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Ethics & Eating:

History Reconsidered:


A Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Publication

Smart Strategies for





Winter 2013/5774


S+R=BW When we combine the wisdom of SCIENCE & RELIGION, we can improve our lives & create a BETTER WORLD.

“Sc without ience is Lame Religion without , Religion Sc is Blindience .” –Albert Ein stein

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What does it mean to be a Woman of Reform Judaism? It means a one hundred year journey of advocating for critical issues, standing side-by-side with Israel, and supporting youth and education programs internationally. It means celebrating women’s rights, inspiring generations of families, and making real and lasting changes. It means having a respected voice in the Jewish community and in the greater world. As WRJ reflects proudly on our past accomplishments, we are poised to build an even stronger future, one filled with vibrant and meaningful cultural, religious and social opportunities. This century milestone stands as a reminder of everything we can do together, and all that still awaits. Join us on this journey. Stand stronger together, as a Woman of Reform Judaism.

Donate now: www.wrj.org Celebrate WRJ’s one hundredth birthday at the 49th Assembly, Dec. 11-15 in San Diego, CA For more information: www.wrj.org/Assembly2013

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A BENEFIT OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP IN A URJ CONGREGATION IN THE BEGINNING 2 Dear Reader: A Little Miracle Happened There / Rick Jacobs 4 Letters 6 Through the Lens: Mural, Temple Isaiah, LA JEWISH LIFE 8 Holidays: Hanukkah: A Miracle of Trust / Alan Morinis 11 Journeys: Abraham, Great-Great Grandma Mary, & Me / Vered Harris 13 Community: Matzo Balls in the Land of Magnolias / Carol Antman 14 History: Barbara Goodman, Unheralded Hero / Jonathan D. Sarna 17 Teen Talk: The Power of Faith / Gabe Snyder 18 Judaica: Jewish Antiques Appraisal Show / Jonathan Greenstein


FOCUS—GREATEST JEWISH MYTHS, PART II 37 Was the Emancipation Good for the Jews? / Salo Baron 43 Did Jews Go Like Sheep to the Slaughter? / Nechama Tec 45 Did Adam and Eve Eat an Apple? / Rifat Sonsino

Cover Einstein photo: © Pictorial Press / A lamy; Above Photo by Becky Smith, photosbybecky.net

20 Science + Religion = Better World by Geoffrey Mitelman / There is mounting evidence that “religion” and “science” are not adversaries but potential allies which, working together, can improve our lives and our world.

NEWS & VIEWS OF REFORM JEWS 51 Feature Story: Re-imagining the Post-B’nai Mitzvah Experience— Innovative ways congregations are exciting teens about Judaism Also 50 Chairman’s Perspective: Why I Volunteer / Stephen M. Sacks 50 Quotable 53 Noteworthy 55 My Idea: Let the Mourners Saying Kaddish Stand Alone / Rosalind A. Gold 56 Farewell: Trials & Triumphs / David Ellenson

26 The Diet Trap by Penina Eilberg-Schwartz / I believed that eating less and less would help repair the world. But depriving ourselves of food keeps us from realizing our full potential—and almost cost me my life.

32 Becoming Barbra by David Kaufman / Barbara Streisand, a self-described “ugly duckling,” became a glamorous superstar without ever compromising her Jewishness. reform judaism

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d e a r

Official Publication of the Union for Reform Judaism

A Little Miracle Happened There

Winter 2013, Vol. 42, No. 2

* Before dialing, be ready to write down the questions that the hotline will ask you. Also be sure to tell your temple about the address change.

Subscriptions: 212-650-4240 Congregational Family Records: reformjudaismmag.org/subscribe/records

On-Line Home Page: reformjudaismmag.org with RJpedia article search by subject Reform Judaism (ISSN 0482-0819) is published quarterly (fall, winter, spring, summer) by the Union for Reform Judaism. Circulation Offices: 633 Third Ave, New York, NY 10017. © Copyright 2013 by the Union for Reform Judaism. Periodical postage paid at New York, New York and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Reform Juda ism, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Members of Union congregations receive Reform Judaism as a service of the Union for Reform Judaism. Subscription rate: One year: $12 each; Canada $18 each; Foreign $24 each. Two years: $22 each; Canada $34 each; Foreign $46 each. Contact us for bulk pricing. The opinions of authors whose works are published in Reform Judaism are their own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Union. REFORM JUDAISM is a registered trademark of the Union for Reform Judaism. Canada Publications Mail Agreement No. 40032276. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to PO Box 875, Stn A, Windsor ON N9A 6P2 Statement of Purpose Reform Judaism is the official voice of the Union for Reform Judaism, linking the institutions and affiliates of Reform Judaism with every Reform Jew. Received quarterly by nearly 300,000 member households (members of nearly 900 congregations) as a benefit of their synagogue’s Union affiliation, RJ strives to convey the creativity, diversity, and dynamism of Reform Judaism. RJ covers developments within our movement while interpreting world events and Jewish tradition from a Reform perspective.


re all Hanukkah tales true? Of course. Because a narrative can contain truth even if it defies belief. In that spirit, let me share one of my own Hanukkah stories. Early in my rabbinate, when I served as a rabbi in Brooklyn Heights, New York, my phone would keep ringing with invitations to speak at schools about the “winter Jewish holiday.” One year a call came from the headmaster of a venerable all-boys prep school in Manhattan where Hanukkah had never before been officially acknowledged. A 13-year-old with whom I had worked in advance of his bar mitzvah decided it wasn’t right that only Christmas was celebrated at his school each year and lobbied for a Hanukkah assembly too. Faced with this persistent modern-day Maccabee, the headmaster finally relented and invited me to speak. “But be brief,” he instructed me. “After all, Hanukkah is a minor holiday….And one more thing: Try to make the material interesting to our intellectually discerning young men.” This was going to be a challenge. I was slated to speak 10 minutes before school began at 8:00AM in a cold, dank, drafty basement auditorium. In contrast, the school’s annual Christmas program was an elaborately planned, festive celebration with choirs and costumes. I prepared what I thought would be an engaging presentation of our “minor holiday” to 250 or so young men in blazers. It consisted of eight points about Hanukkah, and as I would make each point, I would light another candle until all eight were burning. On the morning of the presentation, I lit the shamash candle and surveyed the audience: half-asleep, disinterested young men. Not wanting to let my bar mitzvah student down, I prayed for Divine help. Then I turned to light the first candle and explain Hanukkah’s message of religious tolerance…but before I could pick up the shamash, its flame jumped to the first candle, igniting it without my assistance! Now, as I prepared to make my second point—about how the few prevailed over the many—I had a captive audience. Then, suddenly, before I could kindle the second candle, the flame ignited it spontaneously once again. This mysterious phenomenon recurred six more times! The reluctant headmaster and previously uninterested young men were spellbound. And for years afterward, the headmaster begged me to reprise my “miraculous” Hanukkah talk. I demurred, however, heeding the talmudic admonition (in Kiddushin 39b): Believe in miracles, but do not rely on them.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs President, Union for Reform Judaism ➢Your thoughts and ideas are welcomed. Contact Rabbi Jacobs: urjpresident@urj.org and/or send a letter-to-the-editor: rjmagazine@urj.org. reform judaism

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Ian Spanier Photography

Executive Editor Mark Pelavin Editor Aron Hirt-Manheimer Managing Editor Joy Weinberg Copy Editor Judith Hirt-Manheimer Assistant to the Editors Alison Kahler Art Direction Best & Co. Contributing Editors David Aaron, Michael Cook, Josh Garroway, Leah Hochman, David Ilan, Paul Liptz, Edythe Mencher, Aaron Panken, Rick Sarason, Lance Sussman, Mark Washofsky, Wendy Zierler Advisory Board Milton Lieberman, Chair Carol Kur, Honorary Chair Paul Uhlmann, Jr., Lifetime Chair Emeritus Jim Ball, Shirlee Cohen, Isabel Dunst, Dan Freelander, Steve Friedman, Jay Geller, Howard Geltzer, Marc Gertz, Deborah Goldberg, Shirley Gordon, Richard Holtz, Robert M. Koppel, Bonnie Mitelman, Harriet Rosen, Jean Rosensaft, Joseph Aaron Skloot, John Stern, Al Vorspan, Alan Zeichick Advertising Offices Joy Weinberg, Advertising Director Keith Newman, Advertising Representative 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 212-650-4244 (for advertising inquiries only) Circulation Offices Union for Reform Judaism Synagogue Members: Change of Address Website: reformjudaismmag.org/subscribe/change Change of Address Hotline: 212-650-4182*

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l e t t e r s

Divorce Etiquette


wish your article “Divorce Etiquette” (Fall 2013) had been available when I divorced. Our older son became a bar mitzvah two years later, and it was the bar mitzvah from hell for me. My former wife worked for the congregation and was very good friends with the rabbi. During the ceremony, as she and I sat on the bimah in front of the entire congregation, the rabbi continually commented on how proud my wife was of our son—and made no mention of me. There were other indignities, too. Nonetheless, recognizing that it was our son’s bar mitzvah, not mine, I did everything I could to make it a great experience for him—and I succeeded. Years later, hearing him tell his fiancé how much he had enjoyed his bar mitzvah gave me great pleasure. Anonymous


abbi Mencher and attorney Elser offer many good ideas in response to the challenges faced by divorced couples and families. Here are two more. First, family reorganization must be taken out of the courtroom, where the legal system is adversarial and the objective is to win at any cost. Even during divorce, the Jewish value of shalom bayit, or peace in the home, should be the operative principle, motivating divorcing couples to seek conciliation through mediation, and their rabbis to encourage mediation as well. Second, as Rabbi Sanford Seltzer suggests in When There Is No Other Alternative (URJ Press), congregations should promote a divorce service such as Seder Preidah (“Ritual of Release”), both to mark the transition from marriage to singleness and to publicly welcome and reintegrate divorcing couples into the synagogue community. This, too, can help

mitigate the acrimony that is in no one’s best interest, especially the children. Robert Ferrer Urbana, Illinois

Wrestling with Abraham


he 10 explanations Rabbi Stephen Pearce offers for Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac (“Wrestling with Abraham,” Fall 2013) do not satisfy me, so I offer an 11th: Remembering God’s earlier promise that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars of the heavens, Abraham realizes that Isaac cannot die. Abraham therefore follows God’s instructions without hesitation. Is it possible that Abraham was testing God’s commitment to a promise? This argument may be circular and difficult to accept, but isn’t that what faith is all about? Marc Zeloof Rockville Centre, New York








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A detail of “Hava Nashira—Come Let Us Sing,” the 6' x 21' tile mural, hand-painted by international ceramic artist Karen Koblitz and installed in the garden entryway of Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles. “The mural honors our creative, fun-loving, and beloved Cantor Evan Kent for 25 years of service,” says Jean Abarbanel, a member of the temple’s Art Committee, “Images such as Evan’s guitar; gazelles— Evan’s favorite animal; and birds—who also have a song to sing—now serve as an endearing and enduring part of our sacred space and collective memory of the many gifts he brought to our lives.”

Photo by Susan Einstein

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of choice, commitment, and Jewish meaning rather than a cold, monetary obligation. They love “donating to” rather than “paying” the shul. Our congregation has a “range” from which members choose their terumah, e.g. families pay $1,000 - $2500. Often they top-up or increase their terumah as a direct result of feeling they are doing something honorable in joining us. We find, by the way, that many people choose their terumah in

the middle of the spectrum. When given the choice, people seem to choose well! Now that I am sensitized to the word “member,” I’ll ask our congregants to consider the use of “chaver/chaverah.” Rabbi Elyse Goldstein Toronto, Ontario

Correction—Fall 2013


abbi John Moskowitz’s name was misspelled. Our apologies.

Reform Judaism Magazine Update: A Torah of Their Own

Ofer R ibak Photography


ast June, I realized a dream I’ve congregation in Jerusalem which uses had for nearly a decade. the bomb shelter of an apartment buildIt all began about ing as their synaeight years ago, when gogue. Between their I read in Reform physical space and Judaism magazine their lack of a sefer about Temple Ohabei Torah, this group of Shalom in Brookline, people who had sacMassachusetts donatrificed their entire ing one of its Torah way of life to come to scrolls so that its sisIsrael and practice ter congregation in their Judaism freely Russia could have were feeling discourParading with the one. Having grown aged. What a mitzvah up in an affluent com- Torah donated from it would be to give munity as a member Temple Beth El and a second them a Torah they borrowed from a local congreof a synagogue could call their own. gation. Inset: Tracey Grossman blessed enough to On June 18, 46 of care for many scrolls, addresses the group. our temple members I was shocked to arrived, Torah scroll learn that there are congregations within hand, at the WIZO Helena Kagan out even one. Community Center. Nearly 100 EthioWhen my husband and I joined pian congregants and dignitaries from Temple Beth El in Boca Raton in 2006, throughout Israel greeted us with open we asked Senior Rabbi Daniel Levin if arms and treated us to a delicious, we could alleviate such a hindrance to home cooked Ethiopian meal, dances, worship by replicating Ohabei Shalom’s skits, and speeches. All of us then mitzvah. paraded the sefer Torah from their cenRabbi Levin loved our idea. He had ter to their shul, the men and teenage his own dream: to engage a sofer to boys from both communities dancing write a lighter scroll that would be more excitedly together under the mobile manageable for the b’nai mitzvah. We chuppah as the women encircled the could do both: commission a new scroll chuppah also dancing and celebrating. and then donate one of our current The joy was so contagious, most scrolls to a congregation in need. onlookers joined in the parade. And To find that congregation, we reached when we arrived at the shul, a man was out to the North American Coalition for there selling cotton candy—the perfect Ethiopian Jewry, which our temple had metaphor for an incredibly sweet worked with for many years in supportdream come true. ing the rescue and assimilation of EthioTracey Grossman pian Jews in Israel. With their help, we Temple Beth El of Boca Raton built a partnership with an Ethiopian Boca Raton, Florida reform judaism

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Hanukkah: A Miracle of Trust What is the real reason we celebrate Hanukkah? There are really two answers. We commemorate the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple after the Maccabees defeated the Syrian Greeks and we celebrate a miracle. As the letters on the four sides of the dreidel—Nun, gimmel, hey, and shin—announce: Nes gadol haya sham, “A great miracle happened there.” What was this miracle? Was it the military victory of a rebel band against a wellarmed occupying power—or something else? When the rabbis established the Hanukkah festival just one year after the rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C.E., they acknowledged that the weak overcoming the strong was a very important historical event (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b). But the Maccabees’ victorious military strategy and prowess in battle alone did not merit a religious holiday, because their success was entirely due to human action, without any aid from the Divine. Only if God’s intervention had turned the tide of battle in favor of the outnumbered Jewish fighters would there have been a miracle worthy of celebrating with a Jewish holiday. Moreover, the rabbis did not view this battle as a war of ultimate necessity. In contrast to Purim, which celebrates a victory over tyranny when the existence of all the Jews in the kingdom was threatened by royal decree, the Maccabean revolt was not in response to a dire Alan Morinis, author of Climbing Jacob’s Ladder and Everyday Holiness, is founder and dean of The Mussar Institute, which provides courses on developing and improving inner life traits as spiritual practice; and a member of the URJ Faculty of expert practitioners.

physical threat. True, the Syrian Greek occupiers prohibited Jews from offering sacrifices at the Temple or studying Torah, but the people were not imperiled by annihilation. What, then, was the miracle that warranted the creation of a new Jewish festival? A miracle of the spirit. As it is told in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b), when Judah Maccabee entered the desecrated Temple, he discovered only a small vial of oil which had the seal of the Kohen Gadol (the High Priest) certifying it was sanctified for ritual use. There was only enough oil for one night, and yet it burned for eight. And that is why, three times daily during Hanukkah, we add the Al Hanisim—for the miracles—prayer to the Amidah, which begins by speaking of the military victory but ends by saying: “…Your children came to Your holy abode and…purified Your Temple and… kindled lights in the courtyards of Your holy place. And they established these eight days of Hanukkah in order to give thanks and praise to Your great name.” In short, this prayer makes a distinction between the means and the end. The military victory was the means, which we do not celebrate, because the means are not the point. Instead the reform judaism

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prayer explains what the military victory is pointing to—and the answer is spiritual renewal. How can we approach Hanukkah—or any of the Jewish holidays— as a means to experience spiritual renewal? Embedded in each of our holidays are the messages they hold for us. Purim, for example, is telling us “It’s time to be joyful!” Tisha B’av, in contrast, is saying “This is a time of great sadness.” If you are a person who is always or often sad, then Purim comes to help you usher in some happiness. Or perhaps you live your live experiencing great joy, and here comes Tisha B’av, saying “You should learn how to know sorrow, too.” From the perspective of Mussar, an ancient Jewish tradition that teaches us to develop ideal inner traits as a path to holiness, approaching our holidays in this way enables us to cultivate emotions and/or undertake practices we might otherwise never experience. Sometimes our inner traits can impede our spiritual insight and growth; when we recalibrate them, we can approach the world with greater spiritual awareness, with a more open heart. In short, when we bring awareness and intention to the Jewish holidays, they offer us an opportunity to educate and open our hearts. So, what is the middah (inner spiritual trait) that best embodies Hanukkah? What opportunity might we experience by deepening our connection to this holiday that speaks of spiritual miracles and bringing light into our homes and lives? The middah in the Hanukkah story I find the most powerful is bitachon, trust.

