Rabbi Saperstein and Rabbi Feldman: “The overt threats implied by the vandalism inside the hallway of the apartment building of a leader of Women of the Wall serves to remind us of the utmost importance of the Women of the Wall’s efforts to advance religious pluralism, democracy, and gender equality in Israel. We call on the Israeli judicial system to hold the perpetrators accountable.”
By Rabbi Marla Feldman
I was blessed to have had the opportunity to become a rabbi and serve the Jewish community in a time when the doors to the rabbinate were open to women. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Sally Priesand’s ordination, I am acutely aware that this was not always the case. Rabbi Priesand and the generation of pioneering women who came before me pushed through closed doors and laid out a welcome mat for women like me. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their perseverance.
But even before Rabbi Priesand’s ordination there were women chipping away at the barriers to women’s spiritual leadership. Generations of Reform women as far back as the late 1800’s advocated for the ordination of women; they brought women out of the kitchen and into the center of Reform Jewish life. They set the stage for women to take their place on the bima and in the board room. They, too, deserve our gratitude, not only for their role in the past, but also for what they continue to bring to our congregations, our communities, and the Jewish world at large. These are the women of our sisterhoods, auxiliaries, and women’s groups; they were, and are, Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ). Read more…
by Dana Herman, PhD
Although there are many benefits to working at The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) in Cincinnati, OH—the largest, free-standing repository dedicated to preserving the history of American Jewry—one of the most delightful has to be meeting and interacting with the visitors to our facility who conduct research into the richness of the American Jewish experience, such as WRJ. This June will mark 3 years since I first met members of WRJ’s Executive Committee who came to Cincinnati to explore ways in which they could partner with the AJA to celebrate WRJ’s Centennial.
by Marcy R. Frost
When is the last time you saw Hamlet? After more than 400 years, it remains popular and poignant. I never cease to be amazed by how much of Hamlet has found its way into our modern language. Of course, there is the obvious, “To be or not to be” line. Ever heard that “brevity is the soul of wit” or that “conscience does make cowards of us all”? Hamlet was the first to tell his friend, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” There’s also “Good-night, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king,” and “The rest is silence.” Did you know that Hamlet is the source of the saying, “To thine own self be true,” “There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark,” and “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”? If there is method to your madness, Hamlet had it first. If you call someone a “piece of work,” you are harking back to Hamlet’s famous speech about “What a piece of work is man.” “The lady doth protest too much,” “more than kin, and less than kind” “every dog will have his day,” “get thee to a nunnery,” “cruel to be kind,” and “sweets for the sweet,” are all derived from lines in Hamlet.
by Amanda Wachstein, NFTY-PAR Advisor (pictured with
Rosanne Selfon, her mom, also known as Bubbio, and Mila)
The best gifts in the world are the people in our lives and the moments we share together, especially when those people are our mothers, the women who have made us strong, resilient and loving. These women come in all shapes and sizes; they speak different languages; they work both in and outside the home; they chauffeur and clean and cook and do endless laundry. They are elegant and fun, all at the same time. Our moms impact our world, far and near, in different ways.
By Dolores Wilkenfeld
The dictionary defines the word, “journey” as “travel or passage from one place to another.” Yet, journey is used increasingly these days to refer to a series of events and experiences in our lives which influence us in a particularly meaningful direction. I would suggest that both descriptions can apply to the relationship between Women of Reform Judaism (formerly the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods) and the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The World Union – or WUPJ – is the largest religious Jewish movement in the world, encompassing more than 1.7 million Reform, Liberal and Progressive Jews in more than 40 countries. It was founded in 1926 and from its early years attracted the attention of NFTS leaders.
By 1960, WUPJ had become a major project of NFTS. Local Sisterhoods were urged to include it in their programming and take up “Silver Coin Collections”. (We later graduated to paper money and checks.) It was at this time that I first helped create a skit about the WUPJ for my sisterhood and began my own journey into the exciting realm of international Reform Judaism. Read more…
“Mothers love and mothers hold
Mothers shape the world we know, mama, ima, mama
Mothers worry mothers feel
Mothers know too well what’s real, mama, ima, mama
And these are the things our mothers teach us…”
-“Limdu Heiteiv” by Beth Schafer (WRJ’s Centennial Anthem)
So begins the beautiful WRJ Centennial Anthem, written by an amazingly talented musician, Beth Schafer. Many congregations heard this song at their own sisterhood Shabbat services, as part of WRJ’s Centennial Celebration.
The fourth commandment directs us to honor one’s father and mother. What does that mean? This may be an easy question to answer if one grew up in an “Ozzie and Harriet” household or even a “Huxtable” one. Somehow, the mother (or father) always seemed to have the right answer or the perfect solution to the dilemma of the day. And, as the lights went off at night, everyone hugged, kissed, and said, “good night.” In reality, however, very few of us had that kind of experience. Regardless of our own realities, we trust that our own parents did the very best that they could – without screenwriters to write their dialogue or directors to dictate their responses.
Maybe the best way we can honor our parents is to do just that – our very best. We will make mistakes, but they are honest mistakes. Children do not come with instruction kits. Each child is different, and requires different handling. There is no one-size-fits-all method of child-rearing. Looking to our foremothers, we get a mixed bag. Sarah, who gave birth to Isaac late in life, appears to have created a very strong, loving bond with her son. Rebecca, however, turned one son against the other, leading to deception and a lifelong feud. Sisters Rachel and Leah bore many of the children of Jacob, some of whom committed unspeakable acts; while others went on to lead the Jewish people to greatness.
Some mothers foster an interest in the performing arts or fine arts. Other mothers encourage their children in athletic endeavors. Some mothers teach their children to prepare the appropriate foods related to Jewish holidays. Mostly, though, mothers try to prepare their children for life – giving them the tools they need to become productive citizens of the world.
It is said that all flowers bloom in their own time and so it is with our own children. We can only give them their start, help nourish them as they grow, and then step back so that the sun can shine on them and help them flourish.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Take a moment to thank your mother for all that she gave you. For some of us, this means picking up the phone, for others it means taking a quiet moment to send loving thoughts to one who is no longer here.
by Karen Maes (in the middle of the photo)
“Just call him and tell him you changed your mind,” my mom said as she tore up the piece of paper I had just handed her to which I replied, “Mom, that is not how it works.” Just a month later, on a sunny morning in July 1985, my parents waved goodbye to me, their 21-year-old only child as I left to become a soldier in the United States Army.
By Marilyn Lake Neumann
Women of Reform Judaism enriches each of us in many different ways. Timed to coincide with Mother’s Day, my perspective is multi-generational, based on a longstanding family involvement with NFTS/WRJ.
About the time that the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS) was founded, the president of Congregation Gates of Prayer Sisterhood, New Orleans, was Rosalie Welsch Rosenthal, my great-aunt. Her involvement was a natural result of her parents’ and older siblings’ commitment -she was one of twelve- as they were among the founders of Congregation Gates of Prayer. Sisterhood programming then was strongly influenced by World War I and also the Depression—relief efforts and assisting the needy were a part of everyday life. Aunt Rosalie could be counted on by both her family and her Sisterhood. Read more…
by Lindie Henderson
The combined readings of Parashot B’har and B’chukotai at the end of the Book of Leviticus provide rules for responsibilities and observances in specific time frames with reminders about blessings and curses. We can relate to “jubilee” celebrations during this WRJ Centennial year and consider how we will fulfill our obligations.