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Double Booked: Potential Spaces

By Eleanor Smith

Many years into a thriving congregational rabbinate, I was called to study medicine.  Out of the blue, my father’s fantasy that had never been mine.  For two years I kept this crazy thought to myself but in the end decided there was no failing scenario and I headed off in the direction of this strong signal I heard in my head every day.   One encounter probably watered the seed.  Called to the hospital for a simultaneous bedside consultation with the doctor, the rabbi (me then) and the patient’s family, we pooled what we knew of medicine, Jewish ethics and a father’s legacy to decide the best course of care for the elderly gentleman before us.  As much as I loved being a rabbi, I was also acutely aware of the borders where my skills dropped away, in no arena more dramatically than in matters of sickness. With my bachelor’s in English literature and my three young children, I began an almost twelve year adventure to fill in this missing half, to expand the horizon of service that I now knew to be possible, to forge a hybrid of the physical realm with the psycho/social/spiritual one I knew so well. Read more…

Israel at URJ Biennial

Israel at URJ Biennial

Prime Minister Netanyahu  is only one of a wide variety of Israel-related programmatic and experiential opportunities at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial next week in San Diego. From the exhibit hall to the plenary stage, the URJ invites you to a wide variety of Israel-centered features:

Israel Engagement Intensive – Forging a New Relationship with Israel
Join Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, to discuss the Jewish State through the lens of Jewish values, exploring what concepts such as peoplehood, sovereignty, and democracy mean to us, to Israel, and to Jewish thinkers from across our tradition. Dr. Kurtzer will be joined by a number of Reform Movement leaders who are Senior Rabbinic Fellows of the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Israel Forum – The Torah of Pluralism
For 65 years, Israel has been the nation state of the Jewish people. But does today’s Israel reflect and celebrate the diversity of Jewish life and practice? Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism will moderate Member of Knesset Ruth Calderon and Rabbi Donniel Harman, President, Shalom Hartman Institute, in a discussion about the fight for religious pluralism in Israel and the quest to build a Jewish community that values many equally authentic paths to Jewish commitment and love of Israel.

Israel in the Gaslamp District

Tribute to Rabbi Professor David Hartman z”l
Rabbi Rick Jacobs will open the conference with an acknowledgement of the extraordinary contributions of Shalom Hartman Institute founder Rabbi David Hartman and how he influenced Rabbi Jacobs’ own rabbinic outlook. Rabbi Hartman, z”l, will be posthumously honored with the Alexander M. Schindler Award to World Jewry.

Honoring Anat Hoffman
The Women of Reform Judaism will present the Jane Evans award to Anat Hoffman, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, for her extensive and passionate work on behalf of religious liberties in Israel.

Unique Israeli Worship Experience with Beit Tefilah Israeli
Experience the vitality of contemporary Israeli culture with Rabbis Lisa Tzur and Esteban Gottfried and the Beit Tefilah Israeli musicians. This Thursday morning service will integrate Israeli and pop music, poetry, and the ancient words of our people.

Israel on Stage: The Big Blue Tent
MAKOM, a division of the Jewish Agency for Israel, will present an original piece of theater, written especially for the Biennial. The piece explores a community in crisis over Israel. The community leader struggles between silencing public debate about Israel and losing the support of a major donor. After the 30 minute play, the audience will be invited to give their opinion to the actors, who will replay the scenes according to the audience’s advice. Can you unite the community around Israel in a healthy way? Be part of the solution!

Learning Sessions About Israel

Woman Coddling Baby with the text "WIC"

Protect the Vulnerable During the Holidays: Women at Risk

As we enter the holiday season, Congress continues to work in conference committees to find a compromise in funding levels for numerous government programs in the Farm Bill and the FY2014 budget . This post is the first in a series highlighting the effects of sequestration cuts and potential funding cuts that could come out of conference. Read more…

dollar bill puzzle pieces

Webinar Wednesday!

Join us on Wednesday for an update the fiscal policy battles taking place over the budget, debt ceiling and Farm Bill. These three pieces of legislation are some of the most important for the lives America’s most vulnerable. Tune into Understanding our Fiscal Future,” a webinar presented by the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, this Wednesday from 2:30-3:30pm EST and find out how you can get involved to help protect our anti-poverty programs.

Read more…

dollar bill puzzle pieces

Economic Update (So Much To Discuss!)

With so much news coming out of Congress on every slight movement in the economic debate, it can be hard to keep up with the latest news.  And so, we are here for you with a brief explanation of all the important economic deadlines coming up, whether we are to passing a bill and the implications of all of this. Read more…


Standing Idly By as Our Neighbors Bleed

Like many Massachusetts families, the Boston Marathon is very much part of my family’s lives. Every year we gather to watch, volunteer, or run, as my wife and I did in 2008. Drawing thousands of diverse souls from all over the world, the event represents the best of American civil society.

This year, all that was shattered with the murderous blasts of two terrorists’ crazed cruelty. What you saw on television only begins to depict the horror of the tragedy. Scores of victims were maimed, families’ lives forever changed. Amidst the suffering and chaos, people rose to the occasion and story after story emerged about simple acts of courage and risk amidst terror and lives saved. Bystanders, first responders, faith leaders, diverse, and others all heeded the call we read in Leviticus 19: “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.”

Read more…

Flooding in Colorado

Sukkot Inspires Awareness of Climate Refugees

Sukkot is one of the most festive holidays we observe in the Jewish religion. Sukkot often involves the enjoyable and often communal activity of decorating a sukkah, the song and dance of shaking the lulav and etrog, and of course, the delicious and serene experience of eating a meal under the stars. However, in the jovial feeling of the season, it’s easy to forget the more significant themes we can learn from the holiday, including the importance of shelter and housing, the notion of welcoming others into our homes, and the environment and sustainability. Read more…

Information on Faiths Calling ENDA Campaign

ENDA Faiths Calling – THE TIME IS NOW!

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will finally make it illegal to discriminate against individuals in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity. If you care about workplace equality, this is your chance to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill. By participating in Faiths Calling on Tuesday, September 17th, you will be an integral part of a national, interfaith initiative to reach out to Senators and encourage them to vote in favor of ENDA and against workplace discrimination when it is brought to the Senate floor in the coming months.

Participation is about the easiest thing you can do to support this important piece of legislation. Visit to register in advance of your call and then dial 1-888-897-0174 to connect to your Senator (identified by area code). While you wait on the line, you will hear helpful talking points. OR you can text “faithscalling” to 877-877 to receive text instructions. Read more…