Ammit Jack /Shutterstock.com

by Alan Morinis

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The Maccabbees knew they had only enough sanctified oil to light for one day. They could have said, “It’s not enough. We need oil for eight days. Why bother? It’s over. We lost.” They didn’t do that. Having in their hands only an eighth of what was needed for the task, they nonetheless lit the oil. They put their trust in God’s providence and took the first brave step. From the rabbis’ point of view, that very moment when the Maccabbees suspended doubt, strengthened their faith, and took action despite the odds is when the miracle of spirit happened. There is an important lesson here that offers a lens through which to approach the personal challenges we face. Sometimes we can be too cautious. There is something we need to do, and instead of doing it, we get caught in the backdrafts of “what if.” Scientific evidence shows that being overly cautious with certain types of food fed to a young child can have the unintended consequence of stimulating allergies, just as ensuring that the child lives in a highly sanitized environment

RJ Digital Edition Read and share Reform Judaism magazine digitally on computer or smartphone. Visit reformjudaismmag.org. can deprive his/her body of exposure to microbes needed to develop a healthy immune system. If we live in fear of possible outcomes, or feel we have to have at least 60% of the ducks in place before we’re going to take that next step, then the Hanukkah story comes to remind us, “Look what the Maccabbees did! They knew they had only 12.5% of what was needed, but nevertheless they lit the first wick.” Cultivating trust does not mean becoming reckless or choosing not to exercise good judgment. It is about recognizing that sometimes, even when we cannot see the whole picture and appear to lack what’s needed to complete the mission, we still need to take a step forward in the direction we know to be right. As the midrash Exodus Rabbah

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13 teaches, when the Jews reached the Red Sea, it wasn’t until one man, Nachshon ben Aminadav, walked into the water right up to his nose that the sea finally split. It took an act of trust to cause the sea to divide, and the result was salvation. Trust, then, empowers action. Cultivating trust helps the heart to open to the challenge of taking calculated risks. And cultivating that trust within our families and in our communities can help us transcend even greater obstacles together. The eternal lesson of Hanukkah is that we must trust and never lose hope. The odds may be against us, the obstacles daunting, the winds in our face, but the Maccabees inspire us to hold fast to our goals. Every night that we light a Hanukkah candle, we are reminded that it has happened that the mighty fell into the hands of the few, the weak defeated the strong, one day’s oil lasted eight days. Doubt and fear hover over life like dark clouds, whereas trust and hope usher in light. We light our Hanukkah candles at the darkest time of year as a ritual reminder: When we kindle trust and hope in our hearts, we dispel the shadows of apprehension and welcome in spiritual renewal. This point was the focus of a talmudic debate about the way to light the menorah (Shabbat 21a). One sage, Shammai, contended that we should light eight candles on the first night and then reduce the number of candles by one each night until there is no more light. Another sage, Hillel, proposed that we should add one candle each night until all eight candles are burning brightly. Today we follow Hillel’s way; Hanukkah now embodies the idea of growing more light amid darkness. The Hanukkah story shows us that when our pursuits are ethical and just, we should be prepared to take action in trust that we are aligning with a force beyond ourselves that will help us. Trust does not mean that the results we want are guaranteed. Trust means not letting ourselves be defeated by worry, calculation, doubt, and fear. The Maccabbees teach us that even though the goal might seem impossible, we should still reach for that star, because a miracle just might be waiting to happen.

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Abraham, Great-Great Grandma Mary, & Me By Vered Harris


can trace my family lineage to 1700s Europe. All of my ancestors were Jewish. Some were secular, not synagogue-goers. Some were religious, and would not understand a woman rabbi. But my ancestry really dates back 4000 years ago, when Abraham had an idea he passed along to his son Isaac, and his son Jacob, and his son Joseph, and so on down the line until my GreatGreat Grandma Mary, whose observance looked almost nothing like Abraham and Sarah’s, passed it down to her daughter Great Grandma Rose, after whom I am named, who stopped keeping kosher in her generation, who passed it down to my Grandpa Bernie, who was born in the United States and led our family seders, who passed it down to my mother, who lit candles for the Sabbath and gave us a present on each night of Hanukkah, who passed it down to me, who, along with my husband, am passing it down to our daughters, who may not know the rituals of 100 or 1,500 years ago, but who do know that because we are Jews we must speak and act out against violence, hunger, and injustice in the world. I represent the continuing development of Judaism. This I believe: My essence is not as an individual, autonomous human being living an isolated existence. My essence is a soul fashioned as a part of God’s creative expression. My soul is woven from the threads of the stories of all the people who came before me. I am a thread in the tapestry of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people is a panel in the tapestry of humanity. How we treat each other affects the vibrancy of this tapestry. So Judaism teaches me to treat you with kindness and respect. Sometimes I fail. Then it teaches me how to repent and seek forRabbi Vered Harris is spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City, OK.

giveness. When I live according to Judaism, I live as a better neighbor and citizen and friend and relative and stranger. The Judaism I observe continues to grow. It does not look like Abraham and Sarah’s. It does CONTINUING THE JEWISH JOURNEY. DIANE AND I (L.) ON MASADA not look like the DURING CONGREGATION BETH TORAH’S TRIP TO ISRAEL, DECEMBER 2005. religion of the INSET: PORTRAIT OF ME AT OR HADASH, HAIFA. rabbis of the first many religious traditions who guide our century or the Golden Age of Spain or the Enlightment. It does not look like world towards peace. My Judaism also changes when my the Judaism of Great-Great Grandma students learn something new. In 2005, Mary, who shaved her head and wore Diane, a congregant and fluent Spana wig according to the Hungarian ish speaker, came to me wanting to Orthodox practice of her day. It does learn to read Hebrew. She found the not look like the Judaism of my mother, task daunting, but through much effort, who eats pork and shellfish and travels learned some rudimentary Hebrew. to Israel once a year to see my sister I also taught her nuances of Israeli culand her children. My Judaism expands and contracts. ture as we toured Israel on a congregational trip, and she enthusiastically It changes when I learn something delved into the culture, using her newly new. When I first began living a conacquired Hebrew speaking and reading sciously Jewish life, for instance, the skills to order food and ask about official label of “kosher” was imporitems in local shops. Later, with my tant to me. But after almost 20 years encouragement, she embarked on as a vegetarian, when I decided to a medical mission to Guatemala as a begin eating meat again, I considered translator. I saw these two experiences not only traditional but also spiritual as interrelated—first she’d engaged teachings about kashrut—concluding with a new language as a first-timer in that I could not personally consider Israel; then she’d ventured abroad the slaughter of animals pumped full on a challenging assignment as a volof chemicals and treated cruelly unteer without a medical background. throughout their lives as “kosher,” All of this helped me buoy the courage regardless of how “humanely” they I myself needed to volunteer with were slaughtered. American Jewish World Service in My Judaism changes when my Muchucuxcah, a small village in teachers learn something new and I am Mexico, where I knew neither the lanchallenged to redefine my own thought guage nor the culture. Our group of and practice. Now I am reading Eboo Patel’s Acts of Faith, a reminder that my rabbis helped build fish tanks to serve as sustainable agricultural systems teachers are not limited to the Jewish in people’s backyards. We also spoke people, but encompass luminaries from reform judaism

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with local villagers about their histories, concerns, and hopes. None of the rabbis spoke Mayan; a few conversed in Spanish, the villagers’ second language. My own reliance on translators limited the depth of my experience of global justice—and simultaneously renewed my appreciation for Diane, who learned Hebrew to deepen her experience of Judaism, as well as other adults like her. After our Hebrew studies and Israel trip, Diane gave me a piece of art with this quote from the Mishnah: “Provide for yourself a teacher, and acquire a friend” (Avot 1:6). She thought I was her teacher, but it is I who have learned from her in striving to be a courageous person. Our Judaism also changes when we allow ourselves to be renewed by our exploration of how-to-be-close-to-Godand-each-other-through-religion. This year, for the Pesach through Shavuot period of Counting the Omer, I asked congregants to commit to a mitzvah and consciously pursue it as a Jewish value. Just one day after accepting the challenge to engage in interfaith dialogue as an expression of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha (loving your neighbor as yourself), a recently widowed woman told me that her neighbor had brought her a meal from her family’s Easter dinner. The two women began to talk about their different faith backgrounds and what religion meant to each of them. At that moment the congregant became aware that through this conversation she was fulfilling a religious task. In reaching towards understanding someone with beliefs different from her own, she felt herself striving towards loving her neighbor as herself. Although this commandment has historically referred to Jews’ relationships with other Jews, for her, applying it to her neighbor heightened the meaning of the exchange. My religious choices and changes humble me. They remind me that I do not live just for myself. God wants us, as God’s partners, to create justice and mercy and beauty in the world. My ancestor Abraham discovered a relationship with God, and now that relationship is, by inheritance, mine to continue to develop and convey to the next generation. So I do.

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Matzo Balls in the Land of Magnolias by Carol Antman

Photographs by Beck y Smith, photosbybeck y.net


Every October for the past 24 years, Forsyth Park in Savannah is filled with the aroma of corned beef instead of wisteria, lines for “Sizzlin’ Sephardic Lamb” instead of carriage rides. This is “Shalom Y’all,” one of the largest Jewish food festivals in America and one of Savannah’s biggest events. In this most Southern of cities, fried chicken is temporarily overshadowed by brisket. Even Ms. Wilkes Kitchen, where every table is served the same 20 items and President Barack Obama clears his own plate, is outdone by the myriad of Jewish delicacies. Shalom Y’all turns the grandest of Savannah’s tree-lined squares into the South’s best delicatessen. “It’s my second favorite event in October after Alabama football,” says Savannah native Mollie Craven. “I come every year, can’t miss it even though I’m not Jewish.” Preparations for the one-day event start months ahead. On a hot August day, Sue Ruby and other exhausted volunteers Carol Antman is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Charleston Magazine, S.C. Wildlife Magazine, and on her blog peaks andpotholes.blogspot.com. The 25th annual “Shalom Y’all” will be held October 27, 2013. For more information: mickveisrael.org.

sat behind towering mountains of 200 freshly baked, braided loaves of challah in Temple Mickve Israel’s ample kitchen and wondered if they’d made enough. More than 10,000 people attend the festival, and challah is a crowd favorite. “Taste this!” Sue said, breaking off a still-warm hunk of a loaf they’d rejected because of sloppy braiding. It was, I assured them, an absolute taste of heaven. These dozen bakers are among the 200+ volunteers—about 85% of them Mickve Israel congregants—who do all the cooking and schlepping. The “mahjong mavens,” among others, oversee 12 sizzling frying pans that produce 1,700 blintzes, deftly slice 140 strudels and 80 noodle kugels, and heat up gargantuan vats of chicken matzo ball soup. They’re also the festival’s food mavens, explaining, for example, at the egg cream booth: “No, actually it has no egg and no cream.” The festival abounds in creatively reinvented Jewish food and drink, everything from Chicken Shalom’ein (a noodle and chicken stir-fry) to He’brew beer. Lines are long, especially for corned beef and potato latkes— which event chair Lori Taylor insists taste better when cooked outdoors. reform judaism

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Other festival favorites are Jewish jazz, cantorial music from all over the country and Israel, folk dancers, ensembles from the Savannah Philharmonic, and sales of Judaica: books, t-shirts, and a popular “Baubles Boutique.” There’s even face painting for the kids. Among the 30 booths is “Advice from Bubbe,” aka Melinda Stein, who entreats festival-goers with the hand-painted sign “She’ll make you smile, she’ll make you qvell, if you ask her advice and buy what we sell.” Shalom Y’all is Temple Mickve Israel’s biggest yearly fundraiser, earning 75% of the synagogue’s budget for social action programming. “Yes,” Taylor says, “We do it to make money, but our real goal is to create good will.” When President George Washington wrote to Mikve Israel leaders in 1788, he said, “May the same wonder-working Deity who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors…still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and make the inhabitants of every denomination partake in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people,” he probably wasn’t referring to partaking in the blessings of corned beef on rye, but nowadays that’s how they do it in Savannah.

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Barbara Goodman, Unheralded Hero By Jonathan D. Sarna


n the early 1900s, Barbara Solomon Goodman (1868–1948), the dynamo behind the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods’ (NFTS) Committee on Religion, helped pioneer many of the cultural, religious, and institutional practices taken for granted in Reform Judaism today. The daughter of a wealthy Germanborn merchant, Goodman saw how at her congregation, Temple Adath Israel in Louisville, Kentucky, women predominated among the attendees. She believed that women, far more than men, were “deeply interested in things religious.” And so she defined the work of her committee in a single goal: “Devising plans in which the sisterhoods can engage for the general purpose of deepening the Jewish religious consciousness.” Viewing the “religious consciousness” of the home as of particular importance, Goodman and her committee initiated a “Judaizing the home” campaign. As the first step, before Rosh Hashanah 5674 (1913), the committee issued the NFTS Art Calendar, an “artistic reminder of things Jewish” that illustrated the Jewish holidays. Goodman hoped “to place [it] in the home of every Sisterhood member.” The first three calendars won slow approval, but in the fourth year (1916), when the calendar was redesigned with higher quality art and greatly improved aesthetics, sales began to soar. To this day, the calendar serves as an NFTS (now WRJ) trademark. Next Goodman and her committee saw Hanukkah as an untapped opportunity “to introduce religious observances

Jonathan D. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Chief Historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History. This article has been adapted from a chapter in Sisterhood: A Centennial History of Women of Reform Judaism, published by WRJ in honor of its 100th anniversary.


in the home.” At a time when Christmas was becoming increasingly commercialized, Goodman explained to the NFTS Executive board, a properly instructed Jewish child “will delight in lighting the Hanukkah candles and will not need the Christmas tree to stimulate his understanding.” In 1921 she sent a letter to every temple sisterhood recalling the meaning of Hanukkah and urging members to distribute “a menorah and candles” to each child in the religious school. During this period, Hanukkah was not widely observed in Reform Jewish homes; some rabbis complained that “the Christmas tree [had] taken the place of the Hanukkah lights.” In response, Goodman called upon NFTS women “to kindle the Hanukkah candles in your home, to give presents to the children at that time, and to make them feel the significance of our own holiday.” Three years after that, her committee created “Hanukkah greeting cards,” as a fundraiser and Jewish alternative to Christmas cards. In a report to the National Executive in 1927, she boasted of success: Sisterhoods “responded splendidly” to the Hanukkah cards, selling 11,182 of them, and Hanukkah candles were being lit in more and more homes. reform judaism

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Indeed, according to a survey of Reform Judaism in large cities conducted in the late 1920s, “Hanukkah candles are lit regularly...in 40% of our homes,” and that number continued to grow. Goodman exclaimed: “It is with nothing short of delight that the chairman reports the lighting of Hanukkah lights in the homes of many members—women who never dreamed of kindling Hanukkah lights, until the Sisterhoods became active.” Recognizing the importance of women coming to temple to worship, Goodman also stressed attendance “at least once a week” and proposed that those sisterhoods who took attendance at services “telephone all absentees and urge upon them a more regular attendance.” She urged the “ladies of the Sisterhood” to create “a warm spirit of cordiality,” making their temples more inviting through “the exchange of ‘Gut Shabbes’ greetings and pleasant conversation.” She also promoted a “social hour after Friday evening services.” To her, the synagogue was not just a “house of prayer,” but also a place to meet friends and strengthen the bonds of community. Long before the oneg became a regular feature of synagogue life, she understood that the synagogue should encourage conviviality. Another bold initiative was Goodman’s urging, in 1916, that sisterhoods “co-operate with the rabbis in introducing congregational singing at the public services.” Decades earlier, many American synagogues had virtually abandoned communal singing, believing that enlightened Jews sought more solemn, decorous, and awe-inspiring services on the model of liberal Protestant worship. Favored traditional tunes had given way to choral music performed by a trained choir for congregants who listened in silence. Goodman believed that participatory worship and song would lure Jews back to the synagogue. By 1917, she reported happily that “many sister-

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hoods” were helping “to familiarize their members with Jewish hymns and traditional melodies.” This trend continued as the 20th century progressed. Over time, and especially under the influence of camp-trained song leaders, Reform Jewish music became more participatory and more Jewish. Goodman and her committee also worked to advance the role of women in temple governance. They advocated more representation of women on temple boards as “an innovation in women’s religious duties,” and cheered as their num-

bers increased year after year. In 1925, telling the story of how a woman board member was asked to take the place of a male trustee who had been honored with a seat on the pulpit for the reading of Torah but did not show up, Goodman observed: “Those who did not know the circumstances took the incident as a matter of course.” That same year, she disclosed the “radical” news that four women participated in the Torah service on Yom Kippur at Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati: “a most inspiring innovation on this most holy of days.”

