In a recent conversation about raising families, I recounted the numerous times that I have been asked, often in an accusatory tone, why I have “only” two children. I guess because I am an Orthodox woman, people think this is an area into which they are allowed to pry. It is a question that I find incredibly personal, and deeply offensive – especially when it is followed with an admonishment that I am falling down on my religious duties by not abiding by the Biblical imperative “to be fruitful and multiply.” Yet one has to look no further than the Four Matriarchs – who no doubt did not have access to any modern birth control techniques – to see that the notion of large families (certainly not from one mother) is not always reflected in our history, even before hormone-based pills, patches or IUDs. Indeed, our Scripture describes to us that Sarah struggled with infertility until the age of 90, when she birthed Isaac. Rebecca had a pair of twin boys, Esau and Jacob – and then no more. Leah, the most fecund, had Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and a daughter, Dinah. And finally, Rachel gave birth to Joseph, and then after a number of years, had Benjamin, whose birth caused her death.
As an observant Jew, I, along with so many people in the Jewish community will spend today fasting and reflecting on the bravery of Queen Esther and the Jews in the Persian Empire. At that time, they gathered to fast and to pray in order to spare the Jewish people from extermination. There are seven fast days every year. But today’s fast feels different. On this day, women from across the Jewish spectrum are fasting and raising awareness to speak truth to power to achieve just, humane, and comprehensive immigration reform. As a Jew, as a woman and as an immigrant from Canada, I identify with the gravity of the mission of the day.
This d’var torah was given by RAC Development Director Daphne Price at a meeting of the URJ Oversight Committee earlier this week.
This week’s parsha, parshat Terumah, is not among the prettiest or sexiest or most interesting parts of the Torah. The entirety of the parsha describes all that had to go into building the mishkan – right down to the kind of wood (acacia!) and the dimensions by cubit. Indeed, if the URJ had policy that allowed me to bet, I would wager that there isn’t a single bar/bat mitzvah child who woops with joy when she or he finds out that this is the part of the Torah they have to chant and discuss. Having said all that, I am a believer that every line in the Torah remains relevant and has something to teach us about our work. Read more…
For those of you who are curious about how I ended up yesterday at the White House on a stage with the President and Vice President of the United States, here’s the play-by-play;
The White House had been planning a gathering with leaders from the business, labor and faith communities who are committed to comprehensive immigration reform. The Reform Movement has been playing a crucial leadership role in advocating for immigration reform, including our Movement’s cooperative efforts between the RAC, Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (CCAR), Just Congregations, Reform CA and our 13 summer camps. So it made sense that the RAC’s invitation was received from the White House early Wednesday evening with the request, “If there is someone you’ve worked with who has a personal connection to the issue or has worked hard on the issue… feel free to send them.” I cutely responded (internally only!) “I’m an immigrant J.” Suddenly, unexpectedly, and happily, I was on the list to attend the event. The next email from the White House? “What’s Daphne’s immigration story?” And then yesterday morning at 9:00 am, I received a call asking, “Can you get to the White House a little earlier than you planned? We want you to be on the dais with the President.” Wha-what? Yes! After getting a little choked up, I stammered out my profound appreciation and rushed over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The blogosphere, my Facebook page and my Twitter feed are abuzz with people’s memories and testimonies of the 25th anniversary of the National March on Washington for Soviet Jewry. Twenty-five years ago today, approximately one quarter of a million people descended on the National Mall in Washington to call for the freedoms of an open society in what was then the U.S.S.R.
Every seder is a memory-making moment. Friends and family gather to read from the Haggadah, to eat matzah and drink wine. At our seders, we are a real “by the book” kind of family when retelling the story of the Israelites’ redemption from slavery and exodus from Egypt. Of course, my children will add a few words about a lesson learned in school or sing a new tune to an old song, but so many homes also add a contemporary twist to the seder text to raise awareness of a particular plight of a group of people – women’s rights, gender equality, labor issues, and the list goes on. This is something my family has never done.
So when I was presented with an invitation to attend the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Justice Seder with Secretary Tom Vilsack, I accepted. The seder was held in partnership with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.
For so many of us, the seder is a multi-generational event. As I look around my own table, I sit in awe that there are three generations of men and women, boys and girls who participate.
For so many of us, the first night of Passover is all about filling the seder plate with symbolic foods, reading from the Hagaddah, drinking wine, eating matzah and partaking in a festive meal.
For so many of us, Passover is also a time for honoring our children by showcasing their school projects, showing gratitude for all those who helped organize and prepare for this night, and of course, for remembering the traditions of past generations. We marvel that we have made it to another seder with the strength and wherewithal to participate in this event that is more than an annual recollection or a commemoration, but an active re-enactment of our transition from enslavement to freedom.
If you’re among the Reform Jewish clergy, leaders, and activists who will be in Washington, D.C., this weekend to attend the annual J Street conference, we’ve got an invitation for you! We hope you’ll join the Religious Action Center and senior Reform Movement leadership at a casual reception on Sunday evening at the Old Dominion Brewhouse. Just like we did during the AIPAC conference earlier this month, we’ll take this opportunity to socialize with old friends and meet new ones – and we’ll also celebrate the Israel Religious Action Center‘s 25 years of successes and honor director Anat Hoffman’s 10 years with the organization. Hoffman will be one of the conference’s featured speakers and will join us for this Reform reception. Details are as follows: