Why We Must
Nation of Innovation:
REINVENT TRAVEL GUIDE SYNAGOGUES TO ISRAEL
A Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Publication
A Meeting That
LESSONS OF TRANSFORMS THE HEART TEMPLES
JOURNEYING IN CYBERSPACE: Technology opens wonderful worlds of imagination and learningâ€”but may also carry risks. How can we successfully navigate our new cyberworld? Page 16
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WRJ proudly honors our
CENTENNIAL BIRTHDAY Here are ways to celebrate with us: Attend the WRJ Centennial Symposium at Temple Israel in NYC on June 2, 2013. Support the WRJ Centennial Campaign: Sponsor a Centennial program, Provide a message for the WRJ Centennial Journal, and Purchase a “$100 for 100” pin. Order WRJ Centennial Posters from our catalog for an exhibit or event honoring WRJ. Purchase WRJ Centennial Products from our catalog: Centennial hoodie, Centennial nightshirt, and Centennial “Covenant of the Generations” (a book of prayers & poems). Attend the WRJ Assembly or URJ Biennial in San Diego, CA from December 11-15, 2013 and join the movement-wide celebration.
For mo more information on these and other opportunities, please visit
www.wrj.org/centennial WRJ_IFC.indd 1
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A BENEFIT OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP IN A URJ CONGREGATION JEWISH LIFE 8 Words, Words, Words: The Invention of Bentshn & Other Origins / Sarah Bunin Benor 10 Judaica: Jewish Antiques Appraisal Show / Jonathan Greenstein 11 Jewish Journeys: Lost & Found—An Animator’s Tale / Hanan Harchol 13 Holidays: Streaming into the New Year / Mary Ann Sternberg 15 Social Action: The Making of a Greenpeace Activist / Janos Maté 58 Education: What Do You Know…about Synagogues? / Susan Esther Barnes 60 Technology: The Talmud & the Twitterverse / Daniel Reisel
INSIDER’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL TRAVEL— NATION OF INNOVATION 25 Cover 26 Ecotourism / Darryl Egnal 27 Israeli Inventions at Work / Stephen Wise 32 Prayer for Visiting a Kibbutz / Dannie Abse 33 Museums / Abigail Klein Leichman 34 Israeli Inventions in the Works / Nicky Blackburn 35 Reform Congregations 36 Map: Visiting Your Family 41 Cuisine / Rolene Marks 43 Fashion / Ori J. Lenkinski
16 Invasion of the Machines interview with Wendy Mogel / How social science and Judaism can help families successfully navigate our new cyberworld. Plus: “No Cell Phones at Camp” by Louis Bordman and “The ‘I’ in Internet” by Alison Kahler
Cover: © pony tail1414 / Veer and © Bowie15 / Dreamstime.com Above photo: Tal Glick / Israel Ministr y of Tourism
50 Reinventing the Synagogue interview with Allison Fine / We need a new congregational model—of community rooted in conversation—to nourish the feeling of “matterness.”
NEWS & VIEWS OF REFORM JEWS 67 Feature Story: The Biennial as Change Agent—How to turn a Biennial experience into lasting congregational change / Julie Schwartz
54 What Your Heart Can Teach You by Alan Morinis / At times when we feel awe, fear, and reverence all at once, our hearts are open to discovering the essential meaning of our lives.
Also 66 Chairman’s Perspective: Join Me in San Diego / Stephen M. Sacks 66 Quotable: The Blogs 69 Noteworthy 70 What Works: Helping Israeli Soldiers Heal 72 Debatable: Should We Support Physician-Assisted Suicide? / Phil Cohen, Barry Block
IN THE BEGINNING 2 Dear Reader: David Hartman’s Legacy of Pluralism / Rick Jacobs 4 Letters reform judaism
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d e a r
Official Publication of the Union for Reform Judaism Serving Reform Congregations in North America
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David Hartman’s Legacy of Pluralism
Summer 2013, Vol. 41, No. 4
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ast February in Jerusalem I had the sad honor of eulogizing my beloved teacher Rabbi David Hartman, an Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, and trailblazing apostle of religious inclusion. Regrettably, even as Rabbi Hartman’s enlightened Torah of pluralism has drawn many disciples, the 65-year-old State of Israel remains mired in religious intolerance. No Israeli government has yet recognized the legitimacy of Reform and Conservative rabbis, or treated our liberal movements’ synagogues and institutions on an equal footing with those of Orthodox Jewry. Still, with our Israel Movement at the vanguard, I am cautiously optimistic that we are about to witness a dramatic societal change in Israel. One encouraging sign is the election success of Israel’s new party, Yesh Atid, which received 19 Knesset seats and is part of the new ruling coalition. One of its incoming Knesset members, Ruth Calderon, a secular talmudic scholar who cofounded the first joint beit midrash for men, women, religious, and secular Israelis, addressed the Israeli parliament on the day after Rabbi Hartman’s funeral, declaring, “I long for the day when the state’s resources are distributed fairly to every Torah scholar, man or woman, based on the quality of their study, not their communal affiliation, when secular and pluralistic yeshivot, batei midrash, and organizations win fair and equal support. Through…healthy competition, the Torah will be magnified and glorified.” One of Rabbi Hartman’s favorite rabbinic texts also expressed the need for Jewish pluralism: “Make yourself a heart of many rooms and bring into it the words of the House of Shammai and the words of the House of Hillel….” My teacher interpreted this passage from Mishnah Sotah 7:12 as an imperative for each of us to become a person in whom different opinions can reside together in the very depths of the soul. This teaching is just as critical for our entire Jewish world as it is for Israel. We Jews are one, but we are not the same—and that is our strength. Our sustenance as a people must arise from being a Jewish community that moves beyond recognizing or tolerating one another to valuing and celebrating the many authentic paths to Jewish commitment. May Rabbi Hartman’s memory inspire every one of us to live the Torah of pluralism in all the places of our lives, and especially in our spiritual home—Israel.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs President, Union for Reform Judaism ➢Your thoughts and ideas are welcomed. Contact Rabbi Jacobs: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or send a letter-to-the-editor: email@example.com. reform judaism
Ian Spanier Photography
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l e t t e r s
The Exodus Myth?
lthough I found Professor S. David Sperling’s essay, “Were the Jews Slaves in Egypt?” (Spring 2013) very interesting, I’m almost as skeptical about his assessment as I am about the Torah story of the Exodus. The fact that no records of the Exodus exist in Egypt and that there are no archeological remains in the Sinai might or might not be meaningful. Sperling’s conclusion that the Exodus stories are therefore fictitious is just one possibility among others. His argument that the Israelites would fabricate this story to assert their difference from other indigenous Canaanite people also seems strange—didn’t they already have the story that Abraham came from Mesopotamia, and hadn’t they begun to separate themselves from others by practicing circumcision? And weren’t they a warrior tribe, attacking Moabites, Edomites, and Philistines,
precisely because they claimed they were different? They also differentiated themselves theologically, by rejecting Ishtar, Baal, the Golden Calf, etc. For all these reasons, I’m not sure they would have also needed to make up the long, complicated stories about Moses’ birth, slavery, plagues, commandments, Sinai, etc. that comprise Exodus. More likely, perhaps, is that the Exodus story has some legitimacy but suffers from significant numeric inflation, a very common historical phenomenon. In past eras, with weaker monitoring and strong religious or political agendas, people frequently misreported or intentionally exaggerated numbers. Maybe the 600,000 Israelites escaping Egypt were really just 60 people, and maybe the 40 years in the desert were just 40 days (a reasonable amount of time to walk across the Sinai). If true, such a small number of people and such a brief
timeframe would have made the accumulation of archaeological evidence unlikely. Besides, who knows what evidence may yet be discovered? Ultimately, I agree with Rabbi David Wolpe (“Torah Is Not History”) that finding spiritual or existential meaning in biblical stories is far more important than worrying about their historical accuracy. Robert Paul Weiner Lecturer, Sonoma State University Rohnert Park, California
Dealing with Dementia
hank you for publishing Rabbi Cary Kozberg’s article, “Divinity of Dementia” (Spring 2013), which encourages us to see people with dementia not as forgotten or lost, but as living truer to the divine spark that enlivens them. My work in an eldercare community has shown me that dementia expresses itself in a great variety of ways, and I am
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grateful for Rabbi Kozberg’s encouragement to regard loved ones who are not the persons they used to be with appreciation, celebrating who they are now. Leiah Bowden Schenectady, New York
s a practicing dentist who routinely treats medically compromised patients, including people with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia, and as the daughter of a 90-year-old dementia patient, I am dismayed by Rabbi Cary Kozberg’s article. “Divinity of Dementia” is completely devoid of even the most basic scientific/medical facts about individuals suffering from dementia, and instead replete with bizarre magical thinking and appalling personal opinions such as: • “Dementia can actually be boon to someone’s personhood.” • “They [dementia patients] are, albeit unwittingly, ‘messengers from God’ or assuming the roles of ‘angels’ singing praises to God.” Dementia, in its many forms, is a slow, cruel disease of the brain. It is a painful, frightening journey resulting in eventual death for those suffering from its ravages, as well as sadness and loss for those who care for and love the inflicted individual. In no way is dementia a sweet pathway to the end of life. My 93-year-old father, who lives independently, sits at my mother’s side for eight hours a day. He tries to feed her, comfort her, wipe her tears. She is constantly fearful and anxious and confused. She is not a “messenger from God.” She is simply a victim of a horrible disease that strikes randomly. Alzheimer’s disease is now the #4 cause of death in the U.S., up from #16 in 1990. We need intelligent discussion of this growing tragedy in our society, not Mary Poppins-like opinion pieces such as this. Linda L. Hansen, D.D.S. Bellevue, Washington
e wish to thank Dr. Hansen and other readers who sent in candid letters expressing similar views. We adapted a chapter from the URJ
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Press book Broken Fragments for this article believing that Rabbi Cary Kozberg’s alternative way to think about dementia would be helpful to readers coping with the issue—the same reason we publish articles offering spiritual and psychological insights on such issues as finding balance in life, handling bullying, and navigating inheritance conflicts (see reformjudaism mag.org for our search-by-subject index and links). The chapter had not elicited a negative response upon the book’s publication, likely because it was part of an anthology addressing a broad range of issues, such as how to speak to dementia patients, questions of legal competency, and a neurologist’s view of dementia. In response to Dr. Hansen’s letter, Rabbi Kozberg says: “I wrote this article not as a physician or scientist but as a rabbi and chaplain who has worked with these individuals and their families for almost a quarter of a century. My sole intent was to offer new meaning to an experience that many people interpret as only cruel and devoid of meaning—and therefore devoid of hope.” In publishing this piece, it was not Rabbi Kozberg’s or our intention to minimize the suffering of patients and families struggling with dementia. To those who perceived it as insensitive to their plight, we are truly sorry.
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Questioning the Numbers
n response to “Top Nations with Jewish Populations & Their Reform Congregations” (RJ Insider’s Guide to Jewish World Travel, Spring 2013), some readers wrote to ask why the list did not include Mexico. The reason is that, currently, Mexico does not have any WUPJ-affiliated congregations, though the World Union is hoping that will change in the future. Other readers questioned the cited population figures in various countries. We largely relied on “World Jewish Population 2010—North American Jewish Data Bank,” where Jewish demographic numbers vary widely depending on how being Jewish is defined—sometimes, for example, excluding those who have not registered with the official community. The Editors continued on page 10 reform judaism
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JEWISHLIFEWORDS, WORDS, WORDS
The Invention of Bentshn & Other Origins By Sarah Bunin Benor
Do you know the origins of these 6 commonly used Hebrew & Yiddish words?
Instead, the Jews said bentshn, the word for “bless” from the Judeo-Italian benedice (which harkens back to the Latin benedictus). The transition from “bless” to “say Grace After Meals” stems from the traditional Yiddish introduction to Birkat Hamazon: Raboysay lomir bentshn (“Gentlemen, let’s bless”).
This Yiddish word meaning warm Sabbath stew (the Eastern European variety is made from barley, beans, meat, potatoes, and vegetables) stems back to the Judeo-French “chalent” (warming). On Friday before sunset, traditional Jews place cholent in the oven to simmer overnight and be enjoyed on Saturday at lunchtime—thereby observing the prohibition against lighting a fire on Shabbat. And in the Middle East and the former Ottoman Empire, speakers of Judeo-Arabic and Ladino would refer to their version of the Sabbath stew with the Hebrew word “hamin” (hot items).
In biblical Hebrew, mitzvah means “commandment,” as in being commanded to recite a blessing before eating bread. In Yiddish it gained the additional meaning of doing a good deed— which became so popular, many Jews have forgotten the original meaning of commandedness.
Not a Hebrew or Yiddish word, but Jewish just the same, pastrami has a multi-national ancestry. It began as Turkish pastirma (spiced smoked meat) and then became pastrama in Romania and nearby countries. In the late 19th century, Yiddish-speaking Romanian immigrants settled in New York, bringing the meat they now called pastrome with them. Americans changed the pronunciation to pastrami, which rhymed with the similar Italian meat salami.
Originally in Europe, this Yiddish word of German origin meant “carry.” Today it has the additional connotation of being burdensome, as in “I’ve been shlepping this heavy bag around all day,” or the intransitive “I shlepped here all the way from Scarsdale for this?!?”
(“Hear O Israel…”). Today, people with more Jewish friends, especially older Jews and Orthodox Jews, understand shmooze as having the same meaning it had in Europe: to chat informally, to “shoot the breeze.” For those with more non-Jewish friends, back to an old Hebrew noun to shmooze means “network, “sh’mu’ot,” meaning “things kiss up,” as in, “He spent the that are heard”—which has the whole party shmoozing (up) same root as the Sh’ma prayer the vice presidents.” This English word comes from the Yiddish verb “shmues” (chat informally) but stems
So, the next time you shlep out to the ’burbs, pastrami in hand, to shmooze away the afternoon, think of how far you—and these words—have come.
