David Saperstein Wins Confirmation to Religious Freedom Post by 61-35 Senate Vote

Mazal Tov to a true Jewish Hero! Rabbi David Saperstein has become the first non-Christian to be an ambassador for Religious Freedom!  Read more by clicking the link below!

 

David Saperstein Wins Confirmation to Religious Freedom Post by 61-35 Senate Vote.

From Ganut l’Shevach: reflections on Passover and the Supreme Court

Read my latest blog post on Reform Judaism’s blog.

http://www.reformjudaism.org/blog/2013/03/24/marriage-equality-and-passover-degradation-praise

Happy Passover and Chag Sameach

Can you spare a dime?

Hurricane Sandy made herself known.  But it will take a lot more than dimes to help put the east coast back together again.

After several days people are still without power and food and gasoline.  Even as the power companies race to put the electric power back on line.  It is cold at night.  Shelters are full. And many have no homes to return to.  There are still numerous downed trees that make travel difficult that is if you can find any gasoline to keep your car going.

So we who are so fortunate must spare a dime and more.  Time to give.

Please consider making a donation to the Union for Reform Judaism Hurricane Relief fund.  There are no administrative fees and every dime goes to people and institutions doing direct disaster relief!

Please help today!

Anat Hoffman arrested again

My friend and colleague Anat Hoffman director of the Israel Religious Action Center and one of the founder of Women of the Wall (www.womenofthewall.org.il) was arrested last night at a Rosh Chodesh celebration with the Hadassah Women from around the world. The women of Hadassah are in Israel celebrating their 100 year anniversary of this wonderful Jewish women’s organization known for its philanthropy  in the United States and in Israel.   Anat has been arrested at the Kotel before.  The Women of the Wall group gathers each Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall for a morning service to celebrate the new month. This half holy day associated with women is a time for women of all denominations to come together to pray and read Torah.  But they are not allowed to read the Torah in the Kotel Plaza area.  The Rosh Chodesh group continues to point out the inequities at the Wall.  Men have most of the area near the wall for prayer and meditation and reflection and the women’s section is small. An Israeli Supreme Court ruling said that they could gather but this group had to read Torah in a different section near the southern part of the wall.  Not in the main prayer place.  They also arrest members of the group and detain them for wearing a tallit which is common among women in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism.  Tallito have to wrapped around like a scarf not in the traditional manner of wearing a prayer shawl.

Anat was arrested for reciting the Shema-the prayer that unifies the Jewish people world wide.  She was detained overnight and although a familiar site to the police who guard and protect the wall was evidently treated very poorly by the police.  Now is our time to strengthen our support for Women of the Wall and the values of equality-even in Israel.   We must stand for our place and our Jewish ideals too.

Take some time to donate. To visit their website.  And the next time  you are in Israel at Rosh Chodesh go and take part in the service.  Men stand on the men’s side near the divider to protect the group of women praying from flying objects on the men’s side over the Mechitza and pray together with the women and then all proceed with the Torah to the site for reading of the Torah.  This is for equality for all people and all who believe that the Holy Sites of Judaism should be open and available to all Jews.

Reform Movement Applauds Decision of the 9th Circuit

Court Ruling Strikes Down Proposition 8 in Narrow Decision; Important Step Forward

Rabbis Rick Jacobs and Jonathan Stein: While the decision is narrow, it is nonetheless an important step forward in the achievement of marriage equality.

Contact: Sean Thibault or Noah Baron
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Washington, D.C. February 7th, 2012 – In response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Perry v. Brown challenging California’s Proposition 8, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Jonathan Stein, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, issued the following statement:

“We commend the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. While the decision is narrow, it is nonetheless an important step forward in the achievement of marriage equality. As the purveyor of civil marriage, government should embrace an inclusive definition of marriage that establishes equality for all couples, regardless of the sex of the people involved.

“Our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim (in the Divine image) (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We are inspired by our faith and history to stand up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans, for we have known the experience of being victims of group hatred, persecution, and discrimination. We feel a keen empathy for those who can still be victimized, deprived of opportunities, including the opportunity to marry, because of their identity.

