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What Inspires Me:

7th RJ Annual


A Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Publication

The Key To

What’s It Worth?


Fall 2012/5772


Preparing for The

New You Theodore re B Bikel iikkel and other thinkers hink nker theeir ir personal per oly Day share their High H Holy sstories toorries and reflections on ns that th hhave av inspired them ttoo change c

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Fall 2012


The RJ Insider’s Guide to COLLEGE LIFE contents • The Top Schools Jews Choose (p.36)

• What Colleges Don’t Tell You (p.41)

• Financial Aid: Secrets of Success (p.42) • How to Grow as a Jew, Your Way (pp.47 & 48)

Special Supplement to Reform Judaism, the World’s Largest Circulated Jewish Magazine

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Cover © Jocic /; College Cover above ©2011 R ick

54 Preparing for the New You Nine Jewish thinkers reflect on the teachings that inspire them to take an accounting of their souls, how they take stock of their actions, and the life experiences prompting them to seek change.

60 What Brought Me Back to Judaism What do young people have to say about youth engagement? Two Reform teens who had been estranged from Jewish life but then found a way back to Judaism tell their stories. IN THE BEGINNING 2 Dear Reader: Reimagining Jewish Life / Rick Jacobs 4 Letters 5 Announcement: A New Vision for Reform Judaism reform judaism

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JEWISH LIFE 7 Judaica: Jewish Antiques Appraisal Show / Jonathan Greenstein 7 Through the Lens: Emanuel of Beverly Hills 8 Books: The Roots of Jewish Conversion / interview: David Ellenson & Daniel Gordis 17 My Story: How Jesus Stories Saved My Jewish Life / Richard B. Weinberg 20 Education: What Do You Know… about Synagogues? / Kevin Thurm 51 Worship: A Classical Reformer Bows to Tradition / Suzanne Singer 52 Synagogue: Selecting a Rabbi via Community Organizing / Jeffrey Govendo 53 Lifecycle: Holding Fast Then Letting Go / Steven Schnur THE RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TO COLLEGE LIFE 24 Perspective 100: Turning Knowledge into Wisdom / a conversation with Frederick Lawrence 30 Admissions 100: College Cash 31 Admissions 101: Getting In—What the Experts Say 36 Admissions 102 & 103: The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose & The Top 20 by Percentage of Jews 41 Admissions 104: What Colleges Don’t Tell You / Claire D. Friedlander 42 Admissions 105: The Right School Pays Off / a conversation with Dennis Hughner 44 Admissions 106: Dos and Don’ts in a Digital Age / Katherine Cohen 47 Campus Life 200: Building Jewish Relationships “My Way” / Andrew Abrams 48 Campus Life 201: Being Myself as a Reform Jew / Emily Langowitz 49 Campus Life 202: A Glimpse into Graduate Jewish Studies / Jeffrey Shandler & Rona Sheramy NEWS & VIEWS OF REFORM JEWS 68 Feature Story: The Key to Keeping Members / Ryan E. Smith Also 67 Chairman’s Perspective: Engaging Our Youth / Stephen M. Sacks 67 Quotable: The Blogs 69 Noteworthy 72 My Idea: Build on Birthright Israel / Julie Liberman


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d e a r

Official Publication of the Union for Reform Judaism Serving Reform Congregations in North America Fall 2012, Vol. 41, No. 1

* 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:

On-Line Home Page: 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 2012 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. RJ covers developments within our Movement while interpreting world events and Jewish tradition from a Reform perspective. Shared by 305,000 member households, RJ conveys the creativity, diversity, and dynamism of Reform Judaism.

Reimagining Jewish Life


t’s that time of year. Time to take a deep, honest look at our lives and our world. The classic Jewish term for this work is cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of one’s soul. I think of it as a strenuous spiritual audit, forcing ourselves to be truthful in facing the shortcomings we’ve glossed over or chosen to ignore in the past year. Have we done all we could to make our world a more fair and just place? Have we given enough tzedakah? Could we have taken more action to shape responsible public policy at home and abroad? Have we stood up for Israel as best we could? Surely we have not succeeded on all counts. The upcoming Days of Awe also present an opportunity for us all to do a collective cheshbon hanefesh and reenvision together how we can be true to our highest values as a Jewish community. At the Union for Reform Judaism, we are reimagining Jewish life, setting our sights on what we, as the Reform Movement, must now become. I invite you to join me, along with the URJ board and staff, in making 5773 a year of reimagining the ways we engage in the core work of Jewish life, from undertaking sacred study and spiritual practice to building compassionate Jewish communities and working to heal our broken world. Albert Einstein famously observed, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” In the Akeda story we read on Rosh Hashanah, our patriarch Abraham raised his eyes to see the place that God chose, while his servants saw nothing. That’s our challenge today as well—to courageously envision a bright future, even if—perhaps especially if— others cannot see it. Let us, then, not squander the High Holy Days by going through the motions. Instead, let us open ourselves—individually and collectively—to the rigorous self-scrutiny and the intense reimagination that our tradition prescribes. L’Shanah Tova Tikatevu. May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

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

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Ian Spanier Photography

Executive Editor Mark Pelavin Editor Aron Hirt-Manheimer Managing Editor Joy Weinberg Literary Editor Bonny V. Fetterman 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, Jan Katzew, 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, Gail Littman, 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: Change of Address Hotline: 212-650-4182*

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l e t t e r s

When God is Trivialized


n his “Dear Reader” (Summer 2012), URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs writes, “While I hope God’s presence can be felt in all places, including football stadiums, I find it offensive to reduce the Almighty to a football mascot in the sky.” My friend Henry is a Baptist pastor. Henry prays about all sorts of things that I would not consider appropriate— for me. His interpretation of the scriptures is that “G-d wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives [and]…our sincere public expression gives much deserved Glory to his name.” From this perspective, a person who only prays to God for assistance in winning a sporting event might be trivializSend letters to: Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, 7th floor, New York, NY 10017, (click on “Submissions”).

ing God, but if the person prays about all things, important as well as minor events, then he/she is in fact elevating God. Paul H. Chandler Falls Church, Virginia

time for our prayers to reflect this! Seymour Prystowsky Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Or Ami Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania

The God Survey

Non-Jews Reciting Blessings on the Bimah


riting about surveying his congregation’s belief in God (“The God Survey,” Summer 2012), Rabbi Mark Shapiro states: “Most of my congregants do not construe God as a celestial figure who acts in this world.” I daresay that Reform congregants and many, if not most, of our rabbis feel similarly. Given this reality, why do we continue to use a prayer book whose prayers are based on the belief that God does act in this world? Why are our prayers still petitioning God to intervene in granting us good health, long life, peace, etc.? It is we who act on behalf of God. It is


eading the “yes” argument to the “Debatable: May Non-Jews Recite Any Blessing from the Bimah?” (Spring 2012) made my blood pressure rise! Rabbi Elliot Strom states that his non-Jewish congregant chose not to convert to Judaism to avoid causing pain to his observant Catholic mother. Wouldn’t the pain have already been unleashed when he chose to raise her grandchild in another faith? I believe it is inappropriate to allow each non-Jewish congregant to determine whether the words of a blessing really continued on page 6

3 : 2 0 1 URES T R A EP

& y 19r 13 a M obe R Oct GISTE! RENOW


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A New Vision for Reform Judaism


fter soliciting and distilling feedback from 1,500+ individuals (through focus groups, Biennial sessions, Board meetings, the RJ Magazine Think Tank, and a survey of unaffiliated Jews), the 30-member Reform Leadership Council (RLC) Think Tank—a collaboration of the URJ, HUC-JIR, and CCAR—has created this draft of the first-ever Vision Statement articulating what it means to be a Reform Jew and to be part of the Reform Movement. “Our goal was a Vision Statement that encompasses our reality and our dream of the future,” says URJ Senior Vice President Rabi Daniel Freelander. “We want individuals and groups to consider if and how it matches their own aspirations about Reform Judaism, the Reform Movement, and their own Jewishness.” The RLC welcomes your feedback at Responses will

be considered through October and the final statement disseminated in Spring 2013. The RLC hopes that member congregations will reflect on this vision, adopt it, and share it widely, teaching and engaging Jewish seekers in Reform Judaism’s message of unity, meaning, and authenticity. In addition, as part of the Think Tank conversation, hundreds of Reform leaders, congregants, and others visited the RJ magazine website to contribute a diversity of perspectives and ideas about strengthening our Movement. In the Winter 2011 edition (reformjudaism we published “Reforming Judaism: Voices from the People, Part I,” a sampling of these thoughtful viewpoints and suggestions on four topics. Now, Part II—Movement-wide reflections and analyses on three more subjects—is available at

Proposed Vision Statement Reform Judaism is the living expression of Torah and tradition in our modern lives. Reform Judaism welcomes all who seek Jewish connection to pursue the fullness of a life inspired by compassion and our Divine mission to do what is right and just. In our sacred communities, Reform Jews make thoughtful and informed choices about how we put our values into action. We explore our spirituality, and we engage in reflection, critical study, and sacred acts in order to renew our living covenant with God and the Jewish people. The organizations of the Reform Movement exist in partnership with one another to nurture individual Jews, to sustain our innovative and diverse communities, and to shape our shared destiny with Israel and fellow Jews around the world.




Food for Thought from CCAR Press

For the High Holy Days


Birkon Artzi: Blessings and Meditations for Travelers to Israel

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Beyond Breaking the Glass: A Spiritual Guide to Your Jewish Wedding, Revised Edition by Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener

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Letters continued from page 4 mean something to him/her, as Rabbi Strom suggests. The bimah should not be the place to water down our covenantal relationship with God. Susan Tenenbaum Riverside, California

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Jewish Antiques Appraisal Show Appraisals by Jonathan Greenstein

Dear Jonathan, All we know about this brass hanging lamp is that it came from Germany, possibly Westphalia, in the 1840s. Can you tell us more? And have we ruined it by adapting it for electrical use? Martha Ransohoff Adler Member of Temple Micah, Washington, DC Dear Martha, Your lamp is called a judenstern (pronounced yooden stern), meaning “Jewish star” in German. Our co-religionists in Germany and the Netherlands used star-shaped judensterns from the 15th century through the

late 19th century to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting a Shabbat lamp. The judensterns were made of brass—essentially copper mixed with some zinc—a very hard metal that lasts for centuries if handled correctly. In our time, two or more candles are generally lit for Shabbat, the two in accordance with the commandments sh’mor (observe) and zechor (remember). In many Orthodox households an additional candle is lit for each family member, and if a woman lighting the candles ever fails to do so on erev Shabbat, she must add one candle thereafter for the rest of her life. The same

traditions applied to the use of judenstern lamps. Yours appears to have six oil fonts. Judensterns were most likely produced in the thousands, so they are relatively common. Ordinarily they sell for $400–500. Because yours has been electrified, I estimate a $100 loss in value. Jonathan Greenstein, founder J. Greenstein & Co., Inc. and star of a new Judaica series on The Jewish Channel Reader inquiries: Dear Jonathan, We're so pleased to know more about the lamp we've used for decades. It's interesting that the value goes down when the utility of the piece increases.

Photo by Tom Bonner


The newly redesigned sanctuary of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, CA features a lowered bimah as well as a ceiling “oculus,” a cone-shaped skylight that channels daylight into the sanctuary and becomes a focal point for services conducted in the round. “We wanted to break down the barriers between clergy and laypeople,” says Rabbi Jonathan Aaron. “The Hebrew word Emanuel means ‘God is among us.’” For submission guidelines to the Union’s 21st Century Photography Project: reform judaism

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The Roots of Jewish Conversion a conversation with Rabbi David Ellenson and Rabbi Daniel Gordis

Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Rabbi Daniel Gordis, president of the Shalem Foundation in Jerusalem, have co-authored Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa (Stanford University Press, 2012). In the following RJ interview, Rabbis Ellenson and Gordis provide insight into the prevailing and sometimes conflicting attitudes about conversion from biblical times to our own day. Does Judaism look favorably on conversion and converts?

Ellenson and Gordis: On the one hand, Judaism has a very positive view of converts. The Talmud (Yevamot 47a) says that conversion makes a person completely Jewish, and the Mishnah (Bava Metzia 4:10) states that we are not allowed to remind converts of their non-Jewish roots. Today, most Jewish communities welcome converts, and in North America, thousands of non-Jews convert to Judaism each year. Yet, a careful reading of Jewish texts reveals a degree of ambivalence, if not antagonism, toward conversion and the status of converts. The Mishnah in the first chapter of Bikkurim, for example, states without discussion or controversy that although a convert must bring first-fruit offerings to the Temple, he may not recite the words, “which the Lord has sworn to our fathers to give unto us” as part of his liturgical declaration. While no explicit rationale is put forth for this ruling, it appears that the Mishnah forbids such recitation because the convert’s ancestors were not literally part of that historical experience. Apparently, the convert could become Jewish enough to be obligated to bring offerings, but not Jewish enough to claim fully the same history as other Jews.

Isn’t a convert to be considered as if he or she stood at Sinai when Moses delivered the commandments?

The convert occupies a strange and somewhat conflicted role in Jewish life. The Hebrew word for “convert,” geir, reflects this conflict; it not only means “convert” but “stranger” as well. Even after someone has joined the Jewish people he or she is still referred to as a geir in the Bible. In some sense, therefore, he/she remains a stranger forever. At the same time, it is forbidden to remind a convert of his or her Gentile past. To what do you attribute this ambivalence toward converts?

Mainly from an understanding of the Jewish people as not only a theological community, but a historical and ethnic one as well. One can adopt a theology, but it is much more difficult, and perhaps even impossible, to fully adopt a history, an ethnicity, or a tribal identity. How did a person convert in biblical times?

The Torah does not mention any formal institution of conversion or ceremony for such purpose. Some individuals did join the community by virtue of marreform judaism

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rying an Israelite; David, for example, wed a Philistine, and his son Solomon married numerous foreign women. Even Ruth, the paradigmatic symbol of conversion in later Jewish tradition, never actually converted. Her pledge to Naomi, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried,” constituted a statement of loyalty to her mother-in-law, not to a religion. Harvard professor Shaye J.D. Cohen explains: “The foreign woman who married an Israelite husband was supposed to leave her gods in her father’s house, but even if she did not, it never occurred to anyone to argue that her children were not Israelites. Since the idea of conversion to Judaism did not yet exist…it never occurred to anyone to demand that the foreign woman undergo some ritual to indicate her acceptance into the religion of Israel.” When did religious allegiance become a factor in conversion?

It began to take hold after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E., when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon. Surrounded by foreign people, living as a small minority, their Temple devastated and tribal structure gone, the people formerly known as Israelites could no longer be defined exclusively by the place where they resided. Gentiles could not become Israelites, but through a ritual ceremony they could become Jews. Essentially, the Israelite religion transformed itself into what we now know as Judaism. When did the conversion ritual become an accepted rite of passage in Jewish life?

It is probable that a conversion ritual developed some time before 220 C.E., when a rabbinic text on the subject of conversion, tractate Yevamot, established the basic ritual of conversion:

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Brand New: URJ’s Interactive Hebrew Curriculum This fall, URJ Press launched a digital, online, interactive version of Mitkadem, the Union’s flagship Hebrew curriculum.

navigating it—or, worse yet, relating to it. With e-learning, for the first time I’m hearing students say things like ‘cool,’ ‘awesome,’ and ‘I love this’ about their Jewish learning.”

Since its inception in 2003, Mitkadem has revolutionized how students learn to read Hebrew by enabling them to Web-based, Mitkadem work at their own pace Digital allows students to MITTY, THE MITKADEM through the curriculum’s 23 log in from any computer. MASCOT. ramot (levels). Students no No special software, CD, longer scramble to catch up with the or download is required. “One of my class or become frustrated with a students will be traveling around the slower class pace. Teachers become world with his family next year,” says facilitators, addressing each student’s Michelle Schwartz of Temple Sinai in needs to help him/her succeed. Denver, another pilot site, “and he’ll be continuing his Hebrew education Six URJ congregations are currently seamlessly.” piloting Mitkadem Digital. Rabbi Melissa Buyer, director of lifelong learning at Debbie Massarano of pilot site Temple pilot site Temple Israel of the City of Shalom in Dallas finds the program efNew York, believes that an online interfective in her own classroom. “The adactive curriculum is the optimal learnvanced students zip right through,” ing tool for today’s students. “Children she says. “They love knowing immedinowadays are digital natives,” she says. ately if they got the answers right and “And when material is presented outhaving access to the vocabulary and side of the digital world, some stuprayer texts a click away. One student dents tell us they have a harder time told me he felt like he had a teacher

Our Rabbis taught: If at the present time a man desires to become a proselyte, he is to be addressed as follows: “What reason have you for desiring to become a proselyte? Do you not know that Israel at the present time is persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed, and overcome by afflictions?” If he replies, “I know and yet I am unworthy,” he is accepted immediately and is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major commandments…. And as he is informed of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments, so is he informed of the reward granted for their fulfillment…. He is not, however, to be persuaded or dissuaded too much. If he accepted, he is circumcised forthwith….As soon as he is healed, arrangements are made for his immediate immersion, when two learned men must stand by his side and acquaint him with some of the minor commandments and with some of the major ones. When he comes up after his immersion, he is deemed to be an Israelite in all respects. ➢

Other URJ Press e-learning curricula will follow. “Partnering with Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, we’re developing a digital component for CHAI: Learning for Jewish Life, the Union’s core Judaica curriculum, optimized for distance learning,” says Michael Goldberg, publisher and editor-in-chief of URJ Books and Music. “We also plan to produce e-learning versions of our Hebrew for Adults series, the Introduction to Judaism course sourcebook, and a whole range of adult learning opportunities.” Mitkadem Digital is now available for ramot 5-13. To learn more about Mitkadem, in print or online, contact URJ Books and Music at 212-6504120,,

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online with him.” At the same time, Mitkadem Digital is particularly valuable for students with special needs, she says, “because they can work as slowly as they need, without peer pressure, in a learning environment with few classroom distractions.”


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Notably, while this conversion process demands a commitment to ritual observance, it does not spell out what the convert must do or believe as a Jew. Did the rabbis take into account the potential convert’s motivations?

Yes, Tractate Gerim 1:3 reads: “Anyone who converts [in order to marry] a woman, for love or out of fear, is not a convert….And anyone who does not convert lesheim shamayim [for the sake of heaven], is not a [legitimate] convert.” Significantly, however, while the tractate specifies that the conversion must be “for the sake of heaven,” it does not explain what that means. This has led to differing interpretations and much controversy among rabbis in subsequent generations, complicating the ambiguous status the convert may experience in Jewish communal and legal life. How did the rabbis decide if a prospective convert possessed the proper intention?

In his legal magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides writes:

Logo designed by studio Kalderon ©


Maimonides thereby introduced the notion that rabbinic courts have an obligation to investigate prospective converts. Once a court had sanctioned a conversion, however, Maimonides indicated that no aspersions may be


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The appropriate way to perform the commandment [of conversion] is that when the convert comes to convert, we investigate him lest [he be converting] for money that he will receive, or for some position of authority that will come his way, or whether it is because of fear that he wishes to enter the religion. If he is a man, we investigate whether he has cast his eye on a Jewish woman; and if she is a woman, we investigate whether she has cast her eye on a Jewish man. If no inappropriate motivation is discovered, we inform him of the magnitude of the weight of the yoke of Torah and of the tremendous efforts required from Gentiles to perform [its commandments]. If they accept, and do not change their minds and we see that they have returned out of love, we accept them.