Rabbi Sarah Bunin Benor is Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at HUC-JIR, author of Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism, and creator of the Jewish English Lexicon (jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon). reform judaism
Clock wise from top: Clipart.com; © iStockphoto.com /antonbrand; © iStockphoto.com /mstay ; © roloci / Veer; © iStockphoto.com /SongSpeckels
A Yiddish word with two related definitions, bentsh means both to bless and to say Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals). It originated in Germanic lands in the Middle Ages, when Jews did not want to use the German word for “bless,” segenen, which also meant to make the sign of the cross.
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Jewish Antiques Appraisal Show Appraisals by Jonathan Greenstein
Dear Jonathan, Using a sharp penknife, folded paper, coins for circles, and free-hand cutting, my paternal great-grandfather Israel Tzvi Mannesovits made this papercut in 1928. He worked as a dry goods retailer; papercutting was a part-time activity. A number of religious symbols appear in this papercut. The four Hebrew letters inscribed over the ark spell out mizrach, meaning “east”—a reference to the Jewish custom to pray eastward toward Jerusalem. A seven-branch menorah represents the seven days of the week. The leopards, eagles, deer, and lions are likely allusions to Rabbi Yehudah ben Tema’s saying, “Be as strong as a leopard, as quick as an eagle, as fast as a deer, and as brave as a lion to do the will of your Parent in Heaven” (Pirke
Letters continued from page 7
Injustice at the Hands of Congress
appreciated URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ article “Dear Reader: Herstory & History” (Winter 2012). Equal opportunity and rights for men and women in our armed forces ought to be a concern for all U.S. citizens, since in our democracy the servicewomen and men are very much in our service. That said, one element of the issue went unaddressed. Tricare, the health care insurance for military personnel, had no exception for rape and incest because Congress had specifically mandated that exclusion for women in the military, despite the fact that other women covered by federal healthcare are provided exactly that exception by law. It was not the backward thinking of military leadership that fostered that injustice; in fact, 42 retired generals, admirals, and senior enlisted took the lead, guided and assisted by the RAC, the ACLU, and many other organizations, in pressing for passage of correc-
Avot 5:20). The crown, I suspect, is a metaphor for God. What might this papercut be worth? Bill URJ congregant, Florida Dear Bill, In all my 30 years in Judaica, I have never seen such an important and beautitive legislation. These efforts led to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows reproductive choice for servicewomen and their family members who are survivors of rape or incest—imperfect legislation to be sure, but in this political climate, a remarkable first step on such a sadly divisive issue. I encourage all readers to be engaged with justice issues in the U.S. military. With 10,000+ Jews serving on active duty, many of those directly impacted are relatives, friends, and graduates of our congregations, camps, and NFTY. Rabbi Harold L. Robinson Rear Admiral CHC USN Ret. Director, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council
parents, I started a support group for parents at our synagogue, Temple Sinai in Washington, DC. Meeting monthly, “Parents of Young Adults who Struggle” offers resources, strategies, and sustenance to mostly Jewish participants, members and non-members of our synagogue in the DC area. As the group’s facilitator, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk to Anonymous, other parents, and the URJ community to share our story and help start similar groups. Not all Jewish kids grow up to go to a top college and have a great career and an independent adulthood. The presence of mentally ill kids and adults in the Jewish community is a fact not to be hidden or ignored. Nancy L. Wolf Washington, DC
Mental Illness Is No “Shanda”
n response to Anonymous, whose son has both psychological and addiction problems (“Letters,” Spring 2013), please know you are not alone. In 2008, as the parent of a young adult with mental health conditions seeking support from similarly situated reform judaism
ful papercut. The folklorish animals and the whimsical designs are phenomenal. To quote my folk hero Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, this piece is the “highest of the high” and “the deepest of the deep.” And rarely have I encountered a paper work in such good condition! Hardier Judaica materials, such as silver, brass, and wood, can survive a great many years, but with delicate paper, breakage, fading, and other damages are the norm. Its value: $15,000 - 25,000 at auction. Mordechai Reicher (1865 - 1921), who, much like your grandfather, had a keen hand with a knife, created a somewhat comparable piece that is now in New York’s Jewish Museum. Jonathan Greenstein, founder J. Greenstein & Co., Inc. Inquiries: Jonathan@JGreenstein.com
Thank You, RJ Magazine
he last issue was a winner. I read it from cover to cover. Every article was of interest and I learned so much. Thank you for expanding my horizons. Joyce Donen Hirschhorn Killingworth, Connecticut
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Lost & Found: An Animator’s Tale By Hanan Harchol
was two-and-a-half found my voice as a “psychological narrative when my parents packed painter,” focusing on my our few possessions and family. In graduate moved from a kibbutz school, I added video and on the banks of the Sea animation, which enabled of Galilee to the promised me to mimic my parents’ land of New Jersey—where Jewish mannerisms and my father, a nuclear Israeli accents. physicist, aspired to become a millionaire. ♦♦♦ For my father, moving It wasn’t until I was 39, to America meant our fammarried, and working as ily would have to assimiStill of my father and me from “Jewish Food for Thought: late. He often lamented my a high school art teacher The Animated Series” (jewishfoodforthought.com). given name. “I’m so sorry that my relationship to we called you Hanan,” he’d say, “but we happened more often than not. My sister Judaism changed. A friend told me didn’t know, how could we know?” One and I can speak Hebrew today thanks to about a project seeking Jewish artists. I day he declared (he had a way of declar- my mother’s perseverance and temper. submitted my animations and was ing things, like a king) that he was selected as one of 11 contemporary vid♦♦♦ changing his name from Micha to eo artists to create a short film interpretMichael. “From now on,” he proFollowing in my parents’ footsteps, ing segments of the haggadah for “Proclaimed, “you will all call me Michael.” I grew up anti-religious. My father jecting Freedom: Cinematic There were, however, two problems deemed religion “a waste of time,” an Interpretations of the Haggadah.” with this name change. First, my mother attitude he’d inherited from his father, Though I was initially hesitant to continued to call him Micha in public, who rejected the faith of his Orthodox devote a great deal of time to the yearwhich infuriated him; second, he would parents at age 20, when he became a long project, two aspects appealed to introduce himself as Ma-eeeee-KEL, socialist Zionist and helped found a kib- me: the chance to make new work (I which prompted people to say “What?” butz in then Palestine. Still, whenever hadn’t produced any in nearly a year), So, eventually, he returned to Micha. my father wanted to prove a point, he’d and the assurance of artistic freedom. My father also announced that we tell us a Torah story and argue, “Even in So I accepted. must stop speaking Hebrew—but my the Bible, it says….” There was one catch, however. The mother would have none of it. EventualWhen I was 11 ½, my parents artists had to attend monthly Passoverly, they reached a compromise: he would divorced, and my mother began taking related text study sessions, led by the my sister and me to shul once a year, on project’s creator, Rabbi Leon Morris, converse in Hebrew with her, and in English with my sister and me. Whatever erev Yom Kippur. The services were who directed the Skirball Center for she may have promised to my father, my daunting and emotionally exhausting. Adult Jewish Learning at Temple All I could think about were the things I Emanu-El in Manhattan. mother spoke to us in a mixture of had done wrong, and whether or not I Hebrew and English, switching to all To my surprise, these sessions Hebrew when she screamed at us, which would be written into the Book of Life. immersed us in deep conversations My mother also began taking me to about the human condition, psychology, annual seders held at the home of her Hanan Harchol (hananharchol.com), a and philosophy—topics I’d never multimedia visual artist, has exhibited in coworker, Mrs. Prince, a compassionate, before associated with Judaism, and museums and galleries throughout the U.S., kind, and very observant Jewish woman. precisely the same issues I had been and screened his films and animations at They were a delight; I got to ask lots of exploring in my artmaking. I became film festivals worldwide and on Channel 13. questions, eat delicious food, and engage increasingly drawn to Jewish text study A solo exhibition of his animations and artwith my Jewish heritage in a meaningful and Rabbi Morris’ compassionate work will be on view September 2013—June way, albeit for one evening a year. approach to Judaism, which reminded 2014 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish In college I majored in art, and, after me of the meaningful experiences I’d Institute of Religion Museum in Manhattan. flirting with abstract impressionism, had at Mrs. Prince’s seder table. reform judaism
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For the topic in my portion of the haggadah video project I chose maror (bitter herbs), because the protagonist in my animations, my father, was often, well…bitter. At this point I needed good sources for my video that would also reflect the content we explored in our text study sessions. So, at age 39, I began to read the Torah seriously. I stumbled upon a short passage, Parashat Bo: “And on this night, they shall eat the flesh, roasted over the fire, and unleavened cakes; with bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:8). Reading
these words catapulted me back to a passage we would read each year in the haggadah at Mrs. Prince’s seder: to fulfill the minimum obligation of a Passover seder, one must discuss three things—the Pesach offering, the matzah, and the bitter herbs. Somehow, finding the source of that passage in the Torah was strangely exciting, as if I had discovered something new. I then began to wonder why maror, of all things, was included as one of the three essential seder elements. I concluded that without the bitterness there could
be no freedom. That led to another realization: While my parents were unquestionably bitter, behind their bitterness was a distinct sense of hope. My parents’ bitterness seemed to have a larger purpose: the idea that bitterness is a part of life, but that if one chooses to believe, hope, and persevere despite the bitterness—or perhaps even because of it— one could reach another level. With this short little passage from Exodus (Parashat Bo, 12:8), I had found the theme for my animation (to watch: jewishfoodfor thought.com/?page_id=179). I felt moved to continue reading the Torah and see what else was there. ♦♦♦
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The more I studied Torah and rabbinic commentaries, the more I came to see that many of my parents’ ways of arguing, reasoning, and questioning were steeped in the sacred wisdom of our ancestors. I also identified in Judaism many teachings on human values and the human condition that I had explored in my psychological narrative artwork and had previously attributed to modern psychology and philosophy instead. For example, I had always thought that practicing introspection— studying one’s own behavioral patterns, asking oneself where one learned them, and through awareness of these behaviors changing them—was a modern psychological tool, but it turned out that this analytical process had been detailed in the 12th century by the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides! Moreover, in the 17th century the Baal Shem Tov, who founded the Chasidic movement, taught that God created other people as mirrors, allowing us to see our own faults in others—an insight I had attributed to Sigmund Freud. And I discovered the basis of empathy in a teaching of Hillel, one of our finest sages: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” I wondered: How much of who I am as a person and as an artist is rooted in thousands of years of Jewish thought and study? And I thought: What a shame it is that in the process of becoming non-religious, I had missed out on this wealth of Jewish teachings and wisdom on the human condition. continued on page 49
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Streaming into the New Year By Mary Ann Sternberg
ast Rosh Hashanah morning, I was forced to admit it: my bronchitis was too severe to allow me to make the evening rounds of dinner and services. But the thought of missing the first of the High Holy Day services was as distressing to me as my coughing and wheezing. Possibility A: I asked Rabbi Jordan Goldson, my rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge, LA, if he might be broadcasting services to connect with shut-ins, as he used to. “We haven’t done that for several years now,” he told me regretfully. In the deep South where I live, synagogues do not offer broadcast services as churches do, so I moved on to Possibility B: searching the Internet to see if, perchance, I could “attend” a streaming Rosh Hashanah service somewhere else. This proved to be a great revelation! I discovered that live-streamed services would be available in real time and made note of three, all in the Eastern Time Zone. At the appointed hour, I returned to my computer swathed in a bathrobe and sucking cough drops and entered the world of e-Rosh Hashanah.
Photo by Ma x W. Orenstein /Central Synagog ue
♦♦♦ First visit: ourjewishcommunity.org, self-described as offering Progressive Judaism. Clicking on before the service, I enjoyed watching congregants milling about, visiting and chatting. Meanwhile, online participants were exchanging comments through an interactive dialogue box. Once the service started, this became a distraction, so I maximized the video screen and the interactivity disappeared. Then the service seemed just for the worshippers and me. The setting was unadorned—no
Sanctuary of Central Synagogue, New York City.
