliefs.

Hoffman herself relayed how Knesset security had initially refused to let her in with her tallit, as her entry permit had not detailed that she would be carrying “equipment.”

“I’d like to see them telling an Orthodox man he can’t bring his tallit or phylacteries into the Knesset,” Hoffman said.

“From a symbol of the Jewish people, the Western Wall has become a symbol of concessions in our Judaism,” she noted, adding that transforming the Kotel into a site open to all streams of Judaism could provide inspiration for similar trends in other Israeli institutions.

The new lobby’s mission is to deal with issues that are being insufficiently addressed at the parliamentary level, such as the struggles against religious coercion and for equality in military and civil service.

Many of the speakers at Tuesday’s session mentioned the importance of galvanizing the public to join the struggle to wrest the Western Wall out of the “haredi hands that currently hold it.”

A recent poll conducted among 500 respondents by the Smith Institute on behalf of Hiddush – an organization that promotes equality and freedom of religion – showed that 42 percent of the public was in favor of allowing men and women to be together in the entire Kotel plaza, including the area where prayers are conducted. Some 37% think that the current situation, in which there is separation only in the prayer area, is desirable, while 21% would rather have men and women separated in the rest of the plaza as well, according to the poll.

“The current trend of radicalization is counter to the spirit of Judaism,” said Hiddush head Rabbi Uri Regev, who presented the data.

Notably absent from Tuesday’s discussion was Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who canceled his participation following the incident with Hoffman.

In an explanatory letter to Molla and Horowitz, Rabinovitch referred to the incident as “a group of women insistent on defying the Supreme Court decision and offending thousands of people attending prayers, by creating an unnecessary and loud provocation... that caused me and others deep grief.”

Rabinovitch expressed his concern that Tuesday’s lobby would be a continuation of the argument, and ended the letter with a call for cooperation and dialogue, imploring that the Western Wall not be turned into an arena for a conflict.

Horowitz rejected the notion raised by The Jerusalem Post that the conference’s timing, so close to Hoffman’s detainment, might not be coincidental, and noted a recent chain of similar detainments and arrests at the site.

Horowitz also said that in the next few days, an amendment to the Holy Sites Law would be presented to the Knesset, to ensure tolerance and pluralism at holy sites for members of all religious streams.

Meanwhile, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the world’s largest group of Jewish clergy, issued a statement strongly condemning Hoffman’s arrest.

The CCAR said it “looks with shock and revulsion” at the detention of Hoffman, adding, “We view her arrest, interrogation and subsequent ban from visiting the Western Wall for a month... a desecration of God’s name.”

In a related development, angry reactions continued to pour in from North American Jewry on Tuesday over the Knesset Law Committee’s passing of the conversion bill on Sunday.

Officials from a broad spectrum of Jewish organizations joined in condemning the passing of the bill, which they said would put the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate in charge of conversions and harm ties with the predominantly non-Orthodox Jewish community in the US.

Rabbi Steven Warnick, executive vice president of the Conservative Movement, said his organization would not allow the bill to become law.

“I think that [MK David] Rotem’s goal of easing the process of conversion in Israel is something we all support, but this bill does more harm than good,” said Warnick, who is currently on a visit to Israel.

“It puts into the hands of the rabbinate, which we don’t have great confidence in, the authority for conversions, and it’s a big issue for us. It’s divisive; both [the conversion bill issue and the Hoffman incident] happening on the same day and [in the Hebrew month of] Av is heart-wrenching.”

He added that “if Israel wants to continue to be the land of the Jews, it needs to become the land of all the Jews, and I say that as someone who is wholly committed to the land of Israel.”

Meanwhile, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressing its “dismay” over the legislation.

In the letter, URJ president Eric H. Yoffie questioned both the bill’s substance and its timing, saying it could cause a rift in ties between Israel and US Jewry when a joint effort was needed to face outside threats.

“[The bill comes] at precisely the time when we are all working so hard to strengthen these ties and to deal with other concerns – such as Israel’s security and the nuclear threat from Iran,” he wrote.

Netanyahu said Monday that the bill would not be allowed to become law. A Prime Minister’s Office spokesman told the Post that it was in the process of drafting a response to the URJ letter.

At Beit Hanassi on Tuesday, President Shimon Peres told a delegation of 120 federation leaders of Jewish communities from across North America that “we have to find a proper solution to enable giyur [conversion] in Israel, but not at the cost of unity with the Jewish community in the United States. A split in Jewish life will be catastrophic and is totally unnecessary.”

He added that he appreciated Netanyahu’s comments that the legislative process would be postponed in order to conduct a serious and inclusive discussion.

Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, welcomed the president’s remarks and told The Jerusalem Post, “We are hopeful that the prime minister will strongly support and continue down the path that he began by appointing Natan Sharansky to lead the dialogue, and that the parties that are trying to drive this bill will stop and think about the entirety of the Jewish people.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Let's Make Some Noise!