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When Reform Judaism became a force in Germany by the mid-19th century, did it differ from the Orthodox in its approach to conversion?

Actually, living within a more traditional Jewish society in Germany, most early Reform rabbis retained ritual immersion and circumcision for prospective converts. It took until the end of the 19th century in America for these conversion requirements to become optional, if not abandoned altogether. While many Reform rabbis today do not require their performance, an increasing number do urge converts to consider them. Reform converts who make aliyah to Israel are considered Jewish under the Law of Return, but are denied full religious rights. How has the Israeli government responded to Reform and Conservative Movement insistence that non-Orthodox conversions be recognized?

In 1997, responding to pressure from the North American Reform and Conservative Movements, Israel’s then prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appointed the Ne’eman Commission (named after its chairman, Finance Minister Yaakov Ne’eman) to develop ideas and proposals on the conversion issue. After some 70 sessions and 150


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Yes, Orthodox positions on what constitutes a legitimate conversion have diverged widely. In Pledges of Jewish Allegiance we show that the view of any given Orthodox rabbi reflects, among other things, his conception of what Judaism is (a belief system, a way of life governed by Jewish law, an ethnic experience, or even a national one after the creation of the State of Israel) and the scope of the community for which he issues his ruling. When he is thinking only of his own Orthodox constituency, he can raise the standards; when he tries to reach out to the wider Jewish world, he may show greater flexibility.



Has the conversion process varied among Orthodox factions?



cast on the validity of its decision. Maimonides’ ruling later became halakhah (Jewish law).


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hours of deliberations, the commission called for the creation of panels of rabbis representing the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Movements to prepare candidates for conversion. However, the conversion ritual itself was to remain solidly within the province of the Orthodox rabbinate. The Orthodox rabbinate ultimately rejected the Ne’eman Commission’s recommendations, fearing that a crack in the wall might lead to recognition of Reform and Conservative Judaism. As for the status of non-Orthodox

conversions outside the State, Israel recognizes Reform Jews as “Jews” for citizenship purposes under the Law of Return. Some relatively recent Israeli Supreme Court decisions have extended this right of citizenship to persons converted within Israel under nonOrthodox auspices. However, matters of personal status (i.e., marriage, divorce, and burial) remain exclusively within the province and control of the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate, which itself increasingly falls under the sway of its most ultra-Orthodox elements.

Do you believe that this divisive issue can be resolved?

Realistically, we are not going to find a solution to conversion that is acceptable to all parties. These disagreements date back as far as the Mishnah, and if anything, the Jewish world has become more divided since then. Our hope is that even in the midst of our disagreements, we can find ways to promote civil discourse among Jews, if for no other reason than to ensure that the State of Israel does not alienate non-Orthodox Diaspora Jewry over the issue of who is a Jew. Whatever divisions might exist in our ranks, we need to safeguard the understanding that we are one people with sacred obligations to each other.

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To lessen signs and symptoms of moderate to severe Crohn’s Disease in adults not helped enough by usual treatments. Important Safety Information About CIMZIA® (certolizumab pegol) What is the most important information I should know about CIMZIA? CIMZIA is a prescription medicine that affects your immune system. CIMZIA can lower the ability of the immune system to fight infections. Serious infections have happened in patients taking CIMZIA, including tuberculosis (TB) and infections caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria that have spread throughout the body. Some patients have died from these infections. Your doctor should test you for TB before starting CIMZIA. Your doctor should monitor you closely for signs and symptoms of TB during your treatment with CIMZIA. Certain Types of Cancer There have been cases of unusual cancers in children and teenage patients using TNF-blocking agents. CIMZIA is not approved for use in pediatric patients. For people taking TNF-blocker medicines, including CIMZIA, the chances for getting lymphoma or other cancers may increase. People with RA, especially more serious RA, may have a higher chance for getting a kind of cancer called lymphoma. Before starting CIMZIA, tell your doctor if you: s Think you have an infection. You should not start taking CIMZIA if you have any kind of infection, are being treated for an infection or have signs of an infection such as fever, cough or flu-like symptoms or if you get a lot of infections or have infections that keep coming back. s Have any open cuts or sores s Have diabetes or HIV s Have TB, or have been in close contact with someone with TB s Were born in, lived in, or traveled to countries where there is more risk of getting TB. Ask your doctor if you are not sure. s Live or lived in certain parts of the country (such as the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys) where there is an increased risk for getting certain kinds of fungal infections (histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis, blastomycosis). These infections may develop or become severe if you take CIMZIA. If you do not know if you have lived in these types of areas, ask your doctor. s Have or have had hepatitis B s Have or have had any type of cancer s Have congestive heart failure s Have seizures, any numbness or tingling, or a disease that affects your nervous system such as multiple sclerosis s Are scheduled to receive a vaccine. Do not receive a live vaccine while taking CIMZIA s Are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. CIMZIA has not been studied in pregnant or nursing women.

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0SFODJBÂŽ, RituxanÂŽ, or TysabriÂŽ. t"5/'CMPDLFS3FNJDBEFÂŽ JOnJYJNBC )VNJSBÂŽ (adalimumab), EnbrelÂŽ (etanercept), SimponiÂŽ (golimumab). :PVTIPVMEOPUUBLF$*.;*" XIJMFZPVUBLFPOFPGUIFTFNFEJDJOFT How should I use CIMZIA? CIMZIA is available as a lyophilized powder for reconstitution or a preďŹ lled syringe. If your doctor prescribes the lyophilized pack, CIMZIA should be injected by a healthcare provider. If your doctor prescribes the preďŹ lled syringe, see the booklet called “Patient Instructions for Useâ€? packaged in your CIMZIA preďŹ lled syringe kit for complete instructions for use. Do not give yourself an injection of CIMZIA unless you have been shown by your doctor or nurse, or they can train someone you know to help you with your injection. CIMZIA is given CZBOJOKFDUJPOVOEFSUIFTLJO:PVSEPDUPSXJMMUFMMZPVIPXNVDI$*.;*"UPJOKFDUBOEIPX often, based on your condition to be treated. Make sure to keep all of your injection and follow-up appointments with your doctor. What are the possible side effects of CIMZIA? CIMZIA can cause serious side effects including: See “What is the most important information I should know about CIMZIA?â€? tHeart Failure including new heart failure or worsening of heart failure you already have. Symptoms include shortness of breath, swelling of your ankles or feet, or sudden weight gain. tNervous System ProblemsTVDIBTNVMUJQMFTDMFSPTJT TFJ[VSFT PSJOnBNNBUJPOPG the nerves of the eyes. Symptoms include dizziness, numbness or tingling problems with your vision, and weakness in your arms or legs. tAllergic Reactions. Signs of an allergic reaction include a skin rash, swelling of the face, tongue, lips, or throat, or trouble breathing. tHepatitis B virus reactivation in patients who carry the virus in their blood. In some cases patients have died as a result of hepatitis B virus being reactivated. :PVSEPDUPSTIPVMENPOJUPSZPVDBSFGVMMZEVSJOHUSFBUNFOUXJUI$*.;*"JGZPV carry the hepatitis B virus in your blood. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:  tGFFMVOXFMM  tUJSFEOFTT GBUJHVF

 tQPPSBQQFUJUF  tGFWFS TLJOSBTI PSKPJOUQBJO tBlood Problems:PVSCPEZNBZOPUNBLFFOPVHIPGUIFCMPPEDFMMTUIBUIFMQmHIU JOGFDUJPOTPSIFMQTUPQCMFFEJOH4ZNQUPNTJODMVEFBGFWFSUIBUEPFTOUHPBXBZ  bruising or bleeding very easily, or looking very pale. tImmune reactions including a lupus-like syndrome. Symptoms include shortness of breath, joint pain, or a rash on the cheeks or arms that worsens with sun exposure. Call your doctor right away if you develop any of the above side effects or symptoms. The most common side effects in people taking CIMZIA are: tVQQFSSFTQJSBUPSZJOGFDUJPOT nV DPME  tSBTI tVSJOBSZUSBDUJOGFDUJPOT CMBEEFSJOGFDUJPOT

0UIFSTJEFFGGFDUTXJUI$*.;*"JODMVEF tPsoriasis. Some people using CIMZIA had new psoriasis or worsening of psoriasis they already had. Tell your doctor if you develop red scaly patches or raised bumps UIBUBSFmMMFEXJUIQVT:PVSEPDUPSNBZEFDJEFUPTUPQZPVSUSFBUNFOUXJUI$*.;*" tInjection site reactions. Redness, rash, swelling, itching or bruising can happen in some people. These symptoms will usually go away within a few days. If you have QBJO SFEOFTT PSTXFMMJOHBSPVOEUIFJOKFDUJPOTJUFUIBUEPFTOUHPBXBZXJUIJOBGFX days or gets worse, call your doctor right away. Tell your doctor about any side effect that bothers you or does not go away. These are not all of the side effects with CIMZIA. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088. General information about CIMZIA Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes that are not mentioned in Medication Guides. Do not use CIMZIA for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give CIMZIA to other people, even if they have the same condition. It may harm them. This brief summary summarizes the most important information about CIMZIA. If ZPVXPVMEMJLFNPSFJOGPSNBUJPO UBMLXJUIZPVSEPDUPS:PVDBOBTLZPVSEPDUPSPS pharmacist for information about CIMZIA that is written for health professionals. For more information go to or call 1-866-4CIMZIA (424-6942). Always keep CIMZIA, injection supplies, puncture-proof container, and all other medicines out of the reach of children. What are the ingredients in CIMZIA? CIMZIA lyophilized powder: Active ingredient: certolizumab pegol. Inactive ingredients: sucrose, lactic acid, polysorbate. The pack contains Water for Injection, for reconstitution of the lyophilized powder. CIMZIA preďŹ lled syringe: Active ingredient: certolizumab pegol. Inactive ingredients: sodium acetate, sodium chloride, and Water for Injection. CIMZIA has no preservatives. Product developed and manufactured for: UCB, Inc., 1950 Lake Park Drive, Smyrna, GA 30080

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JL_MyStory_f12_F.indd 17

How Jesus Stories Saved My Jewish Life By Richard B. Weinberg


n the years following World War II, Jews were the vanguard of the westward spread of Boston’s suburbs. When I entered grade school in 1954, my family moved into a white colonial house in Newton Centre, a small town outside of Boston.

friends. After school we would spend hours jumping into bales of hay in the barn, pretending to drive the tractors, and helping out at the farm stand. Often we just sat and talked, and it quickly became apparent that Helena was an accomplished storyteller. The central figure in Helena’s stories was an amazing character named Jesus. As she described him, Jesus was a superhero with astonishing powers— sort of a combination of Superman, The Shadow, and The Green Lantern. Jesus MY PLAYMATES, C. 1956. I AM IN THE BACK ROW, LEFT, AND HELENA VALENTI IS IN THE BACK ROW, RIGHT. made miracles happen: he Our large extended family lived nearby, could command bread to appear out most of our neighbors and almost all of thin air and change water to wine. my classmates were Jewish, and so He controlled nature itself: he could it seemed to me that the whole world make violent storms disappear at will was too. My parents, though, were and walk on water! He was an amaznonobservant. They had never been ing healer: he could make blind men temple members, and certainly did not see and lame people walk. Once the intend to provide their children with a Devil was living inside of a man (“He formal religious education. was covered with sores that oozed pus One block away from our house was all over,” Helena recounted in a hushed Valenti’s, a truck farm that grew vegevoice), and Jesus chased the Devil tables for local markets. In season, we away just by touching him. He could bought all of our produce at their roadeven make dead people come back to side stand. The Valentis’ daughter Hellife! I was transfixed. ena, a dark-haired beauty with spar“Do you want to hear how Jesus kling eyes and an easy laugh, was my died?” Helena asked one day. age and served as the family translator. “He died?” Soon Helena and I had become fast “Oh, yes. It was horrible!” It turned out that Jesus’ superpowers were not enough to save him from Richard B. Weinberg, M.D. is a professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston a terrible fate, which Helen proceeded Salem, North Carolina, where he and his to narrate in gruesome detail. Jesus family are members of Temple Emanuel. was betrayed to the Romans by the reform judaism


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Jews (“Why did they do that?” Helena wasn’t sure—“Maybe they were jealous?”), and from then on he was doomed. Roman soldiers stripped off his clothes, flogged him with a leather whip covered with nails, and made him drag a gigantic wooden cross up a tall hill. When he reached the top they hammered big iron nails through his hands and feet (!!!) into the cross. Then they stabbed him with a spear and made him drink vinegar until, after hours of agony, he finally died. Then the ground split open, fire came up,

and they buried Jesus in a cave. “Where did you hear these stories?” I asked in awe. “From the nuns at my school.” “What’s a nun?” “They’re women who teach you to pray to God— they’re all married to Jesus.” “But I thought NOW A PROUD RELIGIOUS SCHOOL STUDENT, I (FOREGROUND) READ THE 4 QUESTIONS AT OUR FAMILY SEDER.

he died.” “Yes, but then he came back to life and went up to heaven to live with his father.” “Like a ghost?” I asked, increasingly perplexed. “No, no. The Holy Ghost is different.” I didn’t fully understand this whole business, but Helena clearly did, and every time I went to the Valentis’ farm I demanded to hear more Jesus stories. One day after playing with Helena I returned home to find a stranger in our living room, sitting in the stuffed armchair reserved for honored guests. He was dressed in a crisply pressed black suit, had a neatly trimmed white beard, and spoke with the hint of a foreign accent, just like my great uncle Manny, who had lived in Russia as a child. “Hey, Richie,” my mother called out, “say hello to Rabbi Schwartz.” Unbeknownst to me then, Rabbi Schwartz was paying my parents a social call to convince them to join Temple Beth El and enroll me in the temple’s Hebrew school. Thus far, my parents had politely, but firmly, declined his appeal. “What’s a rabbi?” I asked, innocently. My mother shifted uncomfortably. Finally, she responded: “Uh…he’s someone who helps you talk to God.” “Oh, I know all about talking to God,” I declared. “That’s what Jesus does!” “Really?” Rabbi Schwartz said, leaning forward in the armchair with apparent interest. reform judaism

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“Yeah! He can do miracles and everything!” I gushed. “Ah, I see….Would you tell me more about him?” And before my horrified mother and father could say a word, I excitedly began to regale the rabbi with the best of Helena’s Jesus stories. As I waxed on about Jesus’ final tribulations (“…they whipped him and hammered nails through his hands and feet and stabbed him with a spear…”), a peculiar wry smile crept over Rabbi Schwartz’s face. Nodding attentively to me as I chattered on, he casually reached into his briefcase, withdrew a sheaf of papers, and set them on the coffee table before my parents. Still nodding politely, he took a pen from his jacket and placed it on top of the papers. My mother and father glanced at each other, and then, resigned to their fate, proceeded to fill out the forms. By the time my store of Jesus stories was exhausted, my father had written out the check. “Well, Richie,” the rabbi said, “I can see that you love a good story. We have some marvelous stories to tell you at Temple Beth El. I’ll see you there next week.” And so it was that I attended Hebrew school. There I discovered the wonders of the synagogue, the melodies of Jewish prayer, and the taste of fresh baked challah. I learned the aleph bet, the Shema, and the Four Questions. I made garlands for the Sukkah, spun dreidels, and played Haman in the Purim spiel. I asked my mother to light candles for Shabbat, and we began to attend services at Temple Beth El. Jewish prayer and practice returned to our family, and I had my own tales of heroes and miracles to tell. More than half a century later, it gives me pause to consider how—but for that chance encounter—my Jewish heritage might have been lost to me. But as it happened, thanks in no small measure to Helena’s Jesus stories, I came to learn of our history, our traditions, and our stories— wisdom that I have now passed on to my own children. reform judaism

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What Do You Know…about Synagogues? By Kevin Thurm

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series designed to increase your Jewish knowledge in an entertaining way. Enjoy! 1. In what century does the synagogue emerge as a wellestablished institution that serves as the very center of the social and religious life of the people? A. 1st century C.E. B. 2nd century C.E. C. 3rd century C.E. D. 4th century C.E.

3. Where can you find the oldest and still active Jewish congregation in the Americas? A. Charleston, South Carolina B. New York City C. Havana, Cuba D. Willemstad, Curacao AMPHITHEATRE OF THE REFORM CONGREGATION WITH THE LARGEST MEMBERSHIP IN NORTH AMERICA. (WHICH? SEE PAGE 22 FOR THE ANSWER.)

Kevin Thurm, a retired airline pilot, is a member of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he serves on the Social Action Committee and the Jewish Festival Committee.