flowers or other embellishments—but the vibe was warm and inclusive. Two rabbis in street clothes, standing behind a blond wood lectern in what appeared to be their social hall, followed a liturgy from a prayer book unfamiliar to me. I stayed with these folks long enough to sing the familiar “Hinei Ma Tov Umanayim” along with their lay choir, which stood, with the director, along the right aisle of the sanctuary. I knew this because the changing camera shots guided me around the sanctuary, focusing tightly on the rabbis reading and praying, showing the congregation from the rear, and moving to the singers. I might have stayed for the duration of the service, but I was curious to see what my other two options had to offer. I next accessed K.K. Bene Israel, known as Rockdale Temple, in Cincinnati through ustream.tv/channel /sackermann. (Steve Ackermann is the congregation’s new president.) The platform, Ustream TV, I later learned, is a live, interactive broadcast format
Mary Ann Sternberg, a member of both Congregation B’nai Israel and Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a freelance journalist and nonfiction author. Her new books by the LSU Press, River Road Rambler and Along The River Third (3rd edition), were published in March. reform judaism
available to “anyone with an internet connection and camera” who wants to share content, and Rockdale Temple leaders had chosen it in order to support their own members who could not worship with them because of illness or distance. They had also chosen a simple production, single-camera approach in order to not distract their own worship, while making sure that the sound their members heard from afar would be exactly the same as what was being heard in their own sanctuary. Personally, though, I believe that utilizing more complex production techniques would have been a better choice, for the sake of a broader online audience. Rockdale Temple’s service was set in a larger, more attractive space than the previous service. Flowers decorated the front of the pulpit, and a handsome, art-deco-looking ark framed two whiterobed women rabbis. A small choir of perhaps four people, accompanied by piano, was positioned on the left side of the bimah—but this is just a guess, as I could only see the right side of a keyboard and the cuff of someone’s white sleeve, because of the single, static camera stationed at the rear of the sanc-
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Where to Stream If you can’t make it to services, many Reform congregations offer streaming options. Visit urj.org/holidays/shabbat or urj.wikispaces.com for the list of synagogues, descriptions, service times, and URLs. tuary. This meant that any animation of the scene came only from the movements of people on the bimah—the rab-
bis reading and praying, and the new board members being installed. Nonetheless, I found myself drawn in as the service progressed. I sang the Mi Shebeirach and hummed the Avinu Malkeinu with the congregation and listened intently to the sermon delivered by Rabbinic Intern Meredith Kahan: “Why,” she asked us, “do we confess for Yom Kippur as a group, engage in a ‘we’ prayer, when it is personal confession?” She then answered, “It is impossible to be Jewish alone, because Judaism requires community.” I smiled
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at my computer, for the rabbinic intern had given the perfect explanation as to why I was eavesdropping long-distance on her service. ♦♦♦ My third “visit” was to Central Synagogue in Manhattan at central synagogue.org/livestream. The congregation’s lively service seemed the most familiar and engaging to me, although I found it odd that, for erev Rosh Hashanah, Central Synagogue had moved to Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center—that is, until Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein explained that Central’s sanctuary at Lexington Avenue and E. 55th Street was not large enough to accommodate their 2000+ member families, and he felt strongly that the congregation should all pray together. The service was dramatic, grand, and “old style Reform” in its presentation, with a small orchestra accompanying singers and Cantor Angela W. Buchdahl chanting and singing as well. Some of the sung prayers were old, familiar, Reform-style melodies and some were more contemporary, á la Debbie Friedman. It was a pleasant mix. Beyond the venue, what most distinguished Central Synagogue’s service was the professionalism of the broadcast. It seemed as if it had been produced by a director who knew how to vary the shots to convey a great sense of place and emotion appropriate to the occasion. Images of the interior; close-ups of the rabbi, cantor, and musicians; and sweeps of the congregation were so well integrated that I had a real sense of place, almost as if I was there, too. It all felt so familiar and rewarding (perhaps I like my Judaism on a grander and more dramatic scale than I’d realized…) that I returned to Central Synagogue’s broadcast for the Rosh Hashanah morning service, held in the synagogue’s grand sanctuary. Again, the camera moved expertly, capturing the soaring ceiling and dark wood paneling, resting on a beautiful blue rose window during the silent prayer, panning the congregation, and seamlessly moving between the rabbi and the cantor on the bimah. continued on page 49
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The Making of a Greenpeace Activist By Janos Maté
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”—Albert Einstein
n September 1995 France resumes its nuclear testing program at Moruroa Atoll in the South Pacific with a series of five underground nuclear explosions. Worldwide protests ensue, including the boycott of French wine. Greenpeace is at the foreCAMPAIGNING AGAINST NUCLEAR WARSHIPS IN NANOOSE BAY, front of these protests. The BRITISH COLUMBIA, MARCH 1989. organization sends a fleet of ships to Moruroa to protest this egregious protests. French foreign service agents activity, which in previous decades, start- blew up the original Greenpeace ship, ing in the 1960s, had severely damaged the Rainbow Warrior, in Auckland Harthe integrity of the atolls and spread bour (July 10,1985) killing one Greenwidespread radioactive contamination peace photographer, Fernando Pereira. throughout the region. And during the 1995 protests GreenOne by one, over several weeks, the peace vessels had equipment smashed Greenpeace ships are illegally seized in and crew members manhandled by the international waters by the French navy. French navy. What if the French again To sustain the “bearing witness” prouse unrestrained and excessive force? tests, Greenpeace charters the 47 foot What if something goes utterly sailing boat, Karamba. I am invited to be wrong? What if I die? the lead campaigner on what was to I reflect with sadness on the horrors become Greenpeace’s final voyage to of nuclear weapons and the mindset that Moruroa. With six of us on board, we rationalizes the explosion of thousands set sail on the 16-day roundtrip from of nuclear bombs upon our home planet. Papeete, Tahiti. At the same time I think about the many I am not a sailor and have never other ways that humans are underminsailed in a small boat on the high seas ing nature’s capacity to sustain life. before. It is close to hurricane season And in my heart I know that this misand the French military has a history of sion is absolutely “the right thing to do” violence against Greenpeace. and that my whole life’s journey has preMore than once the French have pared me to stand in opposition to such resorted with violence to Greenpeace mindless destruction. It is an opportunity to take action on the world stage. Should the worst happen, acting on my beliefs is Janos Maté is an environmental, peace, human rights, and animal rights activist. A not a bad way to leave this life. Greenpeace campaigner since 1989, he has Most of the time the Karamba is received awards from the United Nations under autopilot. We all take turns at the Environment Program (2007), the U.S. helm. Under the big starlit Pacific Environment Protection Agency (2012), and nights, as the Karamba glides through the Governor General of Canada (1993). the voluminous dark waves, with no reform judaism
other human presence around us, I feel so small and insignificant in the universe. Our arrival to the 10 kilometer exclusion zone around the Moruroa test site, which in my mind has become the scene of a heinous crime, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. As the bomb goes off my incredulity turns to deep grief. I weep. Mother Earth has just been raped. ♦♦♦ What brought me here? What family experiences, historical events, and societal influences steered me to an activist way of life? What predisposes me to look for pain in the world and routinely ask, “What can I do to try to make it better?” Looking back to my early childhood, I recognize three streams of influences that shaped my worldview: being born immediately after World War II into a Hungarian Jewish family that had been shattered and traumatized by the Holocaust; having the sense of being an outsider within in a Christian milieu inclined to antisemitism; and the indoctrinating appeal of Communist ideology, which permeated the first 10 years of my life. The lives of my parents and grandparents in Hungary were, more often than not, a series of adaptations to the shifting sands of history—the ravages of wars, political upheavals, redrawn borders, regime changes, and opportunistic swings in governmental policies towards the legal status and civil rights of ethnic minorities, especially those of the Jews. I never met my maternal grandparents. Yet their lives, as much as their deaths, had a profound influence upon my brothers, myself, and multi-generations in our family. continued on page 61
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l a i c o S d. . m r a l h r o o w d r y e a b y m c & te the — s d l aviga r o w l u ilies n f r e d n m o ith ogel a w w f w s e p i l n e e erv endy M t h p n I o n a y W c . g r o D l m eT chneo & Judais cs ienc
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CAMP UNPLUGGED THE “I” IN INTERNET Why cell phones are banned
A portal to a better me
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hy are young children so mesmerized by computer technology?
For one, video game manufacturers spend lots of money studying the neuroscience of behavior. Talking to the owner of one of these companies, I was stunned by his knowledge of children’s brain development. He told me straight out that his corporate mission is to understand how to make games as addictive as possible.
Young children can be very demanding.
As can preteens, who are just as passionate and far more sophisticated in their approach. Lobbying for a phone, they’ll tell their parents: “Then I can TEXT you and tell you when to pick me up after practice… or…I can call you in an EMERGENCY! Mom, EVERY single one of my friends has one! What’s wrong with you? Don’t you trust me?” For a laptop, they’ll play the homework card: “I can’t do any assignments without it! Do you want me to just not turn things in?” Then
the computer goes straight into the bedroom, the door closes on the parents, and the child enters the wired universe. Only later do most parents realize they’ve now given their child the equivalent of keys to a racecar, without driver’s lessons or a license. Of course, all this technology does offer children wonderful benefits. Our kids can be in touch with friends and relatives anywhere in the world instantaneously. They can text a parent who’s traveling and Skype with grandparents across the country. They can also take advantage of rich resources for Jewish learning, and hang out at a virtual campfire with their bunkmates long after summer is over. At the same time, parents are right to fear that their children will venture down dangerous digital highways, surf or socialize when they should be studying, or humiliate friends or themselves by sending pinup self-portraits to their crush. But what are they to do? When parents just say “no” and forbid any kind of electronic connectivity, kids complain that they’ve lost essential social currency: boys feel excluded from the schoolyard conversation about total zombie kills; girls feel painfully deprived of expressing themselves on their “pages” and analyzing the important issues of the day with friends. It’s the old digital native/digital immigrant divide. And it’s growing. How can “immigrant” parents set digital boundaries that make sense for their “native” children?
Rather than automatic indulgence or denial, parents can empathize with their children’s desires, but take
“Children need the Internet as an outlet from the controlled and high-pressured life parents have imposed on them.”
Robot © jgroupst udios/ Veer; iPad © f 9photos/ Veer
Wendy Mogel is a clinical psychologist, international lecturer, and author of two parenting books, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus. She was interviewed by the RJ editors.
So, while parents struggle with whether or not to use stickers, praise, or punishment to motivate kids to do their chores and homework, game developers skip straight to the most up-to-the-minute findings on how to keep dopamine pumping and gamma waves flowing, how to light up the brain’s reward circuitry and captivate players for as long as possible. And the charm of electronic portals starts young. Ever watch a two- or three-year-old navigate an iPad for the first time? Because the interface is designed to be intuitive, to gracefully follow the path of human curiosity, even very small children figure out what to do in minutes. And once they realize that this magic machine, with its beautiful backlit screen, follows their command—as so little else does in a tiny person’s life—they are hooked. It’s startling to watch them handle complex technology like pros. They’re nimble, deft, and patient—until a parent separates them from their new companion. Then they melt down, whine, and wail: “I want iPad! Give me! Now!”
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time before making decisions. Instead of using age as the yardstick of readiness for online access, they can base digital privileges—access to networks and ownership of devices—on an individual child’s overall level of maturity, accountability, and reliability. Do teachers describe him as a respectful and cooperative classroom citizen? Does he hand in his homework on time? Does she refrain from lashon hara (gossiping)? Does she weigh her words before speaking, or are there frequent self-created dramas with friends or family? When he interacts with other people, does he practice chesed (compassion)? Everything from fibbing to outright lying, from shouting and fighting, ghting, to teasing and joshing with friends IRL (in real eal life) is exaggerated online as kids become emboldened oldened by asynchronous exchanges, anonymity, andd the lack of nonverbal cues inherent in online communication. munication. When in doubt about a child’s readinesss to manage these powerful social tools, a parent cann always say: “Not yet. Here’s what I need to see first. t. Then I’ll be glad to reconsider.”
your permanent legacy, go ahead. If not, don’t do it.” Some parents have created a “no cybercommunications at Shabbat dinner” policy. Protecting Jewish time, in particular, has the potential to make a deep spiritual impact and help draw families close. For example, by making the Shabbat table off-limits to the automatic habits and reflexes of the week—alerting to every beep, feeling pressure to be productive— we give ourselves the opportunity to usher in holiness. By erecting a fence against cyber intrusion, we replace the public sphere with family and friends, the new with the time-tested, the rhythms of everyday life with the se sensual experience of seeing candles glow and hearing beautiful ancient me melodies. By putting machines in the background, we put spirituality in the for g foreground.
“By putting m machines achiin nes n es ground, w e in the background, we put spirituality ality y iin n t the h foreground.” d.” d. Once parents are ready to grantt some gaming gam aming rights or online freedoms, it’s helpful ul to havee a business meeting with their child to discuss uss partic particulars. culars. What are the family rules for permissible sible web exploration? Guidelinnes regarding Policies about downloading? Guidelines out sharin ng of personal screen time? Agreements about sharing dards for netiquette? n information and general standards o evaluate whether w Measures that will be used to or not these standards are being respected? eing respec ected? Two simple practices cann help avoidd daily negotiations and tension: leave ave devicess outtem mptaside of bedrooms at night to avoid temptan, and outsid ide of the tion and sleep deprivation, outside es. In addition, additiion, parents dining room at mealtimes. ng children—who children— —who don’t need to keep encouraging nticipate the yet have the cognitive ability to an anticipate ns on future outcomes— o impact of present actions mental princip iple of cyberto remember the fundamental principle life: everything they do electronica electronically ally is public and permanent. Author (Pubhor Richard Guerry G ( lic and Permanent: The Goldenn Rule of the 21st Century) writes: s: “Before you do anything hing with a camera, cell phone,, or computer, imagine the person who means the most st to you in the world standing over your shoulder. If you’re ou’re [comfortable] with that person seeing what you’re re about to do, and you’re [comfortable] with what you’re about to do becoming part of
SHABB AT TABLE OFF L I M I TS
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Parents can craft all-inclusive agreements and standards for appropriate computer use by using some of the great resources available online (of course, where else?). For a quickie introduction, safekids.com spells out Internet safety guidelines by age, from two to 17. Protectkids.com provides sample family Internet safety contracts. The Pew Internet and American Life Project, pewinternet.org, offers comprehensive guidelines on such topics as kindness and social cruelty on social networks, social media privacy management, and the stealth methods advertisers utilize to track user data via innocent-appearing mobile game applications. Investing time in this kind of consciousnessraising reduces paranoia and raises parental awareness. It shrinks the digital divide. Should parents be concerned about their children becoming cyber-addicted?
Yes, they should. In one South Park episode, nineyear-old Cartman, in agony over having to wait three weeks for the release of the new Nintendo Wii, and suffering from extreme insomnia, hallucinations, and an inability to stop staring at the clock, decides to freeze himself. When his mother drags him out of the refrigerator he convinces his friend Butters to bury him in the snow in the mountains so he can pass the time in a state of deep cryonic suspension. In another episode, Cartman and friends, in hopes of defeating a World of Warcraft opponent, play non-stop for days, drink only Redbull, and grow fat, filthy, and covered in acne. Such cautionary tales may seem bizarre, but they are rooted in reality. There is still much debate within psychiatry and psychology about ut whether whe Internet addiction should be classified as a formal forma mental disorder, but there is consensus that overuse overus is a serious, growing probpathological dependence include lem. Signs of path a preference for chat c rooms, social networking, role-playing games over interand online role real friends and family in real acting with rea Other symptoms are life and in real time. t losing track of ttime when web surfing and playing mobile mob games, and not comm
ANCE SURVEIL R O TOOL F TER P HELICO S PARENT
What are the consequences of young people spending too much time online?