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Her most daring effort to promote women’s involvement in synagogue worship—the Sisterhood Service— proved to have a far more radical impact than she could have foreseen. In 1916 Goodman reported that “one Sisterhood secured the consent of the rabbi and congregation to set aside one Sabbath in the year as ‘Sisterhood Sabbath,’ and requested a special sermon for that day.” In 1922 she announced that the NFTS Executive Board had passed a resolution recommending “to all congregations the advisability of establishing a national Sisterhood Sabbath.” A year later, she stated that “in some temples the women occupy the pulpit during part of [that] service,” and two years later she reported that “in many communities women conducted the entire service and delivered inspiring messages.” By 1926, in many of the 89 Reform congregations conducting Sisterhood Sabbaths, “the entire service [was] conducted by the Sisterhood members themselves, even to the giving of a sermon.” The appropriate role of women in Reform congregational life was then a contentious issue, playing out as women assumed new roles in the aftermath of winning the right to vote. This service took on heightened significance, testifying to women’s competence in conducting services and delivering sermons. Acknowledging its quietly subversive function, Goodman wrote: “The Sisterhood Service…is often a revelation of what the women may do if they ever enter the rabbinate.” (HUC-JIR ordained the first Reform woman rabbi, Rabbi Sally Priesand, 42 years later.) Goodman also sought to bring democracy into the synagogue and blunt the more conspicuous differences between rich and poor. Lashing out at ostentatious Confirmation parties that, in some circles, had come to resemble highsociety debutante balls, she declared: “Let us insist on simplicity in everything pertaining to the day.” Similarly she advocated free, unassigned pews. Until the 20th century, most American synagogues as well as churches had sold, rented, or assigned pews to members, the wealthiest members tending to secure the best seats. For “far too long,” she said, continued on page 18

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The Power of Faith by Gabe Snyder

Photo by Sam Waldman


he dusty heat of the the tree once more, many of us crybrown Auschwitz sun ing. Rabbi Kleinman, teary himwas pouring down on self, stood in front of us. us—45 NFTY teens “I want to tell you a true story,” about to engage with he said. A rabbi and his son had history on the URJ’s L’dor V’dor come through Auschwitz. As the program. winter of 1942 set in, the rabbi grew Our guide was Rabbi Elliot weaker and the boy started to worry Kleinman. I’d already met him—in that his father would not survive the a tiny hotel elevator in Prague. It had harsh months of Polish frost. When felt slightly awkward at first, being the boy voiced his concern, his alone with someone I hardly knew father took him into the barrack and in an elevator that could barely hold removed a floorboard. Hidden there one of us. He broke the silence: was a month’s worth of margarine “I spoke to your grandmother last rations, a substantial portion of what night. She said to give you a hug.” could have been the rabbi’s daily Looking down at the lack of space caloric intake. Instead, the rabbi had separating us, he joked, “I guess this saved it. Fearing for his father’s life, counts” and let out a hearty, jolly the son begged him to stop starving Walking on the tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau. laugh. Then we spoke about my himself. He had already lost his I’m in the middle wearing white sneakers. grandmother for a while, and he, in mother; he could not live without his typical Jewish tradition, told me that father. The rabbi calmly retrieved In the distance, birds chirped but dared the last time he had seen me, I was “this not enter the abyss. Two tan hares the margarine and separated it into nine big.” Though we had walked into the containers. Then he lit them, and, with skipped across the barren field as if to elevator avoiding eye contact, we came the other men of the barrack looking on, say, “Life is still moving. You have out remarkably close. to move.” At that moment we could not. recited the blessings over his makeshift At Birkenau, walking behind Rabbi menorah.“If we lose faith,” the rabbi said, It was as if we were bound by the same Kleinman, we were all looking down— “we lose hope and we die.” The rabbi chains that had imprisoned our people not at our feet, but past the train tracks survived that winter, not through physical here some 70 years ago. and the dry rocky soil, past the ashes sustenance, but by the power of his faith. We sat down in the partial shade of a and tears of those long gone, and into “We Jews do not give up,” explained bare oak tree. Rabbi Kleinman explained the Earth. How could the being who had to us that the Nazis had demolished the Rabbi Kleinman. “We reaffirm.” brought us out of Egypt and into the I thought about Passover—how each houses of Polish citizens to build BirkePromised Land have allowed this to spring we Jews celebrate freedom from nau. When the Poles entered the empty happen? Each of us seemed to be expecamp after the war, they used the barrack bondage in Egypt. The hagaddah riencing a loss of faith in this place instructs us to act “as if you yourself bricks to rebuild their communities. where so much hope had died. came out of Egypt”—not only to rememAs a result, many of the remaining Though it was July, the grass was buildings are barely standing, giving the ber the pain of slavery, but also specifibrown and the trees held no leaves. Percally to remember the joy of freedom. death camp an eerie, dissonant aura. haps the salt of tears had inhibited the In a similar sense, I thought: When In a way, it was comforting to see the foliage in this burnt, lonely landscape. studying about the Holocaust, I must remnants of so much misery in ruins. focus not only on the atrocities, but We saw the shelves where the on how we as a people persevered. I inmates had slept. We looked at the Gabe Snyder, 17, is a member of Temple Beth Elohim of Wellesley, MA; the Religious “reception center” where inmates selectmust teach others that survival was not and Cultural Vice President of his temple simply a matter of luck; those who ed for slave labor had been shaved, tatyouth group, BELY; and an active parsurvived the ghettos and concentration tooed, and issued a striped uniform. We ticipant in NFTY-Northeast. He attended camps made it through because they also visited a now-flattened gas chamber, NFTY in Israel’s L’dor V’dor program where thousands had been exterminated. had faith. When life gets hard for Jews, (nftyisrael.org) in the 2012/5772 summer. At the end of the tour, we sat under continued on page 18 reform judaism

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Jewish Antiques Appraisal Show Appraisals by Jonathan Greenstein

Dear Jonathan, In 1936 my father bought two ivory, hand-carved silver filigree pieces, one of Moses and one of Rebecca, made in the Bezalel Art School in Palestine. I would be interested in knowing their value. Norman Olshansky Sarasota, Florida

its ritual objects. Shatz’s vision was to develop a “Jewish” style of art in Palestine. Until that time, Jews creating Judaica would adopt the style of art prevailing in their area and era; for example, Jewish artists living in Germany in the 1890s would usually fashion objects in the Art Dear Norman, Noveau style. Under Schatz’s direction, the These are wonderful! Bezalel artists portrayed First, a word about the Bezalel Academy of Art and Ivory carving of Rebecca. biblical and often traditional Design in Jerusalem. Foundthemes in innovative ways. ed in 1906 by Professor Boris Schatz, a As a result, Bezalel is the only place you Lithuanian Jewish artist and sculptor, can find, for example, a brass wall lamp the school was named after the biblical hammered by a Yemenite Jewish immiartisan who designed the Tabernacle and grant influenced by Jugendstil (an Art

The Power of Faith

Barbara Goodman

continued from page 17

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we do not give up our hope; rather, we reaffirm our faith.

“we have encouraged the rich man’s front row and the poor man’s corner.” She urged sisterhoods to spread the message of synagogue democracy throughout the country “till the designation ‘Free Pew’ is taken for granted.” And, within a generation, thanks in part to these efforts, that battle was won. Free pews became normative in American synagogues, except on the High Holy Days. Goodman’s 20-year effort (1913– 1933) to transform Reform Judaism made a lasting impact upon Reform Jewish homes and synagogues, from Friday-night candle lighting to the revitalization of Hanukkah in the home, from congregational singing to the democratization of synagogue worship, and perhaps most significantly, to the promotion of women’s leadership in Reform congregations. In 2013, the 100th anniversary of Women of Reform Judaism/NFTS, this indomitable pioneer deserves to be heralded as a hero of the Reform Movement.

♦♦♦ Four weeks after our journey through Auschwitz-Birkenau, our group stood in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The room is, in essence, a three-story sphere. At the top of the orb are pictures of victims; below is a pool of water that reflects their faces; on the walls are binders of more than two million pages of Holocaust testimonies. We stood on the edge of a ring-shaped platform, tightly gripping the railing. As our eyes met those of the victims, our tears fell into the reflecting pool. With the victims’ faces above me, and my friends by my side, I looked around in awe: We had blended into one people. Through the telling of our suffering and our survival, we had come together. Through our collective experience and shared faith, our people live on.

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Nouveau-type artistic style with floral and later more abstract elements). Specialized departments worked in different media, from painting to silver to carpets. The work was displayed at exhibitions in Palestine and abroad, and its sale helped support the school. Your ivory pieces are rarities, as the Bezalel school produced few works in this medium. In addition, your possession of the original sales slips makes them even more valuable. I’ve often seen such ivory pieces achieve strong prices at auction. Value: $3,000 - $5,000. Jonathan Greenstein, J. Greenstein & Co. Inquiries: Jonathan@JGreenstein.com Dear Jonathan, Thank you. Now I’m even more pleased to have these family treasures. U.S. Postal Services Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation 1. Publication Title: Reform Judaism. 2. Publication No.: 0482-0819. 3. Date of Filing: September 10, 2013. 4. Issue Frequency: 4 times a year. 5. No. of Issues Published Annually: 4. 6. Annual Subscription Price: $12.00. 7. Complete Mailing Address of Known Office of Publication: 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6778. 8. Complete Mailing Address of Headquarters or General Business Office of Publisher: Union for Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6778. 9. Full Names and Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor: Publisher: Union for Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6778; Editor: Aron Hirt-Manheimer, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6778; Managing Editor: Joy Weinberg, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6778. 10. Owner: Union for Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 100176778, incorporated as a nonprofit organization. No stockholders. 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgages, and Other Security Holders Owning or Holding 1 Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds, Mortgages or Other Securities: None. 12. The purpose, function, and nonprofit status of this organization and the exempt status for Federal income tax purposes, a., have not changed during preceding 12 months. 13. Publication: Reform Judaism. 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: Fall 2013. 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation: Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months: A. Total No. Copies: 279,097. B. Paid Circulation (By Mail and Outside the Mail): (1) Mailed Outside County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 269,350. (2) Mailed In-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 0. (3) Paid Distribution Outside the Mails Including Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Paid Distribution Outside USPS: 8,721. (4) Paid Distribution by Other Classes of Mail Through the USPS: 79. C. Total Paid Distribution: 278,150. D. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail): (1) Free or Nominal Rate Outside County Copies Included on PS Form 3541: 0. (2) Free or Nominal Rate In-County Copies Included on PS Form 3541: 0. (3) Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes Through the USPS: 223. (4) Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail: 700. E. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 923. F. Total Distribution: 279,073. G. Copies Not Distributed: 24. H. Total: 279,097. I. Percent Paid: 99.67%. No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date. A. Total No. Copies: 277,747. B. Paid Circulation (By Mail and Outside the Mail): (1) Mailed Outside County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 267,825. (2) Mailed In-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 0. (3) Paid Distribution Outside the Mails Including Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Paid Distribution Outside USPS: 8,827. (4) Paid Distribution by Other Classes of Mail Through the USPS: 82. C. Total Paid Distribution: 276,734. D. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail): (1) Free or Nominal Rate Outside County Copies Included on PS Form 3541: 0. (2) Free or Nominal Rate In-County Copies Included on PS Form 3541: 0. (3) Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes Through the USPS: 306. (4) Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail: 647. E. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 953. F. Total Distribution: 277,687. G. Copies Not Distributed: 60. H. Total: 277,747. I. Percent Paid: 99.66%. 16. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete: Joy Weinberg, Managing Editor.

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Science + Reli



about the role of religion in society. “We have a…sin problem,” proclaimed former pastor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in response to the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. And since we’ve ordered God out of our schools and communities, the military and public conversations…we really shouldn’t act so surprised continues on page 22 when all hell breaks loose.”

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gion = Better World There is mounting evidence that “religion” and “science” are not adversaries but allies which, working together, can improves our lives and our world. by G e o f f rey M i te l m a n

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“Mock [religious people]. Ridicule them! In public!... With contempt!” exhorted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins at the 2012 “Reason Rally” in Washington, DC. If you’re like most Reform Jews, you don’t identify with either extreme. You might want to embrace both science and religion, but with an either/or scenario driving the public discussion, it becomes difficult to find a comfortable way that is both scientifically grounded and spiritually uplifting. Is there such a way? The answer is yes. And this path can lead us to improving ourselves, our relationships with others, and our ability to bring about tikkun olam. In essence, science and religion, when properly conceived, can work harmoniously in pursuit of a better world. ♦♦♦

Science +

The Conflict Model he conflict model claims that religion and science are inherently at odds—if you accept one, you must reject the other. Interestingly, while this outlook generates much passion from people on the extremes of America’s culture wars, a majority of learned citizens appear not to buy into it. A study of 275 tenured and tenure-track faculty members of 21 research universities in the United States found that 70% believe that religion and science are only sometimes in conflict. Only 15% of respondents said This survival strategy religion and science were always in conflict, and 15% said the two were never in conflict (Rice University explains why Religion and Public Life Program study, 2005–2009). the Golden Moreover, the majority of Americans, 61%, say Rule underlies that science does not conflict with their own religious almost every religion.” beliefs (Pew Research Forum study, 2009). Even 52% of those who attend worship services at least once a week see no conflict between science and their faith.


The Contrast Model he contrast model posits that science and religion address different realms that do not intersect. Evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould termed this idea “Non-Overlapping Mages-


Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman is founding director of Sinai and Synapses (sinaiandsynapses.org), a project bridging the scientific and religious worlds which is being incubated at Clal— The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; and associate rabbi at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester. reform judaism

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We paired up participants in teams: one real participant and one confederate. First, they had to tap their hands on sensors to tones played over earphones. In some cases the tones led them to tap their hands in synchrony; in other cases…to tap in a random mismatching manner. We next had the participants watch their tapping partner get cheated by another confederate, which resulted in the partner’s being assigned to complete a stack of onerous word problems. As participants were leaving, they were informed by an automated message that if they desired, they could help complete some of the work assigned to their partners. If they did so, we timed how long they spent working on the task. The results were striking: The simple act of tapping one’s hands in synchrony with another caused participants to report feeling more similar to their partners and to have greater compassion for their plight: it increased the number of people who helped their partner by 31 percent and increased the average time

Torah photograph by A lison Kahler; world photograph © Olga A lt unina / Veer

Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, explains that we can use four main models to understand the relationship between religion and science: the conflict model, the contrast model, the concert model, and the contact model.

teria,” asserting that science covers the empirical realm—meaning what the universe is made of and why it works the way it does—while religion deals with questions of ultimate meaning and moral values. Actually, the realms of religion and science are not mutually exclusive. For example, morality, which traditionally was categorized as a subject of religious exploration, is now also a subject of scientific inquiry. Books such as Moral Origins by biological anthropologist Christopher Boehm and The Blank Slate by evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker show scientifically how our deepest moral convictions, such as altruism, empathy, and justice, are all products of human evolution. Pinker explains, for instance, that as humans evolved on the African savanna, they had to continually balance two competing needs to survive: taking care of themselves and aiding others. Tens of thousands of years later, the emotions associated with those two needs continue to drive our social mores. “Contempt, anger and disgust prompt [us] to punish cheaters. Gratitude…prompts [us] to reward altruists….Sympathy, compassion and empathy prompt [us] to help a needy beneficiary….And guilt, shame and embarrassment prompt [us] to avoid cheating or to repair its effects.” This survival strategy explains why some version “As humans of the Golden Rule has appeared in almost every culevolved on ture and underlies almost every religion. the African Or consider the virtue of compassion. Explorsavanna, they had to balance ing what he calls the “science of compassion,” Professor David DeSteno, who directs the Social Emocaring for tion Group at Northeastern University, conducted an themselves experiment on the human motivation for kindness and aiding which he described in a 2012 New York Times article: others.

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spent helping from one minute to more than seven. These results suggest that if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves—even a relatively trivial one—the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly.

for today’s “Multiverse Theory,” in which “inflation” may have spawned an infinite number of universes simultaneously, among them our own. Therefore, if we tie our religious outlook to scientific findings, as the concert model suggests, whenever the science changes, the corresponding religious beliefs are called into question as well. This approach is not sensible or helpful. Ultimately, the biggest problem with the concert model is that religion is not science.

DeSteno notes that there is often tension between our religious beliefs and our religious identities— between our religious teachings that tell us to be compassionate to all people, and the way religious groups can create an “us” and “them” mentality. And he shows that, if we are looking to engender more compassion towards others, we don’t always need religious teachings to get us there—a sense of commonality can also pave the way. There is nothing special about tapping in synchrony; any such commonality will do. Increased compassion for one’s neighbor, for instance, can come from something as easy as encouraging yourself to think of him as, say, a fan of the same local restaurant. In short, religion and science are not opposing realms. A realm such as compassion, which was traditionally viewed as the sole purview of religion, has a scientific basis, can be studied empirically, and can be applied toward the benefit of society.

The Contact Model


he most useful and workable model, as I see it, is the contact model, which allows science and religion to remain in their own spheres, while also placing them in conversation, predicated on the understanding that both are intended to help humans solve the mysteries of nature and give our lives meaning. The contact model asks us to consider how religion and science can be integrated in the service of self-understanding as well as bettering our society and our world. Consider the field of memory. Most of us wish we had a greater capacity for memory. Why can we remember some things well and other things poorly? Joshua Foer was inspired to train for the 2006 USA Memory Championship because, he writes, “Among “Neuroscience The Concert Model the things I regularly forgot [were] where I put my car shows that keys (where I put my car, for that matter); my girlhe concert model reconciles science and relimemory is gion by explaining away incongruities between not a product friend’s birthday, our anniversary, and Valentine’s the two. For example, because it seems unlike- of what you Day; why I just opened the fridge; the year the Redly from a scientific perspective that the world could want to or try skins last won the Superbowl; and to plug in my cell have been created in seven days, a “day” in Gene- to remember phone” (Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and sis has been redefined as eons lasting up to a billion but a product Science of Remembering Everything). Recent scientific discoveries show that the most years. As for the “miraculous” parting of the Red Sea of what you during the Exodus, it has been explained as the likely think about. crucial reason we remember some things and not othcrossing of a waterway at low tide. This message ers is because we tend to remember the things we think about most frequently. When we learn something new, This model is very fragile, however, because scienis also in the Torah: tific knowledge is always changing with new discovit takes a while for the synaptic connections to strengtheries and revised theories. For example, the Genesis ‘Remember en in our brains. The operative phrase in neuroscience Shabbat text describing how God created the universe served is, “Cells that wire together fire together.” Cognitive and keep as the basis for cosmology (study of the origins and fate scientist Daniel Willingham explains it this way: “Your it holy.’” of the universe) for millennia until the early 20th centumemory lays its bets this way: if you think about somery, when most astronomers adopted the “Steady State thing carefully, you’ll probably have to think about it Theory” of no beginning and no end to the universe. again, so it should be stored. Thus your memory is not a This theory appeared to contradict Genesis and creatproduct of what you want to remember or what you try ed theological problems—so many religious leaders to remember—it’s a product of what you think about.” were heartened in the 1960s when new evidence supNotably, this is essentially the same message found ported the “Big Bang Theory,” which allowed science in the Torah. We Jews are commanded to remember to explore what happened after the first few moments through acts of repetition. We are instructed to parof creation, and religion to maintain that God started ticipate in the Passover ritual (“Remember that you the creation process. were slaves in Egypt,” Deuteronomy 5:15 et al.). We Then in the 1980s scientists introduced the “Inflaare reminded to observe Shabbat each week (“Rememtion Theory,” hypothesizing that the universe balber Shabbat and keep it holy,” Exodus 20:8). We are looned in a rapid burst soon after the big bang, expoobliged to remember our loved ones by observing nentially increasing its size. This theory set the stage their yahrzeits (Shulchan Aruch).

