by Rachel Roth [Editor's Note: The following post was presented as a drash at an executive meeting of the American Conference of Cantors on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.] One of the most interesting statistics that I found in the Pew Study is the somewhat low rate of importance of being part of a community as […]Read more
by Alona Nir One of the names that will be mentioned at the URJ Biennial this week is Arik Einstein. Those of us who spent time in Jewish activities during our childhood, especially in NFTY or at summer camp, are familiar with famous song “Ani Ve Ata Neshane Et Ha’Olam,” which translates to “You and […]Read more
Can’t join us next week at the URJ Biennial? You can be a part of the convention from the comfort of your own home! We’ll be live-streaming all plenary sessions and Shabbat worship at www.urj.org/biennial, or you can watch the sessions on cable when they play live on JLTV. You can also join the conversation […]Read more
The Union of Refom Judaism commemorates 10 years of Ten Minutes of Torah, a daily email that is one of the most successful and innovative distance learning initiatives in the Jewish world. In 2003, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, then URJ president launched Ten Minutes of Torah at the URJ Biennial convention in Minneapolis: Desperate to keep […]Read more
By Edwin Goldberg
The afternoon service – a tradition not usually observed in Reform Judaism – is an important part of Yom Kippur observance for Reform Jews. Not only does it help fill the time between the morning and break-the-fast; it also offers yet another opportunity for reflection and repentance. The editors of the upcoming machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh, also feel that the afternoon service presents an opportunity to focus our repentant selves on a plan for moving forward in our journey towards more ethical lives.
We conceive of the afternoon service (mincha in Hebrew) with a focus on the main body of prayers, theTefilah (or Amidah) and the ethical virtues (middot in Hebrew) suggested by them. For instance, the prayer known as Modim Ananchu Lach focuses on the subject of thanking God. Living with gratitude is more than a reflection of polite behavior; it also is a virtue that helps us attain a more mindful life. Therefore, in addition to the Hebrew and faithful translation of the prayer, we offer readings and study opportunities for congregants to ponder the challenge and blessing of living with an attitude of more gratitude. Read more…
The late Rabbi David Hartman, z”l, was honored posthumously tonight at the URJ Biennial Convention in San Diego, CA., by receiving the Reform Movement’s highest honor, the Alexander M. Schindler Award for Service to World Jewry.
Named for Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, the second president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations from 1973-1996, this award honors an individual who has shown a passion, leadership and commitment to World Jewry. Rabbi Schindler was a remarkably compassionate humanitarian, devoted to social justice and religious action, always seeking to better the human condition, to gain rights for the disenfranchised, and sustenance for the destitute and the downtrodden. A true Ohev Yisrael, lover of Israel, Schindler prodded the Reform Movement to participate fully in the Zionist world and was a prime mover in the creation of ARZA and ARZA Canada.
Rabbi Hartman, the founder and spiritual leader of the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute, was a leading thinker among philosophers of contemporary Judaism and an internationally renowned Jewish author. He passed away this year on Feb. 10, 2013. He was honored by the URJ for his dedication to the Jewish people and to religious pluralism. Read more…
by Rabbi Joshua Weinberg
“Rabbi Tarfon and some elders were reclining in an upper chamber in the house of Nitza in Lod when this question came up: Which is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon spoke up and said: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva spoke up and said: Study is greater. The others then spoke up and said: Study is greater because it leads to action.”
– BT Kiddushin 40b
“So who was Eisendrath anyway? And why was this program named for him?” I inquired. Having arrived in Israel as a student on the Eisendrath International Exchange (EIE) 20 years ago, my search for answers was in full swing. Casually walking into his office, I approached Rabbi Hank Skirball. He quickly began to pepper me with stories, and his point was clear. “The funny thing,” he reminisced, “is that Eisendrath was no great Zionist at all. We [Rabbi Sam Cooke and I] named the program after him in order to get him to come to Israel!” Now, over five decades and thousands of students later, EIE has become one of the central producers of Reform Zionists, and we owe much of that to Rabbi Skirball. Read more…
Anyone who has attended a URJ Biennial knows that the experience touches your soul, lifts your spirits, increases your Judaic knowledge, and improves your singing ability. Now, the 2013 Biennial will also help congregations and individuals understand how to include those with disabilities as welcome and appreciated full members of your community. This Biennial will demonstrate to our Movement and our partners, by example, what it means to be inclusive.
In keeping with our mission and core values, the Union for Reform Judaism is making a concerted effort to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion for all people in Jewish life. It will also bring attention to, develop and implement best practices in including those with disabilities at the 2013 URJ Biennial.
