Voices of WRJ: Balak



By fredi Bleeker Franks

As a WRJ officer, I have the pleasure and the privilege of traveling around North America through the WRJ speaker’s bureau, visiting sisterhoods and sharing what I have learned about team building, mission statements, budgets, and other aspects of congregational and sisterhood life with women who are bright, funny, and passionately committed to their organizations. Often, these talented women are wed to a specific path – the “this is the way we DO it here” path, while loudly exclaiming that the sisterhood is dying without volunteers. And, often, as I am explaining why change is necessary, using the quote often attributed to Albert Einstein, “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result”, I catch the eye of one or two women who nod slightly. Those women have tried to influence the group to change their mindset, to no avail. They are the women who have been largely absent from sisterhood events, no longer volunteering as they once did. Read more…

Education for Global Citizens: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together



by Janet Stovin

I attended the NGO/DPI Conference held in Gyeungju, Korea on May 29 through June 2, 2016. The topic, determined through a series of NGO “town halls” held at UN Headquarters in New York City and input from social media engagement and the NGO/DPI Executive Committee and conference website, was Education for Global Citizens: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Together. The main thrust of the conference was SDG number four: “Quality Education.”

Global citizenship is necessary for creating a just, peaceful, economically and environmentally sustainable world. In this increasingly interconnected planet it is essential that populations recognize and appreciate the underlying humanity that unites us while still retaining the important cultural differences that make our societies distinct. The aim of the NGO/DPI Conference was to develop and finalize an Education Action Agenda to mobilize Civil Society (CS). Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Chukat



by Alison Auerbach

In this week’s parsha, Chukat 19:1−22:1, we read the following:

20:1 The Israelites arrived at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. Miriam died and was buried there.

These two lines on the death of Miriam seem a short shrift for a woman Rabbi Charles P. Sherman, in his sermon A Woman Worth Remembering describes thusly:

Friends, this was no ordinary lady – not by any means. Yes, she was a fallible human being with faults. On occasion Miriam liked a juicy word of gossip – who doesn’t? But she was a woman of enormous love of life and of exemplary courage, and she played a central role in the exodus which should not be forgotten. Read more…

“When I get my doctorate…”: Sci-Tech’s Girl Power!



by Rabbi David Levy
Temple Shalom of Succasunna, NJ

I just returned from a week on faculty at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts, one of our Reform movement’s summer camps. This three-year-old affinity camp that combines science and technology with Reform Jewish living and values is an amazing place that I have been blessed to be a part of from the very beginning. (Full disclosure, my wife Julie is the camp’s Camper Care Coordinator.)

During the past three years I have been awestruck by what a cool place Sci-Tech has become and the amazingly organic way in which Jewish values are seamlessly integrated with scientific inquiry. What struck me most this past week, however, is the special place that Sci-Tech has become for our girls.  While the camp has grown three-fold in its short life, the number of female campers has increased four-fold.  In a day and age when so many educators are focused on increasing the number of girls and women involved in STEM fields, Sci-Tech is just doing it! Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Korach



by Carmen Holzman

This week’s Parashah highlights, in three small narratives, that behavioral acts are always measured with positive or negative consequences. The Parashah begins with the burial of Korach, his followers, and their 250 families, as a consequence of Korach’s arrogance, jealousy and rebellion against the leadership of Moses. (Numbers: 16:1-17:15) The second narrative in this week’s Parashah, contrasts Korach’s story and validates that good behavior is rewarded: “Moses placed each staff before G-d in the Sanctuary. On the next day… behold, the staff of Aaron was blossoming; it brought forth blossoms, produced fruit and bore ripe almonds.” (Numbers: 17:16-24) Aaron’s respect and sense of duty towards Moses clearly did not go unnoticed, for he was blessed with the task of managing the tent of meeting. The final narrative in this week’s Parashah, conveys when “the Kohanim and Levites are stablished and assigned the responsibility of managing the donations to the Sanctuary….” (Numbers: 18:1-32) Like Aaron, these communities were tasked with these new roles as a reward for their devotion and eagerness to create a society with peace and unity. Read more…

Historic Victory for Reproductive Rights at the Supreme Court



Last Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case concerning access to abortion. With a 5-3 decision authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Court ruled that requirements in a Texas law place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion and constitute an undue burden on abortion access, violating the constitution. Whole Woman’s Health, which was arguably the most important abortion case on the Court’s docket in over two decades, provided a big victory for the reproductive rights movement.  Click here to read the full opinion. Read more…

In Memory of Elie Wiesel, z”l (1928 -2016)



by Rabbi Marla J. Feldman
Director, Women of Reform Judaism

By now everyone must know of the passing of Elie Wiesel and has likely read many of the moving tributes to the power of his words. Like so many others of my generation, reading ‘Night’ at a young age left an indelible impression, and has in many ways impacted my career. His message was not only about remembering the Holocaust, but more importantly about learning its lessons – and applying those lessons to issues of the day. That message haunts me every time I open a newspaper. Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Sh’lach L’cha



by Madelyn A. Davidson

The central theme of this parashah is rebellion, but the biggest question it raised in my mind is not addressed in the many commentaries I have read to prepare this blog.

The portion recounts the sending of scouts into Canaan before the Israelites enter the land. The suggestion for sending the scouts came from God and was executed by Moses. He sent one leader from each of the 12 tribes to find out if Canaan was indeed a land “of milk and honey.” They were tasked with bringing back samples of produce and reports on the current inhabitants of the land. God had already promised that the land would belong to the Israelites, but 10 of the 12 scouts returned with rumors of Giants and unconquerable people. Only Joshua and Caleb returned with positive reports of the Israelites’ future home. The negative reports played on the fears of the people and they cry and worry that they will all perish. Read more…

Voices of WRJ: B’haalot’cha



by Diane Kaplan

B’haalot’cha means “when you bring up”. Well, the people of the Exodus brought up a lot! This week’s Torah portion, concerns the beginning of our journey from Mount Sinai toward the Promised Land. Much of the content, interpreted for modernity, could be the basis for Women of Reform Judaism’s by-laws, policies and procedures and the everyday workings of our individual sisterhoods.

The first unit of the parshah 8:1-9:14 describes the laws of sacrifice and offerings as well as the responsibilities of the Levites. “Thus you shall set the Levites apart from the Isrealites…the Levites shall be qualified for the service in the Tent of Meeting”. (8:14-8:15) Our WRJ leaders are not G-d appointed but they are chosen…elected by us to lead our organization. They sacrifice personal time to attend to the workings of their sisterhoods, women’s groups, districts and the Board of WRJ. They offer up their best. They are our most qualified and committed members. Read more…