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Serving Royalty Every Day



by Rabbi Larry Karol “Do you see people who are skilled in their work? They will serve before royalty; they will not serve before obscure people.” -Proverbs 22:29 When we came upon this verse in our congregational Proverbs study group, I was taken aback for more than a moment. There is something in this verse […]

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More Questions than Answers



by Stacey Zisook Robinson On the first Sunday of the first day of religious school, I challenge my seventh grade students: How do you have a conversation with God in the 21st century? Do you have a conversation at all? How do you come to God when life is good? More, how do you come to God […]

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Jew by Choice



by Stacey Zisook Robinson I am a Jew by choice. And before you ask – both my parents are Jewish. One of my earliest memories is of being with my grandfather, sheltered by his tallit, as he gave the benediction to his congregation on Rosh HaShanah. We celebrated the major Jewish holidays – Rosh HaShanah, […]

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Choreography in Holy Time



by Stacey Zisook Robinson When my son was born, I cradled him against my heart, arms wrapped gently yet surely around his small and fragile body. I would stand, holding him, our breaths mingled, our hearts beating in an elegant call and response, one beat to the next, and I would sway, a slow and […]

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Pastor at a Yizkor Service



by Mark Wendel My Rabbi motions me to come up to the bemah. I am reading a Psalm in front of the congregation. The week before we were worshiping in a church I had actually looked forward to being in a church – the first time in decades. I remember Dad reading Psalms in front […]

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URJ Sacred Conversations

Breathing Through God



Did you know that when you breathe you are connecting to God? Or you could be if you were aware of what you were doing. Really. As part of our experimental Jewish Spiritual Journey Facebook Group, one participant asked me, “Does the word SHEMA have something to do with our breath?” I love the question. […]

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Singing the Sh’ma for Dad



by Jeannette GrossTemple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA When my Dad, Ken Harris, was dying two years ago, we were fortunate he had enough time and inclination to plan his own funeral. Since he had a very eclectic religious life (born and raised Jewish, a bar mitzvah, a wedding co-officiated by a rabbi and a minister in […]

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Finding God, Finding Community, Finding Meaning



I had a difficult childhood. I joined a synagogue when I was 30, and I attended services fairly regularly, but I hated God. For me, God was the Old Man in the Sky, distant and remote, and constantly demanding praise. How could I pray? How could I thank a God who had given me my […]

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Yom Kippur in Vietnam



by Michael Rankin, M.D.Capt., MC, USN (Ret) Yom Kippur, 1965, I was a Navy medical officer stationed aboard a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam.  The ship’s captain had promised us an hour or two to hold a service Kol Nidre evening, but late in the afternoon the ship went to battle stations.  An Australian […]

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Finding Comfort in a Caring Community



by Lori Freedman Temple Beth Shalom, Austin, TX During the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, it is customary to go to the cemetery to pay respects, or as I say, ‘visit’ those you love. This year, during this time, I was fortunate to be in the same city where my dad is buried.  December […]

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Nitzavim: A Memory



by John E. Hirsch, PhD I wrote this drash in honor of (or is it in memory of) the fiftieth anniversary of my bar mitzvah on 21 September 1957 at Temple Beth Israel in Macon, Georgia. At not quite 13 – my birthday was the next day, the 22nd -  it was, for so many […]

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Discovering Meaning in Jewish Observance



by Barbara Shuman Ever since I was a young adult, I have felt called to wrestle with Jewish texts and ideas. I yearned to understand how to live a good life in relation to others, to experience the transcendent mystery we call God, and know the profound joy of  “aha moments.”  I believed that meaning […]

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Public Affirmation



by Janine PrestonTemple Or Rishon, Orangevale, CA Anyone who really, really knows me was not surprised to receive the announcement of my conversion to Judaism. When I very seriously told my two best friends from college about my decision last fall, they started to laugh. “Janine,” they said, “you have been talking about this since […]

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Feeling Jewish



by Stephanie Seiberg Temple Emanuel, Kensington, MD When I decided to convert I wondered often if I would ever really feel Jewish? I never could have anticipated that the death of my non-Jewish father would be the event that would take me there. I had married a Jewish man several years before my father died. […]

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