Saying YES to Youth

by Rosanne Selfon

Over 100 years ago, 156 American women representing 5,000 women in 52 sisterhoods gathered to found the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS), renamed Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) in 1993. These women united to fortify their Jewish identities, perform mitzvot, and collectively support the Reform movement. One of their first endeavors was to establish a scholarship fund to benefit Hebrew Union College (HUC) students. Not only did the women successfully raise scholarship money, they built the Sisterhood dorm on HUC-Cincinnati’s campus. Their largesse expanded during the Great Depression when they financially rescued the college. To this day, WRJ is HUC’s largest cumulative scholarship donor.

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Voices of WRJ: B’reishit

by Abigail Fisher

My mother needlepointed the atarah (neckpiece) of my tallit. She made it for me when I first began to wear a tallit, when I was in college in the early 1980’s. The theme of my atarah is B’reishit: it depicts the creation of the world.

At the time that Mom made it for me, she thought it was ironic. Put her daughter, the scientist, in something showing creation. But she was wrong. It’s not ironic at all; it’s totally appropriate. Science, the study of our world or our universe, is inherently the study of creation, and, by extension, the mind of our Creator. It is only in relatively modern times that science and religion have been deemed incompatible opposites; before that they were often one and the same. Just ask Brother Gregor Mendel, the monk who discovered modern genetics.

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Fight over Breast Cancer-Related Patents Continues

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my colleague Jordan Dashow wrote this post, which originally appeared on RACblog.

Last year, Angelina Jolie made national news after revealing that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy because she had a BRCA1 gene mutation which dramatically increased her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Last week, Myriad Genetics, Inc., a company well known for its breakthrough research showing the connection between BRCA gene mutations and an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, was at the Federal Circuit defending some of its patents related to the BRCA genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes produce proteins which suppress tumors, and consequently people with BRCA mutations are at a greater risk for certain cancers. This case is especially important to Ashkenazi Jews because Jews of Ashkenazi descent are more likely to have harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations than the general public. Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Chol Hamoed Sukkot

by Jo Thompson

This Shabbat is known as Chol Ha Moed Sukkot. We read from Exodus 33:12-34:26 and hear verses that are very familiar to us. The “Thirteen Attributes of God” in part states that God is: “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness… forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” This should sound familiar to all of us as part of the Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur liturgy. The parashah also finds Moses saying to God, “Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own.”

For us to become God’s own, we must be gracious, slow to anger and above all abounding in kindness. So here’s my question to you. How does being an active member of WRJ fit into being one of God’s own? How does this organization become your own?

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Voices of WRJ: Parashat Haazinu

by Barbara T. Luss

I never had the time or opportunity to study the Torah until I retired from nursing 10 years ago and joined the Torah Study Group at my Temple, Adat Chaverim. The first time we went through the Five Books of Moses almost sent me running from the room several times in horror at the realization of a war-like, angry, and vengeful God. After several years of reading and discussing the Book with my fellow learners, I was able to come to an understanding that interpretations of the text over the centuries vary far and wide.

I continued to read and study with the knowledge that each passage, each word should be read in the context of the era that it was written in and that my interpretation is being made in the present with limited experience with biblical writing. In making this peace with the writings, I have been able to take lessons from them that reflect my thoughts and perceptions, hoping to strengthen my spiritual well being while reconciling all the aspects of God in the pages.

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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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