10 Ways to Celebrate Jewish Disability Awareness Month in Your Synagogue

With the start of February, so too begins Jewish Disability Awareness Month. Of course, there is nothing uniquely Jewish about disabilities, nor is there a greater need for inclusion in February than in any other month. So why observe Jewish Disability Awareness Month 2015 this February? We encourage Reform congregations to observe and participate in […]

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This Month in The Tent: Planting Seeds for the Future

As Tu BiSh’vat approaches, The Tent, the Reform Movement’s communication and collaboration platform, offers resources to help you plant seeds that will bear fruit long into the future, enriching your congregation and the Jewish world. Engage young adults. Although young adults are the future of Jewish life, engaging them in congregational life can be a […]

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Death of Alberto Nisman: Justice Must Not be Delayed or Denied

The World Union for Progressive Judaism issued the following statement about news of the death of Alberto Nisman: The World Union for Progressive Judaism joins the leadership of our Latin America region (WUPJ-LA) in expressing shock and horror as we learned the news of the death of Alberto Nisman, lead prosecutor in the search for […]

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Echoing Through the Generations: The Story of Sylvester Marx

On Sunday, June 6, 1915, Sylvester Marx was confirmed at The Temple–Tifereth Israel in Cleveland, OH, marking the culmination of the young man’s Jewish education. A special reception followed, and the entire congregation joined in celebrating Sylvester and his fellow confirmands on that beautiful spring day.

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Building a New Model of Political Leadership: How Rabbi Stephanie Kolin Changed Our Community

by Steven Windmueller

With the announcement this week of the appointment of Rabbi Stephanie Kolin to the position of Associate Rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City, the progressive Jewish community has the opportunity to celebrate the evolution of Just Congregations, including its creation of Reform California, and the defining role played by its extraordinary leader, Rabbi Kolin.

The storyline here is not only about how one person can affect change but also of how a movement can be created, nurtured, and led by an inspiring leader.

In examining the rise of Reform CA as a new political force within this state, we can explore the impact of what religious leadership can mean in a 21st-century context. Rabbi Kolin, with her knowledge of community organizing, her Jewish prophetic passion, and an extraordinary degree of personal energy and integrity, also brought to the table a leadership style that empowered her colleagues and in turn engaged their congregational leaders.

For Rabbi Kolin, this was as much about “team” as it was about mission. From the outset, she framed the entire cause for building a new model of social engagement around the collective will, insights, and commitment of her partners. The team evolved, not only in terms of numbers but through a maturation process of shared learning. Several principles framed this enterprise: to organize, empower, and invest the collective energies and resources of our community in growing our political resources and connections in order to build partnerships and alliances with other state-wide actors. The outcome was to achieve a new vision of what California could be by taking the political steps to change the status quo. Read more…

Today Matters: Make It Count

By Rabbi Josh Weinberg

“This is the day that the Lord has made – let us exult and rejoice on it.” -Psalms 118:24

During the years I taught Jewish history on our Movement’s NFTY-EIE high school semester abroad program, at the end of each semester I would ask my students this question: “What are the top five most important moments or dates in Jewish history?” With great consistency they would cite similar moments―the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the unification of Jerusalem as our fledgling nation’s capital under King David, the destruction of the Second Temple on the 9tn of Av 70 CE, and, in a jump to modernity, the outbreak of WWII and the establishment of the State of Israel. Those 10th-12th graders were always eager to “pass the test” and prove that they had a solid grasp on the 4,000 years of history we’d covered in a relatively short period. Read more…

Headlines from NFTY’s 75th Year

by The NFTY North American Board 

As NFTY’s 75th year comes to a close, we find our Movement at a crucial moment in time. While we honor our rich history, we also look toward our vibrant future with much anticipation, joy, and excitement. This year it has been our privilege to serve as the leaders of NFTY, and we want to share and celebrate ten important headlines from NFTY’s 75th year.  Read more…

What do Robotics Have to do With Israel and Judaism?

The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor.

What do robots have to do with Israel and Judaism? This was the question that twelve third and fourth grade students set out to answer this fall. This experimental robotics chug (elective) was part of a larger initiative to infuse the education program at Temple Shalom of Newton – called SHACHARIT – with offerings designed to examine modern innovations through the lens of Jewish tradition. Read more…

Values in Action: A Service-Learning Program for Teens

The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor.

Imagine a community service program for Jewish teens. To be fair, that is not such a stretch of the imagination. Now, however, imagine a community service program for Jewish teens that does not once teach about, or let alone mention, Tikkun Olam. This does require us to stretch our imaginations just a bit. Right now you are probably thinking to yourself, or asking out loud, “But Rabbi, how in the world can you have a Reform Jewish teen community service program without ever talking about Tikkun Olam?” The answer is simple: Teach teens an even broader scope of Jewish values which they can bring to life through their actions. That is just what we have done at Temple Har Shalom in Warren, NJ. Read more…

Youth Engagement in the Jewish Day School Recording Studio

The Journal of Youth Engagement is an online forum of ideas and dialogue for those committed to engaging youth in vibrant Jewish life and living. Join the discussion and become a contributor.

The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School, just released our 2nd album of original Jewish music. Called, A Palace in Time, the album features 18 original musical compositions written by the school’s rabbi, Micah Lapidus, and performed by Davis Academy Middle School students and faculty. The album booklet contains 18 beautiful pieces of original Jewish art created by Davis Academy Middle School students. Read more…

Rabbi Jonah Pesner to Lead Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Jonah Pesner will serve as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), the Washington, D.C. advocacy and social justice arm of North America’s largest Jewish Movement. Rabbi Pesner, an accomplished advocate with broad experience leading social justice campaigns, comes to the RAC with a mandate to deepen its advocacy work while mobilizing the Reform Jewish community and its allies.

