Voices of WRJ: Balak

by Rachel Maryn

This week’s parashah, Balak, includes something for everyone. There’s a frightened king, a hesitant sorcerer, a talking donkey, and if that’s not enough, there’s a curse thrown in just for good measure.

In this portion, King Balak of Moab is worried that his nation will soon be taken over by the Israelites. To ensure this doesn’t happen, he retains the services of Balaam, a sorcerer, to come and curse the Jews. God tells Balaam that he shall not curse the people because they are blessed. This message from God makes Balaam hesitant about the king’s request. After much convincing (and a conversation with his donkey) Balaam comes to Moab and tries three separate times to curse the Israelites, but all that comes out of his mouth are praises. Needless to say, he fails and returns to his land. The end of the portion deals with a plague that is halted with the killing of a Midianite princess and the Jewish leader she is consorting with.

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Love Conquers All

This week, we continue our celebration of marriage equality in the United States with special messages from WRJ and Reform Movement leaders and community members. Today we hear from WRJ Immediate Past President Lynn Magid Lazar.

Love conquers all! Well, maybe not all—but certainly last week’s Supreme Court decision marks a momentous day for our country and a moment in time when we can honestly say that our country upheld the values of love and equal rights and responsibilities for all our citizens.

Love conquers all! At least for right now; for myself and for so many other parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, and friends, (as the hashtags say) love wins! Last week, the majority opinion of our Supreme Court asserted that in this country, freedoms expand. In this country, all our citizens are entitled to participate in the sacred relationships of marriage.

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Marriage Equality and a Vision of Wholeness

by Rabbi Denise L. Eger

This week, we continue our celebration of marriage equality in the United States with special messages from WRJ and Reform Movement leaders and community members. Today we are proud to share remarks from CCAR President Rabbi Denise L. Eger, which she wrote on Friday, January 26, the day of the decision. 

We shout mazel tov for marriage equality!

The dream has come true, but there is work to do! The United States has taken one more step toward fulfilling the dream of a country where people can live their own lives without fear; but as we celebrate the SCOTUS decision that gives every person the right to marry their beloved, we know the right to live in peace is still a far-off dream for too many people.

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Tears from a Jaded Activist

I confess to being a bit jaded after 30+ years as a public policy activist (40+ years if you want to count my high school and college activism during the early era of the fight for Soviet Jewry). Over the years I’ve come to learn that you ‘win some, lose some.’ When we win, victory can be fleeting and there will be others who will try to chip away at our success–think reproductive rights and health care reform. When we lose, there will always be future opportunities for progress and we need to take a long term approach–think about the ongoing fight against poverty and environmental standards; there have been many victories along the way and we are surely better off than in the past, even though there will always be more work to be done.

But today, I simply cannot contain my emotion. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling this morning confirming a constitutional right to same sex marriage is the latest and most significant expansion of civil rights that I have witnessed in my lifetime. I was a child when the civil rights and voting rights acts were passed and when Loving v. Virginia declared state bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional. So this ruling reflects my generation’s victory, and it is sweet indeed.

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Voices of WRJ: Chukat

by Debra Mayworm

This week’s Torah portion, Chukat, from the book of Numbers, begins with ritual rules, including the “Red Cow” ritual and the laws of purification after contact with a human corpse.

In the next chapter we learn of the death of Miriam. In the wilderness of Zin and on the first new moon, it states: “Miriam died there and was buried there.”

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WRJ at the United Nations: A Commitment to Supporting the Global Common Good

by Leslie Brier

This piece was first given as a speech at the WRJ Board of Directors Meeting at HUC-JIR in New York, NY on June 1, 2015.

Nine months ago, I accepted a position as one of the Women of Reform Judaism representatives to the United Nations, continuing the work of many women before me to ensure that our voices are being heard when policy is being made that affect all of us and to keep WRJ sisterhoods abreast of social injustices to the human family.

WRJ has been part of the United Nations since it’s inception. Dr. Jane Evans, Executive Director for 43 years of what was then the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, was the keynote speaker and State Department consultant to the United States delegation that took part in the drafting of the UN Charter in 1945. Jane was deeply committed to human rights, women’s rights, civil rights and interfaith relations. As the current WRJ representative, I attend meetings that address the challenges to these rights that were so important to Dr. Evans.

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Yes, We Have a Female Rabbi: Religious Pluralism in Israel

by Sharon Mann

At a recent wedding in Haifa, I met a couple from Nahariya, where I live. As we chatted, they mentioned that they had held all three of their sons’ b’nai mitzvah at my congregation, Kehillat Emet veShalom, which is the only synagogue in the area affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ).

Like many Israelis, the couple view themselves as hiloni, secular, but decided to celebrate their sons’ milestone events at Emet veShalom rather than foregoing them altogether. Hearing about their appreciation for my congregation was heartening and reaffirmed that the ongoing struggle to maintain it is worthwhile – not only for our members but for others in the local community who want to celebrate milestone events and practice Judaism in a non-Orthodox venue.

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Coming ‘Home’ to Kutz

I first discovered Kutz Camp as an adult! In retrospect, I think I would have been a perfect candidate to become a Kutz camper back in my younger days, but somehow that opportunity didn’t present itself then. So, I’ve had to make up for lost time over the past several years.

On my first visit to Kutz in 1988, I was District #5 President for the then National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS), today WRJ. Most years, the WRJ District Presidents’ Council holds its retreat/annual May meeting at Kutz. The women appreciate the relaxed atmosphere and, particularly, their interaction with its staff.

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Voices of WRJ: Korach

by Lori K. Alter

This week, we read the story of Korach’s rebellion, found in Numbers 16:1-18:32. In a nut shell, Korach rebels against Moses’s rule. Korach gathers 250 followers and accuses God’s divinely chosen leader of running a despotic regime. Fast forwarding a bit, Korach and his entire entourage get swallowed up by the earth.

The easy lesson is: don’t be like Korach. I read of one rabbi who based all his sermons and speeches on Korach. When asked why, the rabbi stated that he could “count on the message,” be it to congregants, Rotary members, or the Girl Scouts. It makes for an easily digestible lesson: if you make bad choices, you must deal with the consequences. So that’s the simple reading, that’s the p’shat (literal meaning). But I wonder what other lessons we can learn from this Torah portion.

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The Hidden Reality of Elder Abuse

by Becky Wasserman

Lois didn’t show up for Friday night Shabbat services. She used to attend services every week, but over the past few months, she’s been less predictable. Her 42-year-old son recently moved into her home–just until he gets back on his feet and finds a new job. He says he doesn’t allow his mother to drive anywhere alone because she’s exhibiting signs of dementia. The strange thing is Lois has always seemed exceedingly sharp to me, but I’m sure he knows what’s best. It’s such a mitzvah for him to live there and take care of his elderly parent while managing a job search.

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