A new partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation is helping us to greatly expand our efforts to welcome and make possible full participation of those with disabilities, and advocate for their meaningful engagement in our community. The 2013 Biennial will include operational accommodations, programming, strategic communications and public relations, modeling, and expanding our reach to include those with disabilities, as well as their supporters and advocates. Read more…
by Neil Rigler
This is the third year I’ve been the coordinator of OSRUI’s annual Father-Son retreat and I’ve come to treasure it not only because of the opportunities it provides for fathers (and grandfathers!) and sons to spend time together but also because it does so in a dynamic Jewish context. Where else could you see families working together to solve a biblical treasure hunt while exploring camp, singing songs, sharing creative worship services, and making iMovie videos based on the Torah portion of the week? But that’s not all – add in fun mixer games and silly relay races, indoor climbing, and making s’mores around the fireplace after a moving Havdalah service and you’re starting to get a sense of the magic of what this weekend has to offer. Read more…
By Cantor Hayley Kobilinsky
The Eileh Ezkerah with which most Reform Jews are currently familiar does not bring to mind familiar melodies. While thematically, Eileh Ezkerah fits well with Yom Kippur, it does not hark to the sounds of the High Holy Day melodies we typically quote. What, then, is to be done with its text? Often, the “From Creation to Redemption” segment found in the CCAR’s Gates of Repentance is simply read aloud. Traditionally, the Eileh Ezkerah would be chanted briefly. In this example, Hazzan Leibele Waldman is heard chanting a dramatic and morose recitation of the beginning of the text. While listening to the first minute or so, bear in mind that Waldman here chants the liturgy in its entirety (and this is only the first half of a twenty-minute-long musical selection). Compare this with the simple chant which begins the version by Hazzan Israel Alter. LISTEN The 34 seconds of Alter’s much longer chant is the entirety of the excerpt of the long piyyut (or poem) found in Gates of Repentance. Such few words leave little room for interpretation or word painting. Read more…
The way we look at early childhood engagement is rapidly changing. In a recent JTA article titled, “Free tuition? Jewish preschool leaders say money’s not the problem,” URJ Faculty Member Cathy Rolland discusses the Reform Movement’s role in the evolving realm of early childhood education and the importance of building a collective voice in the Jewish world around early engagement issues.
The Union for Reform Judaism, in partnership with Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ), is leading the way in Jewish early childhood engagement. We continue to work hard to ensure the Reform Movement’s voice is heard in avenues around developing standards of excellence and being a leader in the recent conversation around Jewish Head Start, an initiative to provide subsidized full day Jewish Early Childhood. Read more…
Today, on this 8th day of Hanukkah (December 4th) for 18 hours, URJ Camp George is hosting a fundraising flash mob in honor of Ethan Kadish.
Camp George is one of 14 URJ Camps across North America. On June 29th, at one of our URJ sister camps (Goldman Union Camp Institute) near Indianapolis, a 13-year-old camper named Ethan Kadish was teaching a group of younger children how to play Ultimate Frisbee, when a bolt of lightening struck him to the ground. Ethan suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken in critical condition to the local Children’s Hospital. He was placed in an induced coma and was breathing through a respirator.
When Ethan stabilized, doctors arranged emergency air transport to Cincinnati so he could receive treatments closer to home by brain injury rehabilitation experts. Ethan remained in the Rehabilitation Unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for close to 150 days, until his discharge on November 20, 2013. He is now, finally, home.
At home, Ethan and his family face many additional challenges. He has a feeding tube and will need home nursing care. The Kadish family home has been modified with accommodations on the first floor for Ethan’s care.
To assist with the immense challenge of financing uninsured therapies, home modifications and other injury-related expenses, a fundraising campaign in Ethan’s honor has been established with HelpHOPELive, a nonprofit organization that has been assisting patients with brain trauma since 2000. Read more…
From Friday night song session to diverse, creative options for worship and learning, Shabbat at the URJ Biennial will feature something for everyone.
- Friday Night Shabbat Services
First bring a little bit of the Tel Aviv pier to San Diego and prepare for Shabbat with the innovative leaders of Beit Tefilah Israeli, who bring Kabbalat Shabbat music and engagement to Israelis. Led by Rabbi Esteban Gottfried, Atalya Lavie, Yotam Mahler, and Eitan Goffman of Beit Tefilah Israeli, Tel Aviv, Israel. Then Kabbalat Shabbat T’filah will be led by Rabbi Joel Sisenwine, Cantor Jodi Sufrin, Rabbi Rachel Saphire, and Noah Aronson of Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, MA.
