Tag Archives: Holidays
A family enjoys a meal around a table. The US Department of Agriculture has just released a report demonstrating that SNAP (formerly food stamps) can play a major role in fighting poverty, especially among children.

When You Fast For More Than 25 Hours

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year, we fast as an opportunity to reflect on the year past and turn to the future. The Torah instructs the Jewish people that “the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: You shall practice self-denial.”(Leviticus 23:27). The fast begins with the Kol Nidre evening service through the shofar’s final Tekiah Gedolah blast at the close of the Yom Kippur afternoon service. This is one way by which Jews around the world look inward and focus on t’shuvah (repentance) and t’fillah (prayer).

Yet, there are many in this country who do not have the luxury of being able to choose when they will or will not choose to eat. 46.2 million Americans live in poverty and 47 million Americans, or 15% of the population, receive SNAP benefits.According to 2013 data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 49 million Americans lived in a household that faced difficulty affording enough food in 2013. 15.8 million children struggled with food insecurity issues in the past year. Additionally, 50% of U.S children will receive SNAP benefits at some point before they reach the age of 20. Hunger is still taking place on a massive scale, both in the United States and around the world.

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stone wall Tisha b'Av menorah

Responding to the Immigration Crisis on the U.S. Southern Border

By Rabbi Robert A. Nosanchuk

Quite often I remember my great bobe and zayde and the little village in Belarus they left to make a life here. I never saw the inside of their village. But I do remember my visits to their home as a child, and can still feel the bristle of my great zayde’s mustache on my cheek when he kissed me and greeted me. I feel called into Jewish activism by their legacy. And tonight I hear them and their generation speaking to me. They are asking: What did you learn from us? What did you learned from what has occurred to us in Europe and then here in the U.S.? What was the oppression we fled? And I hear them telling me of the help given to them when they arrived in this country- the shelter, food, and communal support they needed when they had nowhere else to turn?

These compelling questions are carried with me as I look at what is occurring on our southern borders, here in the U.S. My eyes have become focused on the volatile situation wherein nearly 60,000 children from Central America have streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border, in a huge wave of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

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On a Day of Fasting, Remembering What We Share

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.

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Reform Rabbis Stand with Ruth

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…

Making the Omer Count 5774

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…

Rabbi Everett Gendler

A Heavenly Earth Day

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…

ROR Stands with Ruth: Omer Week Four

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…

Reclaiming Matriarchy in our Traditions

This post originally appeared at WRJblog on Wednesday, May 7th.

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

Learn more about the Flower Project!