Religion =


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Thus, Jews are enjoined to take action in ways that become constant reminders of what is most important. Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf points out that “the idea of memory as will is uniquely Jewish. Memory is not seen as something that befalls a passive consciousness. It is something purposefully appropriated in awe and love.” The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, taught that “Redemption lies in remembering.” We remember the good and the bad so that we can make tomorrow better than today and yesterday. We honor Jewish tradition, our past, not for its own sake, but for the future. Embodied in Judaism is the hope that, despite inevitable setbacks and missteps, we can become the people we want to be and help create the world we wish to see. From both the Jewish and scientific perspectives, the more frequently we think about our heritage, the more likely it is to become a permanent fixture of our memory and to influence our thoughts and actions. As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio explains, “Memory is responsible for ceaselessly placing the self…between a thoroughly-lived past and an anticipated future.” ♦♦♦ Another area where science and religion both provide insights is in controlling impulses and delaying gratification. Scientists have examined why we often ignore our better judgment to pursue immediate pleasure. Evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban explains that different parts of the brain, which he terms “modules,” have evolved for different functions. Sometimes more or less independent modules have evolved to work in tandem, such as our visual and auditory systems, which have come to associate sights with sounds, because most of the objects we see occur with sounds. Other modules have evolved to work in conflict: Some modules are designed to get you to satisfy immediate needs. These are important modules…associated with the basic necessities of survival and reproduction….These [impatient] modules cause you to do things that often get put under the heading of “instantaneous gratification”….Humans have other modules that are more farsighted. These are the modules that cause you to forgo the regular Coke because the sweet taste now is not worth the extra calories you’ll have to contend with later. They cause you to get out of the bed in the morning to get your run in, sacrificing snoozing now for feeling better and healthier later….So, the brain, with all its patient and impatient modules, somehow has to make many trade-offs. —Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite— The Evolution of the Modular Mind The effort to exert self-control, then, triggers a battle between two different brain modules—one of

which seeks immediate pleasure because you never know if today’s opportunities will recur tomorrow, and the other which looks for long-term gains because tomorrow’s opportunities might actually be much better than today’s—both good evolutionary strategies. Our rabbinic sages explored this tension some 1,500 years ago through what they called the “yetzer hara”— the impulse to evil, or, alternatively, the part of ourselves that seeks immediate pleasurable gratification. Without this impulse, we are taught, “no man would engage in business, build homes, marry, or have children” (Genesis Rabbah 9:7). At the same time, however, the yetzer hara is dangerous. Not only does it yearn for what is forbidden (Yerushalmi Yoma 6:4), it is a powerful force that can quickly grow if left unchecked. We are told: “Who is mighty? The one who subdues his yetzer [hara]” (Pirkei Avot - The Chapters of Our Sages). Both science and religion can help us in gaining mastery over our impulses. We can learn, for example, from the strategies children employed in the classic scientific “Marshmallow Experiment” conducted by by Walter Mischel at Stanford University in the late 1960s. A group of four-year-olds were told that if they waited while the experimenter ran a 15-minute errand, they would receive two marshmallows when he returned. If they ate the one marshmallow in front of them, they wouldn’t receive a second one. The children who controlled their desire for immediate gratifica“When we tion employed various strategies—covering their eyes, live by the talking to themselves, singing, playing games, trying wisdom of both science to sleep—to block out the temptation. A dozen or so and religion, years later, researchers tracked down these children, we can now teenagers. “The emotional and social difference become between the grab-the-marshmallow preschoolers and more comtheir gratification-delaying peers was dramatic,” Danpassionate, iel Goleman writes in Emotional Intelligence. “Those patient, and who had resisted temptation…were now more socially mindful— competent… unlikely to go to pieces, freeze, or regress and better under stress…self-reliant and confident… [and] still able to repair able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals.” ourselves and A religiously-based approach to impulse conour world.” trol can be found in the Jewish tradition of Mussar, which provides tools for personal spiritual growth that include developing inner traits such as patience, strength, contentment, and equanimity, all of which can play a role in fostering self-restraint. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, who founded and led the Mussar Movement in the 19th century, recognized that we don’t all tend to be susceptible to the same impulses, and so he developed a three-stage approach to personal change: 1. hergesh, meaning “sensitivity,” in which we pay attention to traits in our inner world where we have a pattern of strength or weakness; 2. kibbush, literally “conquer,” in which we use our intelligence and will to stretch ourselves toward the ideal expression of the

Better World

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traits in which we’re challenged; and 3. tikkun, usually translated as “repair” but better understood as “transformation,” in which we take on practices that will transform the impulse itself and thereby change the pattern of our behavior so that we can reach our highest spiritual potential. (To learn more: reformjudaismmag. org/fall_2008 and mussarinstitute.org.) ♦♦♦ While the contact model shows us how we might integrate science and religion to improve our lives and our world, it does not address a fundamental religious question: the existence of God. If we cannot “prove” the existence of God, how can science be part of the conversation? Reframing our understanding of what constitutes “science” can help. What we believe to be true can change at any given time as a result of new data, instruments, analysis, and/or interpretations. In this sense, a scientific discovery may be better seen as temporal and historical than as an eternal, unchanging truth. In fact, Professor Steven Goldman of Lehigh University, co-founder of the National Association of Science, Technology, and Society Studies, suggests that viewing everything around us as “scientific objects…is a useful way of eliminating much of the controversy [surrounding] the [imperfect and temporal] status of scientific knowledge and truth claims.” We can apply the same metaphor to God—yes, even conceiving of God as a “scientific object.” This does not mean that God can be studied scientifically or that if we find enough evidence we can prove or disprove God’s existence. It simply means that our understanding of God can change with new knowledge and insights. It means that we are willing to rethink or reexamine what we believe about the Divine. I have regular discussions about science and religion with a friend who is a self-described atheist. “We need to have a clear definition of ‘God,’” he tells me. “Otherwise, we don’t know what we’re talking about.” I reply that what we really need is a “working definition of ‘God,’” a theology that can adapt when new knowledge or experiences arise. Rather than saying either, “This is what God is, and I know that I am right,” or, “There is no omnipotent, omnicontinued on page 42

Take my hand and let us search for the way together… a Hasidic tale

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This is an exciting time for our Movement.


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DIET TRAP I believed that eating less and less would help repair the world. Instead, it almost cost me my life. Depriving ourselves of foodâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; whether to conform to a social norm, to a body image ideal, or to a political ideologyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;keeps us from realizing our full potential. by P e n i n a E i l b e rg - S c hwa r t z

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reform refo re form m judaism ju ud da aii sm

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ark-haired, darkeyed Leila* was already at Oberlin when I stumbled into our freshman room for the first time carrying my things. She was mysterious at first. She hinted at some great love, some heartbreak, a boy she dreamt about but didn’t talk to anymore. Before long I would learn more about Ben—how she had fallen in love with him in Peru when she attended a program he was leading, how she tripped through a doorway in front of him, howhe tore joyfully at guinea pig meat with his teeth while she looked on, horrified. On campus, boys looked at Leila often. She looked at them, too, with her big, sad eyes. Something about her quietness drew them in. Other girls were jealous, which stung her. I would touch her shoulder, try to make her feel my support. But really I was sad that I wasn’t looked at in the same way.


are similar atrocities happening now. Why don’t I do anything? I was raised by two Jewish parents. My mother is a rabbi. Both my mother and father had taught me the importance of philanthropy. They had encouraged me to volunteer at soup kitchens. They impressed upon me that repairing the world was an integral part of being Jewish. We were people with a great deal of privilege, something I should not take for granted. The education I was receiving at Oberlin—and not just inside the classroom—was pushing these beliefs to another level. A prevalent idea on campus was that people of advantage, myself included, were obligated not only to use their financial means and power, but to give them up in order to overturn systems of oppression. As I absorbed all this, my parents were paying my college tuition and offering me extra money so I could focus on my studies. Leila, in contrast, worked two jobs to support herself. Watching her, I felt sick with guilt. A small thought came up again and again: I do not deserve this. If I cannot bring positive change, I should at least do less harm.

n the early days Leila and I talked about activism, though she mostly talked and I mostly listened. Both of us had come from liberal, socially progressive, staunchly Democratic families, but she had taken the commitment to social justice further than her parents. She spoke of fighting the world’s gross inequalities—getting petitions signed, raising money for medicine to heal sick “My life children, helping to build had already schools far away. taken up “You know about the genocide in Rwanda?” too much space, she asked me once, her too much money, small, high voice roughtoo much privilege. er than usual. “Just a very little bit,” I didn’t see I said. how I could “I don’t understand.” counteract the “What do you mean?” “I don’t understand harm I’d created how people could know in the world.” and do nothing. I don’t understand how they just sat there while people died in the streets.” I l i st e n e d , t h i n king, That’s me. There

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ne day in Octob er, I wa s on my bed reading when I heard a choking sound. Leila was in front of the computer, all bent over, hair covering her face, sobbing. “What is it, Leila?” “No no no no no.” I put my hand on her back and looked up. On the screen I read that Ben had died in a car accident.



n the months that followed, Leila sometimes cried uncontrollably. She dedicated herself to raising money to build a school in Nigeria in Ben’s memory. He had represented perfect

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goodness to her. He had handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to homeless people on New York City streets. He had said: You do not need so much. He could go days without eating. He was that good. I began spending time sitting in our tiny, dark closet. Leila thought my behavior was strange and we would laugh about it. I knew it was part of my new obsession to take up the least possible amount of space. My life, I believed, had already taken up too much space—too much money, too much privilege—and I didn’t see how I could counteract the harm I’d created in the world. Students at my school had taught me that food was inextricably linked to issues of justice. Factory farming in America was destroying land, abusing animals, overusing resources, producing harmful carbon emissions, and poisoning our bodies. The food I consumed and the clothes I bought were supporting unjust wages and cruel treatment of migrant workers in the U.S. and factory workers in Africa and Asia. If I was not going to be a Ben or a Leila and create significant good in the world, I could at least make myself small. Small was comforting. ometimes Leila and I talked in the dark before sleep. “What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?” I asked her. “Antone told me I am beautiful, but something else, something he can’t put his finger on. I’m magnetic, he said.” I couldn’t think of anyone ever saying anything like that about me.


uring January break I stayed on campus while Leila went back home to involve high school students in a series of fundraisers to build the school in Nigeria. “This is the only thing that feels good now,” she said. That was when I decided to eat tiny meals and keep track of what I consumed in a notebook. Eating hyper-consciously, I told myself, was a political act of resistance against the unjust system that left millions of people hungry and undernourished. I would not be wasteful; I would eat only what I needed to live. I stopped eating meat and most dairy. My meals shrank drastically in size. As my body began to diminish, I somehow felt redeemed, as if my responsibility for world hunger, and other injustices, was shrinking too. And, although I refused to admit this to myself, I also


Penina Eilberg-Schwartz is a writer and musician living in San Francisco who has worked on justice issues ranging from immigration rights in the U.S. to civil rights in Israel and Palestine. A shorter version of this piece, co-written with her mother Rabbi Amy Eilberg, appears in the book Chapters of the Heart: Jewish Women Sharing the Torah of our Lives, edited by Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell and Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013). * Name and other details about Leila have been changed to preserve anonymity.

wanted to look thinner and more delicate. Waifish girls and boys were highly valued on campus, and I wanted boys to find me attractive. Still, as a radical feminist, I thought I was above things like that. eople sta r ted to comment on my eating habits. I ignored them. A resident advisor asked Leila if I was okay, and she innocently assured him that I was. I felt an anger rise. I wanted to say, No, no, I am not okay. But I said nothing. I didn’t deserve to feel bad in the face of Leila’s loss and all the suffering in the world.



went home to Palo Alto for spring break. My father looked at me with worried eyes. He could see the clear outlines of bones under my skin. He bought me ice cream cones twice a day. I ate them, to convince us both that nothing was wrong. We walked by the water in Half Moon Bay, climbed the hill to his favorite bench. I began to cry, and could not stop. “Penina, what’s wrong?” “I don’t know.” And I didn’t. He made me promise to see a doctor when I got back to school.


he school’s physician sent me to a therapist and told me to come back a week later to be reweighed, to make sure I stayed stable. But I lost a lot of weight that next week and when I returned to the doctor she told me I had to leave school. I stared at her. “I am fine; really, nothing is wrong.” “Either,” she sighed, “you can choose to leave or we will choose for you.”


he next day my mother arrived to help me pack my things. We would spend Passover in Minnesota, where my mom lived with my stepfather. There I went to see a doctor who specialized in eating disorders. “You have anorexia nervosa,” she said. “Are you sure?” I said. “Maybe there’s a mistake?” “No,” she said. “You have hair growing on your stomach, the equivalent of an extra layer to keep you warm. Do you know what’s happening inside of you? Your organs are eating themselves to stay alive.” She referred me to an in-patient eating disorder clin-

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At Half Moon Bay in Palo Alto. I promised my father then that I would see a doctor.


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ic. The clinic had a waiting list, but because I was so sick, they would notify me as soon as a bed became available.


Me today— no longer depriving myself to look a certain way to be valued.

t the seder, like every year before, we sang Min Hametzar: Min hametzar karati Yah Anani va’merchav Yah Out of a narrow place, I called out to God. God answered me with great, open space. It was the first Passover—and not the last—that I felt outrage. As my family and friends spoke about modern day slavery and the obligation that comes with being free, I thought: We said the same thing last year, and the year before that, and nothing has changed. As Jews oppressed for so long, we’re not doing nearly enough for others, now that we are free. My Jewish community was now occupying a wide open space, and I thought, Maybe a narrow place is better. Maybe enslaved is better than free and guilty.


inside of me. He stripped the eating disorder of its mystery and elusiveness and called it what it was: a disease I needed to fight. He also taught me to laugh at unhealthy thoughts about food, one of my best tools in recovery. As I recognized and laughed at the illogical and deceptive nature of the voices which were telling me that I would somehow be better if I ate less, I became strong enough to fight them. I began to eat full meals again, under peer pressure from the other patients and knowing that if I didn’t, I’d have to swallow that foul-tasting dietary supplement. After two weeks, my blood pressure started to normalize and I gained some weight. The hospital released me, and I “graduated” to the eating disorder unit’s intensive, five-week, all-day outpatient program. At lunch with my dietician and other patients, I practiced eating normally, redefining what constitutes a reasonable portion. He encouraged us to have a little extra food. “Every time you do,” he said, “you make yourself better. You get stronger than that foreign thing in you.” I saw, now, how misguided I had been. Without noticing, I had turned into someone unrecognizable. Had I continued on that path, my life would have been over. If I didn’t die, I’d just be wasting away, not making any good change in the world, and hurting the people I loved most. On my last day, the dietician told me in a group meeting, “Penina, you are glowing.” And I felt it, too.

he hospital called. A bed was ready for me. A nurse escorted me into a room and handed o get out of the hospital, to change myself, to write me some animal crackers. She told me I had 15 this, I had to reject the notion that starving myself minutes and stepped out. I nibbled on a lion cracker that I was somehow an act of tikkun olam. Instead, it had didn’t plan to finish eating. When she came back, part of become a way of escaping my responsibility to repair the the lion was still in my hand. Shaking her head, she gave world. If I had power and privilege, the only respectable me a shot of a sickeningthing to do was to use it. ly sweet, viscous dietary supplement, the one that hese days I live all patients on the unit in a young, alterhad to down at the end of native communiany meal they stubbornly ty where, like at school, “Every time refused to complete. people tend to think about I hear friends say food in political terms. they’re eliminating lowly, I began to It’s true, there’s a great heal. My hospital deal of value in thinking gluten, or sugar, therapist challenged about food this way. But or going on a juice me whenever I offered every time I hear friends fast to flush out some less-than-truthful say they’re eliminating explanation of why I had gluten, or sugar, or going toxins, I feel as if gotten myself into this on a juice fast to flush out I’m seeing in them situation. My dietician— toxins, I feel as if I’m seeaspects of my who wore a button on his ing in them aspects of bag with the word “diet” my own eating disorder. own eating and a big X through it— My friends say they’re disorder.” got me to see that equatoperating purely out of a ing virtue with eating less desire to eat healthfully came from a sick, disor to protect the environtorted, foreign “thing” ment, as I once did. But




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A Jewish Response to “The Diet Trap” by Ed y th e H e l d M e n ch e r


enina EilbergSchwartz’s article is a cautionary tale on the dangers of extremism. Today, even individuals who do not have eating disorders may nonetheless be overly preoccupied with the foods they consume and/or the extra pounds they carry. Women in particular may feel guilty when eating. Both men and women may harbor feelings of guilt for not doing enough good in the world. Jewish tradition teaches us to find a middle path that allows us to savor life fully while also cultivating spiritual, emotional, and physical health. To loosen the hold on habitually unbalanced patterns, the great Jewish thinker and physi-

Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher is a clinical social work psychotherapist, author, and member of the URJ Faculty of expert practitioners.

cian Moses Maimonides (1135– 1204) encouraged individuals to behave in the opposite way of their own inclinations; if a person tends to be stingy, for example, s/he should attempt to give generously. In matters of health, Maimonides advised personally struggling against the human tendency to engage in unhealthy practices, while also occasionally indulging in enjoyable things, as deprivation might lead to bitterness and a sense of failure. Commenting on a verse in Ecclesiastes, “Be not over-righteous” (7:16), he wrote: “To avoid lust or envy, do not say I won’t eat good food, or marry. This is an evil way….One who follows that path is a sinner” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Character Development and Ethical Ideas 3:1). Utilizing Maimonides’ approach, if we wish to make dietary changes, we might recognize that extreme, total change is unlikely and aim

any solution involving food, when taken to extremes, can lead to unanticipated pathologies. I see the political issue differently than many others. To eat something we love, even if it’s not “healthy” for us, is a political act, challenging the belief that we have to deprive ourselves to look a certain way to be valued. Some of us need to take up more space, not less. Disordered eating—not just the kind that landed me in the hospital, but the kind that is encouraged in the name of some accepted diet or eating practice for reasons of health, beauty, social acceptance, or political ideology—keeps women from realizing their full potential. Focusing on what we eat, punishing ourselves or feeling guilty for not eating the “right” things, takes our attention away from the most important things: doing good work, making art, falling in love.

arising in the midst of longing for social acceptance and admiration. Lack of control in emotional and social areas of life can lead to an assertion of extreme control over other areas, such as eating and exercise. Over time, this slips into real physical illness, with biological changes and symptoms that necessitate medical help.  The URJ offers resources to begin the process of healing. On the URJ’s Eating Disorders page urj.org/life/community/ health/eatingdisorders you’ll find important information: eating disorder warning signs, helping do’s and don’ts, meditations and prayers, guidelines for congregational workshops, and other stories of the toll this illness can take on individuals, families, and communities. And it is imperative to reach out to an eating disorders specialist in your area. Penina recovered; your loved one can, too.