- Shabbat Dinner
This is Shabbat dinner like you’ve never experienced it before, with 5,000 other Biennial attendees! You will receive your dinner ticket and seating information at registration; on-site seating changes and questions about dinner can be handled at the Shabbat Dinner Information table in the Kikar Biennial – The Biennial Town Square. Read more…
For some time now, you may have been hearing about The Tent, our new online communication and collaboration platform for the leadership of the Reform movement. We are pleased to announce that during the next few weeks, you will be invited to join the community of Reform Leaders actively using the Tent online collaboration software to communicate, collaborate and share with other leaders throughout the Movement.
For many years, the Reform movement has relied on the Shamash listservs, including PresConf, NATANet, RavKav, iWorship, and others. Reform Judaism has moved forward, often powered by the conversations and resources we have shared over these email lists. However, since Shamash is preparing to cease operations in the months to come, the URJ has developed this new technology resource to provide even more capacity for collaboration and research. In addition to vibrant online conversations in The Tent, we will also have a state of the common in other forms of social media today. All content will be easy to search for and easy to share. This is an exciting innovation for us all, and we look forward to having you join the conversations and add to the resources in The Tent.
By Rabbi Edwin Goldberg
Eileh Azkara (These I Remember) is the lament that recounts the martyrdom of ten rabbis during the Roman brutality of 2000 years ago. Their story is told twice a year, on Tisha B’av and Yom Kippur. A key element of the telling is that these sages gave their lives, often being subjected to brutal torture first, in order to preserve Judaism through their illicit teaching. In Gates of Repentance, this lament was incorporated into the creative retelling of our people’s story, from Creation to Redemption. The new machzor we are creating, Mishkan HaNefesh, will feature a brief section on the subject of remembering those who have given up their lives because they were Jews. Read more…
by Yoni Siden
On the second night of Passover, and the beginning days of the Christian Holy Week, a bus filled with 38 teens and eight chaperones from Beth Emet Synagogue and Second Baptist Church departed Evanston, IL, for six days of dialogue on race. We called the trip Sankofa*, a West African Akan word translated to “go back and get it.” Sankofa – the idea, and the trip – implores us to look to our past to understand our present and build our future.
While Evanston is statistically diverse, the community is predominantly segregated. White and black citizens rarely have meaningful interactions and live very different lives. The differences are manifested in profound ways: police harassment of black men and women, a stubborn achievement gap between white and black students, racial segregation between neighborhoods. These realties are deeply troubling, and so complex that many do not even begin the challenging work of breaking down these barriers because the path forward is so unclear. At Beth Emet, however, we knew we must try – our Judaism demands that much. It was with this spirit that our rabbi, Andrea London, and Reverend Velda Love, a member of the clergy at Second Baptist Church, developed the idea for an immersive, interfaith trip through the Civil Rights south to explore the African and African American experience in the United States together.
By Rabbi Richard Sarason
Memorialization of deceased relatives and of Jewish martyrs has figured in the liturgical observances of Yom Kippur since the massacre of approximately 8,000 Rhineland Jews at the time of the First Crusade (1096). Indeed, many of the Jewish mourning customs that have continued down to our own day originated in that time and place in response to the emotional challenges faced by the survivors.1 An extensive Jewish memorial literature of chronicles and poetry (particularly liturgical poetry, piyyutim) was created in the wake of those sad events.2
One of those liturgical poems is Eileh Ezkerah (“These do I recall”), which recounts the legend of the Ten Martyrs (aseret harugei malchut) – ten Rabbis (including Rabbi Akiva) who, according to rabbinic tradition, were executed at the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome during the reign of Hadrian (the “Bar-Kochba Revolt” in 132-135 C.E.) for the crime of actively propagating Jewish tradition: teaching Torah and practicing circumcision and other forbidden Jewish rites. Read more…
by Neil Platt
“Will 20 bottles of pasta sauce be enough for 36 pounds of pasta?”
This first text message reminded me why I was nervous about our synagogue hosting Fall Conclave for NFTY’s Texas Oklahoma Region. Sitting on a taxiing plane, I turned on my phone and ping, ping, ping sounds brought more last-minute questions into my inbox.
“Twenty bottles won’t be enough. Get 30!”
I don’t usually get worked up about synagogue functions, but this conclave marked the first time in our congregation’s 30-year existence that we would host a regional youth group event. As a smaller community of about 170 families, it was a big undertaking. Read more…