The Boston Marathon Bombings: Lessons from Passover

This piece was originally published on Sojourners blog in partnership with Shoulder to Shoulder on April 14, 2014.

My first marathon ever — 2003 in New York City — did not go according to plan. On the positive side, I would never have guessed that P. Diddy would be running the same marathon and at the same pace for much of it, providing an entertaining entourage to distract me from my exhaustion. On the negative side, my name, which I had taped to my tank top so the crowds could give me much-needed encouragement, quickly peeled off, and I was anonymous in the crowd. My plan had been to run that last mile to the mantra “you can do anything” or “you are power,” but instead, my legs barely moving and my husband and close friend no longer by my side, I chanted dejectedly to myself: “Never again, never again.” Read more…

Double Booked: Reason for Leaving? It’s Complicated.

By Jennifer Drake Fantroy

This wasn’t the first time I had checked an “other” box on a form, but the questions in my exit interview about why I was relocating struck me as particularly reductive, the answer choices not quite capturing everything I wanted to say about why I had decided to leave a job I really liked after nearly seven years.

My official answer: a wonderful, unexpected opportunity became available in my hometown to work with a woman whom I greatly admire, and I couldn’t pass it up.
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I Stand with Ruth - rabbis for immigration reform

Rabbis Organizing Rabbis: Announcing “We Stand with Ruth”

by Rabbis Wendi Geffen, Elana Perry, and Erica Asch

At our Passover Seder tables, we internalize the heart of the stranger, for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We remember that no one is truly free when others are oppressed.

On Pesach’s second day, we begin to count the Omer every day for 7 weeks.  The rabbis of the Talmud contextualized Sephirat haOmer as the communal spiritual re-enactment of our ancestors’ journeying from Egypt to Sinai.  The Kabbalists understood the Omer as an opportunity to refine and perfect our own lives through the journey of our souls.  At its heart, the Omer is a time of uncertainty, of living “in-between.” When the Omer concludes on the 50th day, Shavuot, we leave our uncertainty behind as we wholeheartedly embrace the Torah and ready ourselves to step into the future with openness and determination.

That precious freedom associated with Sinai reminds us that our work is far from complete, for on Shavuot we are reminded that there are “strangers” in our midst who are still oppressed, still waiting to be embraced by a welcoming community.  When we read the story of Ruth, we empathize with the “stranger” among us.  Who is “Ruth” in our society today?  She is the undocumented immigrant seeking both refuge and opportunity in our country.  The Biblical Ruth calls upon us to shine light onto the shadowed lives of the undocumented immigrants among us, and the shattered dreams of the thousands of families torn apart by deportation.  When we stand to receive the Torah, we stand with Ruth, and we accept our obligation to act.

Each Thursday of the Omer, beginning April 17, Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (ROR) will post a drash written by a colleague offering insights on the Omer and the issue of immigration. (Be sure to sign up for our email updates here!) We will renew our efforts to bring immigration reform back to the forefront of American consciousness.

ROR will also be sending out a Shavuot text study designed to be taught in congregations and communities and a liturgical supplement to be included in Shavuot services. We invite you to read them, reflect on them, and share them with your community as we experience this sacred liminal time together.

This Shavuot, we recommit ourselves to working with the modern day strangers who live among us. This Shavuot, we stand with Ruth.

Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (ROR) is a project of the Reform Movement’s social justice initiatives: the Justice and Peace Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Religious Action Center, and Just Congregations. Learn more about their powerful grassroots work for immigration reform – and join the campaign ahead – at

Double Booked: You Don’t Need it “All,” You Just Need a Sofa

 By Lori Weinstein

I had done it all: worked full time, part-time, downtown, from home, started my own business, even ran someone else’s business. From the time that my son was born, through the births of his two sisters and through their early childhoods, I was engaged in the chaos of career building in an inhospitable environment to prioritize parenting over work. I searched for balance (a fiction that I was well aware of) but my main priority was to be 100% mom while being the best employee as I could be.

I needed a career that was flexible enough to accommodate the single most important aspiration of my life – being a mother. Looking back on it now, it is funny how things have changed in a generation. Back then, flexible workplaces, benefit packages for less than 40 hours a week of work, and ascending any sort of career ladder when one prioritized family life was a self-inflicted tactic for career derailment.

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Kansas Jewish Community Center

Responding to the Tragic Shooting at Jewish Community Sites in Kansas

In response to today’s shootings at several Jewish communal institutions in Overland Park, KS, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We mourn the tragic loss of life in today’s shootings in the Overland Park, Kansas Jewish community. Information about the perpetrator is still being uncovered, but early reports indicate that anti-Semitism may have been a factor. If so, it is a tragic reminder, this day before Jews around the world observe Passover, of the hatred that continues to plague our world. It is also yet another horrific instance of an act of senseless violence involving the use of guns to take innocent lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in today’s shootings. May the memories of those lost be forever a blessing.

Seder plate

A Tomato on the Seder Plate?

Passover is holiday full of symbolism. We eat the bitter herbs to remind us of the bitterness of slavery. We dip parsley in saltwater to recall the tears of our ancestors in Egypt. The charoset is meant to resemble the mortar the Israelites were forced to use while building structures for Pharaoh and their Egyptian oppressors. These traditional symbols have paved the way for contemporary symbolism, allowing modern Jews to use the Seder plate as a place for social or political expression.

In recent years, placing an orange on a Seder plate has become a statement with various interpretations. Introduced by Jewish feminist and scholar, Susannah Heschel, the orange has come to represent the inclusion of women and LGBT people in the Jewish tradition. In general, the orange is meant to symbolize the rejection of the notion that “a woman, [gay person or other historically marginalized person] belongs on the bimah as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate.”

This year, I invite you to include another item on your Seder plate, a symbol of food justice. Read more…

When Bad Policies Happen to Great Organizations

By Carin Mrotz

Seven years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, a colleague told me she didn’t think it was appropriate that I be allowed to use any of my accrued sick time during my upcoming leave. “Having children is a choice,” she told me, “NOT an illness.”

Our parental leave policy was vague. My organization is too small to be covered by the Family Medical Leave Act; our policy simply stated that employees were entitled to 12 weeks’ unpaid leave. It didn’t mention if or how an employee could use accrued sick or vacation time during leave, and in the 10 years since our founding, I became the first employee to have a child or even bring it up. It seemed open for interpretation, but I hated that the interpreting had to be done over what was taking place in my body. I didn’t want to argue, I wanted to disappear.

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Day of Silence

Day of Silence: Speaking Louder than Words

Today marks the 19th annual Day of Silence. All across of the nation, students will be taking some form of a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of harassment and discrimination felt by LGBT students and allies in school.

Bullying and harassment has been proven to create significant adverse consequences for students, which often severely effect LGBT students. Middle and high schools students are in an extremely vulnerable time in their lives and with the social and academic pressures students already face, no student show have to deal with the added stresses that come with fear of expressing oneself. Read more…