Sometimes I try to add up the number of minutes I’ve spent in my life thinking about food, as if it made me who I am. Then I add those to the minutes so many other women and other people, those with diagnosed eating disorders and those without, have spent agonizing about food. And I think, This is what waste looks like, the loss of that time, of everything that could have been done with it. It has been seven years since my release from the hospital. I still feel angry on Passover, because we continue to squander our freedom. But I do feel differently when we sing Min Hametzar. Freedom comes with enormous responsibility, but it is also a gift. We can’t do any meaningful work while closeting ourselves in small and narrow places. We can only do it out of a wide, open space.

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instead toward achievable, incremental adjustments, taking pride in each advance as we slowly work toward a greater goal. For example, we might seek a healthier diet by beginning with foods we enjoy. Jewish tradition also teaches us about finding balance in social activism. The great Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, then who am I? If not now, when?” Embodied in this statement is a call to action—to go from where we are now to where we need to go—and the need to preserve our own wellbeing too. “The Diet Trap” is also a wake-up call to recognize and get help for those in our communities who are suffering from anorexia or other extreme eating disorders. Often these disorders start out as a personal choice that appears to help in coping with painful and confusing feelings


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Barbara Streisand, the â&#x20AC;&#x153;ugly ducklingâ&#x20AC;? who became the glamorously chic Barbra, defied all who doubted her determination as she climbed to superstardom without ever compromising her Jewishness. BY DAVID E . K AUFMAN

Streisand playing Jewish comedian Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1968).

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The Barbie (Pink Label Collection) Barbra Streisand Doll, 2010. Streisand sits with Israeli President Shimon Peres, former US President Bill Clinton, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Peres’ 90th birthday gala in Jerusalem, 2013.


o pursue her dream of becoming an actress, Barbara Streisand moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan in January 1959 after graduating from high school. She took acting lessons and auditioned for theatrical parts. But, “with her strange looks, personality, and clothes,” says biographer James Spada, “few people would give her a hearing….Most of the people she went to told her to change herself— fix her nose, discard the outlandish outfits, subdue her Brooklyn accent.” She met with rejection after rejection. Even her mother thought she wasn’t beautiful enough to make it in show business. But that only made her more resolute. Then, in the summer of 1960, friends convinced her to enter a singing competition at the Lion, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. She won handily and was soon performing at the more upscale Blue Angel. There she was discovered by Arthur Laurents, who was about to direct a musical version of Jerome Weidman’s I Can Get It for You Wholesale. He arranged her audition for a small part, and she made her Broadway debut in 1962.

become Barb ra

? What was her secret?

A yea r later she released two records, The Barbra Streisand Album and The Second Barbra Streisand Album; both went gold. At age 21 she A landed a starring role in a Broadway show, playing Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. From 1964 to 1967 she recorded and released nine more albums, of which seven went gold. She won Grammys three years in a row (1963–1965). Her television special, My Name Is Barbra (1965), won five Emmys. And then in 1968 she won an Oscar for best actress (in a tie with Katherine Hepburn) for her performance in the screen version of Funny Girl—thus completing the grand slam of entertainment awards at the remarkably young age of 26.


efying the odds, streisand achieved all this success, and more to follow, explicitly and unapologetically, as a Jew. In her roles she embodied Jewish characters. Film historian Lester Friedman suggests that “Streisand’s name and nose in their unaltered state represents a turning point in the cinematic portrayal of Jews, one that shows Jewishness as something to be proud of, to exploit, and to celebrate.” For Streisand, it is the equivalent of Sandy Koufax’s decision not to pitch on Yom Kippur, the touchstone of her reputation for ethnic loyalty and enduring Jewish identity. Streisand not only became a star despite her lack of conventional female beauty, and despite “looking Jewish”; she ultimately turned her looks

David E. Kaufman is Associate Professor in Religion and holder of the Florence and Robert Kaufman Chair in Jewish Studies at Hofstra University. This article was adapted from Jewhooing the Sixties: American Celebrity and Jewish Identity—Sandy Koufax, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand (Brandeis, 2012).

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Previous spread: Funny Girl photo © Moviestore collection Ltd / A lamy ; Streisand portrait photo © Steve Schapiro/Corbis; This page: BAR BIE and associated trademarks and trade dress are owned by, and used under permission from, Mattel, Inc. © 2013 Mattel, Inc. A ll R ights Reser ved.; Group photo © epa european pressphoto agency b.v./A lamy


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to her advantage. As essayist Pete Hamill writes, “Instead of hurting her, Barbra Streisand’s nose was now part of her beauty, turning her into an exotic. The looks and the voice made her an original.” In just a few years and through sheer force of will—aided by makeup, hairstyling, and high fashion— Streisand transformed herself, in her words, from “Brooklyn’s ugly duckling” to “Broadway’s beautiful swan.” And in the process of making ugly beautiful, Barbra Streisand made Jewish beauty more culturally acceptable. In the 1960s and 70s, ethnic-looking film stars became far more common, including these Jewish actors and actresses: Richard Benjamin, Richard Dreyfuss, Tovah Feldshuh, Elliott Gould (who was married to Streisand), Dustin Hoffman, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Lainie Kazan, Bette Midler, and Gene Wilder. Collectively, these and other stars represented the arrival of recognizable Jews in Hollywood, and hence heralded a greater acceptability of Jewishness in American culture. In October 1977 Streisand made it onto the cover of Playboy, accompanied by the text: “What’s a nice Jewish girl like me doing on the cover of Playboy?” The presence of the label “Jewish” on the cover, writes theater historian Henry Bial, “suggests, on the one hand, that Streisand [had] become a sex symbol in spite of her Jewishness; on the other hand…that Streisand’s Jewishness somehow [was] contribut[ing] to her sex appeal.”


ut how did barbra streisand convince us that she was beautiful after all? In a provocative study of Jewish ethnicity and American show business, Henry Bial surmises that “Funny Girl demonstrates that the woman who looks Jewish can gain acceptance not by erasing, hiding, or avoiding her Jewish looks but by acting Jewish.” She did so at the start of her career by establishing a reputation as the “ kookie kid from Brooklyn.” In her television appearances in 1961 on Mike Wallace’s PM East and the David Susskind Show, she cultivated an image as a colorful and controversial character. Once she said to David Susskind, who had previously rejected her for a job, “I scare you, don’t I? I’m so far out I’m in.” She may have threatened Susskind because he, like Mike Wallace, was an assimilated Jew. Strei-

sand’s ethnically identifiable looks, accent, and attitude announced: Here is a new kind of Jewish celebrity. But while her blatant ethnicity unsettled Susskind and Wallace, she was good for ratings, so they kept inviting her back. Also emblematic of the “Jewish Big Mouth” was Streisand’s character in Funny Girl. Feminist writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin notes: “While the Princess demands her privileges, the Big Mouth demands her rights….She lets everyone, especially the men in her life, know who she is and what she thinks. If

“Even her mother thought she wasn’t beautiful enough to make it in show business.” she wants something, she goes for it. A nonconformist, she won’t play her assigned role—either as a Jew or as a woman.” Pogrebin adds that “The progenitor of the Jewish Big Mouth character was none other than 13-year-old Anne Frank.” Notably, Streisand announced that she would become a stage actress at age 14 on the night she saw her first Broadway play—The Diary of Anne Frank. In Yentl (1983), her most explicitly Jewish film (and her first as producer, director, and star), Streisand explored the links, overlaps, and echoes between her own life and a fictional character; between “authentic” Judaism and play-acted Jewishness; and between the ambiguities of ethnicity and the ambiguities of gender. Adapted from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy,” Yentl proved that Streisand’s Jewishness was both a role and the reality beneath the mask. ➢

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Two magazine cover interpretations of Streisand: Playboy (1977) and Mad (1971).


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arbra Streisand not only became a symbolic figure for many American Jews, but also for many gay men, women (though not necessarily feminists), and liberals. “The underground [read: gay] bar scene fostered a sense of self and a sense of humor that readily warmed to Streisand: The kooky outsider finally found a place where her persona was appreciated and applauded…” (The Encyclopedia of Jewish Women in America). Although gay men had idolized female performers before, most notably Judy Garland, their worship of Streisand reached a new height with the 1996 opening of a museum/store devoted to all things Barbra. Located in the predominantly gay Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, its creator, Ken Joachim, claimed that he “felt inspired by the notion that his life, especially his oppression as a gay man, was ‘very parallel’ to Streisand’s.” Streisand’s liberal political philosophy also attracted a loyal following: “She champions environmental projects and is a dedicated Democratic fundraiser; she raised so much money for Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign that she was invited to attend the inauguration. She later spearheaded a boycott of Colorado ski resorts when that state passed Proposition 2 to deny gay men and lesbians any legal recourse against even the most blatant homophobia….Speaking at Harvard University’s J.F.K. School of Government in 1995, she explained her philosophy: ‘I know that I can speak more eloquently through my work than through any speech I might give. So, as an artist, I’ve chosen to make films about subjects and social issues I care about, whether it’s dealing with the inequality of women in Yentl, or producing a film about Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, who was discharged from the army for telling the truth about her sexuality’” (The Encyclopedia of Jewish Women in America).

“After Streisand, Jewish ethnic-looking film stars became more culturally acceptable.”


lmost from the start of her career, Barbra Streisand was subject to harsh criticism. To this day she is denigrated nearly as often as she is celebrated. A 1971 Mad magazine parody depicts Streisand as a money-grubbing, selfaggrandizing, power-mad harridan—here reform judaism

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again the “too Jewish” perception being hurled at her by other Jews. And anti-Streisandism came to South Park, co-created by Jewish writer/animator Matt Stone, in the 12th episode of the first season (1998), in which Streisand is depicted as a powermad villain transformed into a rampaging Godzilla-like monster that destroys the town. Before emerging as a monster, Streisand appears as a demented, horribly ugly woman—in a sense, a reversal of her self-invention as a beauty, as if she were a false idol. Saturday Night Live spoofed Streisand’s adoring fans. On the fictional talk show Coffee Talk, Mike Myers, in drag, played host Linda Richman, a stereotypical New York Jew who worshipped Streisand as “the best entertainer in the history of show business.” Streisand’s Jewish celebrity reached


a cultural high watermark in 1996, when New York’s Jewish Museum mounted the exhibit Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities showcasing works by contemporary Jewish artists on subjects of Jewishness that were for the most part confrontational and often embarrassing. An image of Streisand took center stage. As both the embodiment of “too Jewish” and its transcendence, Streisand was the perfect symbol for the museum’s newfound examination of overt Jewishness. Foreshadowing a reality to come, artist Rhonda Lieberman’s exhibition essay, “Jewish Barbie,” described an imaginary Jewish version of the Barbie doll based on Streisand: “As a young diva, Jewish Barbie looks to Barbra as a beaconness of Jewish glamour in a world hostile to multitalented strong women who should be worshipped.” Lieberman’s fantasy became a reality in 2010, when Mattel introduced the “Barbie (Pink Label Collection) Barbra Streisand Doll.” That “kooky kid” from Brooklyn became the quintessential Hollywood Jew and the very embodiment of Jewish women’s empowerment.

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FOCUS: Greatest Jewish Myths, Part II

Was the Emancipation Good for the Jews? Jews were more successful, more numerous, and more privileged before the French Revolution. by Salo Baron

Editors’ Note: Professor Salo Baron’s struck off the bonds that fettered the Jew population does not mean that Jewry was the subject of special unfavorable article, first published 85 years ago, and opened up the gates that had shut discrimination. Then there was no such is renowned by Jewish scholars for him off from civilized life. Prisoner in thing as “equal rights.” In this cogently disputing what the period the absolute state, like author famously called the the medieval state, was still “lachrymose conception of largely built on corporations, Jewish history”—that our here meaning legally recogpeople’s historical experinized groups of people ence was an endless series belonging to different corpoof catastrophes. His radical rate organizations, each with interpretation remains the distinct rights and duties. The reigning view, which “is all corporation of the nobility had the more remarkable,” writes its rights and duties, among Columbia Professor Michael them that of administration Stanislawski, “given that and defense of the country. [the essay]…predated the The clergy was entrusted with most lachrymose chapter in “The Jewish Ghetto in Rome,” Alfredo Bea, 20th century. spiritual and cultural affairs. all of Jewish experience: the The urban citizenry (not the Holocaust, in which Baron’s own parents were murdered….It is the ghetto, denied access to the resources peasant or the proletarian mass) formed the real third estate, and its chief funca testament to the solidity and depth and activities of Western society, distion was the maintenance of economic of his scholarship that this new contorted intellectually, morally, spiritually life and the replenishment of the state ception survived a period that a third by centuries of isolation and torture, the treasury. Below these corporations was of the world’s Jews did not.” Jew was set free by the Emancipation. the peasant body, the vast majority of the Fuller information concerning Jews population, in many countries held in he generally accepted view has it in the Middle Ages and a more critical complete serfdom. that before the French Revolution examination of the supposed gains after It is, then, not surprising and certainly the Jews of Europe lived in a state of the Revolution both indicate that we no evidence of discrimination that the extreme wretchedness under medieval may have to reevaluate radically our Jews did not have “equal rights”—no one conditions, subject to incessant persecunotions of Jewish progress under Westtion and violence, but that after the ern liberty. If the status of the Jew (privi- had them. The legal status of Jews was comparable to that of the third estate. revolution a new era of enlightenment leges, opportunities, and actual life) in Certainly the Jews had fewer duties came to the nations, which forthwith the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries was in and more rights than the great bulk of fact not as low as we are in the habit of Salo Baron (1895–1989), Nathan L. Miller thinking, then the miracle of Emancipa- the population—the enormous mass of Professor of Jewish History, Literature, and peasants, the great majority of whom tion was not so great as we supposed. Institutions at Columbia University from 1930 were little more than appurtenances of ♦♦♦ to 1963, is considered one of the 20th century’s the soil on which they were born. When greatest scholars of history. This article has In the Middle Ages, it is said, the Jew the land was sold they were included in been adapted from his essay, “Ghetto and the sale. None could move away withdid not have “equal rights.” But to say Emancipation: Should We Revised the Tradiout the master’s consent. The larger part that pre-Emancipation Jewry did not tional View?” (The Menorah Journal, 1928). of their produce went to landlords or to have “equal rights” with the rest of the

Archives Charmet / The Bridgeman Art Library


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the state. In every legal contest the landlord was the only competent court. In contrast to this class, the Jews were well off. They could move freely from place to place with few exceptions, they could marry whomever they wanted, they had their own courts, and were judged according to their own laws. The disabilities under which medieval Jewry suffered have been made much of. Jews could not own land, or join most of the guilds, and were thereby effectively barred from certain branches of craft and commerce. But these were,

in legal theory, restrictions made on the privileges granted them, and not limitations on any general rule of equal rights. Every corporation had similar restrictions, and in this respect the Jews’ case was no different in principle than that of other privileged groups. Indeed, the status of the Jew in the Middle Ages implied certain privileges which they no longer had under the modern state. Like the other corporations, the Jewish community enjoyed full internal autonomy. Complex, isolated, in a sense foreign, it was left more severely alone

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by the state than most other corporations. Thus the Jewish community of pre-Revolutionary days had more competence over its members than the modern federal, state, and municipal governments combined. Education, administration of justice between Jew and Jew, taxation for communal and state purposes, health, markets, public order, were all within the jurisdiction of the community-corporation, and, in addition, the Jewish community was the fountainhead of social work of a quality generally superior to that outside Jewry. The Jewish self-governing bodies issued special regulations and saw to their execution through their own officials. All this self-governing apparatus disappeared when the Revolution brought “equal rights” to European Jewry. ♦♦♦ A phase of this corporate existence generally regarded by emancipated Jewry as an unmitigated evil was the ghetto. But it must not be forgotten that the ghetto grew up voluntarily as a result of Jewish self-government, and it was only in a later development that public law interfered and made it a legal compulsion for all Jews to live in a secluded district in which no Christian was allowed to dwell. In origin, the ghetto was an institution the Jews had found it to their interest to create themselves. Various corporations in the state had separate streets of their own; the shoemakers, for example, or the bakers, would live each in one neighborhood. In addition to their growing mutual interest as a corporation of money dealers, the Jews wished to be near the synagogue, then a social as well as a religious center. Furthermore, they saw in the ghetto a means of defense. Thus it was the Jews themselves who secured from Bishop Rudiger in Spires in 1084 the right to settle in a separate district and to erect a wall around it. There were locks inside the ghetto gates in most cases before there were locks outside. The ghetto, in the non-technical sense, was then a district in which most Jews and few Gentiles lived long before the legal compulsion which came when Christian authority found it necessary to mark the Jews off by residence district, in order to prevent complete social intercourse between them and Christians.