By spending so much time in front of screens, our children’s lives become information rich but experience poor. Excessive use can result in social isolation, an underdeveloped love for reading, eyestrain, bad grades, poor posture, a pasty complexion—and difficulty navigating important real-world situations later in life. From my research interviewing employers about the characteristics of their interns and job applicants, I’ve learned that many of these young adults are very accomplished academically but have developed habits that hurt them on job interviews, such as retaining the ultra casual mode of online communication when answering questions, or revealing too much personal information because they’re accustomed to the public diary of Facebook. They are also at a disadvantage because of having missed out on sufficient exposure to the rich set of cues people have always used to frame their responses in face-to-face conversations: hearing the tone of another person’s voice, seeing his or her body language, smelling pheromones, responding spontaneously/thinking on your feet. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder and founder of the “No Child Left Inside” movement, summarizes extensive research showing that if kids don’t spend enough time using all five senses in the three-dimensional world, they are at greater risk for obesity, attention disorders, fearfulness, and depression. Spiritually, too, they are deprived of the restorative power of nature. If you shoot a slingshot on your phone to launch an imaginary angry bird, you get a split second of satisfaction. In contrast, if you’re on a hike and hear songbirds, or discover a running brook or see a rainbow, you may feel moved to celebrate God’s creations by saying She-
“ “Parents “P who themselves feel fe f ee isolated and lonely s om sometimes find the v ic vicarious stimulation of th he he their child’s online world irre ir irresistible.” reform judaism ref
pleting tasks or meeting responsibilities. And it’s time to be concerned when you observe your child relying on online activity as a means of alleviating feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, or stress, or denying extreme use when confronted. Even when boys and girls are not addicted, excessive use of devices can have serious consequences.
Signpost © Natalia Luk iyanova / Veer
How can parents go about designing digital agreements that meet their family’s needs?
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ability to gain the very self-confidence and independence that their parents are sending them to camp to attain. Constant contact with parents deprives them of discovering that they are capable of finding the inner strength to overcome their anxieties without relying on a parent to tell them, “You’re strong enough. You can do it.” In short, at home, the parent strongly influences most decisions, whereas at camp, we give children the space to make their own choices. Campers are encouraged to participate in activities of their choosing and to not necessarily follow what other campers are doing. They know exactly where to go for what they need at camp: food— chadar ochel (dining hall), skinned knee—mirpa’a (dispensary), hurt feelings—a friend or a counselor. These learned skills give them a strong sense of independence, self-awareness, and “freedom” that can’t be replicated at home. Also, camp provides a safe environment for them to talk through issues such as peer pressure and Jewish identity with trusted young adults serving as their counselors, rather than their parents.
Camp Unplugged Kids come to camp to be with friends. They cannot truly connect if they’re chatting on the phone or online.
How did families ﬁrst respond to the cell phone ban? Louis Bordman, director of URJ Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, MA, was interviewed by the RJ editors.
Phones were never allowed at Eisner; the policy was just not strictly enforced. When we first began to enforce it, I followed the protocol I use any time we’re going to make a significant policy change: I gave the campers and parents a full year’s notice. People need to be warned about changes in procedures because camps are founded on tradition; in camping terms, if you have done anything more than once, it is the tradition, and you do not easily change a camp’s tradition. It was also important to fully explain the philosophy behind the new cell phone policy, which helped to garner support. Parents want their children to be playing outdoors, praying, learning together, and becoming part of a community at camp—and they never want to be the “bad guy”—so most applauded us for taking a stand. And nowadays when prospective families on camp tours hear about our electronics policy, the majority are truly grateful. Long-time camp families are very supportive as well; Eisner’s camper return rate is 93%, the highest in the nation, not just in Jewish camping but camping in general. And our average retention rate is 6.7 years. That said, the cell phone policy has cost us a few campers over the years, because some parents
What is the cell phone policy at Eisner Camp? It’s Eisner unplugged. No cell phones—that’s the longstanding policy of all 14 URJ camps. At Eisner we also prohibit handheld games or any touch screen devices. Our only permissible electronic devices are MP3 players.
Why do you believe cell phones and most electronic devices should be banned at camp?
Kids come to camp to be with friends and to learn how to navigate, mediate, and integrate friendships. The best way to do this is by talking and hanging out together. They cannot truly connect if they’re chatting on the phone or online, playing a solitary game, or watching their own movie. We also find that campers need separation from their families and friends to be able to stand on their own two feet and make new friends on their own terms. If children have cell phones, instead of talking to a bunkmate about their fears or their joys, they’re likely to text or call a parent, which Eisner campers hang out during menucha (rest period) ultimately undermines their
continued on page 24
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hecheyanu, the prayer of gratitude for bringing you to a sacred moment. Do some parents also overuse digital devices?
Besides the usual temptations to “marry our machines,” there are now new seductions for devoted parents. Some are sucked into their child’s school’s web portals. These poetically named Illuminate, Teacher-ese, Edmoto, Pinnacle, Snapgrades, and Powerschool programs give parents access to their children’s grades, even on a quiz, the moment the teacher posts it, or information about whether or not the child handed in a paper. Originally these portals were instituted as a way for low-income parents who were working two jobs to monitor their kids’ progress; but now they’ve become a surveillance tool for helicopter parents, who often snoop to reduce free-floating anxiety about their child’s performance. Other parents feel isolated and lonely and find a balm in the vicarious stimulation of their child’s online world. It’s easy to rationalize: I’m just checking to make sure she’s behaving appropriately, not in any trouble. In truth, when parents invade the social network of a responsible, reliable, and accountable child, they are engaging in a disrespectful intrusion, equivalent to reading a child’s diary. Many parents are also constantly checking their own devices. While Jewish tradition offers us the opportunity to recite the Modeh Ani prayer, saying “Thank you God for returning my soul to me,” immediately upon awakening in the morning, more and more people tell me they reach for the phone before rising from bed, as if to say, “Thank you God for returning my iPhone to me.” The three-year-old daughter of one of my patients gently directed her father who’d returned home from work in the Blackberry posture—hands elevated, head down—“Daddy. own— Sit down. Lie back.” From rom a child’s perspective, perspect these devices serve as an uninvited family mem member or the favored sibling, preventing him from having his parents’ attention. What other Jewish Je lessons can we learn?
Jewish activitie activities offer powerful antidotes to the invasion oof the machines. My favo favorite form of respite is Jew-
ING REVEAL CH U TOO M AL N PERSO T A ION INFORM
Is there anything else parents should know?
Parents need to recognize that their children need the Internet as an outlet from the controlled and highpressured life we’ve imposed on them. Past generations of kids could play outside without supervision on a summer night. Today’s kids are not free to hang out at the corner drugstore or in a vacant lot. They are cloistered, spending long hours in school and in adultsupervised after-school activities. In today’s world the Internet is the corner stoop. That’s why it is essential that parents devote time to updating their own technical skills. I advise moms and dads: Don’t risk losing your child in the cyber wilderness. As an Internet-savvy parent, you can keep an eye on your child’s travels and companions, just as you do in real life. Putting fences in place allows the whole family to travel freely and discover unexpected treasures, connections, and delights. In this way, the energy driving the digital revolution can enrich your family’s life, as it transforms how we interact with each other, with the larger Jewish community, and with the wide world.
“M “Many young adults are very ve v e accomplished academically a c but have d ev developed online communication cat c at habits that can hurt them in job interviews.” the t reform judaism ref
ish summer camp. The children are unplugged (see “Camp Unplugged,” page 21) and in nature, bonding, and using all their senses, through prayer and candles and grape juice and challah and song. Being aware of such Jewish ethical standards as derech eretz (good manners, proper behavior) and middot (good character traits)—which are taught in Jewish day and religious schools—can encourage young people to practice discernment in curating their digital imprint. Being cognizant of habanat panim (refraining from public humiliation of yourself or others) can lead to practicing tsnuit (modesty), as well as shmirat lashon hara and rechilut (guarding one’s speech, avoiding gossip, talebearing, and slander) by refraining from posting showy or crass images or messages. Hakarat hatov (recognition of the good/gratitude in our real lives) can be applied by noticing a negative or cynical bias in online interactions. Families can practice shalom bayit (peace in the house) by implementing rules about digital intrusion and preoccupation to reduce daily friction, and by protecting time for face-to-face relationships.
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The ‘I’ in Internet The Internet helps me do the things I love to do and be the person I want to be. by Alison Kahler
From the moment in 1994 when my parents first installed a cable Internet connection for our home PC, the six-year-old me was hooked. I spent hours bickering with my younger brother over tightlyrationed time on our dial-up connection, as if our lives depended on checking our email. Towards the end of elementary school, my school assignments became tougher, necessitating online research—and with it the discovery of the hours of fun that could be had with the aid of a web browser. Just at the time of the Facebook explosion came my first laptop—a present from my parents that enabled 18-year-old me to begin forming social connections in college even before I walked on campus. I set up my profile, read everything I could find about the University of Chicago, researched my roommate, and exchanged maybe a hundred emails with her before we ever met. Once I arrived on campus, the Internet became my social secretary. There were listservs for every activity (one even alerted members to campus events with free food). My friends and I used email to plan parties, birthday celebrations, even trips downtown. To my surprise, the web even helped connect me to Judaism. At the time I wasn’t interested in any Jewish campus organizations; I
wanted to do my own thing. So, over email, a few friends and I decided to host our own Passover seder, and by gradually adding new people to our chain of emails, we managed to get more than 20 guests to show up for the seder (which was so successful, we repeated it the next two years and started hosting occasional Shabbat dinners). When I graduated, technology facilitated the trappings of my being a real adult. Online I found the perfect job (at Reform Judaism magazine), the perfect apartment (in Astoria, a Queens neighborhood), and the perfect living room curtains (a multicolored bird and vine pattern). With all the ways technology had naturally interwoven in my life, it wasn’t until a year ago, at age 23, that I ever questioned my dependence upon it. It hit me suddenly, as I planned brunch with my roommate via email while sitting next to her. I was reminded of a photograph my mother had taken of my three siblings and me, on the family couch, each of us typing on our own
Alison Kahler is assistant to the editors at Reform Judaism magazine.
continued on page 24
laptops. At the time, it had been funny—but suddenly the memory became uncomfortable. And adding to the awareness was my reaction upon receiving word of my acceptance for a URJ-Kesher Taglit-Birthright Israel trip; I worried, How am I going to survive without the Internet for 10 days? ♦♦♦ The issue was not about the moral value of the Internet, whether it is good or bad. It is here to stay. You might as well debate the value of tables, or doors, or running water. Instead, I started to ask myself: Was I overusing technology? It had been part of my way of living for so long—had it taken over my life? I decided to use Birthright as an experiment to see if I could go a week and a half without being plugged in. ♦♦♦ I made it through Birthright with only two Internet “lapses.” And by the time I came home, I realized that if I didn’t use the Internet all the time, my world would not shatter. Maybe, I thought, it’s time to try weaning myself off a bit. ♦♦♦ Meanwhile, Birthright gave me the courage to transition from vegetarianism to veganism. I’d always been a strong animal lover and had considered taking this additional step for several years—but how could I possibly give up cheese or croissants? It turned out that on Birthright I had to
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The “I” in Internet continued from page 23 stay off dairy, a contributing factor to my motion sickness on the bus. Cutting it out of my diet, I found, wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined. And so, about a week after my return, I announced over lunch at work that I was a vegan. Now I had to figure out what my new lifestyle really meant. Technology was there to help me. I spent the equivalent of a few weeks online, researching which ethnic dishes contained egg or yogurt so I could avoid them at restaurants, what essential nutrients I would be missing and need to supplement, which snacks were and were not vegan-friendly. I found answers on Post Punk Kitchen (theppk. com—my new go-to for baking), PETA (peta.org—arguably politically problematic, but able to answer almost every question I had about commercial food and cosmetics), and a number of Internet forums that addressed questions I never even fathomed. My most pressing query, “How can one bake without eggs?” was the subject of many fascinating vegan blogs and message boards (answer: it depends on what food you want to create, personal taste, and countless other factors). And then came my quest to bake the perfect vegan chocolate chip cookie, with just the right amount of gooeyness—a search that is still ongoing, many Internet days and cookies later. In reading the posts of so many other vegans, I realized how much I longed for real-life encounters with people who shared my trials and tribulations as a vegan. I’d started to feel that when dining out I’d become a nuisance to my friends. So I searched meetup.com for meatless events and eventually worked up the courage to attend a real-life vegan/vegetarian group dinner. To my surprise, I found not only a new community, but also several new, likeminded friends. And knowing that there is a group of people who understand where I’m coming from has only made me more confident in exploring my veganism in the company of my omnivorous friends—who actually have been more than happy to accommodate my needs. Post Birthright, my diet changed, but my appetite for technology only grew. ♦♦♦ Another post-Birthright resolution, prompted by my purchase of a challah cover in a Safed weaving shop, was to return to an earlier hobby—knitting. Back home in New York,
I bought yarn at a local store and then logged on to ravelry.com, which features free patterns and also gave me access to a network of knitters with whom I now share project ideas and advice. Thanks to the lovely folks at Ravelry, I am already starting on next year’s round of hand-knit Chanukah gifts. To expand my fiber arts repertoire, I signed up for a weekly sewing class, which, naturally, I found online. Next, I researched sewing machines by crowdsourcing questions about the best models on Facebook. When I noticed a gorgeous bicycle-print dress on anthropologie.com, I managed to locate a similar fabric in New York’s fashion district. The result is a colorful skirt I’m proud to wear. ♦♦♦ In the meantime, Hannah, my elderly cat, was making it abundantly clear she was still upset with me for having abandoned her while I jetted off to Israel. For a solution I turned to my Internet guru—Google. After reading a number of cat blogs and forums, I rather reluctantly cancelled my weekend plans and gave Hannah a healthy dose of feline TLC. Sure enough, shalom bayit (peace in the home) was restored. Months later, when I unexpectedly took in an ailing stray kitten, the web became my source of medical advice. A local veterinarian I found on yelp.com prescribed the right medication for Penelope, and I constructed a temporary sick bay thanks to suggestions culled from online sources. The cats now seem to like each other, despite their age gap, and both are quite enthusiastic about my knitting. ♦♦♦ Post Birthright, thanks to my new interests, I now have more meaningful online interactions, which have led to stronger in-person relationships. Facebook allows me to swap crafting tips and photographs of finished projects with friends (or even friends of friends) who live far away—something I simply would not do if letter-writing were the only option. Without my iPhone (yes, I now carry the Internet in my purse), one of my fellow Birthright alumni would not currently be crushing me at the Scrabble-like game Words with Friends—an effective, if humbling, way to stay in touch in between reunions (which, by the way, are organized through Facebook and Twitter). The Internet, I now realize, helps me to do the things I love to do and to be the person I want to be. These days, whenever I start to wonder if I’m spending too much time online, I can’t help asking, Is there a blog about that? reform judaism
Camp Unplugged continued from page 21 have a strong need to speak to their child at least once or twice a week. In most cases it is the parents who have the urgent need for contact, rather than the other way around. Some parents will just try to get around the rules, sneaking in phones or giving their children two phones—one broken and one that works—so that when we go around and collect “anything you forgot to give to your parents,” the child turns in the broken phone. We do understand that, especially since 9/11, many parents feel the need to know that their child is safe. So every day we post about 500 digital photos of general goings-on at camp for families to see. Now, with 500 pictures, parents are not going to see pictures of their own child each day; odds are, as the days roll by, there will be an occasional photo of their son or daughter. Sometimes parents have actually paid their child to jump in front of the camera to increase their chances of being seen—$1.00 per image!
