Hoppy Passover!

•April 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment


To Eat or Not to Eat: Kitnyot that is!

•April 9, 2014 • 2 Comments

Every year at Passover the great debate rages: to eat kitniyot or not.  Kitniyot are a classification of food that Jews of Ashkenazi descent (European) do not eat and Sephardic  Jews (Mediterranean) do eat them.  For example, Ashkenazi Jews would not eat rice on Passover and yet, Jews from Morroco, Spain, or Turkey would absolutely eat rice on Passover.  Some Jews won’t eat corn or corn products like corn syrup (which is ubiquitously in almost everything processed here in the U.S.). Corn of course can be turned into corn meal.

Kitniyot is a classification of foods that includes grains and legumes such as rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Some forbid not only the grains and legumes but also any products derived from them  such as peanut oil or sesame oil!  The prohibition in the Torah for Passover forbids the eating of Chametz which comes from 5 different grains only: wheat, spelt, barley, shibbolet shu’al (two-rowed barley, according to Maimonides; oats according to Rashi) or rye.

A custom grew in the South of France in the 13th century to include a larger and larger group of grains as kitniyot.  Because people might get confused about what was permissible and what was not! Prohibiting kitniyot was a way to make sure that no one violated the rule of possessing chametz. The Shulchan Aruch, in Orach Chaim 453, defines kitniyot as those grains that can be cooked and baked in a fashion similar to chsmetz grains, yet are not halachically considered in the same category as chametz.

The Conservative Movement of Judaism several years ago felt that so many people were worrying about whether or not a product had kitniyot in it or something derivative of kitniyot that they did away with the category permitting kitniyot because people were losing sight of the holiday by being enslaved with the food prohibitions.  The point of Passover is to celebrate freedom!

I know when I lived in Israel for a year, Passover in 198,3 I attended a seder of distant relatives.  All were vegetarian and had been born in Israel.  Needless to say I was shocked to have been served rice because growing up I know we were not allowed to eat it.  I learned from that experience about kitniyot and the differences between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish traditions.

So as Passover approaches you too will have to answer the big debate—kitniyot? Yes or No on Passover?

In either case, I wish you and yours a joyful, sweet and kosher Passover!

Search for Chametz – YouTube http://ow.l

•April 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Search for Chametz – YouTube http://ow.ly/vAmz9 Watch @deniseeger explain the Search for chametz- Come and learn #kolami #Passover

How Jews Brought America to the Tipping Point on Marriage Equality: Lessons for the Next Social Justice Issues

•April 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment



This is a very important and interesting article the author cites Reform Jewish Institutions like the Religious Action Center. Which is a joint project of the CCAR,  the Reform Rabbis and the URJ, Lay leaders !




How Jews Brought America to the Tipping Point on Marriage Equality: Lessons for the Next Social Justice Issues.

IT’s a WRAP: Everything you wanted to k

•April 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

IT’s a WRAP: Everything you wanted to know about Tefillin, Sunday April 6 10:30 am At Congregation Kol Ami http://ow.ly/vs6hq

Joe Biden and LGBTQ community

•April 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Our Vice-president Joe Biden recently spoke at the Los Angeles gala of the Human Rights Campaign. Here is my take on his keynote as published by the Jewish Journal.

What Fred Phelps didn’t learn from Sodom and Gemorrah

•March 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Fred Phelps Died today at age 84.  He was the founder of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  How did this former civil rights attorney become such a vicious hater of gays and lesbians, Jews and America?  Ironically, his own family excommunicated him from the very Church he founded.  Hate always turns in on itself.

I had several encounters with the Phelps-family and their protests.  The first time I came face to face with them was in the year 2000 in Greensboro, N.C. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (the CCAR), the organization of Reform Rabbis, was meeting and the main topic of our convention that year was a resolution on same-sex marriage.  After a number of years working through Committees, Task Forces, and dialogue sessions across the country, I was helping to bring a resolution to the floor of the convention that would formalize the Reform Rabbinate’s support of marriage equality and the religious rites of a Jewish marriage between same -sex couples.  Fred Phelps and company were there outside the convention center with their signs, ‘God hates Fags’ screaming horrible harassing Anti-Semitic words.  They were few in number. And the local police cordoned them into a specific area. We were in the hall making incredible history. The rabbis voted with a thunderous voice in favor of the resolution.  There were a few lonely noes. But inside that hall was a feeling at that moment that God was truly present in our midst. We felt a new world of inclusion in the Jewish people. We all began to link arms and sing-the Shehekiyanu prayer–Thanking God for sustaining us and bringing us to this truly joyous moment.  Jewish gay men and lesbians would be supported in seeking Jewish marriages. We were singing Amen Amen Ahhhh-men over and over.  It was an electric and truly spiritual and holy moment.  

And yet as we left the convention hall we were shouted at and spit upon and called the most horrid of names. 

I encountered the Westboro Baptist Church on several other occasions when they came to protest here in Los Angeles at several synagogues and schools.  And of course read with disgust as they protested funerals from Matthew Shepherd’s to the heroes of our military who died in service of our country.  

But now he is dead. He had been excommunicated from the church he founded, cut-off from many of his children and grandchildren. Stories are swirling about the power struggle to control his Church. 

But in many ways Westboro Baptists’  open and raw display of hatred of gays and lesbians and their deep seated Antisemitism exposed to the world the how easily one can succumb to extremism. The Phelp’s family protesters became caricatures of themselves. They protested military funerals because they believed that God hated America for its embrace of gays and Jews.  They protested at the funerals of the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing because saying that Boston deserved it saying “Here’s a hint — GOD SENT THE BOMBS! How many more terrifying ways will you have the LORD injure and kill your fellow countrymen because you insist on nation-dooming filthy fag marriage?!”  They protested at the funerals of the victims of the shooting in Tuscon when Rep. Gabby Giffords was injured and at those young victims of the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut claiming that the victims deserved it for their sins.  


The family of Fred Phelps, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, took hatred into new and twisted heights.  There was no compassion in their hearts for the pain and grief they caused that was heaped on top of the pain and grief and loss in each of these cases. They would send out media alerts that they were going to protest funerals of celebrities to try and bring attention to their extreme form of so-called Christian fundamentalism.  His hatred was based in a vision of the Apocalypse. 

But the media attention showed the world instead the humanity of those they protested.  This included the humanity of gay men and lesbians.

I am sure that Fred Phelps as he meets his Maker will have to account for his sins.  Perhaps today he has to account for his stone cold heart of hate that so infected his own children that they turned their hearts away from him.  In Jewish tradition when we learn of someone’s death we recite the phrase  Baruch Atah Adonai, Dayan HaEmet-Blessed are You Adonai, the Truthful Judge.  The Judge of All will judge Fred Phelps and his actions and his life. His soul will have to answer how he lived out the Commandment to “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”.  

I cannot judge a person.  But I know the difference between compassion and hatred. Hospitality and hostility.   I learned them from them story of Sodom and Gemorrah in the book of Genesis.  Too bad Fred Phelps didn’t understand that Sodom was condemned not for sodomy-or homosexuality–but for the sin of inhospitality and hostility to strangers. They had to answer too.  Now its Fred Phelps’ turn.  


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