2. Where was the first synagogue in the Americas located? A. Jodensavanne, Suriname B. Bridgetown, Barbados C. Willemstad, Curacao D. Recife, Brazil

reform judaism

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4. Where can you find the oldest and still active Reform synagogue in the Americas? A. Baltimore, Maryland B. Cincinnati, Ohio C. Savannah, Georgia D. Charleston, S. Carolina

5. Where can you find Canada’s oldest, still active Reform congregation?

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A. Kingston, Ontario B. Toronto, Ontario C. Westmount, Quebec D. Hamilton, Ontario 6. In what year was the very first Reform temple established in Germany, leading to the flourishing of Reform Judaism in Europe? A. 1760 B. 1785 C. 1810 D. 1835 7. What organization of synagogues produces Reform Judaism magazine? A. Union for Reform Judaism B. Union for Judaism C. Union for American Judaism D. Union of American Hebrew Congregations 8. How many congregations worldwide are affiliated with the Reform/Progressive/ Liberal Movement? A. about 600 congregations in 15 countries B. about 800 congregations in 25 countries C. about 1,000 congregations in 35 countries D. about 1,200 congregations in 45 countries

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9. What North American Reform congregation has the largest number of members? A. Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, D.C. B. Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas C. Temple Israel, West Bloomfield, Michigan D. Stephen S Wise Temple, Los Angeles, California 10. What North American Reform congregation has the smallest number of members? A. Mattoon Jewish Community Center, Shelbyville, Illinois B. Mishkan Israel Congregation, Selma, Alabama C. Meir Chayim Temple, McGehee, Arkansas D. Temple Beth Tikvah, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada For the answers, see the next page. reform judaism

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SYNAGOGUE QUIZ ANSWERS 1. A. In the 1st century C.E. the synagogue emerges as the very center of the social and religious life of the people, harmoniously cooperating with the Temple in Eretz Israel. Sources as varied as the Talmud, Philo, Josephus, the New Testament, and archaeology afford evidence of its existence, with every indication that it is anything but a new institution. As just one example, Philo (20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.) states that the large population of Alexandria had many synagogues in many quarters of the city, among them a great synagogue where the members of the various craft guilds sat together and which was so huge that the voice of the officiant was inaudible and flags had to be waved to indicate to the worshipers when they should make the responses. (Source: Encyclopedia Judaica) 2. D. Founded in 1630, Kahal Zur Israel (Rock of Israel) served the spiritual needs of about 1,400 Dutch Jews in Recife, Brazil. The synagogue flourished until 1654, when the Portuguese conquered Northern Brazil and the Jews fled. Some sailed to New Amsterdam; by doing so, they abandoned the oldest synagogue in the New World but formed the first Jewish community in North America. The Nidhe Israel Synagogue in Bridgetown, Barbados was built in 1651 by another group of Jews fleeing Spanish-controlled Recife. Its building was destroyed by a hurricane in 1831 and rebuilt two years later; it was reconsecrated in 1929 after a period of disuse. The Beracha ve Shalom synagogue was established in Jodensavanne, Suriname in 1685 and fell out of use in 1865, although the ruins still exist. The Mikve Israel-Emanuel synagogue building in Willemstad, Curacao was built in 1732 to accommodate a Jewish community that had formed on the island in 1651 in search of religious freedom in the Dutch colonies. (Sources:, Washingtonpost. com,,

3. D. The Mikve Israel-Emanuel congregation in Curacao was founded by Spanish and Portuguese Jews in 1651, and is still active today. Charleston’s oldest congregation, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, was founded in 1749. New York City’s oldest congregation, Shearith Israel, dates back to 1654. Cuba’s oldest synagogue, Temple Chevet Achim, was founded in 1914 but no longer serves a congregation. (Sources:;; Shearithisrael. org;; 4. D. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, which dates back to 1749, was the first to become Reform in 1840. Whereas Congregation Mickve Israel of Savannah, GA was founded earlier—1733—by Spanish and Portuguese Jews, it became Reform much later. Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cincinnati was incorporated in 1842. Har Sinai Congregation in Ownings Mills, Maryland (outside Baltimore), originally named Har Sinai Verein, was founded in 1842. It is the oldest in this group that was created Reform. (Sources: The Georgia Historical Commission,, Mickveisrael. org,, Harsinai-md. org, Professor Jonathan Sarna) 5. D. In 1853 a small group of German Jewish families banded together to form the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Anshe-Sholem of Hamilton, which would become Temple Anshe Sholom. Congregation Iyr HaMelech in Kingston, Ontario was founded in 1975. Founded in 1856, Holy Blossom Temple is the oldest Jewish congregation in Toronto. On August 23, 1882, Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom in Westmount, Quebec held its founding meeting. (Sources:, Holyblossom. org,, 6. C. In 1810, the first Reform temple, founded in Germany by Israel Jacobson, opened its doors in the town of Seesen. (Source: Reform Judaism magazine) reform judaism

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7. A. The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations), the congregational arm of the Reform Movement, works to create and sustain some 900 Reform Jewish congregations in North America. It publishes Reform Judaism magazine, the one link between the Reform Movement and every Reform Jew; provides leadership and vision on spiritual, ethical, and public policy issues; offers congregational program materials and expert consultations; serves as the voice of North American Reform congregations throughout the world; provides camp and Israel programs; creates Biennial “family gathering” conventions; supports the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; and much more. To learn more: (Source: 8. D. There are more than 1,200 Reform/Progressive/Liberal congregations in 45 countries on 6 continents. Approximately 900 or 75% of these congregations are based in North America and are affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. (Source: 9. C. Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Michigan has 3,385 membership units. Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, California has 2,889 membership units. Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. has 2,773 membership units. Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas has 2,500 membership units. (Source: Union for Reform Judaism MUM report) 10. A. Mattoon Jewish Community Center in Shelbyville, Illinois has four membership units. Temple Beth Tikvah in Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada has five membership units. Mishkan Israel Congregation in Selma, Alabama has six membership units. Meir Chayim Temple in McGehee, Arkansas has seven membership units. (Source: Union for Reform Judaism MUM report)

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Fall 2012


The RJ Insider’s Guide to COLLEGE LIFE contents • The Top Schools Jews Choose (p.36)

• What Colleges Don’t Tell You (p.41)

• Financial Aid: Secrets of Success (p.42) • How to Grow as a Jew, Your Way (pp.47 & 48)

Special Supplement to Reform Judaism, the World’s Largest Circulated Jewish Magazine

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Turning Knowledge into Wisdom Can students learn to think creatively at the college level, or is this something they should have been taught earlier?

You’ve said: “The process of higher education is based on an incredible act of chutzpah. We are training people for a world we can’t even imagine‌.â€? What knowledge and skills should we teach students today?

We should be teaching students how to communicate, to analyze, to problem-solve, and, perhaps most importantly, to turn millions BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY STUDENTS WEEDING AT of pieces of undifferentiated A WALTHAM PUBLIC SCHOOL COMMUNITY GARDEN. information into knowledge that can help them determine the best way the skills necessary to learn how to to understand and change our world. turn information into knowledge and In short, we need to help them acquire knowledge into wisdom.

I always tell parents that they have their children for 18 years; we get them for only four. That said, I think that college years do offer students the opportunity to think creatively by opening their minds and trying on entirely different ways of thinking. One of the ways we do that at Brandeis is by exposing them to different kinds of people. Our students come from 116 different countries. The average Brandeis student will meet any number of people who live in places from which he/she has never met anyone. Students will also meet people with backgrounds, ideas, and

College Cover Š2011 R ick

A conversation with Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence


Ranked #11 among “Top 60 Schools Jews Choose� by Reform Judaism magazine Jewish students at USC find: R5*#,#./&5(5/.#)(&5-/**),.5.",)/!"5#&&&5(5" R5)&#35&,.#)(-65-*#&50(.-5(5(.1),%#(!5)**),./(#.#R52*(5%)-",5#(#(!5)*.#)(USC President C. L. Max Nikias and Niki C. Nikias paying tribute at Yad Vashem

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values foreign to their own, challenging them to think differently and creatively about the world and its problems. You’ve written, “If free speech should ourish anywhere, it is within the halls of a university.â€? Do you think university students have the right to say whatever they want or invite any speaker on campus?

I think that free speech—which I’d define as robust discussion among those with different views—is the essence of an academic community. I tell students: Not only will we permit people to say things on campus that will sometimes make you feel uncomfortable and challenge many of your preconceived notions, we’ll actually encourage this. To exercise free speech is to invite debate—no one should expect to be able to express a view and not have it questioned in a respectful, serious, challenging way. Justice Louis Brandeis, the university’s namesake, had it right: “The answer to bad speech is more speech.� So where are the limits? No one is allowed to threaten anyone. No one is allowed to delegitimize anyone. No




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one is allowed to make anyone else afraid to express an opinion. Hate-filled messages that advocate violence, racism, homophobia, or antisemitism are off-limits. We open our university to as wide a variety of views as we can within the confines of civility and responsibility. You’ve written that Brandeis is devoted to social justice. How is it expressed on campus?

Social justice is one of Brandeis University’s core commitments, dating back to its founding in 1948 as a community in which students would not only learn to understand the world but engage in acts of repairing the world: tikkun olam. This commitment animates us to this very day. In the greater Waltham, Massachusetts area alone, Brandeis students logged 56,000 hours of community service in the last academic year—more than 1,000 hours per week—assisting the elderly, immigrant populations, people with developmental disabilities, and many others. And if you ask most Brandeis students why they do this, they won’t

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say, “We have to.â€? They will say, “We get to.â€? Students also are engaged in a wide range of study abroad and summer programs, including working with disadvantaged communities in Israel. This is a place where students enter to learn and leave to serve. New York University is an afďŹ rmative action/equal opportunity institution.

Experience a semester at one of our global academic centers: OAccra, Ghana OBerlin, Germany OBuenos Aires, Argentina OFlorence, Italy OLondon, England OMadrid, Spain OParis, France OPrague, Czech Republic OShanghai, China OSydney, Australia OTel Aviv, Israel OWashington, DC

The Forward described you as “the most religiously observant president Brandeis has ever had.â€? Who have been your most important Jewish inuences?

My childhood rabbi, Martin Rosenberg of Community Synagogue in Port Washington, New York (which my parents helped found), taught me essential lessons about Reform Judaism and education: to make Jewish choices based on knowledge, including the understanding of traditional Jewish texts. Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was also a major influence when I served as the RAC’s very first Legislative Assistant in 1975. I learned from David the essence of tikkun olam in action. From Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf I learned

TRINITY COLLEGE H ILLEL UĂ&#x160;7>Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x201C;]Ă&#x160;Ă&#x153;iÂ?VÂ&#x153;Â&#x201C;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;}]Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;VÂ?Ă&#x2022;Ă&#x192;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x203A;iĂ&#x160;VÂ&#x153;Â&#x201C;Â&#x201C;Ă&#x2022;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x17E; UĂ&#x160;-Â&#x2026;>LL>Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;>Â&#x2DC;`Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;Â&#x153;Â?Â&#x2C6;`>Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Â&#x153;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;V>Â&#x201C;ÂŤĂ&#x2022;Ă&#x192; UĂ&#x160;Â&#x153;Ă&#x192;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160; >Ă&#x152;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x201C;>Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;`Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;}Ă&#x160;v>VÂ&#x2C6;Â?Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x17E; UĂ&#x160;>Â?Â&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;>Â&#x2DC;`Ă&#x160;Â&#x201C;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;iĂ&#x153;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x192;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x2022;`Â&#x2C6;iĂ&#x192; UĂ&#x160; Ă?VÂ&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;}Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;iĂ&#x20AC;Â&#x2DC;>Ă&#x152;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x153;Â&#x2DC;>Â?Ă&#x160;>Â?Ă&#x152;iĂ&#x20AC;Â&#x2DC;>Ă&#x152;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x203A;iĂ&#x160;LĂ&#x20AC;i>Â&#x17D;Ă&#x192; UĂ&#x160;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x2022;>Â?Ă&#x160; Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x2C6;}Â&#x2026;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x2C6;ÂŤĂ&#x160;>Â&#x2DC;`Ă&#x160;>ÂŤÂŤĂ&#x20AC;Â&#x153;Ă&#x203A;i`Ă&#x160; Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x2022;`Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x160;>LĂ&#x20AC;Â&#x153;>`Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x20AC;>iÂ? UĂ&#x160;/Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;<>VÂ&#x2026;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â?Â?iÂ?Ă&#x160;Â&#x153;Ă&#x2022;Ă&#x192;ip>Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x203A;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;}Ă&#x160; Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;Â&#x153;Â&#x201C;iĂ&#x160;>Ă&#x153;>Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x160;vĂ&#x20AC;Â&#x153;Â&#x201C;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;Â&#x153;Â&#x201C;i UĂ&#x160;/Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x160; Â&#x153;Â?Â?i}ipÂ&#x153;Â&#x2DC;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x153;vĂ&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x2DC;>Ă&#x152;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x153;Â&#x2DC;½Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160; Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x153;ÂŤĂ&#x160;Â?Â&#x2C6;LiĂ&#x20AC;>Â?Ă&#x160;>Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;VÂ&#x153;Â?Â?i}iĂ&#x192;

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“Northeastern has a lively Jewish community for students of all backgrounds. Whether you want to study, travel, or schmooze, it’s great to be Jewish here.” —Arthur Maserjian, ’14, a finance and accounting business major and the president of Northeastern Hillel, who is on co-op at Goldman Sachs

SCHOLARSHIP, COMMUNITY, HERITAGE At Northeastern, you’ll discover enriching Jewish studies, matched with curriculum-based work, research, and volunteer opportunities in Boston, Israel, and beyond. And—with weekly bagel brunches at the newly renovated Hillel House, transformative birthright trips, and the annual Jews Cruise—you’ll join a vibrant, inclusive community that students call “a Jewish home away from home.”

Boston, Massachusetts s

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Core Contacts


he RJ Insider’s Guide to College Life is a collaborative project of Reform Judaism magazine and Hillel: The Foundation of Jewish Campus Life. To read and email College Guide articles, please visit To learn about Reform college programs, visit; for Reform Israel college programs, call 212-650-4115 or visit For additional info about Jewish life on hundreds of campuses, visit Hillel at or call 202-449-6500.

the energy and passion that flows from a covenantal relationship with God. I have also been influenced by Viktor Frankl, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Franz Rosensweig. Over my life, I have belonged to Conservative and Modern Orthodox congregations. At Brandeis, I am privileged to take part in the life of each Jewish religious movement. There are different streams of Judaism, but only one kind of Jew—a person committed to finding her or his place in the eternal story of the Jewish people. We should all strive to be that kind of Jew.

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Getting In: What the Experts Say


knowledgeable college consultant can help high school students find good school matches, assist in getting them admitted, and offer critical advice they and their parents may not be able to find elsewhere. Here are some insider tips from consultants throughout the United States. What can I do to improve my chances of getting accepted into my dream school? Janet Rosier, Janet Rosierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Educational Resources, Inc., Woodbridge, Connecticut (Graduate Certificate in College Counseling, Unigo Expert Network member,

show the school how interested you are in attending. Many colleges and universities are First, you need to be looking for â&#x20AC;&#x153;dema good fit for your onstrated interestâ&#x20AC;?; dream school: to have they are more likely the grades, rigor of to offer admission curriculum, and test to someone who is scores that fit the more likely to say collegeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s accepted yes to their offer. To REFORM STUDENT LEADERS WITH RABBI student profile, mean- HEATH WATENMAKER AT RUTGERS HILLEL. demonstrate interest, RUTGERS IS THE FIRST HILLEL IN THE ing the SAT, GPA, contact the college COUNTRY WITH A REFORM RABBI UNIQUELY and other statistics to request informaDEDICATED TO THE NEEDS OF REFORM AND about the students the LIBERAL STUDENTS ON CAMPUS. tion, tour the school, college admitted the previous year (you accept or ask for an interview, and if the can find this along with admissions local admissions representative comes information on many college websites). to your high school, introduce yourself Beyond that, go the extra mile and and let him/her know this college is author of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Next Stop Collegeâ&#x20AC;? blog, professional member of IECA and NACAC*):



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your first choice. After you apply, if you have additional academic news to share, use it as an opportunity to voice that their school remains your first choice. If this is indeed your dream school—the one you would go to no matter where else you would be accepted and you do not need to compare Financial Aid offers—then you may want to give serious consideration to applying Early Decision—a binding, contractual agreement that obligates you to attend the school if accepted. At many colleges Early Decision can increase your chance of admission, and at a few colleges the acceptance rate is double that of Regular Decision. For those who need to compare financial aid offers or are not comfortable applying Early Decision, some colleges offer non-binding Early Action (where you apply early, hear back from the college early, but still have until May 1 to make your decision).


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Wendy Kahn, Wendy Kahn College Consulting, LLC, Highland Park, Illinois (UCLA College Consulting Certificate, HECA, IECA associate member*): Choose your recommen-

dation writers wisely. Many colleges require you to submit one or two letters of recommendation from teachers, which are designed to help the schools find out who you are inside the classroom: How strong are your writing and critical thinking skills? Do you make valuable contributions to classroom discussions? What’s your intellectual potential? Will you be able to handle college level work? Therefore, do not select teachers who know you best

* Key to Cited College Consultant Organizations HECA: Higher Education Consultants Association IECA: Independent Educational Consultants Association NACAC: National Association for College Admission Counseling NJACAC: New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling WACAC: Wisconsin Association for College Admission Counseling

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outside the classroom. Colleges will learn about your extracurricular activities, honors, and awards elsewhere in your application. To receive up-to-date guidance, colleges prefer recommendations from either 11th or 12th grade teachers. They also want to hear from teachers in five core academic subjects: English, math, science, social studies, foreign language. Don’t automatically ask for recommendations from the teachers who gave you the best grades. In some cases it may be better to ask a teacher who saw you struggle and respects your determination to master the material. The teacher who gave you an easy “A” may not have much to say about you beyond that. Also, a creative teacher who encourages class discussion may have more to say about you than one who lectures in front of the class. How can I be sure that the college I choose is the right one? Is there a way to ensure that the school will be a good fit, both academically and socially?



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Dr. Michele Hernandez, Hernandez College Consulting, LLC, Weybridge, Vermont and Application Boot Camp, LLC, Boston; former Assistant Director of Admissions, Dartmouth College: The best way to

ensure a good fit is to visit and revisit! Sit in on classes, speak with professors, and talk to students who have majored in your areas of interest. Janet Rosier: Explore the college

online. Does it offer a core curriculum, majors, minors, double majors in your areas of interest? Does it provide research opportunities and assistance in finding internships? Search for clubs and organizations such as Hillel. Focus on the criteria meaningful to you. Also, look at Unigo (, where current students talk about their college, to see if what they say appeals to you. When you visit the school, attend the campus information session and take the tour. Try to arrange an overnight stay with a student to get a better feel for the campus community. ➢

A Powerhouse of Excellence Founded as the World’s First Jewish Fraternity Represented on campuses in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom If you are interested in being a part of a Jewish Fraternity without pledging, please email or call (317) 334-1898.

reform judaism

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fall 2012

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What’s the best way to stand out on my college admissions essay? Wendy Kahn: A college application

University of Chicago students join a community that’s all about ideas. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you’ll find a place that allows you to take chances, express your thoughts, and discover your passions. UChicago and the award-winning Newberger Hillel Center support a diverse array of Jewish communities that allow students to explore being Jewish in social, ethnic, cultural, artistic, intellectual, spiritual, and myriad other ways.

H I G H L I G H TS Annual Latke-Hamantash Debate Chicago Center for Jewish Studies Full kosher meal plan International Alternative Spring Break trips Jewish fraternity life UChicago Birthright Trips

For more information, visit the Newberger Hillel Center at, or the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies at

Alpha Epsilon Phi/Sigma Delta Tau As the nation’s leading Jewish collegiate sororities, we encourage: l

Academic Excellence


Philanthropic Commitment l

Campus and Community Involvement l

Dedication to Jewish Values For more information please visit our websites.

Building young Jewish women. / reform judaism

Col_Adm101-103_f12_F.indd 34


is crammed with your grades, test scores, activities, teacher and counselor recommendations—information that tells colleges how others see you. The college essay is the only part of your application that tells colleges how you see yourself. The best college essay gives a group of strangers a small “snapshot” of who you are and how you became that person. To stand out, your essay should tell a story only you could tell. Write about a transformative experience that changed your beliefs or gave you a new insight. As one admissions director has put it, “colleges look within students’ essays for evidence of growth and resolution.” In most academic writing, the focus is on keeping the “I” word out of the equation. In contrast, in a good college essay the “I” word should be front and center. Be sure, though, to write about other significant people as well. We are defined as individuals largely in terms of our experiences with other people, and acknowledging this reality in your essay will keep you from appearing self-absorbed. Here’s an example: Last year one of the students I counsel wrote a successful essay about her week-long Israeli military experience as part of the URJ’s Eisendrath International Exchange. She described in vivid detail how much she had dreaded the military portion of the program, and then showcased her own grit and transformation from frightened novice to confident group leader during the course of the week, as well as her unanticipated insights about Israeli patriotism. She was admitted to every school on her list, including her highest reach. Gael Casner, College Find, Greenbrae, California (HECA, NACAC, WACAC*): Having read thousands

of applications for UC Berkeley, a school that requires two essays from each student, as well as thousands of essays from my own clients, I know the positive impact a well-written essay can have on a college’s decision. The following tips can help you

fall 2012

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maximize your chances of writing an effective essay: Start early. Good writing requires commitment and reflection. Put yourself in control of the task by setting aside time to begin writing during the summer before senior year. Look at the big picture first. What do you want the college to know about you? Begin by jotting down all of the adjectives and phrases that best describe you. If you need help, visit myroad. com and complete the online personality assessment connected to College Board (youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have free access if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve taken the PSAT; look for the 10-digit code on the front of your results page). Now, circle the five strongest descriptions from your list. Can you think of times in your life when you demonstrated these characteristics? Next, make a short list of experiences that changed the way you look at the world. Also, jot down instances when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve made an impact on your family, school, or community. Finally, are there any issues you really care about, ones that reveal your values? Strategize: Looking at your big picture ideas, which are best? Be original. Stay away from clichĂŠs and avoid repeating whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s elsewhere in your application. Be prepared to revise. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not enough to have good ideas in your essay. You also need to prove you are a good writer. It would be highly unusual to produce the quality thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s expected in just one draft. Strive to make the essay your very best piece of writing. Once you feel confident that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done so:

Washington College oďŹ&#x20AC;ers

Hillel House | Fellowships | Jewish Studies Study Abroad in Israel Cortnee Doll â&#x20AC;&#x2122;13 President, Washington College Hillel

Cortnee Doll embraces every opportunity to make a difference in the world. After a summer teaching internship in Tanzania, the international studies major spent her junior year studying in Israel. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all part of her plan to better understand where she comes from and where sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going. | 410-778-7700

The University of Rochesterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unique curriculum invites students to learn what they love, DOORZLQJIRUERWKIRFXVDQGĹąH[LELOLW\DWRQHRIWKHFRXQWU\Ĺ?VWRSWLHUUHVHDUFKXQLYHUVLWLHV

Rachel Kurtzman Class of 2014 Major: Health Policy Double minor: Philosophy, Legal Studies Activities: Hillel, Israel Council, Juggling Club, Ballet Performance Group

1 2

Read your essay out loud. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a fast way to catch simple mistakes.

Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your essay and note what he/she learned about you. Does this match what you want the colleges to know? Essays that stand out are interesting, well-written, and tell the reader something new. Colleges want to find reasons to accept you, so put the best you in front of them!

How can I impress my interviewer during an admissions interview?

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Jewish life has been an important part of my life here, culturally, religiously, and socially. Rochester has KMZIRQIXLIGLERGIXSÄšRH[LEXMRWTMVIWQI;LMPIEX Rochester, I discovered what I truly care about, and have been able to pursue it while realizing new interests.â&#x20AC;? Connect with us online at Ĺ&#x2014; Schedule an admissions interview Ĺ&#x2014; Find out when weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be at your high school Ĺ&#x2014; Learn about information sessions near you If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in the NY Metro area, contact to FRQQHFWZLWK5RFKHVWHUĹ?VQHZO\DVVLJQHGUHJLRQDODGPLVVLRQVRIĹ°FHULQ0DQKDWWDQ For more information about U of R Hillel, go to $OVRFRPLQJWKLVIDOO7KH5RKU&HQWHUIRU-HZLVK/LIH&KDEDG+RXVHDWWKH8QLYHUVLW\RI5RFKHVWHU

continued on page 38 reform judaism

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INSIDER’S GUIDE TOCOLLEGE LIFEADMISSIONS Admissions 102 & 103: The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose PRIVATE SCHOOLS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

New York University (New York, NY) Boston University (Boston, MA) Yeshiva University (New York, NY) Columbia University (New York, NY) George Washington University (Washington, DC) Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY) University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) Tulane University (New Orleans, LA) Emory University (Atlanta, GA) University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) American University (Washington, DC) Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL) Washington University (St. Louis, MO) University of Hartford (Hartford, CT) Yale University (New Haven, CT) Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY) Brown University (Providence, RI) Tufts University (Medford, MA) Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus (Brooklyn, NY) Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) Northeastern University (Boston, MA) University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) University of Chicago (Chicago, IL) University of Denver (Denver, CO)

Jewish Population (Undergrad)

% of Student Population

Jewish Fraternities/ Sororities

6,000 3,500 3,080 3,000 3,000 3,000 2,500 2,500 2,250 2,100 2,000 1,780 1,680 1,650 1,600 1,600 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,350 1,300 1,250 1,200 1,050 1,000 900 900 850 850 850

28% 19% 96% 30% 29% 23% 19% 25% 32% 30% 11% 25% 25% 49% 20% 15% 25% 33% 27% 18% 22% 25% 22% 16% 7% 23% 7% 29% 16% 16%

Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes

6,500 6,400 6,000 5,800 5,000 4,600 4,500 4,200 4,010 4,000 4,000 3,600 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,250 3,200 3,1 50 3,000 3,000 3,000 3,000 2,960 2,750 2,600 2,600 2,600

17% 16% 13% 22% 13% 10% 18% 14% 26% 13% 8% 5% 30% 10% 27% 27% 13% 12% 11% 7% 10% 5% 8% 10% 11% 10% 14% 9% 17% 7%

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

PUBLIC SCHOOLS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) Rutgers University, New Brunswick (New Brunswick, NJ) University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL) University of Maryland, College Park (College Park, MD) Pennsylvania State University, University Park (University Park, PA) York University (Toronto, ON) University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI) Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) Queens College (Flushing, NY) University of Wisconsin–Madison (Madison, WI) University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX) Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ) Binghamton University (Binghamton, NY) McGill University (Montreal, QC) University at Albany–SUNY (Albany, NY) Brooklyn College (Brooklyn, NY) Florida International University (Miami, FL) California State University, Northridge (Northridge, CA) University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ) Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (Champaign, IL) University of Toronto, St. George (Toronto, ON) Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) University of Western Ontario (London, ON) Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, FL) Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA) University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA) University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA) University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)

*Notes: All estimated population figures as well as information concerning fraternities/sororities, Jewish courses, and Jewish studies are courtesy of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Any questions, please contact Hillel directly (202-449-6500,

Col_Charts_f12_F.indd 36

7/18/12 11:09 AM

& the Top 20 By Percentage of Jews* Jewish Studies Courses

Jewish Studies Major

Reform Worship on Campus

Egalitarian Worship on Campus

Reform Groups/ Events

Local Reform Temple Engages with Students

70 65 138 25 30 46 20 50 50 61 14 25 40 60 35 15 60 20 50 14 35 25 0 35 38 8 5 23 30 20

Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No

Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes n/a Yes No Yes No No

Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes n/a Yes No Yes No Yes

No Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes n/a Yes No Yes Yes Yes

top 20 schools by percentage of jews

1 JTS List College 200 Jewish Students, 100%

2 Yeshiva University 3,080 Jewish Students, 96%

3 American Jewish University 110 Jewish Students, 92%

4 Brandeis University 1,650 Jewish Students, 49%

5 Muhlenberg College 750 Jewish Students, 35%

6 Sarah Lawrence College 400 Jewish Students, 33%

7 Barnard College 770 Jewish Students, 33%

8 University of Hartford 1,500 Jewish Students, 33%

9 Tulane University 2,250 Jewish Students, 32%

10 Goucher College 450 Jewish Students, 30%

77 50 15 40 80 62 120 60 46 75 30 40 30 100 20 43 15 15 45 100 60 60 25 25 25 30 40 50 32 12

Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes No n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Yes Yes No Yes No n/a Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes No n/a No Yes Yes No No

Yes Yes No Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No Yes Yes No Yes n/a Yes Yes n/a Yes Yes No Yes Yes

11 Columbia University 3,000 Jewish Students, 30%

12 Binghamton University 3,500 Jewish Students, 30%

13 Emory University 2,100 Jewish Students, 30%

14 George Washington University 3,000 Jewish Students, 29%

15 Oberlin College 850 Jewish Students, 29%

16 New York University 6,000 Jewish Students, 28%

17 Brooklyn College 3,500 Jewish Students, 27%

18 University at Albanyâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;SUNY 3,500 Jewish Students, 27%

19 Yale University 1,500 Jewish Students, 27%

20 Queens College 4,012 Jewish Students, 26%

For questions about Reform worship, groups, events, and temples, contact Reform Judaism magazine ( To learn about Reform college programs visit N/A means information was not made available to us.

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7/20/12 11:04 AM

Getting In: Experts Say... continued from page 35 Gael Casner: Before your first

washington and lee university


Washington and Lee is one of Hillel International’s Small and Mighty Campuses of Excellence. The University offers our Jewish students: ³

³ ³ ³ ³

Student led Shabbat Services and Dinners Lunch and Learns Dinners with Professors Guest Speakers Sukkot

³ ³



Participation in Birthright Israel Community service projects locally and internationally High Holiday Services and meals on campus Holiday parties and celebrations

³ ³

Holocaust Remembrance Week Judaic studies courses in the Department of Religious Studies

Washington and Lee’s distinctive curriculum blends traditional liberal arts and sciences with pre-professional programs in business, journalism and law, giving students a contemporary perspective necessary to flourish in a complex world. The application fee is waived for Jewish students. Washington and Lee University is an equal opportunity/non-discrimination institution. Complete statement at

For additional information, contact Brett Schwartz, Director of Hillel, Washington and Lee University, 204 W. Washington Street, Lexington, VA 24450; call (540) 458-8443. Also visit our website, or

interview, write down five aspects about yourself that would be beneficial for the interviewer to know. Figure out how you can weave this information into the conversation. Practice answering questions with a friend or a family member. At the end, ask that person to share what he/she learned about you. Does it match your list? Also, before your interviews, research each college. Read the writeup in The Fiske Guide to Colleges or The Best 376 Colleges. On the school’s website check out classes and professors, social events and clubs, and research and internship opportunities; next, read the college newspaper ( to understand current issues. Write three reasons why this college would be a good match. You’ll be ready when the interviewer asks why you are applying to the school. Wendy Kahn: Prepare Questions:

Before the interview, develop a few good questions to ask. Do basic research so you won’t ask about things that can easily be found on the college’s website. Pose questions to admissions officers concerning specific academic or extracurricular programs, or internship and research opportunities. You might ask an alumni interviewer what s/he liked best about the school and what s/he would change. An admissions director recently told me that one of the best questions he’s received is “What is the most pressing issue on your campus right now?” Share “Strength Stories.” Offer specific illustrations of your interests or activities that show how you will benefit the college. For example, you could tell a “strength story” about a tikkun olam fundraising project you spearheaded or a Purim spiel you wrote and directed. Note that a number of colleges with lower Jewish populations are now working hard to attract Jewish students, so your interview is a great place to showcase your role in the Jewish community! reform judaism

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fall 2012

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Talk! This is the most important advice for interviews, according to admissions officers. There is nothing harder on an interviewer than a student who answers every question with one word. It makes admissions people wonder if the student will ever participate in class discussions. Attend to Etiquette: Arrive on time. Wear nice casual clothes; no jeans or dirty sneakers, flip flops, or anything provocative. Look the interviewer in the eye. Give a firm handshake. The only appropriate cell phone mode is OFF! How can I tell if a campus is welcoming to Jewish students? Janet Rosier: Explore the college

website. If there is a Hillel or a Jewish Student Organization, contact the directors and ask how welcoming the campus is. If possible, use the collegeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Facebook page to connect with current Jewish students and get their takes on the atmosphere. If a synagogue is in the area, ask the local rabbi for his/her opinion of the town, college, and students.

CONNECT. CELEBRATE. STUDY. TRAVEL. DINE. Enjoy social events, Shabbat and holidays, Judaic study programs, birthright trips and study abroad in Israel, kosher meal plans and more in a welcoming urban environment.

How should I go about choosing a major? Wendy Kahn: If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re undecided,

relax! Many students go to college without knowing what they want to study, and the majority of college studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;even those who thought they had decidedâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;change their majors after exposure to new areas of study. For this and other reasons, the strength of a particular academic program should never be your only reason for choosing a school. And unless youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re absolutely certain about a major and a career path, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t lock yourself into a specialty school where, if you change your mind, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have to transfer. That said, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still a good idea to start exploring possible majors by consulting a college major database. The Rutgers U. College Majors Database ( careerhandouts.shtml) briefly summarizes every major the school offers and describes related occupations, typical employers, and jobs obtained by recent

A TOP LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION A VIBRANT SCENE FOR JEWISH LIFE Come to the University of Richmond, where our innovative campus rabbi and director of Jewish life is fostering a dynamic community. Â&#x2021;7DNHSDUWLQULWXDO7RUDKVWXG\VRFLDODFWLRQDQGFXOWXUDOHYHQWV Â&#x2021;6WXG\DEURDGDWWKH8QLYHUVLW\RI +DLIDRURQHRI RXUVKRUWWHUP multifaith travel intensives. Â&#x2021;0LQRULQ-HZLVK6WXGLHVZKLOHVWXG\LQJEXVLQHVVOHDGHUVKLSVWXGLHV or the arts and sciences. reform judaism

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fall 2012

7/16/12 6:50 AM

graduates. In addition, College Majors 101 ( provides in-depth information about dozens of college majors and possible careers, and includes videos from individual schools as well as links to student organizations and publications related to particular majors. How can I have a say in choosing my roommate? Janet Rosier: Schools handle room-

mate selection in a variety of ways, so ask each school about its policy. Some colleges do not give freshmen any say, assigning roommates randomly. Others offer students a chance to choose a roommate during spring orientation, which works out nicely if you connect with another student. Still others direct students to fill out an online survey that matches them up according to lifestyles; in such cases, to increase the likelihood of a better match, be honest in your self-assessment and in what you want in a roommate.


What if none of the schools to which I applied accept me? Carolyn P. Mulligan, Insiders Network to College, Summit, New Jersey; Board of Counselor CATS for the University of Arizona (IECA, NACAC, NJACAC, HECA*): Hope-

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fully, this will not happen, especially if you research and compile your targeted list carefully. However, even if it does, all is not lost. One option is to check the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) website through either your high school guidance counselor or an independent educational consultant. By the middle of May, after most colleges and universities have received deposits from incoming freshmen, schools that still have class space will join a list on the NACAC website, and you can apply to them for the Fall semester. Often, really great schools are on the list—and one could turn out to be the right school for you! A second option is to go to a local community college, get good grades, and transfer. I know one young lady

fall 2012

7/18/12 9:04 AM

who went this route and today is a tremendous success. Dina Taylor West was rejected from every school she applied to. She was devastated. Nonetheless, she applied and was accepted to Middlesex Community College, where she acquired an Associate’s degree; went on to receive her Bachelor’s at the College of St. Elizabeth’s in Convent Station, New Jersey; and then attained a Master’s in Social Work from New York University. She has now authored two books about her experience, among them Bloom and Grow with Your Learning Disabilities. Dina is living proof that even if your educational path takes a few unexpected twists and turns, you can still achieve your dreams.



tudents seeking a Judaic studies program at a private university may wish to consider the University of Southern California, where the Jerome H. Louchheim School for Judaic Studies offers classes in cooperation with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion—the only such arrangement in North America.

Covering antiquity to modernity, biblical Israel to the contemporary United States, literature to linguistics, USC ’s Jewish studies courses include: “Jewish Magic in the Ancient World,” “Blacks and Jews: Conflicts and Alliances,” and “Israel, Zionism and the Modern World.” The Hebrew program offers four semesters of language instruction. Louchheim School graduates go on to professional careers as doctors, lawyers, business entrepreneurs, rabbis, Jewish nonprofit management professionals, educators, and politicians. For more information, visit or facebook. com/JewishStudiesUSC, email, or call (213) 765-2113.


What Colleges Don’t Tell You ver this past year, many parents and teens who had believed that their college search would be a clear-cut, welldefined process have learned otherwise. Following the “right path” has not always led to the anticipated results. Indeed, a number of recent trends, interacting together, have complicated the college admissions landscape. Here is what you need to know now.


International Applications

The Applications Spiral

The “Legacy” Factor

Even though the number of U.S. high school students who are ready for college is declining, the number of applications flooding into college admissions offices is increasing every year. Why? First, students are applying to more schools because the technology has made it relatively easy to do so; you can copy and paste application responses from one college to another without much effort and just hit the “send” button. Second, more colleges are sending unsolicited publicity materials encouraging students to apply (see “Selectivity and Image” explanation below). Some students will then interact with the school, feel confident that “This school really wants me,” and apply there “just to be safe,” even if the college didn’t make their short list. As college outreach activities increase each year, so do the overall number of applications.

In the past, legacy applicants (the sons or daughters of alumni) would swell the applicant pool almost exclusively at private schools. But in today’s economy they are also applying to state schools, where they have an edge over other applicants.

Selectivity and Image

Colleges are committed to raising their standing in the marketplace of higher education through such indicators as popularity and selectivity. To do so, they are encouraging a larger pool of applicants while maintaining the same size incoming class, which lowers the percentage of students they admit and makes them appear more selective. reform judaism

Col_Adm101-103_f12_F.indd 41


More applications are also coming from abroad, increasing the competition for admittance. A number of schools, such as Vassar College, are actively recruiting internationally as well as nationally. This has led to significant increases in the number of international student applications—1200 such applications out of a total of 8,000 applications for 660 Vassar seats last year.

Meeting the Challenge

College rating books or computer college selection programs are unlikely to tell you about these new admissions trends. The challenge, therefore, is finding up-to-date, accurate information to help you add or delete specific colleges from your list early on. In this more competitive environment, your best course of action is a realistic assessment of your admissions chances, keeping in mind that you will now need higher SAT/ACT and GPA scores than the published data indicates. If you make smarter applications choices, you’ll be more likely to be accepted by those schools eager to engage a student with your qualifications and interests. And consider a “Gap Year” if you believe it will increase your chances of acceptance to your favorite school(s). Rise to the challenge—you’ll be glad you did. —Claire D. Friedlander, college consultant to Jewish Family Service in the greater Stamford and Westport areas of Connectucut; college advisor to the Jewish High School of Connecticut

fall 2012

7/18/12 8:42 AM


The Right School Pays Off A conversation with college financial planner Dennis Hughner

From the school’s perspective, what constitutes a good match, and how can you turn it to advantage?

What is the most costly and common mistake people make when choosing a college?

From the institution’s perspective, a good match is when the applicant possesses academic qualifications in the upper 25% of all applicants (upper 10% is better) and perhaps also has something the school wants—skills (such as in athletics, music, art, sign language, martial arts) and/or aptitudes (such as entrepreneurial credentials and volunteer/work experience in the areas of the student’s declared major). If an institution wants the student in its incoming freshman class, the financial aid award will reflect this desire. To negotiate for a better aid package, present evidence of a better offer from a like institution. Don’t compare private to public universities; it will not work.

reform judaism

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How can a financial advisor help in this process?

An experienced advisor, given sufficient time, can educate and guide the student and parents through the college preparation process, including career evaluations, family financial review (taking siblings into account and developing a financial plan for all children in the family to graduate from college), and initial school selections that best suit the student’s desires as well as the family’s budget. Once a student has received all acceptances and denials, an advisor can also show the family the financial bottom line for each institution, enabling a student and parents to make an informed, realistic college choice. What other common financial mistakes do parents make?