What happens if you ﬁnd a camper with a hidden cell phone? We consider this a serious violation and send the child home for a minimum of three days. This is our way of saying integrity is important. It also sends a strong message to parents that the camp rules are meant for them too, a message not lost on the children.
How does being unplugged from the outside world impact campers’ Jewish identity? At camp, we open a world of Jewish possibilities. Each child has the opportunity to make his/her own decisions about the level of participation in Jewish life, whether wearing a kippah, wrapping arms around friends during Havdallah, or jumping up and down during song sessions. By being unplugged from the outside world, campers have the freedom to discover their own Jewish voices and talk about what is truly important in their own lives.
Do any campers ever tell you how liberating it is to be unplugged? Yes. I can’t give you any names, because that would be a very unpopular, uncool thing to admit. But you can see the liberation on the campers’ faces and hear it in their excited conversations with one another.
4/15/13 6:57 PM
The RJ Insider’s Guide to ISRAEL TRAVEL
Nation of Innovation: • Ecotourism • Museums • Cuisine • Fashion • Religion
A Union for Reform Judaism Publication
IsraelGuide_Reprint_Cover_su13_F 2_revise.indd 25
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RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL TRAVEL
Nation of Innovation: Ecotourism By Darryl Egnal
Ariel Sharon Park (park sharon.co.il) and Mount Hiriya (hiriya.co.il)
ithin the 2,000-acre Ariel Sharon Park in the heart of Greater Tel Aviv (Gush Dan) stands Mount Hiriya, a former environmental hazard turned into a national asset— indeed, one of the most successful reclamation projects in the world. For almost 50 years, Hiriya functioned as a landfill. Then, in 1999, when it had grown just under 200 feet tall, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection decided to clean it up. In only two years it was transformed into a recycling park and environmental educational center which runs tours, movies, lectures, and seminars to educate the public about recycling. Nowadays you can stroll through the park, go bird-watching, hike on a 50-acre scenic foot path or follow the bicycle trail, and enjoy the vista from the park’s crowning glory—a metropolitan observation deck called the Belvedere. You can also take five different group tours: an introduction to the rehabilitation of Mount Hiriya, bird watching, a
Darryl Egnal is a freelance feature writer, editor, and photographer (darrylegnal.com). She thanks Joe Perlov and his associates at IsraelExperts (israelexperts. com) for guiding her on this eco-tour of Israel.
Welcome to the 3rd RJ Insider’s Guide to Israel Travel
n celebration of Israel’s 65th birthday, we are pleased to present this Israel travel guide, produced in partnership with the Israel Ministry of Tourism (“Come find the Israel in you”—goisrael.com) and the Association of Reform Zionists of America (“Building a pluralistic and democratic Israeli society”—arza.org). Today’s visitors to Israel will not only marvel at historic treasures, but also at the creative imagination of its people. Come along with us on a journey through Israel’s innovations in ecotourism, museums, food, fashion, congregational life, and technology. Inside you’ll also discover the first-ever map to Reform synagogue worship in Israel, giving you the inside track on connecting with your Jewish family throughout the country. See you in Israel. —The Editors
bicycle tour of the park trails, “Who Lives under the Stone?” (the world of reptiles), and “Environmental Innovation: Then and Now” (including a tour of Israel’s first agricultural school). In upcoming years the park will be beautified by an amphitheater, a boardwalk, cafés, an archeological area, heritage sites, and an observation bridge constructed from recycled shipping containers that will link it with the main thoroughfare leading to Tel Aviv.
Vertigo EcoArt Village (eco-artvillage. org)
A TREE SCULPTURE BY ARON NAVE, KIBBUTZ REVIVIM.
bout an hour’s drive south of Ariel Sharon Park in the Valley of Elah, you’ll discover the
creative handiwork of the four Wertheim sisters—Noa, Tali, Rina and Merav. Over the last five years, starting out with nothing but an abandoned chicken coop, they’ve built Vertigo Eco-Art Village, a center for education, art, and dance on Kibbutz Netiv Ha Lamed Hei—thereby realizing their dream of living together in an environmentally-sustainable way while expressing their passions for the arts. Vertigo is open to visitors and groups year-round. Group activities include movement workshops for both dancers and non-dancers as well as hands-on learning (such as how to make art from mud and building with adobe mud bricks). The sisters also continued on page 30 About Our Cover Jerusalem Chords Bridge at the entrance to the city. Inaugurated in 2008, it is now being used by Jerusalem Light Rail, which began service in 2011.
Cover Photo: Itay Bar-Lev / Gett y Images; Forest Photo: Tal Glick / Israel Ministr y of Tourism; Tree Photo: Darr yl Egnal
srael is now a world leader in green innovation, conservation, and environmental sustainability—and many of the initiatives are open to all of us to see and experience.
4/12/13 12:30 PM
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© iStockphoto.com /Gannet77, courtesy of Matov u Productions
Israeli Tourniquet: The Emer-
gency Bandage, invented by an Israeli military medic, Bernard Bar-Natan, applies pressure to a wound and can be used as a tourniquet in cases of severe bleeding. The bandage is so easy to use, an injured person can apply it with one hand. Fighting Mosquito-Borne Diseases: Ben-Gurion Univer-
sity Center for Biological Control director Yoel Margalith’s continued on p.30 This article has been adapted with permission from Israel: Repairing the World by Rabbi Stephen Wise (Shaarei-Beth El Congregation, Oakville, ON), Matovu Productions, ma-tovu.ca.
Our exceptional FREE offer for your Bar/Bat Mitzvah child Our meticulously planned, world renowned tour Our dynamic, wellrouted itinerary Our ultra-deluxe hotels - Including The King David Jerusalem Our guides – the most requested team in Israel, led by our Israel Tour Director, Ben Ami Geller. All departures include Eilat
FAMILY- BAR/BAT MITZVAH 15 DAY – DELUXE TOURS JUNE 17-JULY 1 / JUNE 24-JULY 8 FAMILY- BAR/BAT MITZVAH 12 DAY – DELUXE TOURS JUNE 13-24 / JUNE 27-JULY 8 / AUG. 15-26 FAMILY- BAR/BAT MITZVAH 12 DAY – VALUE TOURS JULY 25-AUG. 5 DECEMBER TOURS DEC. 22-JAN. 1 2014 / DEC. 22-JAN. 4, 2014 ADULT 15 DAY – DELUXE TOURS SEPT. 30-OCT. 14 / OCT. 14-28 ADULT 15 DAY – VALUE TOURS APRIL 22-MAY 6 / JULY 1-15 / OCT. 21-NOV. 4
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ANYWHERE ELSE THIS WOULD BE A ROOM WITH A VIEW. But this is the desert of Masada, the Dead Sea, and the largest geological crater in the world. “It’s like looking back into time,” said Caitlin McNamara from her hotel’s terrace, overlooking the 200-million-year-old Ramon Crater. It’s the highlight of her first trip to Israel with her partner, Arthur. They’ve seen spontaneous oases, orchards that flourish in the desert, and the ancient Spice Route that led caravans to the Mediterranean – just a few of the wonders of Israel, where the history that makes us who we are still lives.
There’s a little bit of Israel in all of us. Come find the Israel in you.
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Innovation: EcoTourism continued from page 26
discovery of Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), which kills mosquitoes and black flies, was used along China’s Yangtze River, reducing the incidence of malaria by 90%. Unlike chemical insecticizes, Bti does not harm the environment.
offer tours of their socially responsible practices, such as how they recycle grey water to fertilize and irrigate their organic gardens. And Vertigo’s resident chef will prepare vegetarian kosher meals if ordered in advance.
Stand Up and Walk Again:
Some people who would otherwise be confined to a wheelchair can stand, walk, and climb stairs as a result of ReWalk, a light brace support suit REWALK BRACE SUPPORT SUIT containing motion sensors and small motors worn over clothes, developed by Argo Medical Technologies. I Seek You—ICQ: In 1996
Mirabilis created ICQ, the first instant messaging computer program. When America Online bought Mirabilis and its ICQ program for $470 million to develop its popular instant messaging system AIM, it was then the highest price ever paid to purchase Israeli technology. Today, with 100 million+ users, ICQ is available for all Mac, Windows, and Linux computer operating systems, as well as iPhone, Android, Symbian, and Blackberry devices. Leave a Message: In 1986,
Comverse developed the world’s first voicemail system combining voice, fax, and calling functions into a single system. Today Comverse leads the world’s messaging market. Helping the Blind: Project
RAY developed a series of cell continued on p.31
bout an hour south of Vertigo is Neve Midbar, a desert resort and thermal spa complex built around natural hot springs. Regional Mayor Shmuel Rifman conceived the idea of building a resort here in 1997, after learning that area farmers, exhausted after a hard day’s work, would spend their evenings relaxing in the natural, hot, mineral-rich pools. Today, this desert oasis, amidst palm trees, pergolas for shade, chairs, and lounge beds, offers visitors three thermomineral laden pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, and a baby pool (all pool waters being recycled to irrigate Neve Midbar’s gardens). Popular spa treatments include hot stone massage, shiatsu, body peeling, and reflexology. Guests can dine at Neve Midbar’s kosher meat restaurant or dairy cafeteria. Nearby lodging is available at Kibbutz Mashabe Sade and elsewhere.
Chai Negev (chai-negev.net)
Mitzpe Revivim (mitzpe-revivim.net)
ess than half a mile away, on Kibbutz Revivim, historical tours are given of a lookout point established in 1943 to defend the Negev. You can explore caves once serving as the command bunker and field hospital, walk through the restored fort and climb its tower, search trenches for hidden weapons, learn secret communication methods, and view WWII-era planes that transported military supplies to the area during the Arab siege of the kibbutz. And if you’re like me, you’ll marvel at the tree art garden created by local kibbutz artist Aron Nave, who molds tree trunks into “impossible” shapes such as a Magen David and a pair of eyeglasses.
Nitzana Educational Community and Solar Park (nitzana.org.il)
fter a 30-minute drive southwest, join the crowd at a massive tower that shades and cools the entrance to Nitzana Educational Community and Solar Park. A guide will take you through the park and demonstrate equipment
ust four miles northwest of Neve Midbar, at Kibbutz Revivim’s Chai Negev zoological park, you can observe wolves, coyotes, foxes, and other desert animals in specially constructed habitats of mud, brick, and wood. You can also pet and feed SITTING AREA, ZIMMERBUS FOR COUPLES. monkeys, lambs, parrots, rabbits, and other tame animals; used to recycle dew, distill fog for reuse, bake your own pitas on an open fire, and desalinate seawater. You’ll also served with cheese, vegetables, olives, learn applications for different renewable and tea; walk the grounds, adorned by energy sources—among them sun, wind, 30 life-size stone statues of animals and water, and gravity. birds crafted by local artist Amnon BarIn 1986, former Knesset member and reform judaism
zilai; and browse a gift shop stocked with locally-produced products. Overnight accommodations include mud brickconstructed African huts, Bedouin tents with authentic decorations, and teepees.
ReWalk Photo courtesy of A rgo Medical Technologies and Matov u Productions; Zimmerbus photo: exodia.co.il
INVENTIONS from p.27
4/12/13 12:38 PM
ECO CAMPUS AT KIBBUTZ LOTAN.
Israel Prize Laureate Aryeh “Lova” Eliav (z”l), assisted by the Jewish Agency, started Nitzana to teach Israeli and Diaspora youth that the Negev Desert is a “living desert” which can sustain human habitation if done so in harmony with nature. Nowadays, every year, some 15,000 young people attend seminars at Nitzana on preserving desert ecosystems, water conservation, solar energy, and more. Through tours of the Solar Park, adult visitors are learning some of these lessons as well. A kosher lunch is available. Accommodation options include a guest apartment, a youth hostel, and a Bedouin tent.
