Voices of WRJ: Ki Teitzei

by Marilyn Morrison

Parashat Ki Teitzei (“When you go out”) contains a significant portion of the Torah’s laws: no less than 74 mitzvot (out of 613) have been counted as deriving from this parashah.

Building the ideal Israelite society is an overriding concern of this passage. The civil, criminal, and family laws in Deuteronomy address relationships within households, among neighbors, and between the vulnerable in society and those more fortunate. While the laws in Shof’tim, the preceding parashah, address public officials, the laws in this parashah focus on what could be seen as private family matters. The prominence of laws concerning the lesser-loved wife, the punishment of wayward children, and the regulation of sexual behavior indicate that such seemingly private matters concern society as a whole. Public legislation governing these matters demonstrates the concern with building a balanced society in which all individuals are governed by the community and its laws.

Read more…

How I Became an Accidental Chai Mitzvah

by Debra Bennett

On the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, Rabbi Satz announced that our post-Shacharit bagel-and-coffee conversation would have to move from the boardroom in 15 minutes, unless we wanted to stay to join the new Chai Mitzvah class. My mother and I, being curious women, stayed to join the class of eight.

The topic of that first class was “Adult Rites of Passage,” a fitting way to begin since what falls between ages 13 and 113 is part of what Chai Mitzvah addresses, and Chai Mitzvah itself is a new adult rite. That morning, words from the Mishnah resonated with the class, holding up well as a life cycle prescriptive and descriptive in the 21st century: at 15, one should begin study of the Talmud; at 18, the chuppah; at 20, pursuit; at 30, strength; at 40, understanding; at 50, counsel; at 60, old age; at 70, fullness of years; at 80, strength—that one gave us pause until my mother, in her 80th year herself, offered that age means loss, and that dealing with that takes strength.

Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Shoftim

by Karen Maes

Did you ever wonder where the word tzedakah comes from? We have heard it all through our religious school education (the famous “tzedakah box”) and in adulthood but what does it really mean? Typically most think of it as giving charitable donations (this is true to a certain extent) but in the Bible tzedakah means righteous behavior and is easily interchanged with justice.

This week’s parashah, Shoftim, deals with exactly that: justice. The parashah, from beginning to end, talks about justice and righteousness. The most memorable line for me is Deuteronomy 16:20, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” As explained in our own The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, “The repetition of the word tzedek emphasizes that the pursuit of justice is vital to Isrealite society” (1144). The Commentary later explains, when discussing a contemporary reflection of this parashah, that this conclusion is “a procedure to ensure that people do ‘what is right in the sight of God’” (1160).
Read more…

What happens when we #ChangeTheCulture? Lessons from a nation leading on gender equality

by Rebecca Benoff

This week we are celebrating the WRJ YES (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) Fund with a series of blogs from those who have benefited from the Fund and other WRJ philanthropic efforts. We are proud to build Reform Jewish women leaders within the Reform Movement and beyond. 

Sexual assault. We hear about it all the time in the news. As a college student, it’s always being discussed on my campus. I know all the statistics because I’ve heard them so frequently and, like most girls around my age, I am a bit overprotective of my drink at parties, fearful of large groups of unfamiliar men and sometimes worried about walking home alone late at night. But beyond all of these things, I never personally felt a visible problem.

It wasn’t until I went to one of the top five gender equal countries in the world that I finally realized the problem. I spent four months studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and yes, I did many of the typical study abroad things: traveled on the weekends, ate customary foods, drank the local beers, went to bars and tried making friends with locals, spent time discussing in classes and with friends the many cultural difference we felt. Once we got past the amount of bikes on the road and dull colors of clothing, the discussion always returned to the safeness we felt as young women.

Read more…

Perks of Being a Reform Camper

by Evie Krislov

This week we are celebrating the WRJ YES (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) Fund with a series of blogs from those who have benefited from the Fund and other WRJ philanthropic efforts. We are proud to build Reform Jewish women leaders within the Reform Movement and beyond. 

I was with two before I found the one. No, I’m not talking about boys, I’m talking about camps. The first two I went to were Conservative, because that’s the type of Judaism my family practices. I didn’t enjoy either of them for many reasons, but the main reason was I didn’t identify with them. Thankfully, my mom and I changed the “Conservative only” filter on the camp search, instead selecting the figurative “All” button. We saw URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) and received recommendations from a friend. I finally decided to go there even though I knew no one. My first year was okay. However, it got better each year. Now I have gone to GUCI for four years!

