Voices of WRJ: Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech

It is September—my favorite time of year. The weather begins to change and the leaves on the trees turn magnificent colors. After summer hiatus, it is time again to get back to our typical, daily routines. It is the month of Elul. The High Holidays are upon us. It is a time for reflection and repentance.

It also begins a new season for WRJ sisterhoods and women’s groups across North America and beyond. Imagine at your first meeting you begin in song, hinei ma tov—a song that repeats the same few lines in Hebrew that translate to: “how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together in unity.” Imagine the connection that women feel at your first gathering in your kehillah kedoshah, your sacred community.

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Celebrating a Milestone for VAWA

by Debbie Rabinovich

This week marks a major milestone for me: I am turning 18. The Big One-Eight. I love the number 18. The number 18 means that I get to vote. I can donate blood. I can go on Birthright. In Hebrew the number 18 is the gematria for the word chai, or life.

One thing I like to do on birthdays is to see what else happened on that day in history. On my own birthday, September 13th, plenty of bad things happened. The first fatal automobile accident. The death of critically-acclaimed rap artist Tupac Shakur. However, one really good thing happened: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed. VAWA is just a little bit older than me; in fact, the Act reaches a major milestone this week as well: its 20th anniversary. I am lucky to have lived my whole life in a world where our government recognizes that domestic violence is a moral abhorrence all too prevalent in our society.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Ki Tavo

by Nancy Marcus

This week’s parashah is from the Book of D’varim (Words) and we read it during the month of Elul. It is divided into six parts. A brief overview shows us that the first part discusses the ceremonies for the first fruits of the harvest and the appropriate tithes to God. The second part presents the conclusion of the presentation of the laws. The third part describes ceremonies to be performed upon entering the Land. The fourth part gives us the consequences for obeying or disobeying the Covenant and is often referred to as the Blessings and the Curses. In the fifth part we are reminded of the terms of the Covenant between God and the Jewish people. In the final section we begin hearing Moses’ last speech to the people.

This parashah is the preparation for us for the Holy Days. In some synagogues, the Shofar is blown during Elul as a wake up call. We must prepare ourselves for our forthcoming meeting with God.

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equal pay graph

Paycheck Fairness Vote a Positive Step Toward Full Equality

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to proceed on the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 2199). The Paycheck Fairness Act is an important step towards closing the staggering persistent pay gap between male and female workers, and thus is of major significance to Women of Reform Judaism and the Reform Jewish community at large. Accordingly, WRJ Executive Director Marla Feldman and Religious Action Center Deputy Director Rachel Laser have jointly released the following press release: Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Parashat Ki Teitzei

by Sherry Schwimmer

This week’s Torah portion is Ki Teitzei from the book of Deuteronomy (21:10-25:19). Seventy-four of the 613 commandments are in this portion. There are laws dealing with privacy concerns, how a normal society is to live, sexual misconduct, and protecting the vulnerable. There are laws regarding soldiers, slaves, and prostitutes; commitments to God; and marriage. The majority of the laws are concerned with moral values and the creation of a just society. The portion ends with the obligation to eradicate the memory of Amalek.

The beginning of the portion deals with family relations. It firmly states how soldiers are to treat women they hold captive, particularly if they desire to marry them, and women are given protection if they are later rejected by them. Inheritance rights of first-born sons are elaborated upon. It instructs how the community is to deal with disobedient sons after parents have exhausted all possible means of discipline.

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An Arizona Congregation Forms a New Kind of “Israel Bonds”

by Bonnie Golden

This article originally appeared at the Arizona Jewish Post. It highlights the experience of one woman with the WRJ-Israel Twinning Program

Jews of a certain age might share similar early impressions of Israel. In Chicago, where I grew up, the young congregants at Lawn Manor Hebrew Congregation were inculcated with a firm commitment to the Jewish state. We saved our dime tokens to plant our trees, circle-danced Israeli-style, and practiced rudimentary Hebrew conversation. During and after the 1967 war, the Chicago area Jewish community held multiple events to raise money for Israel. All were urged to support the young state by holding Israel Bond drives.

What follows are only a few of the new “Israel bonds” formed on Temple Emanu-El of Tucson, AZ’s pilgrimage to Israel this past June.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Shoftim

by Michelle Scheinkopf

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9), Moses reviews the justice system for the Israelites and instructs them to appoint judges and law enforcement officers in every city. According to The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, this “parashah focuses on organizing the community and establishing rules that will promote justice within it.” In Shoftim, rules are set up to make sure that everything is fair and just in the system. One of the verses states: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” Not only is this necessary for legal systems but also for individuals. Organizing ourselves to pursue justice is central to Jewish teaching. It is a Jewish calling—an obligation, if you will—telling us to pursue and be engaged in activities that seek justice for all.

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Cooking with the Sisterhood: Balsamic Marinated Strawberry Trifle

by Jennifer Stempel

My mother-in-law, Bette Jo, has been an active member at her synagogue for years,  and some of her closest friends are those she met participating in her temple sisterhood. These are the women whose kids grew up alongside my husband and his brothers, and who jumped at the chance to throw me a fantastic bridal shower when I married Kenny. Several of them made the trek to L.A. to celebrate our nuptials with us, and a couple even acted as official witnesses during our ketubah signing ceremony. Over the years, some of Bette Jo’s sisterhood friends and I have connected via social media, and every time I post a cooking or blog-related post, they are always quick to respond.

Last year, after I posted a photo from one of my cooking classes, Marci and Judi both commented about how they wished they could join the class, but given our current distance at the time, their participation was out of the question. I responded with a promise to hold a cooking class the next time I was in Columbus, whenever that might be. A couple months ago, when Kenny and I settled our plans for a visit to his hometown, I reminded Bette Jo of my promise, and a plan was quickly hatched. Of course, within moments of the official announcement for the class, Marci and Judi sent in their RSVPs (though, as they were the impetus of the whole event, I did give them a heads up that this was in the works).

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A Day at URJ Kutz Camp

“Bo…Bo…boker tov…Bo…Bo…boker tov to Sarah! Bo…Bo…boker tov…Bo..Bo…boker tov to Dave!” And the cheer circulated around the room from one kid to another for five minutes. What did it accomplish? The fun-filled cheer gathered community into one whole. It gained momentum and volume as it progressed. It built connections and smiles. It caught attention. It worked!

My Thursday morning initiation into Kutz Camp life began with this cheer and moved smoothly into morning services. The kids were ready for worship.

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat R’eih

by Linda Ferguson

Parashat R’eih begins with “see” and not with “sh’ma”—”listen”—as one would expect when they are about to hear a powerful challenge from God to the Israelite people: “See this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing if you obey the commandments…and curse if you do not obey the commandments… (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).” From that point, the parashah begins the longest section of Deuteronomy and one of the longest in the Torah, with the laws and general principles for the people to live by in the new land.

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