Eco Campus: courtesy of K ibbutz Lotan
n one of the remotest parts of Israel—Ezuz, a town in the foothills of Mount Negev on the Sinai border about eight miles from Nitzana—you’ll also find one of Israel’s most unique ecoaccommodations—a bed-and-breakfast inside recycled buses. When owners Eyal and Avigail Hirshfeld first moved to Ezuz 11 years ago, they needed a place for their friends to sleep, so they fixed up an old, discarded bus. Friends loved staying overnight in the bus, and soon it became a popular weekend stop. After strangers started asking the couple if they could sleep over too, the Hirshfelds decided to buy more buses, charge a fee, and name their enterprise “Zimmerbus” (“zimmer,” German for room, has become synonymous in Israel with “guest house”). Now the Hirshfelds own three buses: a regular sized bus with one room for a couple or two singles; and two larger buses, each with two bedrooms, for families—one of them an extra-wide former
airport shuttle bus. Refurbished to high standards, the buses are comfortable for sleeping, relaxing, and cooking. The larger ones contain a fully-equipped kitchen, dining area, lounge, and bathroom with Jacuzzi bath; the regular-sized bus has a shower and a sheltered outside kitchenette. Guests have the option of breakfast, which includes Avigail’s delicious homemade pita bread. Reserve early, as the buses are very popular with tourists, not just for the unique accommodations but also for the locale, which features the largest sand dune area in Israel; magnificent spring flowers; nearby hiking, cycling, and camel trails; and Ezuz music events.
Kibbutz Lotan (kibbutzlotan.com)
here is no community in Israel, or perhaps anywhere in the world,” says Alex Cicelsky, director of Research and Development of the Lotan Center for Creative Ecology, “where Jewish and environmentalist values have had more of an impact than in our Reform Movement’s Kibbutz Lotan.” For nearly two decades, the Center— ensconced in the middle of the Arava Valley desert about 35 miles north of Eilat—has been experimenting with and teaching earth mud-building construction utilizing straw bales and recycled waste. Its EcoCampus is now carbon neutral. Its solar shed, which shades Israel’s first recycling station, supplies more clean energy than the buildings consume and also offsets the carbon emissions produced during Lotan’s “Green Apprenticeship” certification courses and “Peace, Justice and Environment Academic College Semester” programs. In this eco haven you can find rejuvenating experiences for mind, body and soul. Lotan will customize educational programs for visitors, such as study sessions on Judaism and creative ecology, kibbutz life, pluralism in Israel, the desert as home, natural and holistic health, spirituality and awareness, and various forms of meditation. On-site therapeutic body treatments include cranial sacral therapy, reform judaism
INVENTIONS from p.30 phone apps helping blind people to become more independent, such as an app to find their destination while walking down the street, and another app to make sure the right medication is taken when needed. Cell Phone Photos: TransChip
made taking pictures with cell phones possible by developing the first high-resolution camera to fit on a single electronic chip for use in cellular phones. Exploring Mars: Because of
mathematical calculations developed at the Technion in Haifa, NASA Opportunity and Spirit rovers were able to run on Mars MARS EXPLORATION ROVER using solar power and send pictures back to Earth. Both rovers found signs suggesting that water, and possibly a form of life, existed on Mars in the distant past. Growing Plants—Drip by Drip: Drip irrigation, an Israeli
invention, releases a controlled amount of water through plastic perforated DRIP IRRIGATION IN ISRAEL pipes near the roots of plants, enabling each plant to receive the right amount of water for its growth. This method conserves water and makes farming possible in arid regions worldwide. Making Salt Water Drinkable:
Having very little rainfall but plenty of seawater led Israelis to continued on p.32
4/12/13 12:38 PM
INVENTIONS from p.31 pioneer desalination, which removes salt and minerals from salt water, thereby turning salt water into drinking water. Beyond watering its own agricultural industry, Israel has manufactured China’s largest desalination plant and many others elsewhere. World Leader in Water Recycling: As the world’s lead-
er in water recycling, Israel recycles 75% of its waste water and sewage. Spain, in a distant second place, recycles only 12% of its water. As of 2012, 100% of sewage from the Tel Aviv metropolitan area is treated and reused for watering fields and public parks. Better Place for Cleaner Air:
Better Place, the brainchild of Israeli Shai Agassi, created a revolutionary all-electric car transport system designed PLACE to make BETTER ALL-ELECTRIC CAR Israel oil independent by 2020. At charging stations in Israel and elsewhere, electric cars can switch batteries in about five minutes, less time than it takes to fill up a gas tank.
science, curiosity, and teambuilding can create bonds of friendship between Jewish and Arab high school students. In an experiential school program, young people from 14 educational institutions attend lectures and research in teams for projects lasting anywhere from a month to a year. For half a dozen years, Birthright Israel and other groups have come here to discuss how ecological cooperation can help close the divide between Israeli Arabs and Jews. You’ll have that same opportunity; plus, your guide will take you on a Greenhouse tour, explaining such ongoing projects as environmentally sustainable fish farming and the study of microalgae for biodiesel production. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with Jewish and Arab Israeli student representatives and hear firsthand how the Greenhouse has impacted their lives.
Agamon Hula Lake Ornithological and Nature Park (agamon-hula.co.il)
bout two-and-a-half miles down the road from Kibbutz Lotan is Israel’s first commercial solar field. In 2006, Kibbutz Ketura member Ed Hofland, together with American businessman David Rosenblatt and human rights activist/environmentalist Yosef Abramowitz, created a solar power company that, they envision, will someday supply Israel with 10% of its energy needs. Today, the 20-acre Ketura Sun solar field, owned and operated by Arava Power, contains 18,500+ Suntech photovoltaic solar panels which produce nine million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, powering some 4,000 homes with clean, renewable energy. At the current rate, over the next 20 years, Ketura Sun will offset some 125,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of planting 180,000 trees. Visitors are welcome by appointment. Guided tours are available through Kibbutz Ketura’s Keren Kolot Educational Institute.
The Ecological Greenhouse—Kibbutz Ein Shemer (greenhouse.org.il)
ead north from the Arava and in about four hours you’ll arrive at Kibbutz Ein Shemer’s Ecological Greenhouse, an independent nonprofit study and research center predicated on the belief that ecology, reform judaism
ant to get close to flocks of cranes—60,000 migrate here in continued on page 47
When Visiting Kibbutzim or Other Agricultural Settlements Working is another way of praying. You plant in Israel the soul of a tree. You plant in the desert the spirit of gardens. Praying is another way of singing. You plant in the tree the soul of lemons. You plant in the gardens the spirit of roses. Singing is another way of loving. You plant in the lemons the spirit of your son. You plant in the roses the soul of your daughter. Loving is another way of living. You plant in your daughter the spirit of Israel. You plant in your son the soul of the desert. —Dannie Abse From Birkon Artzi: Blessings and Meditations for Travelers to Israel (CCAR Press, 2012)
Ecological greenhouse: Darr yl Egnal
THE ECOLOGICAL GREENHOUSE, KIBBUTZ EIN SHEMER.
yoga, and watsu—a relaxing shiatsu massage in a heated indoor pool, set inside a large mudbrick-constructed pavilion and open all year round. You can also enjoy swimming in the kibbutz pool any time from Pesach to Sukkot; bird-watching; guided tours of the kibbutz and the region by tour guide/ Lotan resident David Schoneveld; and, at the Solar Tea House, gourmet dairy fare harvested from Lotan’s organic gardens. A guesthouse offers accommodations, and guests are welcomed to join the Kibbuz Lotan community for Shabbat services and a festive dinner.
4/12/13 12:39 PM
RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL TRAVEL
Nation of Innovation: Museums By Abigail Klein Leichman
y shaky hand before the tour began, had difficulty which had been doctored so fitting the each of us looked 30 years key in the older. Interestingly, the door lock. individual audience memMacular degeneration bers’ reactions appeared to obstructed my vision, and depend on their real ages. A my feet felt leaden as I tried couple of teenagers in our to climb stairs. group appeared pleased by At 53 years old, I am— their virtual transformation; thank God—hale and hearty. those of us in middle age But I was at the new Diagasped in unison to see the logue with Time exhibition wrinkles and bags trans(dialogue-with-time.com), TOUCHING A METEORITE FOUND IN OKLAHOMA WHILE STANDING UNDER muting our projected faces; A MODEL OF AN ASTEROID, PART OF WHICH WAS BROUGHT TO EARTH where technology enabled and a few seniors expressed BY A JAPANESE SPACECRAFT, MADATECH. me to experience what it’s relief that they wouldn’t like to be old. look all that different in the It is one of three interactive minihow to communicate through expresfuture. sions and gestures. museums housed at the Children’s Our group spent a good chunk of our Dividing into teams, our group Museum of Israel (childrens 90-minute tour discussing the issues played an interactive game of matching spurred by the interactive exhibits. In museum.org.il/) in the Tel Aviv suburb up sign-language symbols and words one, we were shown images of people of Holon, each of which utilizes a mixthat the guide swiveled around on a of varying ages doing different jobs— ture of ingenuity and homegrown, cutfor example, a 70-year-old jet pilot and ting-edge technology to personalize and game board like Vanna White on “Wheel of Fortune.” Using charade-like a 22-year-old mayor—and had to vote transform your museum experience. motions, we also assigned ourselves electronically whether or not we thought a person of that age could do the job nicknames based on our interests or Invitation to Silence pictured. Each of us explained our vote professions. I was amazed at how well Invitation to Silence offers hearing we functioned. By the end of the hour people a rare opportunity to journey and then engaged in a lively debate led we were able to order snacks in the into a world where communications by Emanuel. Afterwards we watched silent canteen using only hand signals. depend upon visual cues, body lanvideo clips showing, for instance, an In this soundless world, we learned guage, facial expressions, and gestures. actual 70-year-old commercial pilot. It is the world’s only such permanent about the remarkable ability of other sensAt one point, Emanuel divided our es, working in tandem with the human exhibition. The exhibit premiered in group into teams to play a multimedia brain, to compensate for lack of hearing. Paris and then came to Holon, where it trivia game on aging. I was doing pretty stayed put in its own building on the well when suddenly he pointed to me Children’s Museum campus, as a result Dialogue with Time and told me to go sit on the sidelines. I of the unusually strong response from Having a personal connection with felt puzzled and a bit disappointed. Israelis and foreign tourists alike. your guide is an essential component of After eliminating several others in the Walking into the small auditorium in each of the three exhibition experiences. same way, he explained that the game is the anteroom of the intimate museum, At Dialogue with Time, the guides are a device to let us feel what it’s like to be you are introduced to your deaf guide all aged 70 or older. Ours was Emanuel, forcibly retired, even when at the top of and given noise-cancelling headphones. 73, a retired journalist, military man, one’s career. Emanuel himself had been From that moment on, your group is and licensed tour guide, who regaled us cast out of the military at age 50. plunged into utter quiet for 75 minutes. with a photographic journey of his But your guide quickly teaches you career and family as we sat in a small Dialogue in the Dark auditorium. And then—to our surprise Pioneered in Germany in 1988, DiaAbigail Klein Leichman is the assistant editor and sometimes horror—Emanuel logue in the Dark offers a journey of of the educational website ISRAEL21c.org. flashed the photos taken of each of us sensory discovery in total darkness. reform judaism
4/16/13 6:48 PM
By Nicky Blackburn
sraelis were at the forefront of cutting-edge developments in 2012, including these:
NASA TRANSPORT POD
Space age rapid transit debuts in Tel Aviv: It sounds
like something out of a sciencefiction movie, but if all goes well, within two years Israelis will be the first to try out a futuristic rapid transport system designed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The software-guided personal transport pods, designed for two, drive along a guide rail suspended from existing power lines. Magnets in the vehicle create a magnetic field around the metal coil inside the rail, causing the vehicle to lift up and glide 60 miles per hour on a cushion of air. The system uses very little energy and potentially could be powered entirely by solar panels. The goal is to build a pilot project in Israel, and then take it worldwide. Cardboard wheelchair to roll out: The inventor, Israeli continued on p.38 Nicky Blackburn is editor and Israel director of Israel21c, an online news magazine about 21st-century Israel. This article has been excerpted with permission from Israel21c. To read the full piece: israel21c.org/culture/ israel21cs-top-10-stories-of-2012.