“We welcome today’s ruling and move forward with renewed resolve as we work toward the day when all Americans will be able to marry the person that they love.”

***
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit http://www.rac.org for mor

A Taste of Judaism

Are you curious about Judaism?  Ever want to know about Judaism?  Gone to a lot of  Bar Mitzvahs and been intrigued with the rituals?  Shared a Passover seder at a friend’s house and thought this was for you?  If your not Jewish yourself but thought you’d like to know more-then I will be teaching the perfect three week class for you:  A TASTE OF JUDAISM.

This is a 3 week class, Wednesday, Oct 26, November 2, and November 9 at 7 pm at Congregation Kol Ami.  However to register you must call 310 800-1161!  No walk-ins allowed.  The course is free.  It is sponsored by the Union for Reform Judaism and will answer basic questions about Judaism and Jewish life.  You can’t learn 4000 years in 3 sessions–all you can do is have a taste! But I know it will whet your appetite for more.

Come join us.  Click here for more info.

 

 

 

Eat Pray Love: Shelach Lecha

Parshat Shelach Lecha

Numbers 13:1-15:41

I  am proud to be a Reform Jew.  My family has always been Jewish. We have kept the traditions more or less for hundreds of years. Some of my family has made aliyah to Israel. We have always been a family of Zionists, dreaming of Israel even before the advent of the modern State.  I grew up in a household where there was an ever present “Blue Box” for the Jewish National Fund.  There are famous rabbis who were Torah scholars in my family history.

 

As a Reform Jew I understand profoundly that while tradition is important it cannot overrule common sense or merely be upheld because that is the way things are always done!  I know that progress is made by adaptation, change and re-integration.   That is why when I read the Torah or our Bible or any of our sacred texts I read it at many levels.  This is consistent with our Tradition.  We Jews have always read our sacred texts with a  four –fold process calle PaRDeS, Pashat,  Drash, Remez and Seter-from the plain simple meaning of the text, to the midrashic exposition, to the hints and secrets of the mystics!

 

Today when I read our sacred literature not only do I use this time-worn tradition but added to it are layers of literary criticism, history, biblical critical scholarship and contemporary ideals!  This is a gift of Reform Judaism to our Jewish conversation through the millennia.

 

In this week’s Torah portion Shelach Lecha we come to a passage that describes the punishment for the Shabbat violator.  As we know, observing Shabbat is an important mitzvah.  It is number four of the Ten Commandments,” Remember the Sabbath Day and Hallow it”.   In this week’s Torah portion, a person is discovered gathering wood and brought before the whole community and placed in custody, “for it had not been specified what should be done to him.” (Num. 15:34). According to the verses following God instructs Moses to have the community stone him-death is the punishment for violating the Sabbath.

 

Now we don’t really know if this is TRUE. We have no way of knowing whether they really stoned anyone to death.  And the Rabbis of the Talmud discouraged any court from punishing people with the death penalty. But what we do know is the Torah is trying to teach us all not to work on Shabbat!  Gathering wood on Shabbat can only be to build a fire, or build a house of some sort.  Both of these were forbidden.  They are considered work.

 

What is certain death-is that if we never take a day off, if we work continuously, we won’t have to have a community stone us to death—we will work ourselves to death!   We human beings must have time to recharge; each night through sleep and at least one day to recover from our daily routines.  We need time to meditate, breathe and yes, think. We need time to play and laugh and celebrate with family and friends.  And while the story in the Torah this week is harsh because the community carries out the command , the communal responsibility to ensure that people have time off is another way to read this message.

 

As a Reform Jew, I re-interpret in light of contemporary society what rest means.  Work is different now than in Biblical days.  Rest and Renewal is different too.  In an agrarian society, gardening wouldn’t have been seen as a hobby.  Today it is.  So in your approach to the Bible and Tradition use your common sense.  As Reform Jews find a spiritual practice that includes Sabbath rest and renewal even if it looks different than the way our ancestors did so.  But take time off! Take a Shabbat.  Eat, Pray and Love. That is the real point!