Barbara Kavadias, the Acting Executive Director for ARZA: the Reform Israel Fund, was previously the Director of Field Services for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. She currently serves on the Board of Kavod v Nichum and chairs the Gamliel Institute. At home she serves on her synagogue’s ritual committee, manages a CSA group, and is the mother of two young adults . Barbara is widely considered a leader in the business of making the world a better place.
This Shabbat we begin the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth of the five books of Moses. This parashah, Devarim, is always read before Tishah B’Av, (tisha is ninth, Av is the second to last month in the Hebrew calendar) when we commemorate many terrible things that happened in our history. The most poignant themes of the holy day are related to the commemoration of the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, which occurred on the same day albeit 655 years apart. The Mishnah lists three other events that were said to have occurred on this same date, and later history has added more – including the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, and the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka.
Rabbi Gersh Lazarow from Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, Australia and the Union for Progressive Judaism points out, “While it is true that there have been many who have sought our destruction over the millennia, the most tragic part of our Tisha B’Av [sic] observance is the recognition that most of the loss we mourn was not caused by our detractors, but rather brought about because of what our tradition describes as sinat chinam, the baseless hatred of one Jew toward another.” Continue reading →
The past year has seen an increase in tension – and even violence – at the Kotel or Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites. Last Friday, progressive Jews worldwide were disturbed to learn of protests and near-rioting as the Women of the Wall came to pray for Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel.
On one hand, it is encouraging that the municipal and district court in Israel both recently ruled that nothing should bar women from praying out loud and wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) or tefillin (phylacteries) at the wall. On the other hand, it was deeply disturbing to see some ultra-Orthodox Jews so distraught about this ruling that they felt compelled to scream, spit, blow whistles, and throw rocks at other Jews as they prayed. We progressive Jews may have won a battle, but at what cost? Continue reading →
Numerous news articles have come out in the Forward, New York Times, Jewish Week and Haaretz covering the vote in the UN on upgrading the status of Palestine in the world community. Statements have also been released by URJ and CCAR, with the support of ARZA and ARZA Canada, as well as controversies arising from positions that some groups have taken. At the same time, people have been contacting ARZA to find out what our “position” is. I think this question relates to people wanting to know what ARZA is, what our role is in our American Jewish Community and in our movement’s relationship to Israel. While the simple answer is to say that we are the Zionist arm (heart, soul, voice) of the Reform Movement, I think people are looking for something deeper and more illustrative. Let’s see if the recent crisis in Israel and the controversies arising out of people’s response to it can help us satisfy these questions.
There is an old Chinese saying: women hold up half the sky. It would seem that, in this world view, women and their contributions to life are of equal importance to those of men. This does not really speak to the nature of those contributions, if they are the same or different efforts, but that they are equally valued and important to the survival of their community, and of the world.
In this week’s Torah portion, Toldot, we can see that Biblical Judaism also embraced strong and necessary roles for women. In this portion, a pregnant Rebecca speaks to Adonai. Like Sarah before her, Adonai speaks to her and she gets an answer. She is told that she is carrying twins, and told of their different futures. Like Abraham in last week’s portion, Chaya Sarah, Rebecca works with God to make this future happen.
Since last summer’s tent city protests in Israel, there has been a great deal of public debate about the public subsidy for Yeshiva studies, coupled with its exemption from Israel’s Universal Draft, used almost entirely by Haredi Jews. This topic was taken up by the Israel Courts, who found the current system unacceptable. It was a major driving force behind the formation and downfall of the Coalition Government with Kadima. President Emeritus of the URJ, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, wrote on this topic for The Jerusalem Post. He shares some important history and asks about a missing voice in the public conversation.
The News behind the News: How did Rabbi Alona Lisitsa, a Reform Female Rabbi, become seated on the Religious Council of Mevasseret outside of Jerusalem?
Hopefully you will have all learned by now that Rabbi Lisitsa has been named and seated on the Religious Council of Mevasseret, a suburb of Jerusalem. By all reports, she was greeted warmly and they had a productive first meeting. What you may not know is that it was your member dollars and other financial support that helped get her there.
Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe, NM and Yedid Nefesh in Carmiel, Israel have formed a twinning relationship this year through ARZA. They are coming up with some very creative ways to get to know each other and to form a Mifgash or connection. Their Pesach project provides all of us with a window on the practice and meaning of Passover in Israel today. They have shared their project with us so we can invite all of you to be part of their journey. The project is not done yet, but they have taken the first steps.
Welcome to the new ARZA Blog! As part of the URJ family, ARZA now has a place to share the latest thinking and news about our work and that of the Reform Movement in Israel. We will be featuring posts from ARZA staff, Rabbis across the US and in Israel, as well as leaders from our partners, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC).
You are invited to suggest post topics via email, and we hope you will engage in discussion with us on the posts that speak to you. Please be respectful of others and be aware that there are terms and conditions to posting on this blog, as well as the others in the RJ Blog network.
We don’t have posts yet in every category, but we have more posts coming up soon. To stay up to date on ARZA news, subscribe to the blog in your RSS feed. Just click the little orange button in the top right corner of the page. You can also be an active part of the ARZA community through social media by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. We are looking forward to connecting with you!
While we have been having a relatively warm winter in the United States, it cannot compare to what winter is like in Israel. It is the rainy season there, the time of year that Israel greens up, with cooler temperatures and rain (which feels like a miracle every time I experience it) in between wonderfully sunny days. In Israel’s climate, it is easy to understand how Tu B’Sh’vat, this year starting on the evening of February 7th, is celebrated as the birthday of the trees. By Tu B’Sh’vat, trees throughout Israel are blooming, getting ready to set fruit and there is a festive, hopeful feeling in the air. Continue reading →