Visitors get a short briefing, a long cane, and a visually impaired guide (the museum is now Israel’s largest employer of the blind), who guides them and their families/ friends into a pitch-dark series of simulated rooms—a public park, a bustling city street, a food market, and a working café. At the end, the VIRTUAL MEETING WITH PRE-STATE FIGHTERS, PALMACH MUSEUM, TEL AVIV. group converses with the guide about visual disability and coping the needs of the current museum exhibition. The upper and lower galleries strategies. Many participants have called the experience “life-changing.” A are shaped like white boxes; no visual distractions deflect attention from friend who went recently described the objects themselves. Just one exhibihow odd it felt for a group of sighted tion at a time takes place here, and people to become dependent upon a blind guide. “You build real bonds with the museum closes for a few weeks in between. both the guide and the others in your Visiting last February, I walked group, relying on one another for audithrough “Common Roots: Design Map ble and tactile clues about everyone’s of Central Europe,” an exhibit showcasposition in the environment,” she told me. “And when you can’t see, your oth- ing furniture, lighting, decorative, and utilitarian design from 10 FSU couner senses seem so much sharper. For instance, in the city street area, I felt the tries (Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, vibrations of the cars. I don’t think I Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). ever noticed that before.” Their designers are reviving nearly lost This cluster of experiential minicrafts, such as glassblowing, weaving, museums at the Children’s Museum is and furniture making. My two favorite so in-demand, advance reservations are objects were a garden chair nestled in a a must. You can request an Englishweatherproof cover that closes over it speaking guide. like a pod and an embroidered linen bread basket with an unusual adheDesign Museum Holon sive—starch. The exhibition, created ust as the Children’s Museum here, is now traveling through Europe. complex put Holon on the Israeli From March 19 through May 4, the museum map, three years ago the Design Museum will host “Lady of the Design Museum Holon (dmh.org. Daisies,” focusing on the iconic Israeli il/default.aspx), designed by the renowned London-based, Israeli-born Gottex swimsuit brand established by architect Ron Arad, put this Tel Aviv fashion designer Lea Gottlieb. Ordinarsuburb on the international map. ily, the galleries display works of interThanks to Arad’s imagination, the national designers with some Israeli Design Museum experience starts even participation, but during the period of before you enter the 40,000-square-foot Israeli Independence Day, Israeli design building, as you are visually enveloped takes center stage. In the summer, Ron in its curving sweep of red- and orange- Arad will mount the first Israeli retrohued Cor-Ten steel alloy. A dark under- spective of his own works, following belly, meant to evoke a womb, supports successful shows in New York, London, the structure, leaving the two interior and Paris. gallery spaces unimpeded by pillars. Make sure to stop into the Design Natural light is played to interesting Lab, where Israeli design academy stueffect; a louvered roof above the upper dents spend a semester honing a particgallery can be adjusted depending on continued on page 38
Transport pod: Courtesy of sk yTran, sk y tran.us; Palmach Museum: Israel Ministr y of Tourism
ISRAELI INVENTIONS IN THE WORKS
4/12/13 12:42 PM
RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL TRAVEL
Nation of Innovation: Reform Congregations A Reform Movement Collaboration
olls show that grown. Participants are both nearly 25% of sabras (native born Israelis) Israeli Jews choose and olim (newcomers). ConReform as the gregations strive toward a Jewish movement natural synergy of the highthey most closely identify est ideals of both Progressive with. That may explain why Judaism and Israeli society, the Israeli Movement for and the Israeli experience is Progressive Judaism (IMPJ, manifest in Israeli prayer reform.org.il) is growing books, traditions, issues, so rapidly. In the last three insights, and rituals. In genyears alone, 12 new Reform eral, Israeli Progressive communities have formed, Judaism tends to be more many in smaller cities and viltraditional than in the DiasCANTOR FREDDIE PEER (WITH MICROPHONE) LEADS HAKAFOT TORAH lages as well as on kibbutzim. CEREMONY AROUND KEHILAT KODESH V’CHOL IN HOLON, ISRAEL, 2011. pora. A Progressive Beit Din Meanwhile, long established (religious court) regulates Reform congregations within Israel’s conversion procedures and guides other start paying these salaries. larger cities are forming satellite ritual matters. Nonetheless, at services Israel’s Reform communities are congregations. All told, 40 Progressive you will hear familiar prayers and meldiverse. Some primarily serve Russian communities are now active in every odies—and be warmly welcomed to or Spanish-speaking Israelis. Others are corner of Israel, from the Galil in the your spiritual home away from home. best known for their creative or musical north to the Arava in the south. So, the next time you visit Israel, worship services, special women’s proAnd our Israel Movement is expected grams, lectures and study sessions, outcome and meet your Reform Jewish famto continue growing, to accommodate all door services, early childhood education, ily. Turn to the next page for your handy who seek a Progressive belief system guide to all the Progressive communities and offerings for children and adults that integrates traditional and modern in the Jewish State, complete with worwith special needs. values; conducts Jewish rituals in a fully ship offerings and contact information. All the communities are homeegalitarian way; and works toward social justice reflecting Judaism’s highMeet ARZA est prophetic character, which calls for freedom, equality, and peace among all often in collaboration with the URJ and RZA—the Association for the inhabitants of the land. Reform Zionists of America— other Reform organizations. The IMPJ’s public and legal advocacy Reform congregations in the Diasworks in partnership with arm is the Israel Religious Action Center pora can connect to their Israeli counthe Israel Movement for Reform and (IRAC, irac.org), which for the past 25 terparts through ARZA’s Mifgash proProgressive Judaism and the Union years has served as Israel’s preeminent gram, which facilitates Israeli worship for Reform Judaism to support and civil and human rights organization, experiences, a deeper understanding strengthen the growing Reform championing democratic and societal of the IMPJ’s strides in Israeli society, Movement in Israel. ARZA’s member change, including women’s rights and and informal encounters with Israeli households (22,000 to date) are full religious equality for all streams of eligible to vote for World Zionist Con- Reform leaders and congregants. Judaism (official recognition, funding, To support ARZA’s work and ensure gress (WZC) delegates, enabling the equal status for non-Orthodox rabbis, U.S. Reform community to advocate the Reform Movement remains well institutions, and communities). As one for a pluralistic Israeli society. ARZA represented in Israel politics, join example, this past February the IMPJ also spearheads initiatives ranging ARZA, the primary connection to filed a petition with Israel’s High Court, from targeted emergency campaigns Israel for all American Reform Jews, charging it with “foot dragging tactics” to to aid Israeli war victims and rebuild before the 2014 WZC elections. avoid paying regional non-Orthodox rabdamaged property to sponsoring For more information: arza.org, bis, even though the Attorney General celebrations of Reform Israel Shabbat, ARZA@ARZA.org, 212-650-4280. ruled in May 2012 that the state would
4/12/13 12:42 PM
Visiting Your Family*
Arava: Kibbutz Lotan Worship Kabbalat Shabbat 1x month; D.N. Chevel Ayalot, Kibbutz Lotan 88855; 011-972-8-6356888; kibbutzlotan.com; email@example.com
Arava: Kibbutz Yahel Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; D.N. Chevel Ayalot, Kibbutz Yahel 88850; 011-972-8-6357911; yahel.org.il; firstname.lastname@example.org
Haifa: Kehilat Or Hadash; Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Rehov Hantke 55, PO Box 3711, Haifa 31036; 011972-4-8343905/6; or-hadash-haifa.org; email@example.com
Arava: Reform Initiative in the Arava; N/A; benjiegruber@ gmail.com
Be’er Sheva: Adult Havura; N/A
Caesaria: Kehilat Tefilat HaAdam; N/A; 011-972-54-6246811; firstname.lastname@example.org
Haifa: Kehilat Ohel Avraham; Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly, holidays; Leo Baeck Education Center, 90 Derech Tzarfat, Haifa; 011-972-4-8300500; leobaeck.org.il; email@example.com
Haifa: Kehilat Shirat HaYam; Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Beit Ha’Gefen, Rehov Ha’Gefen 2, Haifa; 011-972-4-9508316; shirathayamcarmel.org.il; firstname.lastname@example.org
Even Yehuda: Kehilat HaShachar; Worship Kabbalat Shabbat 2x month, Shabbat morning 1x, monthly Beit Midrash; Nachman Revah, Box 961, Even Yehuda; 011-972-54-3976358; facebook.com/ kehilat.hashachar; kehilathashachar @gmail.com
Gedera: Kehilat Yuval; Worship Kabbalat Shabbat biweekly; Rimonim School, Rehov Rabin, Gedera; 011-972-52-3401401; facebook.com/gedera-congregation; email@example.com
Gezer: Kehilat Birkat Shalom/ Kibbutz Gezer Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Mobile Post Shimshon, Kibbutz Gezer 99786; 011-972-8-9270646; birkatshalom.net; firstname.lastname@example.org
Gilboa: Kibbutz Beit HaShitta; N/A; email@example.com
CELEBRATION AT KEHILAT KAMATZ, MEVASERET ZION.
Herzliya: Kehillat Sha’are Kedem Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Sirkin 6, Herzliya 46392; 011972-54-9802373; shaare-kedem.org.il; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hod HaSharon: Kehilat Yonatan; Mosinzon Youth Village, Rehov Aliyat Ha’Noar, Hod HaSharon; 011-972-9-7463447; kehilat-yonatan.org; email@example.com
Holon: Kehilat Kodesh V’Chol Worship Kabbalat Shabbat 1x month; Psagot Community Center, 21 Rehov Serlin, Holon; 011-972-547791033; kholon.org; holon.kehila@ gmail.com
Jerusalem: Kehilat Kol Haneshama Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Rehov Asher 1,
Jerusalem 93470; 011-972-2-6724878; kolhaneshama.org.il; kolhaneshama@ kkh.org.il
Jerusalem: Kehilat Mevakshei Derech Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Shderot Shai Agnon 22, Jerusalem 93589; 011-972-2-6792501; mevakshei.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerusalem: Kehilat Har-El Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Rehov Shmuel HaNagid 16, Jerusalem 94592; 011-972-2-6253841; kharel.org.il; email@example.com
Jerusalem: Chavurat Kiryat HaYovel; N/A; Tali School, Rehov Volta Elite 12, Kiryat HaYovel; 011-972-2-6724878; kolhaneshama.org. il; firstname.lastname@example.org
Karmiel: Kehilat Yedid Nefesh Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Naamat House, 1 Havezelet, Karmiel; PO Box 50135, Karmiel 21605; 011-972-4-9983767; yedidnefesh.co.il; email@example.com
Kiryat Ono: Kehilat Brit Olam Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly, most Shabbat mornings; Academic Campus Center, Rehov Tzahal 104, Box 608, Kiryat Ono; 011-9723-5340084; britolamono.org.il; firstname.lastname@example.org
* NOTES: All information was furnished to RJ by ARZA in consultation with these IMPJ congregations. N/A means information was not made available to us or is not applicable to the community. Call before attending services. Map bottom adjusted to fit the space. reform judaism
4/12/13 12:43 PM
Kiryat Tivon: Kehilat Ma’alot Tivon Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Rehov Yitzhak Rabin 47, Box 7039, Kiryat Tivon 36000; 011-972-4-993-0459; maalotivon.com; email@example.com
Megiddo: Kibbutz Megiddo; N/A; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mevaseret Zion: Kehilat Kamatz Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Rehov Anbar 4, Box 40148, Mevaseret Zion 90805; 011-972-2-5700361; kamatz.org; email@example.com
bat morning or afternoon weekly; Box 1309, Ramat HaSharon 47100; 011-972-3-5473594; d-noam.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosh Ha’Ayin 48630; 011-97254-4272393; bavat-ayin.org.il; email@example.com
Rishon LeZion: Kehilat Achavat Yisrael Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Rehov Amzalag 6, Box 420, Rishon LeZion 75103; 011-972-3-9563822; www.achvatisrael.org.il/home/english; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosh Ha’Ayin: Kehilat Bavat Ayin Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly, Shabbat morning 1x month; Rehov Mivtzah Dani 1, Neveh Afek,
Rosh Pina: Kehilat Rosh Pina; N/A; 011-972-52-4204090; email@example.com
Sha’ar HaNegev: Kehilat Sha’ar HaNegev/Kibbutz Mifalsim Worship Kabbalat Shabbat biweekly; Tair Soussana, 45 Kibbutz Mifalsim; 011-972-54-7791109; N/A; Tair1465@ walla.com
Mitzpe Har Halutz: Kehilat Har Halutz Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Har Halutz 20121; 011-972-4-9802373; halutz.org.il; firstname.lastname@example.org
Modi’in: Kehilat Yozma Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Hativat Givati 31, Box 128, Modi’in 71700; 011972-8-9753461; yozma.org.il; email@example.com
Mapping Your Visit
Netanya: Kehilat Natan Ya Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Rehov Beckman 10, POB 2654, Netanya 42126; 011-972-77-4225272; natan-ya.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
MITZPE HAR HALUTZ
Ramat HaSharon: Kehilat Darchei Noam Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly, Shab-
• 10, 11, 12 MEGIDDO
40 • ZICHRON YA'AKOV
5 •CAESAREA 28
• NETANYA 6 •EVEN YEHUDA 29 14
• • HOD HASHARON
13•HERZLIYA 30•RAMAT HASHARON YAFO
•• •21 32 36, 37 39 KIRYAT ONO 15•HOLON • 31
RISHON LEZION 35 SHOHAM MODI'IN 26 GEZER MEVASERET ZION 8 24 JERUSALEM GEDERA 38 16, 17, 18, 19 7 TZUR HADASSA
34 •SHA’AR HANEGEV
Tel Aviv: Kehilat Tefilat Ha’Lev Worship Kabbalat Shabbat bimonthly; Tzucker Center, Rehov Rashi 48, Tel Aviv; 011-972-50-2534566; beit-daniel.org.il; facebook.com/ KehilatHaLev; orzohar@ yahoo.com
Tzur Hadassa: Kehilat Tzur Hadassa Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; PO Box 248, Tzur Hadassa 99875; 011-972-02-5790018; N/A; email@example.com
Yafo (Tel Aviv): Mishkenot Ruth B’Yafo Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Sderot Yerushalayim 47, Yafo; 011-9723-5442740; beit-daniel.org.il; firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel Aviv: Kehilat Beit Daniel Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Rehov Bnai Dan 62, Tel Aviv 62305; 011-972-35442740; beit-daniel.org.il; email@example.com
Ra’anana: Kehilat Ra’anan Worship Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat morning weekly; Samueli Center, Pardes Meshutaf 94, Box 506, Ra’anana 43104; 011-972-9-7740311; raanan.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
Nahariya: Kehilat Emet VeShalom Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Rehov Ha’Maginim 12, Shelter No. 723, PO Box 168, Nahariya; 011972-4-9927293; facebook.com/ groups/Emet.ve.Shalom; emet. email@example.com
Shoham: Reform Community of Shoham; N/A; firstname.lastname@example.org
1, 2, 3
• ARAVA REGION
Zichron Ya’akov: Kehilat Sulam Ya’akov Worship Kabbalat Shabbat weekly; Rehov Aharon 2, Box 10011, Zichron Ya’acov 30900; 011-972-46293113; facebook.com/k.sulam. yaakov; email@example.com
4/12/13 2:21 PM
entrepreneur Nimrod Elmish, started out with a low-cost cardboard bicycle made from recycled materials, but when a leading charity asked if he could also make a cardboard wheelchair, he realized it was a perfect match for his innovative technique. Now his company, I.G. Cardboard Technologies, has entered into an agreement with an international non-profit to set up a $6 million factory for the production of cardboard wheelchairs in Africa. The cost of these wheelchairs, which are made of recycled cardboard, plastic bottles, and recycled tires, is likely to be in the region of $10 each. Revolutionary Israeli toilet:
It’s an invention that could transform the developing world. Israeli company Paulee CleanTec has developed a toilet that needs no water, leaves no waste, and is powered by solar energy. The toilet, which won funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, turns solid waste— including toilet paper—into odorless, sterile fertilizer in 30 seconds. The fertilizer is automatically dropped into a removable canister and can be used on crops. Liquid waste will be sterilized separately and then used as gray water to flush the toilet. The Gates Foundation believes that a reinvented toilet could save millions of lives. Some 1.1 billion people don’t use a toilet, and about 80 percent of human waste goes into rivers and streams untreated.