Many parents and students fail to do their “homework” early enough to meet continued on page 46

Photo by Diana Car y

Families almost always defer to the student to choose the school they would like to attend, and students typically make their decision based on the wrong reasons: because “I’ve heard of it” or “It’s written up in X as GOING THE EXTRA MILE IN CHOOSING A SCHOOL. the ‘top…’” or “It’s where my girlfriend/boyfriend is applying” that will take you to the desired career. or “my friend is going there,” or “my For example, do you want to become an parents recommended it,” or by some engineer? If so, what discipline of engiother random yardstick. neering? Learn each discipline’s function, In contrast, the right college is the purpose, potential job market, and one that has all the following: the college educational requirements. With answers major the student most desires, comfort- in hand, design an academic path for able class sizes for how that student college acceptance as a pre-engineering learns, study abroad opportunities to student. Also, consider related careers that allow the student to become more world- would constitute a good fit for a student ly, opportunities to explore his/her other strong in math and science, such as interests—and the greatest financial aid finance, forensic accounting, and actuarial from all sources, including the federal science. Once you have selected a major government, the state government, and, course of study, you can determine most importantly, the endowment funds what you want from a school outside of of the institution itself. The goal is to academics. Then, and only then, are you find schools that are good matches for and your family ready to begin evaluating the student and will offer him/her attraccolleges and universities. tive financial aid packages. If the student has selected the wrong colleges, they How can parents evaluate will not offer him/her merit-based schol- institutions financially? arships and grants from their institution’s Go to the College Board’s website endowment funds. ( and enter the institution’s name; all financial data can be found with little effort. One serious financial How do you go about finding “the right college matches”? consideration is the time needed to earn an undergraduate degree. Is the student most Research, research, research. Start the college planning process early, preferably likely to graduate in four, five, or six years? during the student’s sophomore year. Wait Private institutions have a better track record for graduating their students in four before creating a list of colleges. Start years, which often translates into lower by evaluating and narrowing potential careers; after that, evaluate college majors costs to earn an undergraduate degree. fall 2012

7/20/12 6:23 AM



Lester & Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center

The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life


An exciting and diverse liberal arts

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7/24/12 5:36 AM


Dos and Don’ts in a Digital Age


hanks to the Internet, college applicants have unprecedented access to information. You can read through course catalogs on college websites, participate in online college fairs, take virtual campus tours and virtual info sessions, and have interviews via webcasts and Skype. At some schools, such as Tufts University and George Mason University, you can opt to THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA’S ADMISSIONS BLOG. upload a YouTube video essay as part of your application. At other schools you can view admission and Johns Hopkins officers’ blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, University’s “Hopkins Interactive” at photos and videos (check out the Univer- sity of Virginia’s “Notes from Peabody” However, with this unparalleled digadmissions blog at uvaapplication. ital access come critical rules of social

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media engagement, which can either increase your chances of getting into your selected schools, or, if used poorly, can also work against you. Here are 3 don’ts to follow:


Don’t take your online identity for granted. Some admissions officers review students’ social media, and they are obligated to follow up on anonymous tips of poor conduct linked to photographic evidence. At times students’ admissions have been rescinded, so take these steps to help protect yourself: • Run everything you post online by the “grandparent test.” If you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see it, don’t post it! ➢

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ALTERNATIVE BREAK JNF’s Alternative Break to Israel is a FREE seven-day community service trip for Jewish young adults (ages 18-30). Students travel to Israel during spring or winter break to connect to the land and people of Israel in a meaningful way. TAGLIT - BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL Explore Israel on a JNF Israel Adventure. Jewish students age 18-26, who have never been on an organized peer program to Israel, can begin the journey of a lifetime. PLANT YOUR WAY TO ISRAEL JNF’s Plant Your Way to Israel program allows students up to the age of 25 to raise money toward a trip to Israel. Half of the donation goes to JNF forestry projects in Israel, and the other half is placed in a special account on the student’s behalf to be redeemed for any travel to Israel. POSITIVELY ISRAEL Take action to show the world how Israel makes the world a better place. Help get the word out, get your communities involved, and get our message heard across the country and around the world. CARAVAN FOR DEMOCRACY JNF Caravan for Democracy drives constructive dialogue on college campuses by bringing different speakers from Israel and the U.S. To learn more, go to or contact the JNF Education and Advocacy Department at or 212.879.9305 x245.


• Eliminate questionable photos, including pictures in which you’re holding a cup. Why leave its contents to others’ imaginations? When friends post questionable photos of you, asking to be untagged isn’t enough. Ask to be cropped out of the photo or have the picture taken down. • Remove contact information. Deleting phone numbers and addresses is a general safety precaution which also reduces an outsider’s ability to do an information search about you. • Use a friend filter. Only accept Facebook friend requests from people you know. Otherwise you give a stranger access to all your online information.


Don’t communicate informally with college officials. All written messages—electronic or otherwise— should be written in formal language, be grammatically correct, and be representative of you as a student. No LOLs—ever.


Don’t breach the personal space of school officials. Asking to “friend” a dean of admissions at his/her personal account is likely to do you more harm than good. Social media can also work to your advantage in college admissions. After all, social media is about expressing yourself as an individual—exactly what many admissions committees seek in a student’s college application. To make the best use of social media:

The Right School Pays Off continued from page 42 the deadlines for private scholarships in the high school student’s junior year. Also, most families learn belatedly about the COA-EFC=NEED formula (Cost of Attendance - Expected Family Contribution or a family’s “deductible” before financial aid kicks in = Need) the federal government and institutions use to determine how much a family will have to pay out of pocket before financial aid can be determined (search Expected Family Contribution—EFC for more information). Being unaware of the financial aid reform judaism

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Express interest in the colleges to which you’re applying. Demonstrate your interest by liking the school, becoming a follower, posting a photo of the school’s mascot on Pinterest, and/or commenting on a blog post.


Show off a little. Social media is a great platform to share interests, talents, and accomplishments, so demonstrate your passion for and pride in your work. If you’re a photographer or an artist, showcase your pictures on Tumblr. If you play music, create a MySpace page devoted to your work. If you like to write, start a WordPress blog. If you’re a star soccer player, post a video on YouTube showing you scoring the winning goal.


Be true to yourself. Don’t create a fake persona or misrepresent yourself to impress an admissions officer who might look at your site. Don’t say you’re a fan of Voltaire if you prefer Stan Lee. It’s hard to lie about your love of philosophy when everyone on your friend list knows you’d rather read Marvel comics. So, when it comes to social media, be authentic, careful, and enthusiastic (ACE)—and you may find yourself acing the admissions process. —Dr. Katherine Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise (, a college admissions counseling company; and ApplyWise (, an interactive college admissions counseling program

formula can lead to a rude awakening about out-of-pocket costs when it’s too late in the admissions process. In addition, many parents and students need to understand that if they do not qualify for federal assistance, they can, if time permits, revisit their school selections, concentrating on colleges and universities that are good matches and could provide merit-based scholarships and grants. You always have to have a plan B. —Dennis Hughner, partner, Complete College Funding Solutions, Torrance, California,

fall 2012

7/18/12 10:46 AM


Building Jewish Relationships “My Way”


s an American, I feel were personally very meanthe trends of personingful to these students. In alization taking over another instance, after talking my life. My radio plays music about intermarriage, the perexactly to my preference and my son I engaged sought me out a Internet suggests products “that week later to continue the I may like.” Yet as Jew, I have conversation. never had this feeling of personEvery CEI intern also taialization. Why can’t I have my lors a year-long initiative to Judaism “my way”? Well, this the interests of those he/she is exactly the void that Hillel’s engages. Since Israel has been Campus Entrepreneurship Initiaan overriding topic of convertives (CEI) is filling for students sation among uninvolved on campuses nationwide. Reform Jews at UPenn, I orgaHillel seeks to engage Jew- BUILDING JEWISH RELATIONSHIPS AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY. nized Israel education and ish students who are not active awareness events. One of the in Jewish campus life by meetbeing Jewish is very different when a stubest experiences was co-hosting them where they are Jewishly. As a dent is on his or her own. In a given week ing (with other CEI networks) a dinner CEI intern at the University of Pennsyl- this year, I also discussed famous Jewish in which Jewish students who’d vania, my job is to foster meaningful athletes with a member of my fraternity expressed interest in Israel-based conyet comfortable peer-to-peer conversaand whether God belief is required in versations got to mingle with nine tions. In the past year I have built relaJudaism with a classmate—topics that visiting Israeli college students. As the tionships among 60 previously uninvolved Jewish students of all backgrounds, providing opportunities INSIDE HILLEL’S for them to explore and embrace their ENTREPRENEURS INITIATIVE Judaism. I specifically focused on Reform Jews, but truthfully my interacver the past four years, largely Black dialogue groups, and social tions with them have not differed much because of Hillel’s Campus justice trips—all of which the interns from those with uninvolved Jews of create based on the interests and Entrepreneurs Initiative (CEI), common themes they hear when 900 trained and employed stuother denominations or observance levengaging their peers. Formerly unindent interns have built 35,000 els, who are basically looking for an volved students are now reporting relationships with uninvolved accessible, meaningful, and fun way to involvement in Jewish activities in Jewish peers on 70+ campuses, reconnect with Judaism. greater numbers, and the CEI interns helping them explore and Before I started, I thought that buildare honing their Jewish leadership connect to Jewish life on ing Jewish relationships with inactive skills, for now and for the future. their own terms. Jews would be a daunting task. It’s not. This relationship-based, peer-toThrough a Hillel-URJ CEI collabopeer approach doesn’t advocate ration, Reform interns are currently Many Jewish students love the idea of any particular way of being Jewish reaching uninvolved students from embracing their Judaism, once they are or the expectation to “come to Reform backgrounds at Cornell invited to personalize it. Hillel.” Instead, the student interns, University, University of Texas, and Here’s how it works: I, as a fellow mentored by Hillel educators of diUniversity of Pennsylvania. In 2012–13 student, connect with an unengaged Jew verse Jewish backgrounds, explore, three schools will be added: University on his/her terms and his/her comfort levshare stories, ask questions, and celof Maryland, Rutgers University, and el. I try to introduce Jewish topics natuebrate Jewish life with other students. University of Southern California. Jewish experiences range from And Hillel’s peer-to-peer engagerally into conversation and get a feel for Shabbat and holiday celebrations in ment initiative (CEI and a smallerhow far a person is willing to go. For dorms and off-campus apartments scaled version, Peer Network) is example, a discussion about the differto women’s spirituality circles, Jewexpanding to 56 campuses in 2012–13. ences between being at home and at ish manhood discussions, JewishFor more information: college led to a conversation about how


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fall 2012

7/20/12 5:51 AM

Americans and Israelis compared and contrasted their college experiences, they discovered that overall—regardless of different experiences such as the Israelis’ mandatory pre-college military service—the students themselves had a lot in common. By the evening’s end, both the Americans and the Israelis had made new friends, uninvolved Jewish students began thinking more about Israeli issues, and one UPenn student was inspired to pursue a Birthright Israel trip. Responding to the Boycott Divest Sanction conference held on Penn’s campus, I also hosted an interfaith and interdenominational student dinner and discussion on the relationship between the United States and Israel. Attendees continued the conversations after the event, and one Jewish participant later told me that the experience led him to realize that being educated is the best way to defend Israel. He has since researched Israeli policy and history in order to become a more informed Jew. As a CEI intern, I have learned that Jewish conversations do not necessarily need to be about Judaism, and that is one of the key reasons why this program is successful. When students do not feel “forced” to converse only about Judaism, they are more likely to welcome the encounter and the opportunity for introspection it provides. Sometimes conversations about life, philosophy, and integrity can all involve Jewish concepts indirectly. For example, when talking about summer plans with a friend, the conversation casually moved to a discussion of what it means to be “successful.” This led us to the notion that self-evaluation is a profoundly Jewish ideal which we contemplate every year during Yom Kippur. We agreed that money is not the ultimate indicator of success; many other things, including family, personal satisfaction, and being a just person, are far more important. When I engage uninvolved college students by exploring issues that matter to them, what may follow is a reconception of Jewish identity they can build upon for the rest of their lives. —Andrew Abrams, sophomore, University of Pennsylvania and member, Congregation M’kor Shalom, Cherry Hill, NJ


Being Myself as a Reform Jew


djusting to life in college is not easy. You’re thrust into a world where you’re expected to be an independent being. I remember hugging my family goodbye outside the gate to my quad, waving cheerily as the car drove off, turning to open the door and start my new life—only to discover I had locked myself out. Coming to terms with one’s Jewish self-definition at college is no easier. I had to shift from my familiar Reform congregation to a Jewish campus community whose most active members were predominantly Conservative and Orthodox. In the beginning I kept wishing for a translator. “He’s frum,” one girl would say, and I’d long to ask, “From where?” Hearing a group of three commit to “learn together” struck me as odd— weren’t we in college to learn every day?—until I found out that the expression meant to “study rabbinic texts.” Just as in figuring out any new language, immersion worked wonders. The more time I spent with other kinds of Jews, the more fluency I gained in the language of their Judaism. And, I realized, this was a positive way to develop my Jewish self-identity on my own terms. My peers and I were eager to educate and help one another. Within days I was learning from one friend how to properly chant the Ten Commandments in that week’s Torah portion, teaching another basic Hebrew grammar, conversing with a third about the existence of God, and participating in a group discussion about the meaning of commandedness. A Jew was someone who asked serious questions of herself and of the tradition, and my new friends would help me answer them. Still, I struggled. How was I to explain to Conservative and Orthodox Jews that keeping kosher is integral to my Jewish identity when the way I eat isn’t what they deem kosher, or that I observe Shabbat by calling my parents reform judaism

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and drawing in my sketchbook? That goes against their way of being Jewish. How was I to maximize my ability to learn in a traditional Jewish environment without feeling lost in the definitions and rhetoric of others? I learned that being myself as a Jew required that I bring a measured level of confidence to the table—not so confident that I became complacent about what I should be learning, but confident enough not to defer to the rules and opinions of others. I found this level of self-assurance hard to achieve, but attainable. It helped that in the Shabbat evening prayer group I attended and sometimes led, I had found a deeply dedicated group of Reform Jews who spoke my language. It also helped to realize that Reform Jews were not the only ones who sometimes felt marginalized or insecure in their Jewish self-definition. Some of my Orthodox friends feared people would see them as unthinking religious fundamentalists. Some Conservative friends feared for their Movement’s future. I learned how to add my voice on campus—by speaking in the language of learning and not labels, by seeking understanding rather than stereotyping, and by offering answers as well as a long list of questions. —Emily Langowitz, Yale Class of 2012; member of Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley, MA; and now HUC-JIR rabbinical school student

fall 2012

7/20/12 5:52 AM

Alpha Epsilon Pi

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A Glimpse into Graduate Jewish Studies


tion is whether someone at the institution can serve as a dissertation The Association advisor. Also, of Jewish Studies learn about directory lists funds available more than 50 for research HUC-JIR OFFERS GRADUATE PROGRAMS THROUGH ITS programs in the support, summer RABBINICAL SCHOOL, THE DEBBIE FRIEDMAN SCHOOL OF SACRED MUSIC, SCHOOLS OF EDUCATION, JEWISH U.S., Canada, study, and, for NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT, AND GRADUATE STUDIES. and Israel offerPhD programs, ing graduate training (MA and/or PhD) tuition remittance and stipends. in Jewish studies. To learn more, visit the AJS Directory of Jewish Studies How can undergrads increase their chances of acceptance? Programs at A key component of applying to graduHow have the programs changed? ate school is presenting examples of They have grown more interdisciplinary, well-written and thoughtfully researched reflecting broader trends in the humanities scholarly work. Therefore, undergraduand higher education as well as the wide ates should take full advantage of opporrange of studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; educational and cultural tunities to write original research papers backgrounds. Many Jewish studies PhD and/or a BA thesis. Most PhD programs candidates have prior training in fields and some MA programs require Hebrew as diverse as ethnic and Diaspora studies mastery for acceptance, and some will or media and cultural studies; as well as also expect reading skills in at least one the more traditional literature, history, other language, so undergrads should politics, and religion. The most innovative acquire proficiency in Hebrew and Jewish studies departments take full perhaps begin study of another language. advantage of these diverse perspectives It is also very important to develop and experiences, encouraging students to mentoring relationships with one or two connect their graduate work in the field to professors, who then can write informed other departments, area studies, theoretical letters of recommendation. approaches, and methodologies. Students do doctoral work in Jewish studies What careers are available to MA and PhD graduates? combined with fields ranging from comparative literatures and ethnomusicology Options include teaching in Jewish or gento linguistics and political science. eral K-12 schools, teaching at the university level, school administration, Jewish What factors should students communal work, international relations, consider in choosing a program? journalism, or working in non-profit organizations, museums, archives, historical Consider the overall scope and agenda societies, and libraries. To learn more read of a graduate program as well as the the fall 2011 issue of the AJS magazine areas of specialization that constitute Perspectives at its strengths. Research the number and expertise of faculty members, the range â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Jeffrey Shandler, PhD, AJS president of graduate-level course offerings, and the and professor of Jewish Studies library and archival holdings in Jewish at Rutgers University; and Rona studies. For PhD candidates, a key ques- Sheramy, PhD, AJS executive director How many graduate Jewish studies programs exist today?

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7/9/12 8:02:42 AM


A Classical Reformer Bows to Tradition By Suzanne Singer

Photo by Robert Sirotnik


ine years ago, angelic chorus in acknowlReform Judaedgement of God’s blessings. ism magazine I began to understand published the that my past reluctance to article “My involve my body in prayer Opinion: Confessions of a had conflicted with my Nonconformist Rabbi” in sense of what it means to be which I stated with pride that, a rational person. While I as a person who valued Claswas very comfortable with sical Reform, I did not wear Torah (text study) and a tallit or a kippah during g’milut chasadim (social services at the Hebrew Union justice)—two of Judaism’s College-Jewish Institute of three pillars—the third pilReligion, from which I had lar, avodah (worship), set off just been ordained; nor did an internal emotional alarm I bow or stand on my tippy system. In my mind, bowing THESE DAYS I WEAR A TALLIT AND KIPAH WHEN READING FROM THE TORAH. toes during the Kedusha, the meant that I was losing blessing acknowledging God’s holiness. pulpit position, I had the good fortune of myself in the worship of God to the In response, many of the Reform Jews serving as assistant to Steve Chester, then point of compromising my ability, as a who feel that the Reform Movement’s senior rabbi of Temple Sinai in Oakland. rational person, to take issue with such new traditionalism has robbed them of He and I saw eye-to-eye on many matters, notions as praying to Melech Haolam— their Classical Reform heritage sent me from theology to social justice. And yet, the king of the world! I needed to take a beautiful letters of gratitude. I am sorry he also bowed. When I noted that bowing break from arguing with the prayers, to have to disappoint them now. seemed incongruous with our shared non- from being angry at their constant praise I still value Classical Reform’s traditional theology, he explained that he of God when so many things in the emphasis on universalism and social jus- needed to move when he prayed; it helped world were so wrong. It was time to foltice, but my synagogue practice has him get into the mood. His movements low what my friend, Rabbi Amy Sapowevolved. As a prayer leader I currently must have been infectious, because one itz, wisely counseled: allotting the time wear a tallit and a kippah—indeed, I day during the Aleinu, while we stood of worship for praising God and the time now own nine tallitot and countless kiptogether side-by-side, I found myself not of study for arguing with God. pot, many of which I’ve collected at just bowing before the ark, but bending I had been insisting that the liturgy of b’nai mitzvah services at which I’ve offi- over so far, my torso was parallel to the the prayer book conform to my rational, ciated. I bow during prayers. I even get floor! I shocked myself: What was I literal understanding of the words, rather on my tippy toes during the Kedusha. doing? I was a little embarrassed. Had than opening myself up to appreciate its What happened to the woman who anyone noticed? evocative metaphors and images. For once likened bowing and kissing the Well, bowing was one thing, but I example, I had been deeply offended, Torah scroll to idolatry? knew I would never rise up on my toes for even revolted, by the Unetaneh Tokef, the The first small shift happened when the Kedusha, pretending that I was reach- Rosh Hashanah prayer asking, “Who my Bible professor Dr. Tamara Cohn ing toward the heavenly heights of Godshall live and who shall die?” How could Eskenazi commented to me that she praising angels. That is—until not long God serve as judge, jury, attorney, and bowed to indicate humility. I thought her ago, while chanting “Kadosh, Kadosh, witness, leaving us poor human beings explanation made a certain amount of Kadosh,” I peered down at my shoes and with no hope of pleading our cause? And sense…but wrote it off as a mere intellec- watched helplessly as they moved up ever what of those myriad punishments—pertual concession and persisted in my ways. so slightly. Stretching my body a tiny bit ishing by fire or by water, by sword or by A couple of years later, at my first this first time made it easier to rise more beast, by hunger or by thirst, by earththe next time, and more again the time quake or by plague—reserved for those after…until I let go, uniting with the conwhom God deemed guilty? Were tsunami Rabbi Suzanne Singer is the rabbi of Temple Beth El in Riverside, CA. Previously, she served gregation in embodying the prayers, all of victims or people starving around the as assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai in Oakland. us expanding body and soul to join the continued on page 64 reform judaism

