WRJ Voices: Eikev

by Edith Caplan

The children of Israel have come to the end of their journey, and are about to face a new challenge – they stand on the brink of the land promised to them by God. However, the land is occupied by other peoples. How are they to prevail against the inhabitants, and once they have occupied the land, how can they ensure their survival, both materially and spiritually? Read more…

Israel: My Home

By Marla Goldberg


Eretz Yisrael, The Holy Land, The Promised Land–whatever name for it you have or whatever you call it, I consider it HOME.  After multiple visits, each different in its intent, learnings, and bend—I continue to be transformed in ways that are mostly intangible.  What does not change is the deepening affection that happens, in spite of politics.

Being in Israel is a wonderful juxtaposition of being grounded in history while functioning in the modern world.  It is not always easy to balance these disparate feelings, but it is definitely worthwhile.  For me, the experience is always multi-sensory but after my most recent pilgrimage, I consider my time in Israel to be a spiritual balm—hard to explain, fantastic to feel. Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Va-et’chanan

By Nanci Pompan

This parashah finds the Israelites about to enter the Promised Land after wandering through the desert for forty years following their flight from Egypt. The word “Va-et’chanan” means “I pleaded” which refers to Moses who pleaded with God to be allowed to go forward with his people. God emphatically tells Moses not to beseech him again and, instead, tells him to go to the top of Pisgah and look over the land that he will not be able to enter. Moses is told to instruct Joshua who will take over as leader and “imbue him with strength and courage”. (Deut 3:28) Read more…

A Sacred Calling as a Sacred Role

By Rabbi Toba SchallerSacred Calling

“My Judaism encourages me to focus on a personal relationship with God, to know myself, and to know God; to use my skills and strengths in making the world a better place. I think it’s a universal mission and has nothing to do with gender. I think Judaism encourages us to think about what everybody’s sacred role is.”

The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate, newly published by CCAR Press, examines the ways in which the reality of women in the rabbinate has impacted upon all aspects of Jewish life. Upon the publication of The Sacred Calling, we sat down with (now Rabbi) Toba Schaller, approximately the 760th woman to be ordained by Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion and 5th year rabbinical student at the time of the interview, to discuss the impact of women in the rabbinate upon a woman and mother about to embark on her own journey as a newly ordained clergy member. Read more…

Voices of WRJ: D’varim

By Sharon Zydney

D’varim starts the book of Deuteronomy by first revisiting, while slightly revising, pivotal portions of the earlier books of the Torah. Recapping what has happened earlier provides a grounding for us as we begin to tackle the laws that are presented throughout Deuteronomy. Additionally, we are provided the opportunity to experience the journey in a single reading – think a condensed, Readers Digest, version of 40 years of wandering in the dessert and the backstory to how we got to Mt. Sinai – to this place, at this time. Read more…

My Fifth Trip to Israel: Why I Keep Coming Back for More

By Liz McOsker

Women’s Journey to Israel -WRJ 2017 will be my fifth trip to Israel. My first was with my daughter’s twelfth grade Hebrew class on their spring break trip. It was her third time, so let’s not kid ourselves about which one of us was the chaperone. My next two were congregational trips. My most recent trip was in March 2015 with other WRJ leaders to check in with our movement partners and YES Fund grantees, to visit progressive communities around the country and oh, by the way, to see some historic sites. Read more…

WRJ Voices: Matot-Mas’ei

By Lesley Levin

This week’s Torah portion is a double portion. The portions of Mas’ei and Matot are the last two portions in the book of Numbers. I am going to focus on the parshah Mas’ei (marches) that begins with a review of the Israelites’ travels through the wilderness. As Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Elizabeth Goldstein point out in “The Torah, A Women’s Commentary” women form the bookends of Israel’s journey from slavery.

In the book of Exodus we learn about the midwives Shiphrah and Puah, Moses’s mother, Jochebed, his sister, Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter. The book of numbers ends with a recounting of the story of the five daughters of Zelophehad.