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In this ghetto, before compulsion came and after, Jewry was enabled to live a full, rounded life, apart from the rest of the population, under a corporate governing organization. The Jew, indeed, had in effect a kind of territory and state of his own throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period. The advantages of this autonomy, lost through the Emancipation, were certainly considerable; they must have contributed in large part toward the preservation of Jewry as a distinct nationality. ♦♦♦ The terrors of the Inquisition play a large part in all descriptions of the state of medieval Jewry. Its horrors have been fully portrayed, and many assume that whatever normal Jewish life might have been potentially, the constant incursions of the Inquisitor made it abnormal. It should be remembered, however, that the Inquisition was legally instituted only in a few European countries, and even there had no jurisdiction over professed Jews (those who did not convert to Christianity), beyond censoring Hebrew books.

Therefore, far from being a special prey of the Inquisition, Jews belonged to a small, privileged group which had virtual immunity from its operations. In the eyes of the contemporary European, the Inquisition was no more than an ordinary court of justice, proceeding along the ordinary lines of criminal prosecution in cases of capital crime. Apostasy from Christianity was punishable by death. To the religious conscience of the Western man it seemed to be a holy task to burn the body of such a criminal in order to save his soul. According to the interpretation of Canon Law prevailing throughout the Renaissance, Maranos (secret Jews) were regarded as apostates. They were, therefore, subject to the jurisdiction of the Inquisition, and the governments of Spain and Portugal were acting with strict legality in applying to them the strict interpretation of apostasy laws. As to the horrible means of procedure, we must say, with no effort to justify but to understand, that they were not extraordinary for their times. The Inquisition was a characteristic form of legal procedure, prevailing in civil as well as ecclesiastical

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courts, in which the judge was at the same time prosecutor and attorney for the defendant. The use of torture was based upon the belief that circumstantial evidence is insufficient, and a confession must therefore be extorted. Many also believed that such bodily sufferings were salutary for the soul. Such principles are shocking to the modern mind, but in that period they were hardly extraordinary. Nor is it surprising that Jews were tortured and killed in an age when not fewer than 40,000 Christian “witches” were burned because they confessed to relations with demons. Regarded by itself or measured by absolute standards, the position of the Jews under the Inquisition was certainly unenviable. But by comparative standards the Jews were, if anything, in a preferred position. For if as apostates or heretics they ran afoul of the Inquisition, they were no worse off than Gentile apostates or heretics, while as professing Jews they were beyond its jurisdiction. ♦♦♦ It is noteworthy that despite attacks, periodic pogroms, and organized cam-

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paigns of conversion, the Jewish population increased much more rapidly than the Gentile population during the last centuries preceding Emancipation. In the middle of the 17th century the Jewish population probably did not exceed 650,000, out of the more than 100,000,000 inhabitants in Europe. In 1900 the European Jewish population exceeded 8,500,000, while the general population was about 400,000,000. That is, the Jewish rate of increase from 1650 to the beginning of the 20th century (when the mass of Jewry was still unemancipated) was three times the rate of Gentile increase. Furthermore, in the same period European Jewry built the great American center. ♦♦♦ What of the economic situation of the Jew? Despite all the restrictions placed on activities, is it not remarkable that the most typical ghetto in the world, the Frankfort Judengasse, produced in the pre-Emancipation the greatest banking house of history? And even before Rothschild’s day, such Central European Hofjuden (court Jews) as the Oppenheimers and Wertheimers, and such West European bankers as the Pintos and Modonas, were not far behind rich Christians in financial power. Paradoxical as it may seem, the very restrictive legislation proved in the long run highly beneficial to Jewish economic development. It forced Jews into the money trade, and throughout the Middle Ages trained them in individual enterprise without guild backing, compelled them to set up wide international contacts, and equipped them with vast sums of ready cash. With the dawn of early capitalism and the need for ready money for new manufactures and international trading ventures, the Jew fitted readily into the new economic structure. There were, of course, many impoverished Jews, particularly in Eastern Europe. But there were not so many as there were poor peasants. And their standard of life was everywhere higher than that of the majority of the populace. Particularly in Western and Central Europe, the frequent complaints about the extravagance of some Jews, and the luxury laws of certain large Jewish communities, indireform judaism

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cate a degree of surprising well-being. Furthermore, there existed in the Jewish corporations numerous relief agencies, a whole system of social insurance against need, in startling contrast to the often defenseless situation of the masses.






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♦♦♦ When the modern state came into being and set out to destroy the medieval corporations and estates and to build a new citizenship, it could no longer suffer the existence of an autonomous Jewish corporation. Sooner or later it had to give to the Jews equal rights in civil and public law and to impose upon them equal duties in turn. After the French Revolution one state after the other abrogated the Jews’ economic disabilities and granted them full freedom of activity. Finally, the states opened public offices to Jews, and made them citizens with “equal rights.” Equal rights meant equal duties, and the Jew now found himself subject to military service. Political equality also meant the dissolution of the autonomous communal organization: the Jews were no longer to be a nation within a nation, but to be thought of and to think of themselves as individuals connected only by ties of creed—Frenchmen, Germans, Englishmen of the Jewish “confession.” Politically, culturally, and socially, the Jew was to be absorbed into the dominant national group. Eventually, it was hoped, the assimilation would be complete. In the face of Emancipation, traditional Jewish ideology underwent great revision. The concept of the inseparability of nationality and religion—increasingly abandoned in Europe after the bloody wars of religion—had persisted in Judaism. Now the theory was put forth that the Jewish religion—which the Jew was permitted to keep—must be stripped of all Jewish national elements. The Jew was to avow allegiance to the national ambitions and culture of the land in which he lived. Nineteenth-century advocates of Jewish reform seized on and elaborated this view of the Jewish past. Eager to demonstrate a causal relation between the treatment given the Jew and the Jew’s general acceptability and usefulness to society, Reform advocates proclaimed in unmeasured terms the wretchedness of the age continued on page 48



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Science + Religion continued from page 25 present, benevolent God that created the universe and directly impacts the world today,” we can instead say, “Given what I know now, this is what I believe God is and how God acts in this world. But I might later need to change my understanding.” Even people who do not believe in God have different perspectives about the Divine. A recently published study about atheists at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga identified six types of non-believers: intel-

lectual atheist/agnostics (who enjoy engaging in discussions of science, philosophy, and epistemology); activist atheist/agnostics (who pursue social justice work); seeker agnostics (who don’t avow a clear ideological stance because they recognize the complexity of theological questions); antitheists (who actively try to convince people that religion is harmful); non-theists (who are generally apathetic about religion and its role in society); and ritual atheist/agnostics (who find inspiration in ceremonies, meditation, yoga classes, holiday traditions, and the like). Many Reform Jews appear to fall

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True or False? S + R = BW 2 (Science + Religion = Better World) Share your work on reformjudaismmag.org and join the conversation at facebook.com/ ReformJudaism. into this latter category. Moreover, Reform Jews who believe in God have a diversity of perspectives. Women, for example, tend to view God more in terms of relationship and interdependence, and men conceive of God in more abstract, autonomous ways. And Reform Jews often change their beliefs about God in the course of their lives. Younger Jews, for instance, are much more likely to God-wrestle than middle-aged adults, and seniors encountering illness and death return to question God’s presence (“Theology: How Reform Jews Picture God,” Reform Judaism magazine, reformjudaismmag.org/spring_2013). For all these reasons, just as scientists have (more or less) been willing to broaden what is known about the universe to include metaphysical questions, so too we should be willing to embrace a “working definition” of God, approached metaphorically as a “scientific object,” that changes with what we come to understand about the metaphysical world.

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Ultimately, instead of trying to “reconcile” religion and science, let us continue to find the ways in which they support one another. As Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, president of Clal—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, says, “Maintaining a dichotomous understanding of religion and science not only fails to maximize the contributions of each, but also keeps us from embracing and maximizing who we are and what we have to contribute.” When we live by the wisdom that emerges from both science and religion, we can, among other things, become more compassionate, more able to control our impulses, and more mindful of Jewish tradition and values. Then we not only better ourselves and our relationships with others, we maximize what we have to contribute to tikkun hanefesh and tikkun ha’olam—self-repair and repair of our world.

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FOCUS: Greatest Jewish Myths, Part II

Did Jews Go Like Sheep to the Slaughter? The charge that Jews were complicit in their own slaughter distorts the truth by blatantly disregarding resistance of the spirit. by Nechama Tec

Courtesy of Mahli Lieblich, © The Estate of Irene Lieblich, 2013


nvariably, as a frequent lecturer on Bettelheim’s release, that Jews and oththe Jews of participating in their the Holocaust, I am asked variations er groups were marked for exterminaown demise? of the cliché Why did Jews go like sheep tion in death factories as part of Hitler’s One of the early proponents of the to the slaughter? Behind “Final Solution.” this question is a blatantly In the early 1960s, Betfalse assumption that the telheim returned to the opportunities to resist were theme that Jews had paspresent, but Jews simply sively contributed to their failed to take advantage of own doom. Anne Frank, her them—in other words, the family, and the Jews who victims themselves were had shared their hiding partly to blame for their own place in Amsterdam could, destruction. he said, “have provided Ironically, the phrase themselves with a gun or “like sheep to the slaughter” two, had they wished. They first appeared in the Holocould have shot down at caust context as a call to least one or two of the arms in a 1942 New Year’s ‘green police’ who came “Partisans In The Forest,” Irene Lieblich, 1923–2008. Manifesto in which Aba for them. There was no surKovner, a 23-year-old poet and plus of such police. The loss of an SS view that Jews were somehow comHashomer Hatzair (Socialist Zionist with every Jew arrested would have plicit in their own destruction was organization) leader in the Vilna ghetto, Bruno Bettelheim. A Jewish psychonoticeably hindered the functioning of called for resistance: “Jews! Defend the police state. The fate of the Franks analyst from Vienna, he was charged yourselves with arms! The German and by the Nazis for political transgreswould not have been any different Lithuanian hangmen have arrived at the sions, arrested in 1938, and incarcerbecause they all died anyway except for gates of the ghetto. They have come to Anne’s father, (but)…they could have ated in various concentration camps. murder us!...But we shall not go! We sold their lives dearly instead of walkA year later, an American benefactor shall not stretch our necks like sheep ing to their death” (The Informed Heart, sent him a U.S. immigration visa and for the slaughter! Jews! Defend yourAvon, New York, 1960). he was released. self with arms!” (Ghetto in Flames: The Clearly Bettelheim did not underIn 1943, Bettelheim wrote a long Struggle and Destruction of the Jews in article in Abnormal and Social Psychol- stand the insurmountable obstacles Vilna in the Holocaust.) Jews faced under Nazi domination in ogy about his life in the concentration How did Aba Kovner’s anguished the 1940s. Guns were unattainable. camp. Claiming for himself the role of call to stand up to the enemies of the With very few exceptions Jews who an objective observer, he emphasized Jews later come to be used to accuse sought to purchase weapons failed, the slave-like docility of concentration and many who tried were murdered in camp inmates. Notably, however, during the time of the attempt. Nechama Tec is professor emerita of Sociology, University of Connecticut, Stamford, and Nonetheless, as a successful psychohis incarceration, all concentration author of several books on the Holocaust, analyst, a talented writer, and someone camp inmates were being held on including the bestselling Defiance. This article who had presented himself as a Holocharges stemming from alleged politiis adapted from Resistance, published in caust survivor, Bruno Bettelheim succal and/or criminal transgressions. It June 2013 by Oxford University Press. ceeded in being listened to, and his was not until 1942, three years after reform judaism

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accusation of Jewish docility became an accepted view. ♦♦♦ Another influential writer on the Holocaust was the historian Raoul Hilberg. In his magnum opus, The Destruction of the European Jews (first published in 1961, most recently updated in 2003), Hilberg wrote, “During the catastrophe of 1933–45, the instances of opposition were small and few. Above all, whenever and whichever they occurred, they were actions of last (never first) resort.” The book’s descriptions of Jewish uprisings are brief, and critical facts do not appear. Ignored are the complexities, such as Jews being denied the means of armed resistance throughout the war. Weapons were scarce, and the Allies were unwilling to help Jews secure them. Successful resistance is contingent on the presence of several conditions, the key component being cooperation with others. Under German occupation, the emerging Jewish leaders searched in vain for cooperative parties, but none took interest in their plight or responded to their pleas for arms.

Effective armed resistance also requires guerillas to be able to vanish and blend into the local population— but having been forced into Jewish ghettos, the vast majority of Jews in Eastern Europe had no place to hide. Another precondition for successful resistance is effective leadership, and here, too, Eastern European Jewry was at a huge disadvantage. Many Jewish leaders were murdered during the first stage of the German occupation in 1939; only a few of the Judenräte (German-mandated Jewish Councils) wholeheartedly supported the Jewish underground; and most of the underground commanders lacked military experience. Ignoring these overwhelming obstacles to Jewish armed opposition, Hilberg focused instead on one question: Did Jewish resistance diminish Germany’s overall military power? And to that he answered: When “measured in German casualties [Jewish resistance]… shrinks into insignificance.” By that definition, he was right. Jews were never in a position to undermine or diminish the effectiveness of German


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military might. But is it appropriate to evaluate Jewish, or, for that matter, any other kinds of resistance, only in military terms? What about the ingenious strategies the Jews were continually devising in order to survive and record the heinous crimes committed by the Nazis and their collaborators? What about spiritual resistance? Hilberg didn’t even acknowledge that a military defeat of their oppressors was not the resisters’ primary aim. The Jews were fully aware of German superior power, and their own powerlessness. Through opposition, they tried to achieve a certain measure of autonomy, to the point of choosing their way of dying. As Yitzhak Zuckerman, second in command of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, commented, 25 years later: “I don’t think there is any need to analyze the uprising in military terms. This was a war of [fewer] than a thousand people against a mighty army, and no one doubted how it was likely to turn out….If there is a school to study the human spirit, there it should be a major subject. The really important things were inherent in the force shown by Jewish youths, after years of degradation, to rise up against their destroyers and determine what death they would choose: Treblinka or Uprising. I don’t know if there is a standard to measure that” (A Surplus of Memory, 1993). In short, the goal of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt was not to win a military victory; it was to die fighting.

In 1963, influenced by Hilberg’s writings, the journalist Hannah Arendt published Eichmann in Jerusalem, which, while covering the Eichmann trial, also portrayed the Jews as collaborators in their own destruction. Stating that “undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story [the Holocaust]…has now been exposed….in all its pathetic and sordid detail by Raoul Hilberg,” she went on to describe the Judenräte as cooperating with the Nazis in the destruction of their own people: “In the Nazi inspired, but not Nazi dictated manifestoes, they issued, we still can sense how they enjoyed their new power.” Influential as they were, Bettelheim, continued on page 47

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FOCUS: Greatest Jewish Myths, Part II

Did Adam and Eve Eat an Apple? The Bible is silent about the choice of forbidden fruit—but an apple is not likely. b y R i fa t S o n s i n o


he idea that Adam and Eve consumed an apple in the Garden of Eden is well entrenched in Western culture. Renaissance painters, such as Titian (16th century) and Rubens (17th century) painted scenes depicting Eve and the apple. The poet John Milton referred to the forbidden fruit as an apple in his book, Paradise Lost (1667). In our time, the city of Windsor, Canada displays an “Eve’s Apple” sculpture in Assumption Park. Bud did Eve really eat an apple? The Bible is silent about the choice of forbidden fruit—but an apple is not likely.

but God said, ‘Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of it do not eat, and do not [even] touch it, or you will die’” (Gen.

Private Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library

The Biblical Story

We know from Genesis that the Garden of Eden contains all kinds of trees that are “alluring to the eye and good to eat” (2:9). “Of every tree in the garden you are free to eat,” God told Adam, “but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad/evil [ra, in Hebrew], you must not eat; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall be doomed to die” (2:16–17). Later in the text, after Eve is created from Adam’s rib, the two of them are unclothed in the garden and unashamed of their nakedness. A serpent comes along and asks Eve: “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” She replies knowingly: “Of any tree in the garden we may eat of the fruit;

“Eden, The First Exodus,” Celia Washington, 1989.