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7/13/12 8:36 AM


Selecting a Rabbi via Community Organizing by Jeffrey Govendo

Jeffrey Govendo served as co-chair of the Rabbi Search Committee at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, Massachusetts. To learn more:

three open-ended questions and two follow-up prompts:

responses from fervently-held beliefs. Personal interactions, we 1. Tell us about realized, would a spiritual leader in allow for a deepyour life (past or er, more nuanced present) who has understanding had an impact on of what our conyou or your family. gregants wanted 2. Can you in their next think of a time spiritual leader. when you were After five especially months of pleased—or outreach, we proud—to be a distilled all the member of Coninput we’d RACHEL GUREVITZ, THE NEW SPIRITUAL LEADER OF gregation B’nai received into CONGREGATION B’NAI SHALOM, WESTBOROUGH, MA. Shalom? What seven core comwere the circumstances? Were you perpetencies or qualities our congregation sonally involved; if so, how? sought in our next rabbi: Follow-up: What does your example say about what Congregation B’nai • Connecting—the ability to make Shalom should stand for, or what the deep personal connections with and “ideal” CBS would look like? facilitate connections among congregants 3. How can the rabbi help move • Passion for Judaism and the ability CBS toward your ideal? to convey this and inspire it in others Follow-up: In what ways can the • Engaging the congregation to be a rabbi help you experience belonging to caring community the synagogue, or even being a Jew, in a • Tradition—being aware of the way that’s most fulfilling for you? balance between the familiar and the (Note: appropriate variations of this more innovative in ritual practice, and question were asked when non-Jewish sensing what is right for the congregaspouses were in attendance.) tion at any given time • Teaching—the ability to inspire and Committed to leaving no one in the enable lifelong learning for a diverse congregation out of the process, our congregation search committee also conducted per• Music—valuing the role of music in sonal phone conversations with every services and the ability to integrate it to member family, created a page on the foster rich spiritual worship synagogue’s website, spoke with mem- • Leadership—the overall ability to bers at a table in the synagogue lobby, move, inspire, and guide the congregaand publicized a dedicated email address tion in partnership with members, lay to reach the committee co-chairs with a leaders, and professional staff promised response. Like the founders of Just Congregations, we chose not to Now we were ready to speak with conduct a congregation-wide survey, candidates. We began by phone, and in because we felt it would be difficult some cases followed with in-person to differentiate casually-expressed continued on page 66 reform judaism

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Photo by Michael Hyde


o find a new rabbi for 400-member Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, MA, our search committee decided to apply the community-organizing principles of the URJ’s Just Congregations initiative. Identifying and articulating congregants’ strongly-held beliefs in small group settings and mobilizing them to take action on shared concerns—hallmarks of Just Congregations—had proven successful in the social justice realm, so, we reasoned, why shouldn’t we use the same methodology to identify and articulate our members’ beliefs, passions, and priorities in selecting a rabbi? After all, the two major objectives of any rabbi search are 1) identifying the “right” rabbi, the one who best fulfills the needs and culture of the congregation; and 2) gaining the confidence of congregants and the Board of Directors both in the selected candidate and in the selection process. If our search process was comprehensive, and if the qualities of the selected candidate reflected congregants’ heartfelt needs and wishes, members would more strongly endorse our choice. We began the process with intimate 90-minute meetings, mostly held in congregants’ homes. At each gathering, about six to eight temple members shared stories about experiences with spiritual leaders that impressed them and reflected on what mattered to them most about our synagogue. A separate meeting was held for youth. One search committee member made sure discussions kept flowing and all parties were able to air their views; a second committee member took careful notes. To stimulate the conversation, we posed

fall 2012

7/13/12 8:20 AM


Holding Fast Then Letting Go By Steven Schnur

Photographs by Steven Schnur


nd then, finally, it was our turn, as the two white-gloved attendants pulled open the French doors, letting in the warm May breeze and the first measures of Elizabeth’s processional music—the same melody that ELIZABETH AS A TODDLER AND AS A BRIDE. had accompanied my wife and her parents down the aisle thirty-three years ago. lapsing in a “This is it,” I whispered, my eyes still heap in the following David, our imminent son-ingrass, only to law, as he and his parents made their try again and way across the lawn toward our waiting again, deterguests, the bridal canopy, and our rabbi. mined to suc“Don’t let me fall,” Elizabeth ceed. And responded, glancing over her shoulder those first tentative spins of her bicycle at the long train of her wedding gown. pedals as I ran alongside, holding the “Have we ever let you fall?” I replied, back of her seat, shouting, “Keep pedalclutching her forearm reassuringly as ing,” finally launching her toward the we stepped out into the luxurious lategrass fringe of the playground, her lurchday light and walked slowly toward her ing progress at first coming to ground waiting groom. How many times had in the softness of the soil…and then we cradled her in our arms, held her veering back around, finding stability, hand, offered her physical and emotional passing me confidently, legs pumping, support? How often during her first a huge grin on her face—triumph! months of life had I walked her out into Now my wife and I were walking our this same radiance, her infant eyes wide firstborn down the aisle, holding her fast with wonder, her restless spirit gradually one final time before she joined her life subdued by the chromatic vastness of to another. We guided her slowly across the sunset sky? the lawn and down the garden steps, passThis was the child we had eagerly ing between rows of smiling faces, comanticipated for five barren years, the ing to rest before the wedding canopy, arresting beauty who had turned heads where her mother and I kissed her. even in the maternity ward, gracing our “I love you, Mom and Dad,” she lives with her animating energy, teaching whispered before turning to face her us how to parent, when to be protective, approaching groom. We had not let her and when to let go. fall. For 26 years we had done whatever Had we ever let her fall? Well, yes. we could to protect her, helping her to We’d marveled at her first efforts to her feet when she stumbled, watching at walk, how she pushed herself bravely to first anxiously and then with increasing her feet, arms spread wide, stepping gratitude and delight as she strode confislap-footed from side to side before col- dently into the world, settled into her chosen career, and won the heart of this young man determined to help her realize Steven Schnur is a member of Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, New York. her dreams as a teacher, wife, and, one reform judaism

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day, God-willing, as a mother. We hugged David, then moved forward under the chupah, while he assumed my place at Elizabeth’s side. Every wedding begins in a state of grace, family and friends deeply invested in the happiness of the bride and groom, believing in the possibility of a perfect union. Of course, no marriage is without its moments of discord, but where love and the courage of its commitment abide, harmony ultimately prevails. Would our daughter be one of the lucky ones, her young love maturing and growing more abundant with time? Would her husband’s love prove sufficiently malleable and inventive to embrace the changes that married life brings? Would fate treat them kindly? We could only pray that it would. And after their rings had been exchanged and the ancient vows spoken, we witnessed a moment of quiet grace that suggested it might, fulfilling our fondest hopes. Before pronouncing them husband and wife, Rabbi Rick Jacobs asked Elizabeth and David to draw close to each other. Wrapping them in David’s tallit, he whispered over them the priestly benediction: “May God bless you and keep you; May God cause his light to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; may God lift his countenance upon you and grant you peace.” As he did so, Elizabeth entwined her fingers in David’s, nestled up under his chin, lay her cheek against his chest, and closed her eyes. In the same moment, David drew his shoulders forward, enveloping and protecting her, his head upon hers, his eyes also closed. In that embrace we glimpsed their perfect union of heart and hand and hope, and thanked God that our firstborn child had found a safe haven for all her days to come.

fall 2012

7/13/12 8:05 AM


Preparing for


New You NINE JEWISH THINKERS of diverse ages and backgrounds reflect on the


that inspire them to take an accounting of their souls, how they

TAKE STOCK of THEIR ACTIONS, and which life experiences and lessons have prompted them to


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hat do you find to be the most inspirational Jewish teaching on preparing yourself for spiritual renewal in advance of the High Holy Days? Theodoe Bikel (actor, musician, activist): I find the most comfort, solace, and thought-provoking source of renewal in the teachings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. From him I learn about forgiveness, about how to forgive myself before I know how to forgive others. Reb Zalman knows that this does not come easily to us, that anger must become sorrow, and sorrow become shared suffering before it can become love.

Cantor Susan Caro (president, American Conference of Cantors): Every day during the month of Elul I read two texts. The first is from Ben Sira (28:2): “Forgive your neighbors [their] transgressions, and then when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.” This reminds me that opening my heart to others allows them to see me in a new light and enables them to open their hearts to me. When I am attuned to healing the hurts of others, I can find healing in my own heart. The second is from Reb Nachman of Bratzlav: “O God, help me avoid every abuse of speech. Let no untrue word escape my lips. I pray that I may never speak badly of others, or speak empty words of flattery. Help me stay away from profanity. Teach me, dear God, when to keep silent and when to speak; and when I speak, O God, save me from using Your wonderful gift of speech to humiliate or hurt others.” Our words hold power; they hang in the air long after we have uttered them, like a cloud which can bring either comforting shade or a terrible storm. Each day I consider the kind of clouds I wish to create around me through my speech and my silence.

Rabbi Rachel Cowan (director, Institute for Jewish Spirituality): The teaching I most often turn to comes from This is Absolutely Real and You are Completely Unprepared, the late Rabbi Alan Lew’s brilliant guide to spiritual preparation for the holidays. Some background: When I converted to Judaism, Tisha b’Av was very meaningful to me; I would fast and study Lamentations as I contemplated the horrors of the destruction of Jerusalem. But when I began to visit Israel regularly, I decided Tisha b’Av was irrelevant, now that the state had been reestablished and rebuilding the Temple in a hostile political environment would pose grave danger. Since reading Rabbi Lew’s book, I have resumed observing Tisha b’Av. He taught me that the destruction of the Temple is a metaphor for examining one’s inner life—to find the structures that no longer serve us. This is an important way to begin the reflection of the High Holy Day season, for we cannot change ourselves until we clearly see the structures that constrict reform judaism

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our spirit and keep us attached to small-minded, selfcentered ways of mind and heart. In my case, these may be stories in which I have made myself the victim, the hero, the martyr, the failure. They may be habits such as eating too much, not exercising enough, taking on too much work. Or they may be cravings for material possessions or experiences that in the end will not make me happier. To do the subtle work of teshuvah, we must free ourselves from these structures and instead manifest the attributes of God that we chant over and over in the High Holiday liturgy: compassion, grace, patience, loving-kindness, and truthfulness. So I begin my High Holiday practice on Tisha b’Av by re-reading Alan Lew’s book, and then during the Hebrew month of Elul, I sit in meditation to begin identifying the structures that no longer serve me.

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Cynthia Roosth Wolf (Board member, Temple Emanuel, Beaumont, Texas and Executive Committee, WRJ Board): Pray as if everything depended on God; act as if everything depended on you. I pray as if everything depends on God because I know my own limitations. Still, throughout the year, I act as if everything depends on me. I do my best to show kindness toward others, especially those who are in need. One such kindness prepares me for the observance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: My son Marc, who became a lay chaplain during his service in the U.S. Navy, made me keenly aware that our Jewish soldiers need to have some normalcy in their lives. As a promise to Marc, I became their advocate, helping to usher in WRJ and URJ resolutions to “support our Jewish troops,” and sending kosher food and Judaica to Jewish chaplains and lay leaders around the world to help soldiers celebrate Jewish holidays and festivals. Every time my efforts result in meeting a soldier’s needs, I feel a sense of shalom. This year will be no different. As I prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the chaplains’ requests for our Jewish soldiers will be filled first, before guests are invited to my home for erev Rosh Hashanah, before cards are shared with family and friends, before anything else. The other quote that directs me in cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul) is of Native American origins: Never criticize a man (or woman) until you have walked a mile in his (or her) moccasins. When someone harms me with words, I wonder what is going on with that person that made him/her say it. Is this generally how the person responds to me, or is it an unusual occurrence? Either way, would he/ she have spoken that way to me had he/she taken the time to walk in my moccasins? Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman (Barbara and Stephen Friedman Professor of Liturgy, Worship and Ritual at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and author, most recently, of One Hundred Jewish Books: Three Millennia of Jewish Conversation, BlueBridge Press): I am increasingly moved by Psalm 27:4, which we sing every day during Elul services at HUC-JIR and which I try never to miss: “One thing I ask of Adonai. It alone do I seek: to live in Adonai’s house all the days of my life.” For the psalmist, Adonai’s house was the sacrificial Temple in Jerusalem. Today it is the synagogue. So as I sing the psalm, I look forward to High Holy Day worship in a synagogue. I focus on the possibility of experiencing God’s presence there, and—knowing the blessing of starting all over again—my slate reform judaism

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cleared of sin, resentment, and fear. In a broader sense, I interpret “God’s house” as encompassing the whole world. So, I pray for regularized moments of eternity—by which I mean daily reminders of God’s reality. I have, more or less, somehow managed to attain the ongoing serenity that silences the cacophony of daily life; and I want to retain that gift. High Holy Day preparations remind me that regardless of where I am and what day it happens to be, I am sustained by God, directed to a higher vision, and able to face whatever comes my way.

How do you take stock of your actions—and interactions— of the previous year? Rabbi Richard N. Levy (director of Spiritual Growth, HUC-JIR in Los Angeles): Before I go to the market, I like to make lists. I look in the cupboards, see what is missing, in short supply, or might add some delight to JOIN T HE our family’s life. Once in the market, I find my list helps me to avoid overlooking anything and being dis- CONVERSATION tracted by attractions on every side. How do you In Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, I do prepare for the same thing. I take out my pocket calendar, look through every day of the waning year, and reflect on spiritual renewal, each day’s events—where did I fall short, what was missing in my actions, on what good qualities was I take stock of your running low? What new actions would add some holiactions, and ness to my life? seek change? I bring the list to Selichot, and to services on Rosh Tell your story: Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and compare its items to the specific sins in Al Chet. I remember the circum- stances of each chet, each mark I missed; each avon, each time I twisted the path God set before me; each pesha, each time I outwardly rebelled against what I knew was right. I think, too, about having composed my solitary list of sins by myself, when the Al Chet phrase says, “the sin which we have sinned before You.” It is an important reminder that I am part of a company of list-checkers; the ruefulness and shame I feel are shared by others. We all stand lefanecha, “before You.” We can face God with this list. God does not turn away, and we do not have to either. Is a synagogue like a market? When I buy a fatty


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“Anger must become sorrow, and sorrow become shared suffering before it can become love.”

“We cannot change ourselves until we clearly see the structures that constrict our spirit and keep us attached to small-minded ways of mind and heart.”

dessert in the market, there is no countervoice to the colorful packaging. But in the synagogue, shelves of Torah scrolls remind me of the desirable deeds and qualities God has placed within my grasp, and the consequences of ill-thought actions. On the High Holy Days there really is no turning aside—because in the synagogue God is right there with me. When I confess an avon or a chet, God directs me straight to the desired mark. Embracing me, the Holy One shows me how the path would look had I straightened rather than twisted it. My Elul practice of list-making is a lonely enterprise. But because I know that each sin I list will pump life into an Al Chet in the prayerbook, making the list feels like my preparation for a covenantal experience. I will stand with my people in the synagogue as we stood at Sinai—but now it is not God who is speaking Torah to us; we are speaking to God, enumerating the ways we have departed from Torah. In the moral supermarket of the synagogue, God stands beside us, gently guiding our choices for the year ahead.

their childhood, Yiddish. The questions of “who I am” and of “what is owed to whom” get to be in sharper focus on the High Holy Days.

Theodore Bikel: The Hebrew phrase that describes the High Holidays is to me deeply troubling. The common English translation is a euphemism, a softened version of what the Hebrew actually says. Yamim Noraim is rendered as “days of awe.” Awe denotes wonder, admiration, respect, veneration. But the accurate rendition of Yamim Noraim is “days of dread,” and that denotes fear, terror, trepidation, and anxiety. If God is real, a higher being with anthropomorphic features and faculties, then I owe an accounting to God, a retelling of the year’s transgressions so I can take my punishment as the boys did in cheder (old-world Jewish elementary school) at the hands of the rabbi. But if God is a concept, an idea, an omnipresence, undefined by shape and substance, then I owe the accounting to a much harsher judge: myself. And I can’t lie. Denial does not work when you are submitting to the inner judge. You know very well what you did; and you also know what you failed to do. I am 88 years old and, frankly, I am not prepared to deal with the mystery of dying. I am not even ready to admit that there is such a thing as decline. Selfdeception works most of the year—except on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I confess that I fall apart whenever I hear Al tashlicheynu le’eyt zikna, “Do not banish us as we grow old, and as we grow weak do not abandon us.” That is when the tears come, unreasonably, because I may be old, but I do not feel weak. Then I realize that the tears are not for me; they are for the aged and ailing I know and meet, for men and women in old-age homes, in hospitals and hospices. For them I hope to be the melitz yosher, the advocate, the interlocutor. Singing for them, playing for them sometimes works. What works best is letting them hear the sounds of their youth and the language of reform judaism

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Liz Lerman (founding artistic director, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange; member of Temple Micah, Washington, DC): As a child I choreographed and performed dances in the backyard of our Los Angeles home, sometimes spinning and spinning, then falling down and staring at the sky. Later, neighborhood kids joined me, rolling down the hill, all of us lying still at the bottom as the world careened by at crazy angles. Being off balance let us experience the world from a different perspective. As an adult, in preparation for the High Holy Days, I rediscovered a different kind of spinning. To help rabbis engage people during Selichot I was asked to conduct movement workshops. As I thought about getting ready for the New Year, I realized that we are asked to “turn” in order to repent. I pondered: Are we turning towards or away? I brought that very question to the people, asking them to perform a simple gesture: Take your hand facing outward and allow it to slowly turn towards you. Repeat by reversing the pattern. As people interpreted the difference between the two motions, a simple act became a text for the night. One participant said, “You turn towards yourself in bringing unexpected memories into focus. You turn away by making space to reflect with honesty.” In dance, as in life, preparing for turns takes practice. With movement, different settings of my feet propel me around my center, and emphasizing the shoulders or swinging around the second arm can facilitate navigating more than a single spin. “Landing” a turn requires a combination of physical dexterity, enormous concentration, and luck. It is curious to apply these ideas to relationships over the sweep of a year….For example, did I use too much energy in one relationship and not leave enough room for others? Should I have paid more attention to the way I set this one up? Could I have taken more risk and pushed harder? Dance has helped prepare me for the wondrous opportunity of the High Holy Days—a time to be thoughtful as I turn to face the past year, even as I relish the chance to spin. Cantor Susan Caro: As the Yamim Noraim approach, I tend to block out the hurts I have caused others in the past year. Knowing this about myself, throughout the year I record in my journal instances when I have hurt someone or have not lived up to the best in me. fall 2012

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My personal practice involves singing. Humming a song or niggun (wordless melody) each day from the beginning of Elul opens my heart, clears my head. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi teaches, “If words are the pen of the heart, then song is the pen of the soul.” Through the physical vibrations of music and the spiritual nature of melody, I transform the thoughts of my heart to the pleadings of my soul, hopefully expanding my capacity for t’shuvah. Cynthia Roosth Wolf: Being human, I have flaws…but I never intentionally do anything that would damage another person’s self esteem. Knowing that we are all sacred souls, throughout the year I think about what I can do for others to make them feel valued, loved, respected, and remembered. Therefore, when it comes time to plan for the High Holy Days, I am already engaging in the never-ending process of cheshbon hanefesh.

