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Israel News Reform Judaism Statements

Reform Movement Response to United Nations

Photo By Bill Aron

The Central Conference of American Rabbis has joined with the Union for Reform Judaism, ARZA and ARZA-Canada to issue a Reform Movement statement about the United Nations decision to upgrade the status of the Palestinians as a “non-member observer state.”
http://ccarnet.org/joint-statement-un-palestinian-status/

A CCAR Mission of Reform Rabbis is currently in Israel.  Follow our Rabbis as they show our support for Israel and as the CCAR leads our communities in engagement with Israel by visiting Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Israel News Reform Judaism Statements

Reform Movement Response to
United Nations

Photo By Bill Aron

The Central Conference of American Rabbis has joined with the Union for Reform Judaism, ARZA and ARZA-Canada to issue a Reform Movement statement about the United Nations decision to upgrade the status of the Palestinians as a “non-member observer state.”
http://ccarnet.org/joint-statement-un-palestinian-status/

A CCAR Mission of Reform Rabbis is currently in Israel.  Follow our Rabbis as they show our support for Israel and as the CCAR leads our communities in engagement with Israel by visiting Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
CCAR on the Road Israel News

From South to North – Days 3 & 4 of CCAR Israel Trip

The last two days have been border-filled, nothing surprising of course when traveling in Israel.  After a short tiyul in Jerusalem yesterday morning, starting at the City of David excavations and ending up at the Robinson’s Arch area and the Southern Wall excavations, we got on the bus and headed south, to the area near the Gaza border.

Rabbi Jonathan Stein, weeding at Moshav Netiv HaAsarah.

Our first stop was at Moshav Netiv HaAsarah, where we met with Raz.  He is a second generation moshavnik who grows tomatoes and works in genetic engineering of vegetables – in his free time he is also a guide with ARZA/Da’at.  We toured the moshav, which is right up against the Gaza border near the Erez Checkpoint.  We stood on a hill overlooking the border and looked into Gaza.  Raz spoke of the hardships the moshav has suffered in the long drawn-out “situation” that so many of the communities in the south have faced, in which they never know when a missile is going to come down from the sky.  He showed us how they have reinforced the roofs and walls of the preschool, and pointed out the many bomb shelters and safe rooms that dot the otherwise pastoral landscape.

He spoke of growing up knowing people in Gaza, and spending time there, explaining that when he was a child, it was the nearest big city, a place that they often went for a meal or to go to the sea.  We ended our visit there by helping him weed in one of his greenhouses – because of the barrage of missiles over the last weeks, he and his workers have not been able to go into the greenhouses and are very behind schedule with their work.  So there we were, a group of CCAR rabbis, on our knees picking weeds among the rows of tomato vines.

From there we traveled to Kibbutz Kfar Aza, also on the border, where we met with  Chen, a second generation kibbutz member who works in the IMPJ in The border with GazaJerusalem.  We toured the kibbutz as Chen spoke about the emotional and psychological toll of living in that area with the constant trauma of missiles, especially on the children.  She described a life for children in which getting to play outside is too often a rare event, because of the fear of missiles.  She spoke too about living a split existence, in which most of the country goes about their normal daily lives while on the kibbutz they live with constant fear, running in and out of the bomb shelters.  Yet she ended the conversation speaking about hope for a better future some day.

After that we went to Shaar HaNegev Regional High School to meet with Shem and Nati, two members of the newly formed Reform congregation that meets in the school there, where Shem is a teacher.  They spoke about their connection to Reform Judaism – Shem encountered it first while living for several years in Sydney, Australia, where his son became bar mitzvah, and Nati encountered it in her native Argentina, from which she made aliyah 14 years ago.  They are working hard to establish a Reform presence in that area and have great enthusiasm if not tremendous resources.  They spoke of their need for a rabbi even as they try to grow their community and do outreach in the area.  They also spoke about living under constant siege, and how the school in which we were sitting was designed to give the students a sense of emotional safety and security, as well as of course building for physical safety and security, including a bus drop off area which is part communal bomb shelter, should missiles come down as children are getting off the bus on their way to school.  It was, as he explained, “the safest school in the world.”

It was a very long day, but for most of the group it was the first time that we’d really engaged with the communities in the south that have been on the front lines of rocketfire from Gaza.  It was profoundly moving and enabled us to put a human face and real-life experiences to the newspaper headlines.