3:2–3). The serpent assures Eve that she will not die, and, because she is drawn to the tree’s alluring fruit, she takes a bite and gives some to Adam. After eating from the tree of knowledge of good and bad/evil, their eyes are opened and they realize they are naked. To cover themselves, they make loincloths by sewing together leaves of the fig tree (Gen. 3:7).

Rabbi Rifat Sonsino, Ph.D, is rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, Massachusetts and a faculty member of Boston College’s Theology Department. This article has been adapted with permission from Did Moses Really Have Horns? And Other Myths About Jews and Judaism (URJ Books and Music, urjbooksandmusic.com). His latest book, And God Spoke These Words: The Ten Commandments and Contemporary Ethics, is being published this November by URJ Books and Music. reform judaism

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The Apple Theory

How did the apple, which is not indigenous to ancient Israel, come to be associated with the Garden of Eden? According to many biblical scholars, the mistake comes from a faulty translation. In modern Hebrew, an apple is called a tapuach. In the Bible, however, this word refers to a tree with a scented fruit, maybe an apricot or a quince. Thus, when the Bible says, “Under the tapuach I roused you” (Song of Songs 8:5), a correct translation would be, “Under a tree with a scented fruit, I roused you.” Yet in most English Bible translations we find, “Under the apple tree I roused you.” The confusion comes from the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible created in the 4th century C.E. In translating “The tree of knowledge of good and ra,” “ra” was rendered as “malum,” which means both “bad (or evil)” and “apple.” Malum also appears in the Vulgate’s translation of Song of Songs 8:5: Sub arbore malo… (literally, “under the malum tree…). The translators of the Vulgate may have been influenced by the wellknown Greek myth in which Eris, the goddess of discord or of bad/evil acts, hurls a golden apple into the assembly of the gods because they did not invite her to their gathering. In time, popular imagination took over, and references to malum in many Bible translations were mistakenly rendered as “apple.” The Rabbis Disagree

The ancient rabbis (circa 5th–6th centuries) speculated about the identity of

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the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, without consensus: Rabbi Meir said: It was wheat… Rabbi Yehudah ben Rabbi Ilai and Rabbi Aibu said: It was grapes… Rabbi Abba of Acco said: It was the etrog (citron)… Rabbi Yosei said: They were figs… (Midrash B’reishit Rabbah chapters 15 and 19) In the Talmud, Rabbi Nechemia asserted that “it was the fig tree, so that

they repaired their misdeed with the instrument of it, as it says, ‘And they sewed fig leaves together’” (Ber. 40A). The rabbis considered wheat, because the Hebrew word for wheat, chitah, was seen as related to chet, meaning “sin”; the grape, because its abuse leads one to forget one’s senses; the etrog, because the word was seen as deriving from ragag, “to desire”; and the fig, because it is specifically mentioned in Genesis 3:7 (“Gleanings” from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, edited by Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, URJ Press).

The Most Likely Fruit

Rabbis Yosei and Nechemiah’s choice of figs seems the most plausible for several reasons: 1. Timing: As soon as Adam and Eve realize they are naked, they cover themselves with leaves from the nearest tree—and fig leaves, being large and durable, were a perfect choice for making loincloths. 2. Biblical Mention: No other fruit tree is mentioned by name in the Garden of Eden. Figs, cultivated in ancient Israel, are also referenced throughout the Bible. They are counted among the seven special species (along with wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, olives, and honey) which made Israel “a good land” (Deut. 8:7). 3. Symbolism: In biblical tradition, fig trees are associated with peace and tranquility. The prophet Micah envisions an ideal future as a place where: …they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war; But every man shall sit Under his grapevine or fig tree With no one to disturb him (Mic. 4:4) In rabbinic literature, the Garden of Eden is the ultimate resting place for the righteous in the afterlife. Adam and Eve lived in such a paradise before they ate the forbidden fruit. 4. Jewish legend: According to Jewish legend, as Adam seeks leaves to cover his nakedness, he hears one tree after the other say: “‘There is the thief that deceived his Creator. Nay, the foot of pride shall not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked touch me….’ Only the fig-tree granted him permission to take of its leaves. That was because the fig was the forbidden fruit” (Louis Ginzberg’s Legends of the Bible, p.40). In short, the fig played a leading role in our ancestors’ imagination long before the apple made its debut on the stage of Jewish history.

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Did Jews Go Like... continued from page 44 Hilberg, and Arendt all got it wrong. Bettleheim and Arendt built their cases on hypothetical value judgments and personal views rather than historical fact, and Hilberg took an incomplete and narrow view of Jewish resistance. ♦♦♦ What is the truth about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust? While “resistance” conjures up images of combat; in reality, armed confrontations between oppressors and their victims during the war were rare, for the reasons noted above. In general, resistance efforts focused on collecting and disseminating information, forging documents, and accumulating arms where possible. The few national armed uprisings that did occur—such as the 1944 revolt in Paris, when the Allies were already at the gates; and the August 1944 Warsaw uprising, which ended with the destruction of the city and the estimated death of 200,000 Poles—occurred late in the war, when the Allied victory was imminent. In my view, the unprecedented oppression of the Jews led to equally unprecedented forms of resistance, such as gemilut chasadim, acts of kindness. One example: On September 23, 1943, the day the final liquidation of the Vilna ghetto began, the population was divided by age and sex; however, older men were thrown into a group of older women and women with children. Dina Abramovicz, then a teenager, was watching from afar as her elderly mother struggled with oversized bundles. Suddenly, the Nazis pushed a teacher she knew into the group of older women and children because he walked on crutches. Faced with having to climb a hill along with the crowd, the teacher looked around imploringly, as if asking for help. Dina tells what happened next: “Someone responded to his pleading and it was my mother. She put down all her bundles and took the arm of the crippled man, who leaned heavily on her. As they moved toward the steep hill together—the tall, crippled man and the elderly, frail woman—their faces glowed with a sublime light—the light of compassion and humanity that over-

came the horror of their destiny. This is the light in which I remember my mother and which will not disappear from my memory as long as I live.” In the extreme environment of the concentration camp, resistance also often took the form of personal risks to support a newly made friend. A true story: Two young girls in Auschwitz became close friends. One of them developed a violent cough, and a kapo insisted she be moved to the Auschwitz medical ward, from which few returned alive. The healthy friend visited her every day after work, risking illness and being interned in the medical ward herself. Occasionally she would bring her friend water or a little slice of bread. One day after work, she noticed a raspberry bush next to the road and was filled with the desire to bring the fruit to her friend. Knowing that if the Germans found out it would be confiscated and she would likely be murdered, she nonetheless gently placed the fruit into her closed palm in a leaf and then rushed to her friend with the news that she had a surprise. The raspberries, however, clutched tightly in her hand, had

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become a paste. Nevertheless, when the sick young girl saw what was in her friend’s open palm, her face lit up with happiness. Such a gesture of kindness, an act of spiritual resistance, proved to each girl that she was not alone and rekindled her hope in humanity. In examining the actions of the Jews during the Holocaust, it is important to view them in the appropriate context. The Holocaust scholar and survivor of the Łód´z Ghetto and Auschwitz Lucjan Dobroszicki reminds us of this when he asks: “Has anyone seen an army without arms? An army scattered over 200 isolated ghettos? An army of infants, old people, the sick? Armies whose soldiers are denied even the right to surrender?” Equally important, we must not limit ourselves to a narrow definition of resistance. The charge that Jews were complicit in their own slaughter rings hollow when Jewish resistance is more broadly defined to include armed resistance, simple acts of kindness, ingenious survival strategies, and the commitment to retain one’s own humanity in the face of overwhelming evil.

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that preceded them. They explained Jewish “peculiarities” as results of oppression and the abnormal conditions in which Jews had lived. At the end of the 19th and in the 20th century, this view was to find reinforcement from Zionism, which wished to reject the Diaspora in toto, on the grounds that a “normal life” could not be led by Jewry elsewhere than on its own soil. So, notwithstanding their profound differences, both Zionism and Reform held a view of history in which prior to the Revolution, European Jewry had lived in extreme wretchedness. The two movements differed only in that the Zionists denounced the post-Revolutionary period as equally bad. It is encouraging that Reform and Zionism have now both begun to reconsider the Jewish Middle Ages. Surely by now it is time to break with the lachrymose theory of pre-Revolutionary woe, and to adopt a view more in accord with historic truth.

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OF REFORM JEWS CHAIRMAN’S PERSPECTIVE Why I Volunteer Like many of you reading this column, I am a volunteer. And, like all of us who volunteer, there are days when I question my own sanity and ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” As I reflect on it, the answer to why we volunteer in a congregation or at the Union for Reform Judaism is no mystery. We are changing lives. This summer, my wife Helene and I visited two URJ camps and experienced firsthand the exuberance of our young people as they celebrate Shabbat, gather for song sessions, bentsh after meals in the dining hall, and just have a great time with friends. I am convinced that the 11,000+ youth who attended our camps last summer have all been affected for life, as have the 300,000 alumni who preceded them. Helene and I also witnessed the URJ’s impact on our youth at the NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) Convention in Los Angeles, where more than 860 teens celebrated and affirmed their commitment to Judaism and 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION AT URJ EISNER CAMP, to our Movement. GREAT BARRINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS. So why do I volunteer? To be able in some small way to make possible such life-changing opportunities for future generations of rabbis, cantors, educators, leaders—and volunteers. Even as I take great pride in the Union’s campaign to enhance youth engagement, many other rewards stir my activism. I feel renewed every time our Movement reaches out to help a family or community in need, whether due to an illness, a death, or a natural disaster; every time we support the State of Israel and help our Progressive congregations there fight for full recognition and pluralism; every time we engage in tikkun olam (repair of our world) in the United States and Canada; every time we convene a Biennial and I worship with more than 5,000 other Reform Jews who are volunteers just like me. So, whenever you suffer a bout of volunteer fatigue, stop and think of all the things you are doing that enhance your life and the lives of those around you. And for a super recharging of your volunteerism batteries, join us at the San Diego Biennial this STEPHEN M. SACKS December 11–15: urj.org/biennial. Stephen M. Sacks, Chairman, Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees reform judaism

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Bowing & Peacemaking At the end of the Mourner’s Kaddish, when Jews recite “Oseh shalom …” (“May the One who makes peace in the heavens above help us to make peace with one another….”), it is customary to take three steps back, then bow to one’s left, then to one’s right, and finally bow forward, as if taking leave of the presence of a king. An alternative explanation is to remind us that in order to make peace, one needs to be willing to “back up.” The oldest version of the Kaddish is found in the siddur of Rab Amram Gaon, c. 900. For more than 1100 years, the movements of our prayers have reminded us that in order to make peace, we are not allowed to “stand our ground.” —Rabbi Fred Guttman, Temple Emanuel, Greensboro, North Carolina

Experiencing the Messiah We can experience the Messiah every week—by observing Shabbat. According to Jewish tradition, God intends the weekly Sabbath not merely as rest, not merely as religious obligation, but as a foretaste of redemption. In the spirit of

continued on page 52 PHOTOS: 1 Rabbi Andrea London 2 Alison Kur 3 Rabbi Jack Paskoff 4 Lauren Biletsky 5 Ana Apter 6 Dr. Isa Aron 7 Rabbi Andrew

Paley. For more about these leaders read on…

Rabbi Andrew Paley photo by Deb Silverthorn; URJ Eisner Camp: Photo by Warren B.; Stephen M. Sacks: Photograph by Marshall H. Cohen


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ACTION Re-imagining the Post-B’nai Mitzvah Experience Last Passover and Holy Week, assassinated, which went something 21 teens from Beth Emet The Free like, ‘You can kill the dreamer, but you Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois (bethemet. org) and 17 teens from the Second Baptist Church, a nearby Black church, journeyed down South on a trip called “Sankofa”—a West African term that means “go back and get it” and embodies the mandate to look to the past in order to understand the present TEMPLE BETH ELOHIM’S JEWISH ACTORS WORKSHOP PERFORand build the future. MANCE OF 13! THE MUSICAL, 2013. Together they attended Good Friday services, Shabbat sercannot kill the dream.’ That stood out vices, and Easter Sunday services. Each to us, because we were the dream: ridstudent had been paired with—and, in ing in that bus, talking, thinking about time, bonded with—a partner from the carrying out our ideas and continuing other community with whom s/he sat our relationships.” on the bus, roomed, and experienced all Sarina (Beth Emet): “Together, black the sites. They crossed the Edmund Pet- and white, Jewish and Christian, we tus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, site of took in the end of the dreamer, but not the infamous 1965 Bloody Sunday in the dream.” which police officers brutally attacked For the last seven years, Beth Emet Civil Rights marchers. They worshiped has made service and social justice conat the 16th Street Baptist Church, an sciousness a focal point of the 8th grade African-American church in Birmingprogram and a core component of its ham where a racially motivated bomb9th–10th grade curriculum, in preparaing killed four girls in 1963. They distion for the older teens’ social activism. cussed hard issues, such as white “Capturing the attention of teens post privilege. At the trip’s end, the group b’nai mitzvah is difficult because they visited the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, are involved with so many things—from site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassi- school to social life to extracurricular nation, provoking strong reactions com- activities to preparing for college,” says piled in a collective memoir: Rabbi Andrea London (photo #1; see Jasmane (Second Baptist Church): “I previous page). “To engage them, they thought I was going to be strong about need programs grounded in Jewish it, but I was shaking, rocking back and teachings and practice, that move them forth crying, ‘Why did this man have to from the classroom into the real world— take the life of a dreamer? He only opportunities that challenge and support wanted peace for all.’ [My partner] Anni their taking leadership in changing their quickly held me tight.” communities and the world.” Thulani (Second Baptist Church): Back home, the teens who experi“Suddenly we formed a big group hug, enced “Sankofa” now committed themholding hands, singing, praying, sharing.” selves to continuing advocacy for racial Leor (Beth Emet): “Back on the bus, equality. One Beth Emet student took we talked about the quote on the plaque issue when her high school teacher in front of the balcony where King was continued on next page reform judaism

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The world is sustained by three things: Torah, service, and acts of loving kindness.

Reform Judaism, the largest stream of Jewry in North America, has a rich history as an inclusive, pluralistic movement built on the needs and desires of modern Jews. As we continue to re-imagine Jewish life to meet the needs and challenges of today—and tomorrow—we invite you to join the URJ Legacy Society, TO SUPPORT THE FUTURE OF REFORM JUDAISM.

L’dor With your support, v’dor we can honor our —from generation to generation

past, engage the next generation, expand our reach, and lead the way toward a re-imagined Judaism with justice at its core. Indeed, there is no more fitting legacy for us to bequeath to our children and grandchildren.

For more information on how to include the URJ in your will or trust, please contact Amy Stein (astein@urj.org) in the URJ Development Office.