In chapter 33:1-37 we have the longest list of all of the places where the Israelites encamped. The book ends with a look at where the journey will take the Israelites into the future. This emphasizes for us the importance of both looking at where we came from and where we are going.

In her book, “Torah Journeys”, Shifra Gold says, “Sometimes I think of my life as a long interesting journey. Mas’ei reminds me that every journey takes place in stages and each stage carries its own distinct blessing to be unwrapped and savored, its own messages to be gleaned and digested.”

The 100th anniversary of Women of Reform Judaism gave us the opportunity to review the stages and blessings of our journey as Reform Jewish women. We learned about our fore mothers who struggled to find their own unique identities within our movement and the leadership they provided to the women’s movement in North America. In this look back, we gained insight into where we want to go in the future. We have made changes to our North American meeting schedule and looked at ways to engage women who are not affiliated with a local Sisterhood– to name just two of the new pathways we have developed.

I had a unique opportunity to look at my own personal journey. Just a few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend the training for facilitators of the Wise Aging Program. As a part of that training we drew a river to symbolize our life and we divided the river into 7 year stages. Into each stage we detailed the events of our lives that occurred during that time. I realized that there were very few really tough times in my life and that I had been given many wonderful adventures and opportunities. I also gained insight into how I wanted my river to flow into the future.

This is the time of year when our Sisterhoods are installing the leadership for the next year. What a wonderful opportunity to look back at all that our sisters have achieved and to plan for the future. Shifra Gold reminds us that “It is important to remember that at each stage of our journey we will encounter some obstacle or resistance. However annoying, difficult or devastating that obstacle is, its presence can call forth a particular power that lies hidden within us… In fact, the potentials that lie buried within us often require an appropriate challenge in order to be released and manifested.”

We have a wonderful opportunity to define the future of our journey as Women of Reform Judaism.

Lesley Levin lives in Bloomington, Indiana with her husband Mark. She is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Para Rabbinic Fellow, and a member of the WRJ board of directors and the Commission on Social Action.

Stand Up for Racial Justice This Fall by Taking Action on Voting Rights

by the Religious Action Center

Starting this summer, the Reform Movement will be taking action around the United States under the banner of Nitzavim: Standing Up for Voter Protection and Participation. This initiative, a part of the Reform Movement’s racial justice campaign, will focus on ensuring that people of color are valued at the ballot box this year, rather than pushed aside by efforts to curtail voting rights. As we prepare to launch this initiative on August 18, we would like to tell you more about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Read more…

Voices of WRJ: Pinchas

By Robin Plotnik

Much of parashah Pinchas comes from looking toward the future, in terms of inheritance, leadership and laws.

The portion opens by completing the story of Pinchas (25:10-18) which began in the previous parashah and continues with the description and enumeration of the census (the second census in the book of Numbers). (25:19-26:65) The story continues with the discussion of future division of land and the courageous tale of Zelophehad’s daughters, who challenge the current practice of excluding women from inheritance. (27:1-11) They not only receive the right to inherit (as daughters in a family with no sons), but successfully argue that the law should be changed for all. The portion continues with Moses learning that he will not enter the Promised Land and with the choice of a successor, Joshua. (27:12-23) Finally, parashah Pinchas ends with a list of special occasions and offerings (28:1-30:1) as summarized in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, (p. 962). Read more…

Five World Heritage Sites That Could Be Destroyed as a Result of Climate Change

By Rachel Landman

Climate change has the potential to lead to the destruction of some of our most cherished natural and cultural heritage sites. A joint report issued by UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Program and the Union of Concerned Scientists highlights the threat World Heritage sites are facing as a result of climate change. 31 natural and cultural heritage sites in 29 countries were found to be threatened by environmental factors such as increased temperatures, glacial melting, sea level rise, extreme weather, droughts and increased wildfires. Climate change threatens more than the wonders and history of these sites, it threatens the communities around them, many of whom are supported through tourism revenue. Below are five examples of sites impacted: Read more…