In announcing the appointment, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, said,

“For more than half a century, the RAC has been a leading voice in Washington, D.C. for social justice. Some of the great advances in civil rights were literally written at our table. Jonah will carry that legacy forward with great distinction starting today. The issues our world faces are far too critical for us to lose any momentum during this transition. From day one, Jonah will be a powerful voice as he leads our work on economic inequality, climate change, U.S./Israel relations, healthcare reform, and more.”

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Reform Movement Condemns Today’s Terrorist Attack in Paris

The World Union for Progressive Judaism issued the following statement today in response to news of a terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that killed 12:

The World Union for Progressive Judaism expresses our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims murdered on Wednesday January 7, when hooded gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a weekly satirical magazine, killing at least 12 people, including two police officers, in the worst terrorist attack on French soil in decades.

The WUPJ condemns this act of exceptional barbarism. Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of WUPJ states: “We join our French congregations in expressing our horror at the targeted killings in Paris Wednesday morning.  This abhorrent act raises the concern of all who value free speech and religious diversity. Our future ultimately depends on the determination of governments to defend and protect pluralism, and show no tolerance for the descent into this kind of violence.” As an organization founded on and guided by a fervent belief in cultural pluralism and political liberalism, we consider any attack on any symbol of free expression anywhere to be an assault on the pillars of Progressive Judaism: justice and equality, democracy and peace, personal fulfillment and collective obligations.

Our European Union for Progressive Judaism leaders, Leslie Bergman (President) and Miriam Kramer (Chairman), add: “The leadership of the EUPJ deplores the atrocity which took place earlier today in Paris. Free speech is a cornerstone value of our faith and together with the citizens of France we mourn the brutal deaths of those who were assassinated.”

As Paris mourns and the world consoles, we continue to hope that the souls of all humankind will one day be stirred by the heartfelt prayers and commitment to “Choose life, so that you and future generations may live.”

(Deuteronomy 30:19)

Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President WUPJ
Michael Grabiner, Chairman WUPJ
Dr. Philip Bliss, WUPJ Advocacy Committee Chair

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A Leader Looks Back

By Rabbi Allan Smith

Rabbi Allan Smith, affectionately known as “Smitty” by NFTYites, is a great figure in the history of NFTY. He created the NFTY Leadership Academy at Kutz Camp in 1972, expanded the number of URJ Camps during his tenure, raised millions of dollars for the purchase of new camps and the improvement of others, and overall expanded the population capacity of URJ camps by 300%. Smitty is known for his total commitment to young people, and his insistence that all people, especially young people, be treated with dignity and respect.

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Three Memorable Moments

By Greg Kellner

I can’t remember in great detail my time as a NFTYite or back 16 years ago when I was a camper at Eisner, but the moments I do remember are the ones that shaped who I am today and how I approach my life’s work: raising the next generation of Jewish youth. Read more…

Moving Beyond Stones and Concrete to Worship of the Heart

by Beni Wajnberg

A story in Avot de’Rabbi Natan, a midrashic text, illustrates perhaps one of the most important events that determined the future of Judaism following the destruction of the Temple. In it, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai is walking together with Rabbi Yehoshua. When they pass the ruins of the Temple in Jerusalem, Yehoshua exclaims, “Oy to us, whose Temple is destroyed, where our sins were atoned through sacrifices!” Yochanan Ben Zakkai answers, “Don’t worry my son, because we have another way of atoning for our misdeeds: gemilut chassadim (acts of loving-kindness).” Read more…

Torateinu ARZA: Unto Zion Shall Go Torah

By Rabbi Josh Weinberg

 “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly.” Pirkei Avot 1:1

Dan, the official in customs, told me to have a seat with my Torah and wait. Well accustomed to Israeli bureaucracy, I immediately knew I should have canceled my plans for the rest of the day. When Dan returned, offering me a cup of coffee, I knew I was in for it. Surprisingly, within 10 minutes, having signed the necessary paperwork and paid the required fees, Torateinu ARZA (Our Torah to the Land) and I were cleared to leave. Read more…

Drinking From the Fountain of Youth at the URJ Youth Summit

Today’s studies and statistics provide proof that engaged youngsters become actively practicing Jewish adults. While practicing remains a matter of degree, anyone who has worked with young people recognizes that relationships built during these formative years facilitate engagement long after the conclusion of temple youth group days. Creating those relationships requires incredibly dedicated adults who see significant value and promise in their work with young people.

But creating a nurturing environment for relationships to flourish requires thoughtful, sometimes subtle planning. There are best practices. There are pitfalls to avoid. How can someone new to youth work gain insights? How can someone who has been working with teens for years be rejuvenated and re-inspired?

If you work with Jewish youth and are asking yourself these questions, I propose you attend the URJ Youth Summit at NFTY Convention in Atlanta, February 13-17. You will have the opportunity to meet like-minded peers, and build professional relationships to share the agonies and ecstasies of youth work! Read more…

Sing Unto God a Newly Created Song

By Blaire Weinberg

Our tradition tells us in Psalm 149, “Sing unto God a new song.” For 75 years, NFTY teenagers have shaped, written, and led songs that have allowed Reform Jewish teens to connect with Judaism in an entirely new way. NFTY musicians sit at the epicenter of Jewish music, experimenting with new takes on traditional songs and writing music that serves as the musical scores of Reform Jewish life. Through NFTY, more than 100,000 teenagers have connected with Judaism in innovative and meaningful ways, continuously pushing the boundaries of Jewish music. Since 1939, NFTY has consistently redefined the call to action found in Psalm 149. Read more…