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....
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

Non-Jewish, until proven otherwise
by Rivkah Lubitch,7340,L-3896261,00.html

Netanyahu says he will oppose conversion bill

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

RCA Statement Regarding The Rotem Knesset Legislation Pertaining to Conversions(Monday, July 19th, 2010)

Doing Tisha B'Av

I "do" Tisha B'Av...many would 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

at Western Wall
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.

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


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. ( 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