Immediate Action Required to Prevent Passage of Conversion Bill to ask Prime Minister Netanyahu to prevent passage of the MK David Rotem Conversion Bill.

http://www.masorti.org

Letter: Prevent Passage of MK David Rotem's Conversion Bill

The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

We write to request your immediate intervention to prevent passage of the Conversion Bill being brought forward by MK David Rotem.

We are deeply concerned about the proposed grant of authority over conversion matters to the Chief Rabbinate. The advancement of this legislation is offensive to the non-Orthodox streams which reflect 85% of world Jewry. As a Conservative/Masorti Jew, I find this very distressing.

While we are supportive of efforts to create greater accessibility to conversion courts in Israel and to encourage and facilitate the conversion of those living in Israel as citizens whose halachic standing may be in doubt, the overall impact of the Rotem Bill will set back these efforts. Should this bill be enacted, it will exacerbate a widening gap between Diaspora and Israel communities, a gap we very much want to avoid.

It is imperative that you, as leader of Israel, and as one who cares deeply about the well-being of Klal Yisrael, intervene and urge immediate withdrawal of this bill.


Opponents alarmed as Israeli conversion bill moves ahead
By Jacob Berkman · July 13, 2010



NEW YORK (JTA) -- Opponents of a controversial bill that could give the Orthodox Rabbinate the final say over conversions in Israel are trying to keep the bill from moving ahead in the Israeli Knesset after its surprise introduction and passage by a Knesset committee.

For months, Israeli lawmakers have been discussing a bill that would put more power over conversion into the hands of Israel’s Orthodox-dominated Rabbinate by giving local rabbis the ability to perform conversions and giving the Chief Rabbinate oversight and control over the whole process.

The bill, sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset member David Rotem, gained steam Monday with its approval in the Knesset law committee by a 5-4 vote. The bill now must pass three readings before the full Knesset to become law.

Opponents are desperately trying to stall the process, at least until the Knesset starts a two-month break next week.

“They have to bring it to the Knesset now for a first reading, and we have to make sure that it will not happen,” the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, told JTA.

Sharansky is leading a coalition against the bill that includes the leaders of the North American Jewish federation system and the non-Orthodox Jewish religious movements in the United States.

Rotem’s bill originally was intended to ease the conversion process within Israel and make it easier for non-Jewish Israelis of Soviet extraction to obtain conversions and marry within Israel.

Despite its intent, opponents warned that the bill would consolidate control over conversions in the office of the Chief Rabbinate and drive a wedge between Israel and the Diaspora by carrying the risk that non-Orthodox conversions performed in the Diaspora could be discounted in Israel. In addition, they said the bill would affect the eligibility of converts for the Law of Return, which grants the right to Israeli citizenship to anyone who is Jewish or at least has one Jewish grandparent.

The opponents urged Rotem to revise the proposal. They believed they had a deal in place with Rotem to hold off on the bill pending more discussion after Rotem came to the United States in April to discuss the bill with them, and after a number of meetings between Sharansky and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Several top Israeli officials, including the justice minister and minister for Diaspora affairs, had agreed to work with Sharansky on altering the bill.

But Rotem caught Sharansky and the Diaspora leaders by surprise by bringing the bill to a committee vote this week; Sharansky was given only a day’s warning. The move set off a maelstrom of criticism from the Diaspora.

The CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, Jerry Silverman, called Rotem’s action a “betrayal.”

In a letter of protest from the president of the Union for Reform Judaism that was signed by 14 other organizations, including various arms of the Conservative movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie wrote, “Rotem’s actions are contrary to the assurances we received in meetings with him and with others over the last several months.”

In an interview with JTA, Rotem was unapologetic about moving ahead and said, “This bill will pass, no doubt.”

“I never promised anything,” Rotem said. “I told them all the time in the meetings that if I will see there is a majority, I will bring it a vote. No one can say I promised anything.”

In their discussions with Rotem, Diaspora leaders expressed concern about an item in the bill that would have taken away the right to automatic citizenship for anyone who comes to Israel as a refugee but then converts to Judaism. Rotem removed that item before pushing the bill through the law committee.

Now, he says, the bill has no effect on American or Diaspora Jews and that this is solely an Israeli matter over which non-Israeli Jews should have no say.

“I don’t know why they wanted to have discussions,” he said. “I came to the U.S. I spoke to leaders, and I explained this is nothing that touched the American community. It has nothing to with Jews in the Diaspora. It is only an Israeli matter.”

Since Monday, Sharansky has engaged in a number of discussions with Israeli lawmakers, including Netanyahu. The Jewish Agency chief said he believes the bill will not come before the Knesset this week, and hopes it will not be on the agenda before the two-month recess provides a chance to alter or scuttle the bill.

Sharansky said he is pushing for Netanyahu and his Likud Party to publicly oppose it.

“If it is clear Likud will not support it, it will not pass,” Sharansky said.

“It is important for us, for the unanimity of the moment, that we have to keep the pressure on,” Rabbi Steven Wernick, the executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, told JTA.

