Yesterday began the three-week period leading up to Tisha B’Av (August 4-5 this year), the darkest, saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On Tisha B’Av, we fast and we mourn for the destruction of the ancient temples, as well as many other devastations throughout Jewish history.
Rabbis Organizing Rabbis (ROR) is a project of the social justice initiatives of the Reform Movement, the largest denomination in American Jewry, with 1.5 million members and more than 900 congregations. The Rabbis Organizing Rabbis Campaign seeks to build a powerful network of Reform Jews praying with our feet through effective grassroots and legislative action on vital justice issues of our time.
This week we celebrate the Temple holiday of Shavuot, when we read and study the Book of Ruth. Ruth, a widow, a Moabite, and a stranger among the Israelites, is at a disadvantage from the start. Even though she is an outsider in a foreign land, remarkably, she finds kindness and compassion when she meets Boaz, who becomes her husband. Ruth’s story calls us to reach out to those on the margins of society, and ensure, as Boaz did, that they are brought out of the shadows.
This Shavuot, join the Reform Movement and stand with Ruth: Read more…
By Rabbi Jean E. Eglinton
Remember the High Holy Day Food Drive? We made it last for over fifty days – from the first of Elul through Simchat Torah. All those barrels of food we collected for the local food bank! We sure got into the habit of bringing a can of food every time we came to temple. The main point of doing a food drive that way is that it gets the issue of hunger into our awareness on a regular basis. And into our routine. That is no small thing. Read more…
By Rabbi Everett Gendler
Thirty six years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president, he established a number of regional Solar Energy Centers to encourage the use of sun-fueled electricity. Attracted to the idea of plugging our temple Eternal Light directly into the sun, I and several members of Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA, investigated the feasibility of converting our Ner Tamid to solar power.
Its symbolic appropriateness is evident. Non-polluting, not in danger of imminent depletion, it seemed perfectly suited as a pure symbol of illumination and eternity. We obtained two solar panels, storage batteries for hours of darkness and periods of heavy cloud cover, and at the dark of the year, during Hanukkah, 1978, we celebrated its installation. People appreciated its symbolic value, and in December, 1991, we celebrated its Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
During my remaining years as rabbi of the temple, the light ever so gently kept nudging me: Why only a symbol? Why not real production of more usable electricity for your temple? The question was not easily answered. Succeeding U. S. administrations did not maintain the solar energy centers, and the necessary technical information was hard to obtain. Even though the Light was included in a Union of Concerned Scientists-Real Goods book, Renewables Are Ready, published in 1995, by then I was retiring from the temple, and so it remained symbolic, not pragmatic. Read more…
By Rabbi Esther Lederman
This is the fourth in a series from Rabbis Organizing Rabbis connecting the Omer and the issue of immigration.
I never intended to become an immigrant to this country. Like much of life, it just happened. I took a job, and then another, and then went to graduate school. Before I knew it, I had lived in this country for fifteen years. America had gradually become my home. It is where my best friends lived, where I found my calling as a rabbi, where I had my first congregation, where I fell in love with the man who would become my husband, where I gave birth to my first child. Yet I was no closer to being a permanent resident than the day I had moved here fifteen years ago. And then my application for permanent residency was denied. Like Ruth, I was at risk of losing my home, of everything I knew, of losing that sense of rootedness and stability I had taken for granted. Read more…
There is no denying that our traditional Jewish texts are male-dominated. When reading passages from the Torah or Talmud, it is clear that men were the movers and shakers of that time, often meaning that women were, in fact, sidelined from positions of influence and learning.
However, the female figures that do appear are complex, interesting, and often inspiring. My namesake, Sarah, is a beacon of faith and patience. Queen Esther transforms from a reticent pawn to an empowered, brave queen in the chess game between Mordechai, Haman, Ahashverous, and the Jewish people.
Our Movement has recognized the tension between female figures of greatness and the inherent inequality of the time in which they lived. We have reclaimed their tradition by embracing egalitarianism in our Jewish community, equally ordaining women and men in the clergy, placing women in leadership roles, and advocating for public policy that promotes women’s health, economic security, and reproductive rights.
As we approach Mother’s Day (next Sunday!), we look onto our accomplishments in egalitarianism with pride. Great women of our tradition have instructed us not only to recognize, but to celebrate the equal place and accomplishments of modern women.
Thinking about mothers and women this week, we must also remember the many women who may not be recognized or feel celebrated. We join with Jewish Women International’s Flower Project to remember all moms on Mother’s Day, particularly those who are in battered women’s shelters on May 11th this year.
If you’re still looking for a gift for mom (or your sister, aunt, grandma, cousin, friend), this is the perfect way to thank the women in your life for all that they’ve done, and also to recognize the women who have been victims of domestic violence. You can participate at: https://www.jwi.org/jwi-flower-project-wrj
This piece was originally posted at ReformJudaism.org.
Being an Israeli, one of the hardest things to deal with, and as far as I know it is unique to Israel, is the seemingly unbelievable and immediate passage between sorrow and celebration, as portrayed in the pairing of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). The idea behind this is that the day before celebrating our independence, we are reminded of the price and sacrifice made by so many in order to keep us free. Read more…
By Rabbi Jonathan Stein
This is the third in a series from Rabbis Organizing Rabbis connecting the Omer and the issue of immigration.
In our kabbalistic tradition, Tiferet, this week’s value, is understood as the mediating force between Chesed (“compassion” or “loving-kindness”) and Gevurah (“strength” or “judgment”). Most often translated as “adornment”, Tiferet is the sixth sefirah in the Tree of Life. It is often associated with both “integration” and “balance.” The opposing forces of Chesed and Gevurah are, respectively, expansive (giving) and restrictive (receiving). Either of them without the other could not manifest the flow of Divine energy; they are held in delicate proportion by the careful balancing power of Tiferet. Read more…