We began today with a meeting with Anat Hoffman of the IRAC, the Israel Religious Action Center.  She described their current court battles and all the ways that they use the legal system in Israel to fight religious and ethnic discrimination for Reform and Conservative Jews, women, converts, and Arabs, to mention only some of their important work.  She also spoke about her work with Women of the Wall.  In Anat’s own words, “Our mandate is to kick ass in our movement.”

Next we joined HUC students for t’filah, which was a special treat as the students from the Israeli program and the American program were praying together.  We saw some old friends and many of our future leaders.

At Rahel's grave, Kinneret Cemetery We took off after that, leaving Jerusalem and driving along the Jordanian border as we made our way toward the Golan.   Along the way we stop to visit the poet Rahel’s grave at the Kinneret cemetery, and discussed the struggles and aspirations of the early Zionist settlers.  As we continued to climb north, we learned more about the history of the wars in 1967 and 1973, stopping at several key lookout points toward Syria and having a bumpy but exhilarating jeep ride through Golan cattle country.  We ended the day at Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the Galilee, where we had a provocative conversation with Dubi, a member of the kibbutz, about the enormous changes that are transforming the kibbutz movement.

Most of the group is exhausted but excited about our learning and experiences, trying to take it all in as we write blogs, tweet, facebook and email to friends, family and congregations back home.  There is something truly unique and powerful about experiencing Israel with colleagues.  Time for sleep, as tomorrow is another day of learning….

For another perspective, see Rabbi Danny Burkeman’s blog post about the trip: http://t.co/XGvar9js

Categories
CCAR on the Road Israel News

Shabbat in Jerusalem with the CCAR

Israel Museum
At the entrance to the Israel Museum

A great day of learning and being in Jerusalem.  The weather here is glorious – sunny and warm.  After a slow morning of t’filah adventures and lunch on our own, we set off together for the Israel Museum which is conveniently open on Shabbat.  Most of us had not been there since it was redone.  We had a fascinating walk through select sections, including the Israeli art wing and a permanent exhibit devoted to Jewish life.  We had some stimulating conversations along the way about Jewish identity, Israeli identity, the purpose and design of museums, just to name a few of the ideas discussed.  Since one of the goals of this trip is to teach rabbis how to lead groups in Israel, many good ideas were presented about how to take different kinds of groups through the museum.  Coincidentally, as we entered the museum, we coincidentally ran into our colleague from Mevasseret, Rabbi Maya Leibovich.

From there we went to a beautiful site near the Tayelet, overlooking Jerusalem.  Instead of the regular tourist discussion of what’s where, we focused on the security wall barrier, visible from where we stood, and discussed the geopolitics of Jerusalem specifically and Israel in general.  Our guide was a great model of how to lead a sophisticated, nuanced conversation about these issues, in all their complexity, with our groups.

Overlooking Jerusalem

Next we went back to the hotel for an interesting program led by David Leichman, from ARZA, in which he modeled the kind of mifgashim he leads for groups.  Along the way he made us do some thinking about identity and other issues related to Israel.  That was followed by Havdalah, led by Rabbi Miri Gold.  As Rabbi Leah Berkowitz tweeted earlier this evening, Rabbi Gold was the third of the first generation of Israeli women rabbis we’d met over the course of 24 hours.

Our final program for the evening was a meeting with Tali Levanon, from the Israel Trauma Coalition.  She gave a disturbing but powerful presentation about trauma in Israeli society, focusing on what has been happening in the S’derot and other southern areas but also talking about the impact of terror and war in general on the population.  It was interesting to learn that in addition to the important work she and her colleagues are doing within Israel in terms of educating the government,  the medical system, and the education system about treating the needs of those who experience trauma, they also take their knowledge abroad and share it in other crises. She spoke of traveling to Haiti after the earthquake, Japan after the recent events there, and most recently to New York after Hurricane Sandy to help train first responders and community leaders about how to respond to trauma.

It was hard to transition after that presentation, but we know we will speaking much more about this tomorrow as we head down south.  With a great deal of new information and questions to think about, we set off to experience Motzei Shabbat in a reawakening Jerusalem.  Lilah tov!