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QUOTABLE from p. 50 Shabbat, Judaism teaches, are the joy and the peace of the Messianic Age. Shabbat rituals and ceremonies expressly foreshadow the days of deliverance. The elaborate dinner parallels the Feast of the Righteous, the shunning of work corresponds to the era’s endless serenity and abundance, and the prayers and songs herald a time when all shall know the Divine Presence. As the messianic Shabbat hymn Lecha Dodi urges: ‘Come with me to meet Shabbat, forever a fountain of blessing….Awake, awake, your light has come!...Forget your sorrow; quiet your groans….As a bridegroom rejoices in his beloved, your God takes joy in you.’ How marvelous. —Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman, from The Messiah & the Jews (Jewish Lights, 2013)

Rethinking the Symbolism of Masada Masada—the desert fortress on the Dead Sea brought to grandeur by King Herod in the first century B.C .E .—is not what it used to be. Not so long ago, it was a symbol of Israeli character. The Jewish zealots in the second century C . E . who committed mass suicide here rather than be defeated by the Romans were seen as a model of determination to be free. Nowadays, Israelis are not so sure this is the model they want their children to admire. After the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, this society is less willing to venerate zealots than it used to be. Israel used to hold induction ceremonies for its most elite military units on top of Masada. No more. Now those units hold ceremonies at the Western Wall, a symbol of a holy place lost with mourning, not a suicide pact. And that is a better reflection of Judaism’s attitude

this anywhere else.” These days, TBE’s post b’nai mitzscolded a Black classmate and threatvah teen community is engaging 150+ ened him with detention for taking out teens. TBE leaders attribute their suchis cell phone (all devices are prohibitcess to a much broader approach than ed at the school). Standing up in class, teen education—in fact, they don’t even she announced: “I’ve been listening to like to use the “e” word. The teaching my iPod all component is just through class one facet of their today and you broader mission, didn’t say one which Alison Kur word to me. And (photo #2), execnow this Black utive director of student takes out Jewish Living, a phone and describes as creyou’re getting all ating “a safe, nurover him.” turing, empowerThe teacher ing, and sacred shot back, “Then environment for you’re getting in every one of our trouble, too.” teens.” SHAARAI SHOMAYIM TEENS AFTER REPAIRING “Well, fine,” On any weekA MAN’S FENCE DAMAGED BY KATRINA. she replied. night, you’ll find “Then at least it will be fair.” some 40 students in the temple’s teen The Jewish and Black Baptist teens lounge, relaxing from the stresses of have also been meeting regularly, of academia and college applications. their own accord, to continue their conHelping them talk through the issues versations on racial equality. Adult men- they face while simultaneously strengthtors are not leading but partnering with ening their TBE connectivity is a teen them as they organize into committees mentoring program called BELCRO to further racial reconciliation work. (Beth Elohim Community Reaches “They share a common bond,” says Yoni Out). Each 7th grade student is paired Siden, director of Youth Programs at with an older teen mentor, and that older Beth Emet. “And they know that it’s the teen is paired with an adult mentor for hard work they are doing now, in their additional guidance. TBE has seen powown communities, that really counts.” erful exchanges and relationships develop as a result. One seventh grader under♦♦♦ going hospitalization and rehabilitation For years, Caroline took voice lesfor a severe eating disorder talked to her sons, wanting to sing but too shy and teen mentor about the challenges she frightened to perform on stage. After faced; the teen then reached out to her becoming a bat mitzvah at Temple Beth adult mentor, who guided the teen Elohim (TBE) in Wellesley, Massachu- behind the scenes in mentoring the 7th setts (tbewellesley.org), she joined grader on her road to recovery. TBE’s Jewish Actors Workshop (JAW) TBE’s learning program for 8th–12th to be with her friends. In her first year, graders, Havayah (the Hebrew word she was thrilled just to have an ensemfor “experience”), is all experiential, ble role in their production of Fiddler encompassing chavurot (small intereston the Roof. But in her second year, based Jewish learning groups, such as supported by the JAW staff and her art, cooking, drama, and sports); friends, she was cast and beautifully Shabbatonim (weekend programs where sang a solo in 13! The Musical. Caroteens build sacred community); and line’s mother later confided: “I can’t senior youth group (offering a variety of imagine my daughter could have done social, leadership, and social action

ACTION continued from page 51

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Photo by Liora London

opportunities). This flexibility allows victim expressing her frustration that the teens who might ordinarily not fit in to Federal Emergency Management Agenfind their way. One high school sophocy (FEMA) doesn’t see her as an individmore at risk of expulsion from private ual, but a case number. The only identischool reached out to the TBE youth fying information in the letter is that case professional overseeing Havayah’s Jew number. Shortly thereafter, the woman Man Group, where male teens explore committed suicide. how Jewish values can help guide deci“I figured a group of Jews would sion-making. Through one-to-one conknow better than anyone what it versations as well as Jew Man Group means to be reduced to a number,” the meetings, the sophomore developed director says. deeper relationships that helped him We were “dumbstruck silent,” says express himself, make better decisions, Rabbi Jack Paskoff (photo #3). connect his growth to Jewish values, and The teens spend that night in a ultimately stay in school. Quonset hut on a campground. Another key Havayah component is Unplugged, without electronics or TV, its non-competitive inclusiveness: Every they light Hanukkah candles, play teen who wants to be a leader becomes a board games, and reflect on what leader. The incoming TBE’s BELY youth they’ve witnessed. group board includes 36 teens because Moving on to Waveland, Mississippi, 36 teens sought leadership positions. At the group helps clean up the home of a the same man who lost time, TBE’s virtually youth team everything in works indiKatrina. That vidually with night, the each teen, teens talk empowering about Jewish him/her to history, and take on the when they particular light the leadership menorah, opportunities they reflect BETH EMET AND SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH TEENS JOIN HANDS IN A MOMENT OF REFLECTION. that seem the on its symmost exciting, challenging, and reward- bolism. While most of their peers are on ing to him/her. vacation enjoying the holiday season, The retention statistics are revealthey realize that they are bringing “dediing. When Havayah began in 2003, cation and light” to others. 23% of TBE teens were continuing in Rabbi Paskoff attributes the temple’s a Jewish engagement program after high Confirmation retention rate— becoming bar/bat mitzvah; in 2012–13, approximately 85%—to five factors: it’s 70%. This past year, 130 students offering meaningful social action trips, participated in Havayah, and for the treating teens as adults, taking into coming year, TBE leaders expect the account the individual needs of each number to grow to nearly 200. teen, bringing the community together to support teens, and offering them ♦♦♦ many ways to be engaged. Eleven teens at Congregation Shaarai Treating teens like equals, he Shomayim in Lancaster, Pennsylvania involves them not only in creating youth programs, but programs for everyone, (shaarai.org) are on a social action trip including a congregational retreat and a to the Gulf Coast to help clean up the Rosh Hashanah service. And, like their destruction left by Hurricane Katrina. adult counterparts, throughout the year They listen as the director of a recovery agency reads a letter written by a Katrina continued on next page reform judaism

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QUOTABLE from p. 52 toward life and death. When the Jerusalem Temple was under siege by the Romans in 69 C .E., Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai had himself smuggled out of the doomed city to negotiate with the Roman general Vespasian for the survival of the rabbinic academy at Yavne. He recognized that the survival of Torah and the saving of many lives outweighed the loss even of the Temple and acceptance of Roman rule. That perspective has reasserted itself in a more mature state of Israel. Masada still has power as a symbol for Israelis, and the line of tourists waiting for the cable cars to ride up to the top still is long. However, the symbol is tempered by an awareness that ours is a tradition of life, not death, and that we have more to live for than we have to die for. —Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser, Temple Beit HaYam, Stuart, Florida, on reformjudaism.org/blog

NOTEWORTHY Jewish Research Made Easier The Berman Jewish DataBank (jewishdatabank .org) now offers the public open access to more than 375 national, local, and topical studies and reports on North American and world Jewry. Surveys can be browsed by topic, geographic coverage, publisher, or investigator. In addition, for help in phrasing survey questions, consult the Jewish Survey Question Bank (JSQB; jewishquestions.bjpa.org). A project of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner and the Berman Jewish DataBank, this online database is an amalgamation of survey questions used in Jewish social research, searchable by topic.

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those teens who have contributed to the life of the congregation receive the honor of aliyot, sometimes reading Torah and Haftarah portions, reciting blessings, and/or blowing the shofar. “My congregation considers it a priority for me to spend time with our teens,” he says. He joins them on social action trips, teaches 11th and 12th graders through discussion-based learning, visits them at NFTY events, and spends two weeks with them as a faculty member of Camp Harlam, where, he says, “they get to see me in shorts and a t-shirt and be much more playful than I can be at home. And my students have my blanket permission to tell their public school teachers I’m available to visit their schools to discuss anything Jewish. I make more than a dozen such visits every school year. The students seem to take pride in being able to introduce me.” In this small community, the whole temple supports its young people’s Jewish engagement. Sisterhood gives a $400 stipend to first-time URJ campers and $50 as an incentive for each NFTY event they attend. The Brotherhood grants a $1,000 subsidy to any 10th grader for a URJ Israel trip so long as the young person promises to continue Confirmation studies upon return— which the students do. Additional needbased scholarships are also available. Rabbi Paskoff believes it is important to engage teens in a variety of ways beyond Sunday religious school, where, he says “you’ll typically find students exhausted from staying out late the night before. If we involve them in many different ways—experiential and social as well as educational—and times, we have a much greater opportunity for building life-long connections to meaningful Jewish living.” ♦♦♦ What can congregations do to both engage and teach post b’nai mitzvah youth? Here are four expert tips: 1. “Relationships are what matter,” says Lauren Biletsky (photo #4), director of Youth and Family Programming at Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland,

Florida, (koltikvah.net), where some 100 teens are now active in youth group, up from 10 teens three years ago. “Our teens know they can come see the rabbi, cantor, teachers, or me at any time and we’ll help them. Teens ask me about sex and drugs, tell me their deep dark secrets, ask for help with school work, and share their accomplishments with me, all because of those relationships.” To connect with teens, she advises, “Treat them as equals. Wear jeans and a youth group t-shirt; if you’re wearing a blazer and heels, they’re not going to want to hang out with you. The whole idea is to be real and natural. And show them that you really care about their lives by talking about what interests them. If they’re wearing a Yankees shirt, ask them about the Yankees. If they mention a family vacation, ask them to elaborate.” Also important, she says, is cultivating relationships among the teens themselves. “Because our teens are continually trained in leadership and teambuilding, Kol Tikvah youth groupers will immediately invite newcomers to come hang out with them. They’ll text them to say it was great to meet them, and they’ll welcome them at programs. When teens see that this is a place not just for ‘you,’ but ‘you and you and you and you,’ they know it’s their home, too.” 2. Turn teens into mentors. Ana Apter (photo #5), Teen & Chai School director at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul, MN (mzion.org), says that “our Gesher Mentor program has played a part in significantly raising our 10th– 12th grade retention rates since the program began in the 2006–2007 school year, from 38% then to 65% today.” At Mount Zion, some of the 11th and 12th graders mentor and teach the 7th graders, co-facilitating about 110 hours of classes, programs, and retreats, and assisting younger students with their mitzvah projects. They also write and teach lessons for the congregation’s annual sex-ed retreat for 7th graders, using the URJ’s “Sacred Choices” curriculum; as well as for a six-week mini-elective they design around the subject of pekuach nefesh reform judaism

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(saving a life). “This is often the first time the 7th graders realize being Jewish isn’t just something that you are ‘forced’ to do through b’nai mitzvah,” Apter says. “It’s something teens choose to do because it’s a fun, engaging, important part of teen life.” 3. Train your staff in experiential education for post b’nai mitzvah youth. Consider encouraging your educators, youth advisors, and clergy to take advantage of HUC-JIR’s Certificate in Jewish Education program (huc.edu/academics/ education/certificate), a nine-month online and face-to-face course specializing in teens and emerging adults. Coursework focuses on adolescent development, experiential learning, program planning, change theory, uses of social media, the arts, service learning, and more. 4. “Tap into what teens care about,” says Dr. Isa Aron (photo #6), co-director of the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a joint URJ–HUC-JIR project that is partnering with 14 Reform congregations which are experimenting with new approaches to b’nai mitzvah preparation and observances. “In some cases teens are excited about social justice; others care about community and friends; others love arts, or sports, or academics. And sometimes it is offering them a relaxing respite from the stresses of high school life.” At Temple Shalom in Dallas (temple shalomdallas.org), post b’nai mitzvah students choose many of their own courses of study. The temple’s Next Dor program is structured similarly to college, with required credits and electives from each of four pillars: education (attending classes, independent study, select books and movies, etc.), worship (attending services), tikkun olam (temple-sponsored mitzvah projects, community service, etc.), and community (attending temple youth group and NFTY events, Jewish camp, etc.). The program has grown by 13% over the last four years, and Rabbi Andrew Paley (photo #7) expects a further increase this year. “Having students pick their classes in a quasi-college fashion increases buyin,” he says, “as well as confidence that their learning will be meaningful.”

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MY IDEA Let the Mourners Saying Kaddish Stand Alone

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by Rosalind A. Gold I grew up in a congregation in which the entire community stood and recited Kaddish Yatom, the Mourner’s Kaddish. We were told we should do so because of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust who had no one left to say Kaddish for them. Anyone who had a yahrtzeit for a family member would say Kaddish along with the congregation. As a child and young adult I repeated the words, but they never really held much meaning for me. My father died in 2004, shortly after my retirement. I committed myself to say Kaddish for him every Shabbat for a year. On some Friday nights I would worship in my congregation (which I had served as rabbi for 23 years), where everyone rises for Kaddish. Other times I would attend Shabbat morning services at the Conservative shul in my neighborhood, where only the mourners rise. As a result of these experiences I came to feel strongly that only those who are mourning should stand and say the Mourner’s Kaddish. Having someone in your mind and heart when saying Kaddish changes the experience. As a mourner I felt the power of the prayer—not only the words, but its pulsing rhythm. The act of rising and reciting the Kaddish only with other mourners was my way of saying, “I have experienced a loss. My father is gone, and I wish to honor him by standing up and claiming his mem-

ory surrounded and supported by my community.” The physical act of standing and hearing myself reciting the words that acknowledged my loss became an important part of my grief journey that first year as an aveyl, a mourner. Three years later, my mother died. Again I was an aveyl and committed myself to reciting Kaddish Yatom for a year. And again I stood with the other mourners, reciting the prayer, embracing my loss, honoring my parent. In those moments I felt an almost mystical connection to my mother, remembering when she said Kaddish for her mother. I also felt a deep sense of communion with the other mourners, as all of us shared a life-changing experience. I was standing by myself but was not alone as I paid homage to the woman who gave me life. Nowadays, I feel “cheated” in a way when my parents’ yahrtzeits come around and I am in a congregation where everyone, not just the mourners, stands for the Kaddish Yatom. It feels as if I didn’t do anything special to recognize the day, as though this Shabbat is no different from any other. Standing and reciting Kaddish with the other mourners is a gift of love I give my parents—something that forges a bond between earth and heaven—a way I thank them for all they gave me. And I feel torn, because at my home congregation, led by clergy I respect and care for and filled with people I reform judaism

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love, my need to stand with the mourners during Kaddish is not fully met. I think our congregants would be more likely to come to services for a family yahrtzeit if they knew they would be standing, literally and spiritually, for their loved one. They would also understand the supportive beauty of remaining seated and joining in the communal responses on weeks they have no yahrtzeit to commemorate. To make sure they don’t feel uncomfortable standing alone and saying the prayer, we have a responsibility to teach the Kaddish to our people. It is also incumbent on us to teach the mitzvah of nichum aveylim, of comforting those who have identified themselves as mourners—an act that builds relationships and strengthens community. As for saying Kaddish for those who perished in the Holocaust, a sacred Jewish responsibility for all of us, we do this on special occasions throughout the year, such as Yom HaShoah, Tisha B’Av, and as part of yizkor on Yom Kippur. These times of remembrance are, and should be, very different than when we recall the memory of our own loved one who has died. I encourage our Movement to broach the issue of how Kaddish is conducted in the congregation. The question of “who stands for the Mourner’s Kaddish” might be introduced as part of a Yom Kippur yizkor sermon, inviting a conversation through the ritual committee, the synagogue newsletter, and social media. How we remember and honor our dead is a central feature of our faith and worth revisiting. Rabbi Rosalind A. Gold is rabbi emerita of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston, Virginia.

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FAREWELL Trials & Triumphs

which the educational formaAfter being part of the Hebrew tion of our leaders rests. Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for 40 years—first as a student Whatever the dangers, I was—and remain—convinced at the New York campus, then a faculty that our students’ journeys to member in Los Angeles, and for the past 12+ years as HUC-JIR president— Jewish leadership are not soleRABBI DAVID ELLENSON WITH RABBINICAL, EDUCATION, ly individual religious quests. I will step down as president on AND JEWISH NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT STUDENTS Rather, each journey emanates December 31, 2013. Yet, my soul is AT HUC-JIR / LOS ANGELES, 2012. forever bound to this institution and the from the teaching, “Kol yisrael ’a-reivin zeh ba-zeh—all Jews are or Los Angeles. Indeed, hundreds of sacred mission that animates it—the mutually responsible for one another” rabbis and temple presidents stated training and education of religious, explicitly that if a particular campus were communal, educational, and intellectual (Shevuot 39a). Being a rabbi, cantor, educator, or Jewish communal worker closed, or even if a program were curleaders for the Reform Movement and requires that a Jew internalize an ethos tailed on that campus, they would withthe Jewish people. of peoplehood—of solidarity with the draw their URJ membership and orgaAs president, I have tried “with all Jewish people—and this internalization nize other congregations in their region my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might” to fulfill my responsibil- cannot happen if students do not experi- to follow suit. The attachment to our campuses as regional centers of Reform ity to our community with compassion ence the miracle of Jewish national Judaism was so absolute and fierce that and respect, with intelligence and love. rebirth in the land of Israel. Still, I spent many a restless night closure was not a viable option. Sometimes that has meant making difworrying about As a result, in 2009 our Board of ficult decisions. our students’ Governors adopted “The New Way For example, safety, and in my Forward,” a plan designed to allow early in my presfirst two years in HUC-JIR to attain financial sustainabilidency, in 2001, office I traveled ity while maintaining quality academic the second intito Israel more programs on every campus. The plan fada was raging than a dozen has been a success. Through cost-cutand terror times to be with ting, sales of excess property, and sigreigned on the them. Thankfulnificant fundraising, we now have a balstreets of Israel. ly, none of our anced operating budget and a nearly Many people students were quadrupled endowment, from approxiexpressed seriharmed. mately $50 million in 2001 to almost ous concern In 2008–2009 $200 million today. about the HUCwe faced a secChallenges certainly remain. That is JIR requirement ond trial: a $10 the nature of life. However, our sacred that all North million deficit, mission endures. I am grateful that American sturepresenting Rabbi Aaron Panken has been selected dents spend their about one quarter to succeed me. HUC-JIR will prosper first year of of our overall under his able direction, and I am confistudy in Jerusabudget. I person- dent that the Reform Movement will lem. They felt ORDAINING ARIEL S. LORGE AT PLUM STREET ally received advance through the vision that he and that this prereqTEMPLE, CINCINNATI, 2013. 10,000+ letters, URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs will uisite unjustifie-mails, and messages urging me to realize in the years ahead. ably endangered the lives of our close one of our three stateside campusstudents, and urged us to suspend or es—and virtually every message ended Rabbi David Ellenson is president of cancel our policy. with the proviso that the one to be elimithe Hebrew Union College– I decided to stand by our Year-Innated could not be New York, Cincinnati, Jewish Institute of Religion. Israel program, for it is the pillar upon reform judaism

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Top: Photo by Mar vin Steindler; Left: Photo by Janine Spang

by David Ellenson

winter 2013

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Is this what a Jewish Leader does?

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Profile for Reform Judaism magazine

Reform Judaism Magazine Winter 2013  

A Union for Reform Judaism Publication

Reform Judaism Magazine Winter 2013  

A Union for Reform Judaism Publication