Complete Equality Comes to the Reform Ordination...

May 31, 2016 by

I recently had the pleasure of sitting with a group of women days before their ordination as Reform rabbis. On that magical cusp between school and new career, they were filled with pride and anticipation. Five years of hard work were coming to an end and the next chapters of their lives were rapidly unfurling. They spoke excitedly of their new positions in congregations and organizations; they showed off pictures of new homes and offices. As we sat in celebration and reflection, I asked them about the experience of customizing their s’michah documents, the certificate received at the ordination ceremony. For the first time in forty-four years, the women ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) 1) will receive certificates to document their ordination that are completely equal to the ones bestowed...

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What it Means to Be American: Reflections on Memorial Day...

May 26, 2016 by

Francis Salvador was the first Jewish American to die in service to America.  He was the kind of person that Jacob Marcus z”l  would have talked about.  He was born in England to a family that was Spanish and Portuguese.  He left his wife and four children to come to the New World in 1773.  He was the first Jew elected to the Provincial Congress in the colonies, and was an advocate for independence.  He was also a slave-owner.  On July 31, 1776 he was shot in a battle against British loyalists and Cherokees and scalped.  He died at age 29. Salvador could be described in many ways in our age of identity politics.  He was an immigrant.  A Jew. A revolutionary.  A racist slave-owner.  A Settler.  A politician.  An adventurer.  A businessman.  A...

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On Welcoming

May 25, 2016 by

My family’s move from New York City to Westchester last summer reminded me about the fine art of genuine welcoming. We had explained to the few people we knew in Larchmont how it seemed an idyllic place to raise a family. To make a home. To grow old together. My husband and I commented on the quality of the schools, the abundant options to enjoy the outdoors, and the outright friendliness and enthusiasm of everyone we encountered during our touring. The few people we knew were so encouraging. So were those we met along the way. It is scary to uproot a family of five, yes, but we could do it, they said, and make our lives alongside theirs. They fielded endless questions and offered their ready and helpful friendship. Moving my family, while continuing to build a rabbinate around interfaith and conversion work, has made...

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Sharing our Lives

May 20, 2016 by

We all share the title of Rabbi, but our lives are so different. We may find ourselves in many different roles – some of us serve congregations, and some of us find our calling in other professional ways, such as social justice. And some of us, myself included, are retired, whatever that word means. And geographically, we are literally all over the world. Several years ago Steve Arnold felt that we needed a more immediate way to share our lives, and began what we now call the Caring Committee and its online presence, Sharing our Lives. Last year Steve passed the reins to me, and as many of you know, I try to keep you informed when something occurs. But Sharing Our Lives more than my mere passive postings on the internet. Sharing our...

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More than a “Didn’t Deviate” Degree...

May 19, 2016 by

On May 4, I was honored to celebrate with my classmates, as we received our honorary Doctorate of Divinity degrees from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, recognizing the 25th anniversary of our ordination there. We rabbis joke that the “D.D.” degree stands more for “didn’t die” or “didn’t deviate,” than “Doctor of Divinity.” That cynicism may reveal some discomfort at receiving a doctorate we didn’t earn through academic work. However, it masks a couple of important realities. First, the day was impactful in personal ways that were hard to expect and more difficult to describe. I was touched to mark the milestone with classmates who shared a significant piece of my rabbinic journey, including the Rosh Yeshivah and Dean who bestowed the doctorates upon us. Second, and more importantly, the...

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How Far We’ve Come: Reflections on Attorney General Lynch’s Speech...

May 13, 2016 by

I have been reflecting on what US Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s historic speech on having transgender people’s back for our right to pee (and to be) means to me. In 2005 I was a fourth year rabbinical student a few months away from coming out as trans. I decided to do my fourth year sermon on transgender rights focusing on bathroom harassment issues. My homiletics teacher at the time rejected my first draft as being on an issue that was too “obscure” and “frightening”, and that it dealt with such a tiny percentage of the population that it was largely “irrelevant” for congregational life. So, in order to get a passing grade, I made the sermon not just about trans people. I told stories about a cisgender woman flight attendant who was fired for...

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Yom HaAtzmaut, One Family’s Home-Based Practice...

May 12, 2016 by

Congratulations! You made it through all of the big feelings of Yom HaZikaron, and emerged into one of the best days of any small child’s life – a birthday! It’s Israel’s birthday! Let’s throw Israel a party! And the best part of any birthday is cake. Obviously. However, thanks to two of your four of small children developing nightmares, REM sleep is now only a thing that other people do. Survival mode it is! Ingredients: A box of cake mix, Funfetti recommended for extra awesomeness Duncan Hines white icing Sprinkles, ideally in blue and yellow Festive cupcake papers, because asking the children to share cake decorating duties is for people who love unnecessary arguments Instructions: Spend 20 minutes and what you are sure is half of the Earth’s clean water supply washing hands before...

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