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Books CCAR on the Road Israel News

Greetings from CCAR Trip to Israel!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://ccarravblog.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/hp_photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Rabbi Hara Person is the Publisher & Director of CCAR Press. [/author_info] [/author] No matter how many times I travel to Israel, the actual entry into the country never ceases to move me.  From the moment we enter Israeli air space, to the actual landing on Israeli soil, I am still filled with a sense of awe at what it means in the scope of Jewish history to arrive in the State in Israel.

Today is officially the first day of the CCAR Israel Fam Trip and Solidarity Mission.  The original purpose of this trip was to teach rabbis ordained in the last ten years how to lead a congregational or community trip to Israel (hence “Fam”, short for familiarization).  Because of the events of the last two weeks, we also opened up the trip to colleagues who wanted to come and support Israel at this challenging time.

I am excited to get to know this diverse group of colleagues, who come from around the country, and represent many different ordination years.  Rabbi Michael Weinberg, of Temple Beth Israel, Skokie, IL, is our group leader and I am honored to be the CCAR staff leader.  We are also joined by Rabbi Jonathan Stein, CCAR President, from Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City.  I am also looking forward to learning from Uri Feinberg, our wonderful madrich from ARZA World/Da’at.

Even though I have been to Israel over thirty times since I first came to Israel with NFTY’s CAY program in 1983, I know from my experience on the previous CCAR Fam Trip that I will learn much and get to see Israel anew.I am also looking forward to using the new CCAR resource for Israel trips, Birkon Artzi: Blessings and Meditations for Travelers to Israeledited by Rabbi Serge Lippe.  This fantastic resource will help deepen and enrich our experience as we travel around the country. As we opened with our first discussion this afternoon, we began with a beautiful reading from the book, which helped set the tone for what will be an intensive, emotional and thought-provking time together.

Now we’re off to Kehilat Yotzma, to pray with our colleagues Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon and Rabbi Nir Barkin, and then to Shabbat dinner at our madrich‘s house.

Shabbat shalom!

 

 

Categories
Israel Statements

The Path to Peace

The CCAR continues to express our long-standing commitment to peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. We believe that the only way to achieve peace is a negotiated settlement with two states for two peoples.
The path to peace lies between Ramallah and Jerusalem, not in New York or Washington or the Netherlands.

CCAR member rabbis represent a diverse range of opinions as to the best ways to move forward, but we are united in our desire for peace, and our support and love for Israel.

The CCAR’s Mission to Israel begins today, with our rabbis arriving in Jerusalem now. The trip has two core purposes — to express our support for Israel and take provide an opportunity for more recently ordained rabbis to engage in conversations and learning as to how best lead their own communities into an engagement with Israel by visiting Israel.

We are engaging in conversation with other leaders of the Movement in CCAR Board of Trustee discussions and at the URJ Board meeting now in progress as to how best to respond to the myriad of issues presented and we will continue to coordinate our efforts for the benefit of Israel and peace in the Middle East.

Categories
Books Prayer Reform Judaism

Machzor Blog: How ‘Current’ Should a Prayer Book Be?

Machzor Page-spread

There are those who look to a prayer book to reflect – in language and in tone – the lives we aspire to live.  The words of prayer should uplift, sanctify, and elevate.  For others, when confronted exclusively with such language, they feel as though the prayer book is irrelevant, that it has nothing to real say, that it is, at best, a relic.

The 2-page spread format for this new machor, like Mishkan T’filah, enables us to do both.  Or at least to try.  And sure enough, many respondents to pilot versions of the Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur draft services responded by saying things like, “I found my own voice in this prayer book,” while others were offended by the very same readings.

Calibrating this balance between the real and the ideal can be tricky.

Just a single word can make a reading seemingly inappropriate for a prayer book, as the editorial team is learning from piloting feedback.  In a pilot version of Rosh HaShanah morning, a left-side reading from the Orthodox theologian, Yitz Greenberg, offered an alternative on the part of Emet v’Yatziv  (the blessing after Sh’ma that speaks of redemption) this reading:

Where does Israel get the strength –

The chutzpah –

To go on believing in redemption

In a world

That knows mass hunger

And political exile

And [refugees]?

 

How can Jews testify to hope and human value

When they have been

Continuously persecuted,

Hated,

Dispelled,

Destroyed?

 

Out of the memories of the Exodus!

(Where does Israel, “Jewish Courage in the Hope for Redemption,” Irving Greenberg, in Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information and Contemplation, Dov Peretz Elkins, Jewish Lights, 2010, p. 68.)