“I think it would be an error to think that in the political society as dynamic and hyper-dynamic as Israel is that we are done with this,” he said. “The people who care about these issues have to constantly keep them on the agenda and explain why they are important to decision makers.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Get Along


Women of the Wall head arrested at Kotel
July 12, 2010

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The chairman of the Women of the Wall was banned from the Western Wall for 30 days after being arrested for holding a Torah scroll at the site.

Jerusalem police arrested Anat Hoffman on Monday morning following the monthly women's Rosh Chodesh prayer service. She was taken in for questioning and held for five hours before she was released, the organization said.

Women of the Wall said Hoffman was ordered to stay away from the Kotel for the next 30 days.

A Supreme Court ruling prohibits women from reading the Torah at the wall; the group said in a statement issued Monday that she was just holding the scroll.

According to the organization's account, Hoffman, holding the Torah scroll, was leading about 150 women from the women's section of the Western Wall in a procession toward Robinson's Arch, where they are permitted to use the Torah scroll. Police tried to remove the Torah scroll from Hoffman's arms and arrested her for not praying according to the traditional customs of the Western Wall.

"The arrest of a woman on the first day of the month of Av is a harsh reminder of the price that Israeli society may pay for its religious intolerance and fanaticism," Hoffman's group said in a statement.

Police have not commented on the case.


More Conversion News
(coppied from the Kansas Star)
Jewish groups were angered Monday after a parliamentary committee in Israel approved a bill that would give Orthodox rabbis more control over the sensitive issue of conversions to Judaism.

The Reform and Conservative movements, which are the largest Jewish denominations outside Israel but wield little clout inside the Jewish state, fear the new bill could increase the influence of Orthodox rabbis at their expense and undermine their own legitimacy and connection to Israel.

Nathan Sharansky, the former Russian political prisoner who now heads the Jewish Agency organization responsible for Israel's relations with Jews abroad, said he had received angry calls from Jewish leaders.

"The meaning of this is a split between the state of Israel and large portions of the Jewish people," he told Israel Radio.

Of the world's roughly 13 million Jews, half live in Israel, with most of the rest concentrated in North America. Each Jewish denomination has its own requirements for people who want to convert, typically a prolonged process that involves studying Jewish tradition and accepting Jewish observance.

Under the current practice, Israel recognizes only conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis inside Israel, but people converted by non-Orthodox rabbis outside the country are automatically eligible for Israeli citizenship like other Jews.

The liberal Jewish denominations are concerned that the new bill, which would make minor changes in the conversion system in Israel while enshrining the control of Israel's Orthodox religious establishment, could mean that immigrants who converted to Judaism with non-Orthodox groups abroad would now be denied Israeli citizenship.

Uri Regev, a rabbi who heads the religious equality group Hiddush, said the bill threatened to sideline the liberal Jewish denominations.

"This bill hurts Judaism outside Israel because it embraces the Orthodox monopoly here," Regev said. He called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has yet to publicly express his position on the bill, to oppose it.

The bill's sponsor, David Rotem, an Orthodox lawmaker from the largely secular Yisrael Beitenu party, rebuffed the criticism, saying his goal was to make conversion easier for immigrants from the former Soviet Union who make up the majority of his party's voters.

"This will not affect non-Orthodox conversions performed abroad. The non-Orthodox denominations have no reason for concern," he said.

Monday's approval by the committee clears the way for voting in parliament. The bill has to pass three rounds of voting before becoming law, a process that will likely take months.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another

As the sun sets tonight and we welcome the Sabbath Bride, I experience something that is both historic and religious but ultimately something that is alive, vibrant and meaningful...I am thankful that I have found my way here. I am feeling good today about my JBC-ness (Jew By Choice)and believe I do have much to contribute as I continue to go deeper personally and become more connected socially to my community. This month I start my term serving on my synagogue’s board....ME! They know who I am, all of me and they voted for me....I feel this is an external form of acceptance that I value...but actually the acceptance I value more is the one in my heart. The acceptance that I know in my bones...I have arrived...I am home.

The following video is from a women who showed up on the Empowering Ruth list serve...A wonderful resource for JBC women of all persuasions.She is a strong and vibrant committed and dedicated woman.... another JBC to look up to!

Shabbat Shalom


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Next Dor!

I recievied the following announcment today....this is a project of the Synagogue 3000 folks. (http://synagogue3000.org/) they are a wonderful organization. Their web site says they are catalyst for excellence, empowering congregations and communities to create synagogues that are sacred and vital centers of Jewish lifes.




Next Dor Conference

As the Next Dor initiative enters its second year, we want to invite you and your community into the conversation. S3K is planning its first national Next Dor Conference, October 24-26 in New York. Come join organizers, educators, lay leaders, rabbis, cantors, researchers and others in stimulating discourse on the potential and challenge of new ways of building connection and community by and for Jews in their 20s and 30s. Mark your calendars and make plans to join us.

Next Dor
for those dedicated to the next generation
The S3K Team

Dunking Rachael

Love, Faith and Life