Read more…

Building Women’s Leadership: WRJ and the YES Fund

by Elle Muhlbaum

This week we are celebrating the WRJ YES (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) Fund with a series of blogs from those who have benefited from the Fund and other WRJ philanthropic efforts. We are proud to build Reform Jewish women leaders within the Reform Movement and beyond. 

This year, I was the proud recipient of the Women of Reform Judaism Scholarship on the New York campus of HUC-JIR. When I first got the email notification, I was thrilled to be receiving a scholarship at all. But after a couple of minutes, the significance of this honor started to sink in.

I remember when my mom started to get involved in the sisterhood at our congregation in Cincinnati. We had just joined our temple, and some of the ladies my mom connected with were kind of involved in sisterhood. They personally invited my mom and, wanting to get involved, she decided to check it out. She slowly got involved, coming to meetings and different programs.

Read more…

Voices of WRJ: R’eih

“See (r’eih), this day I set before you blessing and curse” begins R’eih: a blessing for following God’s commandments and a curse for failing to do so. It goes on to detail a variety of commandments, including laws of kashrut; treatment of the stranger, the needy, the widow, the orphan, and the Levite; and how to observe Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

Why start with “see?” The text could have simply read, “This day I set before you a blessing and a curse.” Why is that word “see” needed at all? It seems to function as an opening exclamation point, providing emphasis: sit up, take notice, and pay attention. In the South we might say “Listen up, y’all!”

Read more…

Noah’s Swim-a-Thon

by Lisa Rosenberg Schiff

Title: Noah’s Swim-a-Thon
Author: Ann D. Koffsky
Illustrator: Ann D. Koffsky
Publisher: URJ Press
Intended for Ages: 5-6 years
Jewish Customs: tzedakah (justice/charity); k’hilah k’doshah (holy community; hidur mitzvot (completing good deeds)
Additional Topics Mentioned: n’divut (generosity); malacha (industrious/hard-working); tikkun olam (repairing the world)


Noah loves everything about summer camp – except swimming. Yet, when he finds out about a camp swim-a-thon that will give other children a chance to attend the camp he loves, Noah leaps at the chance to jump in the water and do his part to help. By participating in his camp’s tzedakah project, Noah overcomes his anxiety about the pool and instead focuses on the positive feelings that come with fulfilling a mitzvah! 

Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Eikev

In Parashat Eikev, Moses delivers three speeches to the people he has lead from slavery to freedom through the desert and who are now about to enter the Promised Land, the eretz zavat chalav u’ d’vash (land of milk and honey) (Deuteronomy 11:9). Although their entry to this land will be fraught with battles and some losses, the eventual rewards, promised by God, will amply justify these initial terrifying encounters with the nations who worship idols and other gods. However, as Moses emphatically declares to the people, God’s rewards will only be fulfilled if they remember not only God’s gifts to them, but also their past misdemeanours. It is imperative that the people recall both God’s promises and their rebellious behaviours in order to maintain and fulfil God’s covenant.

Read more…

From Mother to Daughter: WRJ is a Family Affair

by Sandy and Rachel Adland

Registration is now open for WRJ Assembly 2015 Nov. 4-8 in Orlando, FL, a great experience for everyone in the family! Read about the experience of a mother/daughter duo who attended WRJ Fried Leadership Conference together earlier this year.

Sandy: WRJ has been a big part of who I am for more than half of my life. Through my involvement, I’ve met women from around the world who share my passion for the work and the mission of WRJ. Facing challenges, becoming stronger leaders, creating community and celebrating Jewish life with my “sisters” is a magical experience that I’ve always wanted to share with my daughter. So when I had a chance to attend the WRJ Fried Leadership Conference in Austin, TX this January with Rachel by my side, my long-held dream finally came true.

Rachel: I have known about sisterhood my entire life because my mom has been an active member for so long. I knew we had a sisterhood lounge and sisterhood-sponsored events. Now, as a director on my local sisterhood board, I know even more about the ins and outs of the local affiliate. But nothing could have prepared me for what I walked into at WRJ Fried Leadership Conference.

Read more…