Many respondents commented that they didn’t want the word “chutzpah” in their prayer book, and suggested that it was chutzpadik for us to put it in there.  The word is too colloquial, too irreverent, they said.

On the other hand, there are cases where the language was perceived as so lofty, indeed so “highfalutin”, that it was experienced negatively as well.  For example, opposite Mi Chamocha, we put the following by William Blake:

Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau:
Mock on, Mock on, ‘tis all in vain!

You throw the sand against the wind,

And the wind blows it back again.

 

And every sand becomes a Gem,

Reflected in the beam divine;

Blown back they bling the mocking Eye,

But still in Israel’s paths they shine.

 

The Atoms of Democritus

And Newton’s Particles of Light

Are sand upon the Red sea shore,

Where Israel’s tends do shine so bright.

This poem by Uri Zvi Greenberg, was placed opposite Birkat Avodah (the “R’tzei – the fifth blessing of the festival Amidah).  Some felt it to be too racy to be read aloud in a synagogue, and it was removed from the second draft.

Like a woman who knows that her body entices me,

God, You taunt me:  Flee if you can! But I can’t flee.

For when I turn away from You, angry and heartsick,

With a vow on my lips like a burning coal:
I will not see You again –

I can’t do it,

I turn back

And know on Your door

Tortured with longing

As though You had sent me a love letter.

(Like a woman who knows, Uri Zvi Greenberg, translated and adapted by Chaim Stern, in Gates of Forgiveness, CCAR, 1980, p. 30.)

Some didn’t want the prayers to make them feel sad.  A reading and a poem about Alzheimer’s disease that paralleled the Zichronot section of the Rosh HaShanah morning service were disturbing to some.  In the reading, we included the following text:

 Let us use our gift of memory to remember all who are affected by illnesses that cause dementia, along with loved ones, friends and caregivers.  Let us find ways to share God’s message of love and blessing.

A poem by Donna Wahlert, entitled, Here Let Us: Late Middle Alzheimer’s Disease accompanied the text in the first draft of the service.

Here let us sit together

under the weeping beech

here let us talk about milk glass

chifforobes and elderberry wine

here let us sooth your ankles

swollen with childhood memories

we won’t remind you that your mother

has been gone for thirty years

that the house you want to go

home to is no longer there

that your children are drown and gray

that you are the last of your friends

here let us drink our wintergreen tea

and talk about this primrose

the thing spaghetti you had for lunch

the nurse who brings you Hershey bars

here let us not dream about the days to come

here let us sing you your mother

here let us sing you your children

here let us sing you home. 

(Here let us sit, Donna Wahlert, “Here Let Us: Late Middle Alzheimer’s Disease,” in The First Pressing: Poetry of the Everyday, iUniverse Inc., 2003, p. 123.)

There are readings that feel too raw to some.  Take, for example, Linda Pastan’s poem The Bronx, 1942

When I told him to shut up,

my father slammed on the brakes and left

me like a parcel in the car

on a strange street, to punish me

he said for lack of respect, though

what he always feared was lack of love.

I know now just how long

 

forgiveness can take

and that is can be harder than respect

or even love.  My father stayed angry

for a week.  But I still remember

the gritty color of the sky through

that windshield, and how, like a parcel

I started to come apart.

(The Bronx, 1942, Linda Pastan, Carnival Eve­ning: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998, NY: 1998, W.W. Norton, p. 274.)

Or, how about this alternative reading entitled, “Avinu Malkeinu: A Prayer of Protest”

Avinu Malkeinu –

Hear our voice:
Some of us have cancer.

Some have lost strength of body; some have lost memory and speech.

Some of us are in pain.

Some can’t find work.

Some of us bear the marks of human cruelty – inside, where the scars don’t show.

Some live with depression; some battle addiction; many feel alone.

Some have known shattered marriages, trust betrayed, hopes destroyed.

Some of us have lost the ones we love, far too soon.

And some of us have lost a child.

All of us have seen suffering in our midst.

All of us know the ravages of war – for which there are no words.

 

Avinu Malkeinu, why?
Avinu Malkeinu, are you there?  Do you care?

Avinu Malkeinu, hear our pain.

Hear our anger. Hear our grief.

Avinu Malkeinu, here is our prayer:
Give us the strength to go on.

Give us reasons to get up each day; give us purpose and persistence.