What prompted you to seek change? Emily Goldberg (high school junior, Abraham Joshua Heschel School, New York, New York: 86,400. The number 86,400 defines our time slot—the number of seconds—in one day. Within this seemingly large span of time, we have the potential to build and improve each day or utterly destroy it. Over time, seconds tend to pile up, some wasted and unnoticed and others misused and neglected; frequently we extend these seconds of regretted decisions and poor judgments into minutes, days, and weeks. It is only during the final days before entering a new year that we stop and reflect upon them. Last summer I realized that the seconds

we waste in life are not renewable resources. At Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia, I reunited with 72 friends, among them Andrew Silvershein, a 16-year-old aspiring musician, avid writer, and South Florida resident whom we all referred to as “Sunshine” because of his optimism and unremitting friendliness. None of us knew that our first reunion as 72 campers would be our last. While whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in Southern Tennessee, one of the rafts holding seven boys overturned. Six made it safely to land; Andrew, however, was not so lucky. His foot was wedged underneath a rock, and after approximately eight minutes underwater, he was rushed to a local hospital where he passed away. I will never forget that long afternoon of waiting and praying around the campsite, the hours of silence engulfing us, the endless seconds of grief that followed, the countless times my friends and I angrily looked up at the sky and doubted God’s omniscience and loyalty to His own creation. Today, Andrew’s memory will forever remain a blessing; it serves as a reminder that not a single second in life should be taken for granted. In my accounting of the soul, I wish I had taken better advantage of Andrew’s short time in my life. Too many seconds passed when I stayed silent as Andrew shared his songwriting talents. Too many seconds of potential conversations, laughter, learning opportunities, and friendshipbuilding disappeared because I let them slip out of my hands. Now, I vow: If life presents me with an opportunity to chazak v’nitchazek, to strengthen and be strengthened by another person, I will no longer remain silent. The events in our lives may construct or destruct our faith, but we still have 86,400 seconds each day to turn silence into memorable relationships. Cantor Susan Caro: Over the past two years, a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings seriously undermined my relationship with a longtime friend. The more accusatory and distrustful I became toward my friend, the more it sapped my positive energy and clarity of thought. Ultimately, it became more important to me to heal the relationship reform judaism

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than to prove who had been “right” about this or that. I reached out and asked for forgiveness for my part in weakening our friendship, and I pushed for us to speak honestly, however painfully, to potentially rebuild a trustful friendship. Because my friend was willing to take that leap with me, I feel more at peace today, not only in that relationship, but in all my other friendships as well. Rabbi Stacia Deutsch (author, 50+ children’s books and the forthcoming Divorced Family Guide to Jewish Life; member, Temple Beth Sholom of Orange County, Santa Ana, California): Last summer I took a lifechanging trip to Malawi, Africa. I witnessed safari wildlife and native culture I’d never before seen—along with abject poverty (70% of the people live on a dollar a day), cemeteries for those who die of HIV/AIDS, and food shortages. My friends own a restaurant where the cooks steal pizza dough in their pants and cheese in their shoes. People are desperate. Overcome with the realization of how much I take for granted, I took an immediate cheshbon hanefesh and concluded that I had fallen short. I vowed right then to count my blessings and do what I could to help others in need. Jewish tradition teaches that we are each required to say 100 blessings a day. In Deuteronomy 10:12 the text says, “Now, Israel, what does God ask of you?...To walk in God’s ways...and to serve God.” The Hebrew word mah (“what”) is similar to the word me’ah, which means “one hundred.” Our rabbis interpreted this verse as “Now, Israel, a hundred does God ask of you.” A hundred blessings a day. Upon returning to the States, I started off strong. Then I faltered. In less than a month, amidst the flurry, challenges, and complaints of daily life, the revelation of all I have to be thankful for quietly slipped away. You’d think just one-a-day would be simple to come by, but still, days pass and I forget to be grateful. I fail to allow my blessings to flow to those around me. The upcoming High Holy Days give me another chance. A hundred blessings a day, from the new year of 5773 onwards.

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What do young people have to say about youth engagement? The RJ editors sought out Reform teens who had been estranged from Jewish life but then found a way back to Judaism. Here are two of their stories. For more teen responses, and to add your views, visit

t h g u o r B t a t h k W c a B Me Snap this code for additional teen responses, and to add your views

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“Our leaders need to offer us fun-filled activities that promote reaching out to others, rather than drowning us with prayers, because it’s hard to relate to something you don’t understand.”


Colorado, where being Jewish was so uncommon, I always felt that Judaism was not relevant to my life. There was a separation between who I was inside and outside of temple, and it led me, slowly, to disengage from the Jewish community. With each passing week of Hebrew school and Sunday school, I became less enthusiastic about Judaism. And at the end of my temple education, I knew little more than a few letters of the Hebrew alphabet! Things started to change in my sophomore year of high school when I reconnected with Viktor Jackson, a good friend who was involved with the thriving Jewish teen community in Boulder. When I heard about all the great people and fun activities he did with the youth group at Congregation Har HaShem, I felt like it might be worth taking a step into the past and rejoining my Jewish community again. A little unsure but curious, I joined up, and it didn’t take me long to realize that the Jewish community is actually much bigger than I had thought. A domino effect took hold of my life as I fell into more events with other Jewish teens. That led to my getting involved with Jewish kids across North America through NFTY, which holds a big place in my heart. At my first NFTY retreat, I thought how odd it was to be around so many kids who had all walked down reform judaism

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To successfully reach out to youth, I believe our leaders need to offer us different kinds of fun-filled activities that promote working together and reaching out to others, rather than drowning us with prayers and worship services. These worship services don’t work well because it’s hard to relate to something you don’t understand. It might help if more prayers were in English. I am also a believer in games as a way for teens to open up to each other and become more excited about Jewish learning. Going to youth group activities with my buddies and playing games that developed character and promoted Jewish learning definitely worked for me. Most of all, Jewish teens need opportunities to socialize and freely share our ideas of religion with a large group of friends and not let one leader or counselor provide the only interpretation of what is being taught. Young people need to develop the skill and capability to communicate their own ideas about the meaning of Judaism. This will help them Jewishly and in life. At the time of this writing, Austin Wand was a high school senior and member of Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, Colorado.


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Help Us Find Our Own Jewish Meaning

similar paths in developing their Jewish identities against the background of a Christian society. Right from the beginning, I sensed a community developing around me. And by the end of that retreat, and all those I’ve gone on since, I felt amazingly close to everyone as we acted together to improve our society as well as ourselves. One of our major themes was tikkun olam— to give back or to give unto others. We also learned about our Jewish culture in a fun and unforced way. When I was 17, our youth group was told about an opportunity to go to Israel with a group called IST (Israel Study Tour). It took me a long time to decide to go because the trip would be a month long and I would use up most of my savings. Finally I decided not to miss out on a chance to travel to such a meaningful place with a group of people my age who would be able to process and talk about the experiences on the same level. Being in Israel clarified for me what Judaism means. I looked past the hardships of the Jewish people and found a world of Jews who wore their Judaism with pride. A highlight was being invited by Israelis to join them at the Western Wall on a Friday night to welcome Shabbat with the same dances and prayers I had learned in America. It felt so good knowing that Judaism brings us all together. After this amazing journey, Judaism moved more to the center of my life. It is who I am, who my ancestors were. I am proud to be Jewish.

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of my bat mitzvah, I began feeling embarrassed about my views on God. I’d learned through five years of Hebrew and Sunday school about the biblical God— one who is all-knowing and omniscient—but by no means did I believe in that God, or really any God. I felt that my teachers at the temple were trying to brainwash us into believing in God. I asked myself: “Can an atheist be a Jew?” And God wasn’t the only part of Judaism I felt forced to accept. We had to chant Hebrew prayers, but we had no idea what most of them meant and we weren’t taught enough Hebrew to figure it out ourselves. I began to feel that to be a Jew I had to believe in things that didn’t make any sense to me. When I asked my teachers about why we prayed in Hebrew, their answers seemed mundane; they told me that Hebrew was the language that God was used to. Sometimes I felt ridiculed because they seemed upset by my continued questions. Eventually I kept my opinions and questions to myself. Meanwhile, at home my parents never mentioned God, but we did celebrate the main holidays, and my parents taught me that one of the most important parts of being Jewish is being kind to other people. This idea was reinforced for me on my first day of middle school, when I found myself wandering around during lunch, frantic to find a friend. Suddenly I heard my name from across the courtyard. Five kids I knew from temple were calling me over to sit with them. It gave me faith in the kindness of Jews and made me proud to be Jewish. It was in 10th grade Confirmation class that I fully began to see Judaism in a new light—the deeper life meaning of being Jewish. Instead of focusing on religion, the rabbis looked at Judaism from an intellectual, historical, and cultural perspective. The rules of Judaism teach how to have relationships, when to forgive, what to eat, what values are most important for living a righteous life, and what to do at every new step in life. I began to see that Judaism is about how to live a happy life that benefits the ones around us. Also, the rabbis allowed me to disagree with certain Jewish traditions. For instance, on the issue of reform judaism

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finding a life partner, one rabbi told us to find a Jew for the sake of compatibility. I found this to be inapplicable to the world today. When I disagreed aloud, some peers chimed in to take my side, while others took the rabbi’s. Yet the conversations stayed civil and we learned from each other as we opened our minds to applying the traditions to today’s life. The best part was that I could still call myself Jewish and be accepted by the rabbis, even when I disagreed with their values. In 8th and 9th grade, I became a board member of the Tikkun Project, a social action youth group that applied the teaching of tikkun olam to our community. The Jewish moral concept to “repair the world” became a guidepost for me. As a Jew, I felt a moral duty to help those around me and to stop injustice. Making a positive impact in the world is important to me, and Judaism was giving me the moral and ethical grounding to carry this out. My many moments of true connection with Jews around me have proven again and again why being Jewish matters. Most recently, just minutes before I left to go to temple for a Friday night Teen Shabbat Jam, I opened a rejection letter from Stanford University. While I was expecting this news, I cried during the entire car ride. Seeing how upset I was when I arrived at temple, everybody immediately comforted me without even asking what the problem was. They all gave me the love I needed, and by the end of the night, I forgot all about the rejection. These days I am involved in a temple youth band called Kavannah that leads teen services once a month for about 65 people. We try to show worshipers how musical prayer can bring us closer to one another and help us become better people. We encourage people to be themselves, and the air of the room is full of fun, laughter, and connection. I have watched people change through this experience, going from shy to social in

“The best way to engage Jewish young people is to not force any beliefs on them and instead allow them to find their own enlightenment by forming their own opinions.”

At the time of this writing, Kira Harland was a high school senior and member of Temple Solel in Cardiff, California.


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only two hours. I have also come to believe in a God who acts as the spirit of connection between people.

The best way to engage Jewish young people is to not force any beliefs on them and instead allow them to find their own enlightenment by forming their own opinions. Every child learns differently, so telling every child the same abstract idea about God is an ineffective way to keep children interested in Judaism. I always found it more helpful to have an adult tell me his or her individual view of God, and by learning many different perceptions I can formulate my own opinion. Getting Jewish teens to attend new programs is hard because teens want to feel comfortable and accepted. If more teens realized that a core Jewish value is being friendly and accepting of new people, they would be less inclined to stay away.

The Campaign for Youth Engagement

e’ve faced the hard truth about the staggering percentage of our b’nai mitzvah who are eyeing the door,” said then incoming URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, addressing attendees to the Union’s 71st Biennial convention this past December. “This exodus demands nothing short of a Movement-wide transformation of how we interact with our youth….We need a giant web of sacred strategies to give our kids roots and wings to stay grounded while soaring through this confusing world.” The Union for Reform Judaism has launched a Movement-wide Campaign for Youth Engagement (CYE). Among the strategies devoted to the effort are placing fulltime youth professionals throughout North America; lowering financial barriers to involvement in early childhood education, summer camps, day schools, NFTY programs, high school and college social justice seminars, Mitzvah Corps, and Israel experiences; producing a URJ Planning Guide for Youth Engagement; and working collaboratively with congregations to test creative pilot youth initiatives and help build networks of relationships around the shared interests of youth. For more about the CYE, visit teen or email


A Classical Reformer continued from page 51 world or cancer sufferers getting their just desserts? Then I came upon interpretive versions of the Unetaneh Tokef, such as Stanley Rabinowitz’s understanding of fire as ambition and thirst as the need for approval, which gave me a new appreciation of the prayer. Probing further, I began to feel the prayer’s raw power to name a frightening experience—the sense that, at times, a sort of controlling force is wreaking devastation on the lives of people close and far. And, I discovered, the terror engendered by the Unetaneh Tokef can serve a similar role to that of the shofar: to awaken us to the harsh realities we face as human beings. As my study partner, Rabbi Eric Rosin, pointed out, it is incumbent upon us to ask ourselves whether and how we are prepared to cope with the potential tragedies in our lives. Are we in the proper frame of mind? Have we accomplished true teshuvah (return to the ethical path)— are our relationships with family, friends, God, and ourself where they ought to be? It takes a level of fear and trembling to compel us to change. Perhaps the Unetaneh Tokef is the powerful vehicle we need to shake us out of inertia. I also—finally—grasped that prayer draws upon the non-rational and intuitive parts of our brain. It has the capacity to take us outside of ourselves, to connect us with a greater reality. My mind was always racing, challenging, never wanting to lose control. But to get to that larger place, I needed to quiet my thoughts, be in the moment, let go. Fortunately, I was accepted by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (IJS) into an 18-month program for rabbis, in which I began to learn how to give my mind a break, be present, and be with what is. At first, my resistance was very strong. During the meditation sessions I’d often fall asleep, and almost every time we sang a niggun (a wordless melody), I became irritated by the very idea that it was supposed to transport me to a higher realm. I was thinking of dropping out of the program but, not being a quitter, I stuck with it, surrendering little by little to the opening of my heart. Then one day, to my surprise, I was transportreform judaism

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ed by a niggun. It was at the tail end of our third retreat, after having spent a lot of time meditating, practicing yoga, and eating intentionally, in silence. Now some 30 rabbis and I were sitting in a closing circle. Someone began humming a melody, and all joined in. The melody soared as we connected with one another and with a greater presence, a fuller reality. I was at one with the experience! It felt wonderful! Exhilarated and amazed, I shared this newfound phenomenon with my colleagues, who applauded. These days I cannot say I am able to achieve this state very often. Having graduated from IJS, I no longer have an intentional community to spend time with meditating, and I have so little time! Plus, for someone like me who still needs to feel in control, becoming exposed before God, as one must do in prayer, remains a struggle. Yet from time to time, a piece of music, a word in the siddur, an effort at letting go allows me to stop the tapes running through my head saying that what I’m doing is silly. My new awareness has helped me become a better worship leader. In guiding my congregants to authentic worship, I recite the prayers with more kavanah (intention). I reveal my own doubts and struggles. I speak more about how to prepare oneself for prayer, explaining that a person cannot just walk into a sanctuary and be ready to open his/her heart. We have to settle ourselves, be willing to be vulnerable, to feel deeply, to yearn, and to notice—to notice the blessings of our lives. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “To pray is to take notice of the wonder….” Judaism is a journey: We are never “there,” but continually exploring, wrestling, embracing, then rejecting, then reembracing core beliefs and behaviors. The Torah ends before we enter the Promised Land, perhaps because there is always one more hill to climb. As I travel towards my next hill, I keep in mind the words of Great Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks: “If prayer has worked, we are not the same afterward as we were before.” I have had to change in order to pray, and prayer, in turn, has changed me. I wonder where I will be nine years from now.

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Selecting a Rabbi... continued from page 52 interviews on-site. Our interview questions were based entirely on congregational input. The congregation was kept apprised of the process throughout. Employing the Just Congregations approach inspired confidence and trust among the search committee, board members, and the congregation-at-large. The search committee felt secure in the knowledge that we were asking the right questions of our candidates. And when we provided assurances that a favored candidate’s skills and experience reflected the heartfelt wishes of congregants, it carried considerable weight with the board and the rest of the congregation. In addition, the candidates themselves were impressed. Before applying, most of them had visited our temple website, where they discovered and studied the Rabbinic Search Committee’s detailed summary of its many findings (which a subcommittee had compiled into a delightfully readable narrative entitled “A Look in the Mirror”). A majority of the candidates mentioned this as one of their most compelling reasons for pursuing the B’nai Shalom position. They were clearly assessing us as well. Our process was the reverse of what many congregations do in their rabbi searches. Whereas others tend to make “educated guesses” regarding the qualities that matter most to congregants and then construct detailed surveys based on these assumptions, we engaged congregants in telling heartfelt personal stories. In this way, we received much more than a list of rabbinic qualities; people painted a rich, detailed, and sincere portrait of the kind of person they wanted as their spiritual and communal leader. The result of this process was the selection of Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz as our next spiritual leader. Among the many fine candidates we interviewed, we believe she best represents the qualities in a rabbi our congregants are looking for. While many variables are at play in determining how successful a rabbi’s tenure will be, thanks to the Just Congregations model, we at Congregation B’nai Shalom believe we’ve improved our chances of making the right match.

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Vick y Farhi photo by Jill Peltzman Stephen M. Sacks: Photograph by Marshall H. Cohen

CHAIRMAN’S PERSPECTIVE Engaging Our Youth This past June I attended the bat mitzvah of Dana Bederson. Dana was adopted by her parents as a young baby from Kazakhstan and brought up by her family at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland. A product of our Movement, she attended religious school and services at Temple Shalom, sang in several temple choirs, and spent summers at URJ Camp Harlam in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania. Dana and other members at Temple Shalom show us the diverse face of Reform Judaism today. At her bat mitzvah Dana explained it far better than I can: “One way...we appreciate and respect other people at Temple Shalom is recognizing that members of our congregation come from all over the world and that includes me....Generally, people are surprised when I sing Jewish songs, but not at Temple Shalom. Here there’s a whole rainbow of people with lots of good things to offer, and we’re all Jews DANA BEDERSON HOLDS and that’s pretty cool.” A TORAH SCROLL AT HER BAT MITZVAH, JUNE 2, 2012. Dana also had a wonderfully welcoming experience at Camp Harlam. “Camp also represents the diverse community of Reform Jews,” she told the congregation. “My favorite part of camp is Shabbat, because you see everybody praying and singing and loving being Jewish.” It is because of Dana’s Jewish experiences–at home, in a Reform congregation where she was nurtured by both clergy and congregants, and at a URJ camp—that she has become such a committed Jew. And I can’t think of a better endorsement of what Reform Judaism, our congregations, and the Union for Reform Judaism are all about than to reflect on what Dana taught us at her bat mitzvah. We are a community where all are welcomed, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how they come to the congregation. All of us are equal before God. Dana makes me optimistic about our next generation. As she said it, Reform Judaism—“that’s pretty cool.” Helene joins me in wishing all of you a most happy and healthy New Year. STEPHEN M. SACKS Stephen M. Sacks, Chairman Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees reform judaism

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QUOTABLE The Blogs “A flyer from Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island landed on my desk. It asks that when congregants come to temple for the High Holy Days they ‘wear something of a loved one who has passed—a pin, a scarf, a necklace, or bring a small picture in your pocket....It will make their light shine again.’” Indeed, the possessions of those who are no longer with us hold tremendous sentimental value. Some of my mother’s jewelry, a pair of my grandfather’s eyeglasses (circa 1920), and my grandmother’s candlesticks—schlepped from the old country—are among my most treasured belongings. They are physical reminders of my past and a tangible connection to those on whose shoulders I now stand. These possessions, too, are reminders of the divine sparks that dwelled within the people who owned them. The sparks are most evident to me when I remember the ways my mishpacha interacted with the world-at-large and what it is they wished most for future generations. This year, a few of my mother’s silver bracelets draped on my wrist during the High Holy Day season will remind me—as they

PHOTOS: 1 Bette Cotzin 2 Bonnie Graff 3 Rabbi Dan Levin 4 Karen Hoffman 5 Vicky Farhi 6 Rabbi Steven Kaye 7 Rabbi

Lawrence A. Hoffman For more about these leaders read on….

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QUOTABLE from p. 67 always do—of her love, her values, and her well-lived life. Perhaps most importantly, the strands of silver will prompt me to behave in ways that release my own divine sparks into the world. In so doing, I will, I believe, help her light continue to shine.” —Jane E. Herman, on

“The sukkah is an intriguing symbol of faith; as we sit in the sukkah, with only leaves for a roof, exposed to the wind, the rain and the cold, we become aware of our fragility in the face of the forces of nature and our dependence on it. Sukkot also symbolizes the moment in the agricultural year cycle when we celebrate and enjoy the fruits of our summer’s hard labor. Enjoying the fruits of our hard labor is a gratifying experience. Our society today is not primarily agricultural, but we can still relate to these ideas metaphorically and draw some relevant insights for our times. This fascinating juxtaposition between feeling empowered and vulnerable creates a healthy tension that protects us from vanity and teaches us a lesson in modesty. It can also teach us how to be good hosts. While guests are an important part of the Jewish home all year round, they are even more so during Sukkot. We are commanded to celebrate with the members of our community and especially with those who are more vulnerable and deprived. Once the comfort of sitting in the sukkah is challenged by the weather, hosts become aware of their own vulnerability and the differences between hosts and guests blur. These insights are subtle reminders that the ties that unite us are stronger and richer than the conditions that differentiate us from each other.” —Yehudit Werchow, on


ACTION The Key to Keeping Members When it comes to synagogue ment, including the URJ and its camps. membership, keeping current adult Now, new members know why Temmembers is just as important as identiple Beth Emeth shares a building with fying and recruiting new ones. St. Clare’s Episcopal Church. They also Congregations that achieve a high know that Rabbi Bob Levy cheers for level of memOhio State bership retenUniversity’s tion create a football culture where team—a people feel brave admisconnected by sion in a town strong relawhere archritionships to val University both their of Michigan clergy and is king. their fellow This bulleMEMBERS OF A CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL SHABBAT congregants. tin is helping CHAVURAH GATHER FOR LUNCH AND STUDY. Here are new members some tips from some of these congrefeel more connected and become gations and the URJ to help you get involved. In an online survey, 75% of there too. bulletin recipients said it led them to participate in a temple activity or go to ♦♦♦ its website. Member Annette Fisch The secret to engaging new members agrees. “When I joined four years ago, at Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, the bulletin made me feel more at home Michigan ( is to in the congregation,” she says. “People not keep secrets. That’s why the congre- are hesitant to put themselves in a situagation produces two temple bulletins— tion where they’re not sure what’s going the second one exclusively for members on. Because of the New Member Bullewho’ve joined within the past year. tin, I knew things I could talk about Recognizing that retention efforts with others in the congregation—such must begin on day one, past president as the rabbi’s sharing my enthusiasm for Bette Cotzin (photo #1; see previous bicycling.” Early on, Fisch also took page) began writing the New Member advantage of temple resources, such as Bulletin 15+ years ago, when she the congregation’s library, where she served as membership vice president. discovered the information she needed “My goal was to be sure that anyone to customize a haggadah. who walked in our doors felt wel“Right away,” she says, “the congrecome,” says Cotzin, who also serves on gation didn’t feel like a strange place.” the URJ’s North American Board. ♦♦♦ “And new members can feel lost or out of place when they don’t know much Sometimes a synagogue’s biggest about the congregational culture and challenge is its size. In larger congrehistory. I felt that a publication geared gations, more people can end up in towards filling in those blanks could the periphery. provide some of that context.” To turn that problem to its advanHer emailed New Member Bulletins, tage, Congregation Beth Israel of San sent three times a year, cover temple hisDiego ( has raised the chatory, annual events, personal tidbits about vurah (small group) concept to a new the clergy and staff, and the temple’s level. Small groups of members join relationship to the larger Reform Movetogether regularly to learn, socialize, reform judaism

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Mick ve Israel Girl Scouts: Photo courtesy of Henrietta Victor

and enjoy Jewish life. To maximize Most importantly, Graff says, member compatibility, every new “chavurot serve as major connectors member completes a chavurah applibetween our members and the synacation, answering questions about age, gogue. Long past the time families go background, interests, and more. Prothrough bar and bat mitzvah and Congram director Bonnie Graff (photo #2) firmation, the relationships developed tries to match people based on similar among chavurah members help keep interests and situations, such as placing them connected to the congregation.” young families with other young fami♦♦♦ lies. “This is the hardest thing I do, because there is so much sensitivity,” Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, Graff says. “You cannot put just any Florida ( has also discovpeople together. You have to really ered that creating smaller groups withlook at who people are, what they in the congregation strengthens memwant, and what stage of life they’re ber bonds with the temple. in….If you don’t take the time to do In 2007, Rabbi Dan Levin (photo this, it doesn’t work.” #3) designed the congregation’s ComOnce she organizes a new chavurah, munity Connectors initiative with longGraff leads an orientation meeting and time temple member Susan Podolsky, hands out a 24-page guidebook offering turning the city’s many gated commutips, sample programs, and resources. nities, subdivisions, and country clubs Chavurah members are then responsible into programming centers where temfor planning their own monthly activities. ple members in the area could join Among the 30 congregational chavu- together for text study, wine and cheese rot engaging 450 adults is “Orli” (My socials, pool parties, Chanukah potLight), self-titled by a group of emptylucks, and more. (Temple members nesters who joined together 12 years ago. who lived outside these areas were Orli hosts all kinds of grouped together by get-togethers—seders zip code.) Neighborfor Passover and break hood captains, called fasts for Yom Kippur, Community Connecas well as cultural protors, organized the grams on such topics nearly 20 groups. as early Jewish life in Once people San Diego and local learned who lived Jewish artists. Because nearby, says Rabbi the group formed a Levin, “all kinds of tight bond, when Gaymeaningful sharing le Wise’s husband went on, everything SUSAN PODOLSKY (L.) AND BETH ZIPPER ENJOYING TEMPLE BETH EL George suffered a from ‘Oh, you live OF BOCA RATON’S COMMUNITY series of medical here? We should carCONNECTORS COCKTAIL PARTY/ emergencies, fellow pool’ to ‘Oh, you SCHOLAR-IN-RESIDENCE EVENING. Orli members brought have a teenage daughfood, visited constantly, and watched the ter? I have a little girl. Would your house when Gayle was away. “Having daughter want to babysit?’” New friendour chavurah friends step up has been a ships were formed, and these led to an blessing in my life,” she says. uptick in attendance at temple events The chavurah also strengthened involving one of the friends, such as his/ Wise’s connection to the larger congreher child’s performance in a Purim gation. “Being part of the chavurah shpiel. This, in turn, is tied to retention. gets me to things I might not normally “Retention is all about relationships,” attend,” she says. “When you go to temRabbi Levin says. “Most often, when a ple for a concert or to hear a guest speak- member resigns, the refrain is, ‘I just er with a group, it’s much more fun.” continued on next page reform judaism

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NOTEWORTHY Reform Rabbi Wins Historic Recognition in Israel On May 29, 2012, Israel’s Attorney General announced that the state has agreed to pay the wages of Rabbi Miri Gold, a Reform rabbi serving Congregation RABBI MIRI Birkat Shalom in GOLD Kibbutz Gezer. The decision follows a hearing in the Israel High Court on the 2005 petition, filed by Rabbi Gold and the Reform Movement in Israel, demanding that the state pay nonOrthodox rabbis, just as it does some 4,000 Orthodox rabbis. This historic ruling paves the way for dozens of other Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel to receive governmental salaries as well. “This is a big step for religious pluralism and democracy in Israel,” Rabbi Gold says. “Israeli Jews want religious alternatives, and with this decision the state is starting to recognize this reality.” The precedent-setting victory is due in large part to the Israel Religious Action Center, which has been championing Rabbi Gold’s cause, as well as tens of thousands of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora who signed an online petition and sent waves of emails imploring the Israeli government to act justly. The Genesis of Girl Scouts: Mickve Israel Was There Savannah’s Congregation Mickve Israel is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts with an extensive exhibit, “The Girl MICKVE ISRAEL GIRL SCOUTS GREET FIRST Scouts— LADY LOU HOOVER, In the SAVANNAH, 1932. Beginning We Were There,” featuring photographs, uniforms,

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NOTEWORTHY from p. 69

ACTION continued from page 69

camping gear, handbooks, and of course cookies. Jewish girls were in Savannah’s first troops in 1912, and three of their patrol leaders (later troop leaders) were Mickve Israel members—Leonora Amram, Henrietta Falk, and, a year later, Mildred Guckenheimer. She led the very first Girl Scout encampment, a 10-day excursion to a barrier island off the Georgia coast. At a time when Jews were often excluded from groups and activities, Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low stressed diversity and inclusion as core values of the organization, and they remain so to this day. Low called on women, including the Jewish patrol leaders, to help grow the Girl Scouts, and Mickve Israel members were among those who rose to the occasion.

don’t feel a connection anymore.’ With Community Connector events, you see some neighbors at a community Chanukah party, then at the Purim shpiel, and then start chatting at the oneg, and soon you have plans for dinner. We are nurturing the bonds of relationship members feel with one another.”

Sister Rabbis Milestone Upon her ordination at HUCJIR in Los Angeles this past FROM L. TO R.: RABBIS May 12, MARI CHERNOW, Hana Mills HANA MILLS, JORDANA CHERNOW-READER became the third sister in her family to become a Reform rabbi. Her oldest sister, Mari Chernow, ordained in 2003, serves as senior rabbi of Temple Chai in Phoenix. Middle sister Jordana ChernowReader, ordained in 2004, is director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Beth Torah in Ventura, CA. And Hana Mills serves as a rabbi at Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, AZ. The three sisters come from a Jewishly active family: Mother Arlene is a longtime URJ Outreach consultant and father Eli serves on the URJ Board.

♦♦♦ In Dallas, Texas, Temple Emanu-El ( has also changed emphasis to help its families form meaningful relationships. “It’s not until people are truly connected that they feel a sense of community,” says program director Karen Hoffman (photo #4). “Relationships with people are what keep them coming back.” Programs are now viewed as portals, doors of opportunity for congregational involvement. “Instead of sitting lecturestyle or auditorium-style, we’re now sitting at round tables,” Hoffman says, “and sometimes we start meetings with ‘My Jewish Journey,’ people sharing narratives about their lives.” Its Community MoVeRS (Mitzvot, Values, Ritual, and Spirituality) program brings sixth-grade students and their parents together to discuss spiritual issues and social justice opportunities; because the families are getting to know each other—some have already gathered for Shabbat dinner—Hoffman anticipates the parents will be less likely to disengage from congregational life after their youngest child’s bar or bat mitzvah. In addition, twice in the last three years, a group of 80 volunteers have called every member household to connect, and sometimes the clergy and staff deepen their relationships with members as a result, such as phoning a congregant after learning he/she is recuperating from health issues. Hoffman believes the engagement initiatives are working. Membership has been stable, and survey reports show that those congregants who do leave (often because of relocation) are reform judaism

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much less likely to do so because “the synagogue is not a priority.” ♦♦♦ How can you keep your members engaged and connected to the temple? Here are six tips: 1. Be welcoming from the start. Adult members are most likely to head for the exit door following a child’s bar/ bat mitzvah or Confirmation, or upon their becoming empty-nesters—and by then it’s often too late to do much about it, says Vicky Farhi (photo #5), URJ codirector of the Expanding Our Reach Community of Practice. Instead, she says, “congregations need to create a sense of community from the first hello a person hears through all the years he/she is involved in that congregation.” Rabbi Steven Kaye (photo #6), who runs the Denver-based synagogue consulting firm Or Chadash, agrees. “People do not leave congregations today just because of economics,” he says. “They think that the congregation no longer cares about them or doesn’t address their unique needs.” Farhi recommends that congregations integrate the message of caring into every aspect of temple life, including welcoming members before and after services. “If someone is greeted before the service, but no one speaks to him/her at the oneg, the greeting at the beginning loses its effectiveness. Send the right message by making sure the staff, leaders, and volunteers greet him/her warmly throughout the evening,” she says. Rabbi Kaye suggests that congregations also proactively reach out to members regarding the many opportunities they have to volunteer and make contributions. He also advises calling congregants who haven’t been to services in a while. “It’s hard to walk away from any organization when your presence is made to feel important,” he says. 2. Seek feedback everywhere. “If the leadership doesn’t know why people join the congregation, you can’t do anything about retention,” Rabbi Kaye says. The answer? Ask. Then ask again. Check to see if members’ needs are being satisfied as they experience

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changes in their own lives. “They may have joined for religious school at one time,” says Rabbi Kaye, “but now they’re empty-nesters. Is it still of value to them to maintain their membership? Are their needs being met?” Rabbi Kaye advises using a variety of feedback mechanisms: community meetings, focus groups, past temple presidents (“ask them to gather information on a quarterly or annual basis; they’ll know if their friends are happy or not”), and lunch discussions (“be sure to invite members who’ve resigned within the past three years”). Then, he says, congregations will be equipped to take action. 3. Form a community of purpose. “Many congregations operate by an old fee-for-service-oriented model in which people join without expecting to be engaged. When they find out they are expected to be involved as well, it feels like a ‘bait-and-switch,’” says HUC-JIR professor and Synagogue 3000 co-founder Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman (photo #7). “When members expect a bar or bat mitzvah, a rabbi on call, High Holiday seats, etc., and then the cost becomes too great or their needs change, they reassess and leave.” The key to changing this, Rabbi Hoffman says, is to turn congregations into “communities of purpose,” places people join “to find ultimate meaning and purpose through their lives.” Congregational programming can refocus on meaning— for example, when an adult education course about the medieval philosopher Maimonides helps members to build relationships with the clergy and think deep thoughts about their own existence. “If people feel that, because of the synagogue, their lives have taken on greater meaning, they will remain members,” he says. 4. Look for needs and respond. “What do your members need that they can’t get anywhere else and can be infused with Jewish values?” asks Rabbi Kaye. Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, Massachusetts (betheltemplecenter. org) discovered that many congregants

were recent empty-nesters seeking connection with other empty-nesters. So in 2009 the temple formed the BethMiddlers, facilitated by former membership chairperson Amy Tananbaum. Leaders anticipated 10 people would come to the first meeting, a potluck dinner—but 40 showed up. These days the connected group meets for a variety of social and cultural events, everything from a day at the beach to a local Jewish film festival. 5. Discover members’ gifts and passions. “The best way to capture a new member’s enthusiasm is to ask him/her to share skills and interests,” says Kathy Kahn, former URJ membership specialist. Collect that information, and when a project arises that requires certain talents, tap that member to become involved. Rabbi Hoffman suggests that only two questions are necessary: “What are your gifts?” and “What are your passions?” “A gift is a religious notion—what God has given to you that you can be grateful

—Ryan E. Smith, journalist and member of Temple Ahavat Shalom, Northridge, California


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for and use to help other people,” he says. “Everyone has a gift: financial aptitude, cooking, etc. Helping people to recognize their gift engages them with the synagogue in the context of spiritual purpose.” 6. Look to the URJ. At cong/membership you’ll discover 50+ membership tools, among them a Program Bank ( program) of successful congregational initiatives. Visit belin to learn about Belin Award-winning synagogue Outreach programs highlighted in The Outreach and Membership Idea Book (Volumes I, II, III, and IV). To discuss welcoming strategies with congregational peers, join the TalkingOutreach listserv by emailing And Vicky Farhi ( is available for consultations.


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MY IDEA Build on Birthright Israel Five years ago my parents, Pam experienced RIE and returned as and Ron Rubin, members of Con“Israel ambassadors.” Almost all pargregation Shaare Emeth, St. Louis, ticipants have spoken at local agenMissouri, launched a program to help cies and congregations, written for strengthen Jewish identity among the St. Louis Jewish newspaper and young adults in St. Louis. Acting upon the research findings that recognized Israel travel as a key factor in building strong Jewish identity, they partnered with the local Jewish GIVING BACK. LEFT: JACKIE ULIN LEVEY (CENTER) WITH OTHER RUBIN federation and ISRAEL EXPERIENCE PARTICIPANTS, 2008; RIGHT: LEVEY SPEAKS ABOUT launched the HER REJUVENATED JEWISH IDENTITY AT THE JEWISH FEDERATION OF ST. LOUIS AFTER RECEIVING A YOUNG LEADERSHIP AWARD, 2009. Rubin Israel Experience (RIE). Young adults ages 27–40 in community website, and served on the area who had never been to Israel boards and commissions of Jewish and no longer qualified for Birthright organizations and congregations. Israel (age 26 maximum) would have Some participants have since returned the opportunity to experience the to Israel with their spouses and/or wonders of Israel through a 10-day, families, and some have enrolled high-quality, intellectually stimulattheir children in Jewish day schools. ing, Jewish identity-building trip free A few participants have even changed of charge. careers to become Jewish communal The RIE program is based on my service professionals. Talk about a father’s successful business model at return on investment! his own company, The Republic of Just imagine what other Jewish Tea, where he educates and inspires communities could look like if they his employees to become tea ambasfollowed the entrepreneurial and sadors by taking them to where the philanthropic approach my parents tea they sell originates—China, Afritook in developing the Rubin Israel ca, Japan, and India—and immersing Experience. The result could be lastthem in the cultures there. In the ing changes for your Jewish commucase of the Rubin Israel Experience, nity and beyond. instead of tea ambassadors, particiTo learn more, contact me at pants become Israel ambassadors to the St. Louis Jewish community and beyond. —Julie Liberman is a member of The RIE accepts 10 participants Temple Emanu El in Dallas. each year, resulting in a very competShe owns and operates Speech TX, itive application process. Since the a private practice specializing in program began, 40 individuals from a providing speech-language therapy variety of Jewish backgrounds have to individuals with autism. reform judaism

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Reform Judaism Magazine Fall 2012  

A Union for Reform Judaism Publication

Reform Judaism Magazine Fall 2012  

A Union for Reform Judaism Publication