Help us to fend off fear and to hold on to hope.

Help us to be kind.

Don’t make us bow or grovel for your favor.  Give us dignity and give us courage.

 

Avinu Malkeinu –

Show us the way to a year of goodness.

Renew our belief that the world can be better.

Restore our faith in life.  Restore our faith in you.

(Copyright © 2012 by CCAR Press.  All rights reserved)

Can the Machzor simultaneously inspire, while speaking to the reality of our everyday lives?  Is there a place for sadness, regret, sensuality, anger, and doubt within the pages of the prayer book?  What do we lose by including such readings, and what do we gain?  What would be lost if we left them out?  We’re interested in your thoughts.

Rabbi Leon Morris is on the editorial team of the new CCAR machzor, and is the rabbi of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, NY. 

[Find out more about the new CCAR machzor.]

Categories
General CCAR News Reform Judaism

Introducing…Ravblog!

Welcome to Ravblog, the blog of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

The world in which we live continues to change rapidly, including shifts in the Reform Movement and broader Jewish community.  This includes changes in demographics, finances and religious practice, as well as the way we gather as communities.

The CCAR itself is changing, as are the 2,000 rabbis who make up our membership, and the 1.5 million Jews we now serve in all walks of life including congregational and community settings. The CCAR’s mission, as it has been since 1889, is to strengthen and enrich the Jewish community.  We do this in many new ways be it through life-long learning, liturgical and Jewish practice publications, as well as cutting edge digital publications and Apps. We are also anchored in tradition as we apply Jewish principles to contemporary issues.

One way we continue to learn and grow is through engagement — engagement with our own rabbis, with other Jewish professionals, lay leadership in the Reform Movement, and with members of the broader Jewish community.

It has been great to hear from you and engage in conversations when we see each other in person at CCAR Conventions, national Biennials, professional conferences, congregational visits, universities, and even on military basis (yes, our rabbis serve Jews in the military).

To talk more often, we¹ve created Ravblog, as an ongoing space for us to interact.  Together we¹ll look at issues facing the CCAR, the Reform Movement, Israel, and the Jewish world as a whole.  We¹ll look at issues of today, and of tomorrow.  What are we all thinking about?  What are we working on?  What challenges are you facing?  What are the big ideas on our minds?

Some of our staff members will blog, as will CCAR leadership, and you¹ll also hear from a number of guest bloggers.  To our members who are great bloggers, and others who participate in this great online Jewish conversation — you have inspired us and set the bar high.

Let us know what you think and keep teaching us.

Koltuv,

Rabbis Steve Fox, Hara Person, Debbie Prinz, Alan Henkin, and Dan Medwin

(The CCAR Rabbinic Staff)

Categories
General CCAR News Reform Judaism

2013 CCAR Convention

Rabbis Leading the Shift

Pre-Convention Programming, Sunday March 3rd 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Convention will kick-off Sunday, March 3rd @ 4:00 PM and conclude Wednesday, March 6, 2013 @ 10:30 PM

In the past year, the Convention Committee listened to hundreds of our colleagues in face-to-face conversations and in small groups. We heard stories of shifting economic priorities, concerns about the relevance of synagogues and the Reform Movement, and questions about technology changing the nature of human interaction. We also heard stories of optimism, hope, and possibility – a desire for our colleagues to work together to shift focus, skills, and intentions so that we are ready to lead our communities through an ear of rapid shifts and change. Based on this input, the Convention theme has developed into Rabbis Leading the Shift: Jewish Possibility in a Rapidly Changing World.

As at Conventions past, you will have an opportunity to reconnect with friends, pray, and engage with some of the finest scholars, teachers, and learning opportunities in Southern California. We will also create opportunities for colleagues to listen, reflect, and meaningfully discuss the issues, concerns, and interests about which the CCAR members are most passionate. The Torah Lishmah and Professional Development learning will be integrated in three main areas: “finding my way through the shift,” “leading the shift in my workplace,” and “leading the shift in the larger world.” We hope that you will join us.

Categories
Books

New Title from CCAR Press: Beyond Breaking the Glass

Beyond Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding, Revised Edition

Nancy H. Wiener, D.Min.

This is the book for all of today’s couples. Explores the rich history of Jewish wedding customs and rituals throughout the centuries while providing contemporary interpretations and creative options. Buy Beyond Breaking the Glass.