Innovation: Museums continued from page 34 ular skill with a mentor—when I was there, it was Hebrew typography—providing a wonderful window into Israel’s active process of design.
MadaTech—Israel’s National Museum of Science, Technology & Space, encompassing Noble Energy Science Park
ant to operate Leonardo da Vinci’s canal lock (revolutionary in his time and still used in navigating boats through narrow waterways)? Would you like to “fly” in a helicopter based on the principle of aerodynamics discovered by the 18th-century physicist Daniel Bernoulli? How about using Archimedes’ heat ray to focus blinding sunlight onto approaching toy ships? You’ll find all this and more at the Noble Energy Science Park on the museum grounds in Haifa. In separate courtyards you can interact with working models of inventions conceived by the master inventors mentioned above, as well as those of Isaac Newton (a giant “Boyo” yoyo that works with gravity) and Pythagoras (a wheel that kids can climb on and rotate with their legs to move water around three sides of a triangle). A courtyard with Galileo’s inventions is scheduled to open in the future. In addition to the outdoor science park, MadaTech (madatech.org.il), built on the site of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s historic home, offers 600 hands-on exhibits and seven 3-D Cinematrix movies—“Odyssey into the Universe,” on the evolution of the solar system; “The Road to Safety” (a “4-D” film that has the added dimension of sensory effects in the theater seats) accompanying an interactive exhibition on safe driving; and “Hocus Science Pocus,” on the science of magic, among others. The latter title dovetails with an exhibit called Magical Science, which reveals how magicians pull off classic tricks, such as sawing someone in half (it’s all mirrors) or making a ball appear to hover weightless (a hidden airjet does the job). When the exhibit first appeared, the Israel Magicians Society worried that it gave away too many of its members’ reform judaism
secrets. Actually, MadaTech’s exhibit seems to have fed the public’s appetite for magic. Last year, Israeli television stations debuted several new shows on magic and mentalism, and membership in the society’s club for young magicians is skyrocketing. An entire room of the science museum is devoted to a native Nobel Prize winner—Technion Institute Professor Dan Shechtman, head of MadaTech’s academic committee. You can see the diary in which he recorded his discovery of quasicrystals—microscopic asymmetrical particles that can be used to
PLACEBO NECKLACE, DESIGN MUSEUM, HOLON.
strengthen metals and other materials. Crystals were thought to always be symmetrical, and it took years for the scientific community to acknowledge the validity—let alone the usefulness—of Shechtman’s finding.
el Aviv’s Palmach Museum (info. palmach.org.il) tells the story of the pre-state volunteer fighting force through the eyes of seven young recruits as they train and then fight in the 1948 War of Independence. But instead of seeing static displays or glass-covered documents, you enter a three-dimensional, multimedia environment that brings documentary materials to life. Your 90-minute tour, which must be booked in advance and is available in English, begins in a memorial hall for the 1,162 Palmach soldiers who died fighting to establish the State of Israel. The final hour takes place in a revolving room, where you watch what happened to each of the brave souls you’ve met at the start and for whom
Photographs by Yael Pincus
IN THE WORKS from p.34
4/12/13 12:44 PM
Other Innovative Museums
srael is a tiny country the size of New Jersey, but it has more than 230 museums—the greatest number of museums per capita in the world. Many are innovative and one-ofa-kind, either for the subject matter or for how it is presented—a mixture of ingenuity and homegrown cutting-edge technology personalizing and transforming the visitor’s experience. These are also not to be missed:
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art (tamuseum.com)
Tel Aviv Museum of A rt: Israel 21c.; F lour Mill: David Touito; Museum on the Seam: Reuven Swartz / Israel 21c
ne of Israel’s leading artistic and cultural institutions, this threebuilding complex houses Israel’s largest collection of Israeli art in addition to works of world masters such as Van Gogh. Its angular, TEL AVIV MUSEUM OF ART sleek, 200,000-square-foot wing, which opened in November 2011, features “Lightfall,” an innovative 88.5-foothigh spiraling atrium.
Museum of the Jewish People (Beit Hatefutsot), Tel Aviv (bh.org.il)
ounded in 1978 with the ambitious goal of telling the 4,000-year-old history of the Jews—and keeping the story going into the future—Beit Hatefutsot pioneered the use of visitor-accessible databases of information about Jewish genealogy, communities, and family names, as well as visual documentation, films, and music. In 2007, an upgraded database system was installed, allowing for better search capabilities. In 2013, exhibitions include “Threads of Silk,” exploring the Bukharan Jewish community, and “This Great Sight,” four never before publicly displayed paintings in which Moshe Rosenthalis (1922-2008) depicts a visual narrative of Jewish history from the Exodus to modern Jerusalem. Each canvas is about 20 feet wide and five feet high.
Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv (eretzmuseum.org.il/e)
ithin the sprawling complex of this often overlooked gem are several large pavilions, each devoted to a different Olympic theme, such as Experience, ancient ceramics, Tel Aviv (www. glass, coins, stamps, FLOUR MILL, ERETZ ISRAEL MUSEUM, TEL AVIV olympic.one. co.il/General/ and metallurgy. Page.aspx?id=86&siteid=2) You’ll see working reconstructions of ancient olive presses and flour mills, his interactive museum’s five rooms and experience the cosmos at the statecorrespond to the five interlocking of-the-art planetarium. Olympic rings. In the Israeli Ring, you meet Israel’s seven Olympic medalists in Museum on the Seam, hologram form. The Winners Ring features a 360-degree video of exciting moments Jerusalem (mots.org.il/ Eng/) in Olympic history. The Ring of History his institution is innovative brings you to ancient Greece, where the not for its technology but Olympic Games started, and then to Paris, for its genre. Opened in 1999 where the modern Games were founded. in a former military building The International Ring screens footage of that literally straddles the seam the world’s best athletes on an enormous between East and West Jerusalem, it globe, while the Ring of Experience lets focuses on socio-political contemporary you compete on sprinting blocks, mind art with the stated goal of raising controgames, and endurance. versial social issues for public discussion. Works by local and foreign Arab artists Israel Museum, Jerusalem are often (english.imjnet.org.il) featured; he country’s largest past exhibits museum and most have comprehensive collection of included art in the Middle East sits on “Right to 20 scenic acres. In summer Protest,” 2010, a $100 million renewal “Dead End,” project was unveiled: a major and “Equal restoration of the Shrine of and Less the Book housing the Dead MUSEUM ON THE SEAM, JERUSALEM Equal.” Sea Scrolls, a $6 million expansion to encompass the 50:1 scale Otzar HaStam (Letters of model of Jerusalem in the Second Adventure), Safed (hastam.org) Temple period, and a new Dead Sea ho would have thought that a Scrolls Study Center. Now fully museum devoted to ancient accessible to wheelchairs, the museum scribal arts could be so cutting-edge? Here takes visitors intuitively through you’ll not only learn how to write with a its archaeology holdings, the first quill on parchment—which, by the way, permanent galleries for Israeli art; and is projected on a large plasma screen— a newly configured Synagogue Route, you’ll also climb aboard a multisensory, incorporating four reconstructed syna3D ride into the mystical world of Hebrew gogue interiors from Italy, Germany, letters built by the same people who make India, and Suriname.
educational adventure rides for Disney’s Epcot Center. On your journey you’ll meet a holographic scribe living in ancient Egypt and learn some of the subtleties of scribal arts.
4/12/13 12:45 PM
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you now feel a kinship. For me, the kinship felt especially intense. My daughter and I had come to Palmach with Efraim, an old pal of my father’s. As we walked into the museum, he looked at the mural of Palmachnik photos on the entryway wall and exclaimed, “Hey, that’s Motti!” He’d spotted a photo of one of his closest friends, a Palmachnik who’d served with distinction. Efraim immediately phoned Motti, who lived nearby, asking if he could join us. Unfortunately, the elderly Motti was not feeling well and could not come. This brought home the fact that the surviving Palmachniks were not going to be around much longer to tell their stories. As the day progressed, I felt grateful that a museum could so effectively keep alive the legacy of these heroes of the Jewish people. I kept a hand on Efraim’s elbow as we navigated a darkened series of rooms with uneven flooring, which simulated outdoor conditions. The first room transports you to Tel Aviv’s Herzl Street in 1941 as people watch a newsreel reporting on the war in Europe— one of the events that prompted the formation of the Palmach. The second room simulates a eucalyptus grove at night, where you meet the recruits and their commander. In the next room they are training for difficult assignments, such as blowing up bridges and helping clandestine immigrants evade the British. When they hear the UN vote in favor of a Jewish state, and subsequently go into battle, you are drawn into the War of Independence, and when two of the recruits you’ve gotten to know fall in the line of duty, you’ll be reaching for tissues. ♦♦♦ The number of museums in Israel— currently 231—is ever increasing. This past year the Architecture Museum opened in Haifa; next year the Women’s Museum will open in that same northern city. For information about them in English, I recommend ilmuseums.com. And this I guarantee: No matter how many times you visit Israel, you will always be able to find inventive museums waiting for you to explore and experience.
4/16/13 10:59 PM
RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL TRAVEL
Nation of Innovation: Cuisine By Rolene Marks
nique and innovative, Israeli cuisine draws from the culinary traditions of Jewish immigrants from 80+ countries, and spices them with Middle Eastern and Asian accents. Here’s just a sampling of the inventive venues and menus.
pastry traditionally served on Shabbat morning), sweetening it with date syrup instead of sugar. “You could say we are going back to basics,” Max says, “but finding new spins to make it modern.”
Yakimono—9 Rothschild Street, Tel Aviv; Hilton Hotel, Tel Aviv; 7 King David Street, Jerusalem
Dr. Shakshuka—3 Beit Eshel Street, Jaffa
If you’re a sushi lover, you’re not alone in Tel Aviv. With 1,000 sushi restaurants, the city has the world’s third highest sushi consumption rate per capita. One of the city’s most innovative sushi spots is Yakimono, where you can order such original dishes as Inari, a sweet tofu pocket filled with spicy raw fish: salmon/tuna/yellowtail. In the past, Tel Aviv sushi restaurants tended to employ Asian chefs with highly trained skills, but there are growing restrictions on the number of foreign workers allowed to work in the country. And so an innovative way has arisen to meet market demands for perfectly prepared sushi: the Israeli government has allocated funds to teach demobilized soldiers Asian cooking skills. At Yakimono, however, the awardwinning sushi masters remain Japanese.
Mul Yam—Tel Aviv Port
Chef Ronen: Nowitz Photography
In 1995, owner Shalom Maharovsky opened Mul Yam (Across the Sea) in what was then a largely neglected area of the city. Today it is one of Israel’s most trendy restaurants, recognized for its award-winning chefs who have studRolene Marks, a frequent commentator on Israel radio, is part of Media Team Israel, an advocacy body that fights for balanced coverage of Israel.
YEMENITE JEWISH CHEF RONEN AT WORK AT MR. LACHUCH, SAFED.
ied the world over. Executive Chef Yoram Nitzan says he is “constantly looking for new and innovative ways to combine cutting edge cooking techniques with the freshest ingredients—the ingredients being the true star.” Israelis, he says, are open-minded about avant garde cuisines, and therefore happy to try out his ravioli made with squid ink or sea urchins.
Max’s—Tel Aviv Shouk (no website)
Bouza— Corner of HaShuk Street and Ma’aleh Ha Misgad, Ma’alotTarshiha
You’ll find Max’s on Tikvah Street in Tel Aviv’s (no website) oldest outdoor food marSince Adam ket—Shouk Hatikvah. Ziv, a Jewish Food and hospitality are the kibbutznik, and passions of Max’s ebullient Alaa Sawitat, CREAM AT THE JEWISH-ARAB OWNED owner, Max Bar Lev, who’s ICE an Arab MusPARLOR, BOUZA, OUTSIDE NAHARIYA. trained some of Israel’s top lim, opened chefs and culinary students. He offers Bouza (Arabic for ice cream) last July in original takes on traditional ethnic dish- northern Israel near the city of Nahariya, es, such as jachnun (a Jewish Yemenite they’ve attracted a steady stream of cusreform judaism
In Jaffa, a multicultural seaside suburb of Tel Aviv, one of the most popular eateries is renowned for innovative twists on Libyan cuisine, which fuses North African flavors peppered with Italian and Arabic influences. The restaurant’s specialty is shakshuka, a traditional North African dish consisting of eggs baked in a sauce of peppers, tomatoes, and chilies that Dr. Shakshuka has distinctively modified by adding mushrooms, eggplant, chicken, and/or merguez sausage. The small, quaint space is reminiscent of Aladdin’s cave; copper pots and pans intermingle with photographs of customers, including Israel’s glitterati and IDF warriors.
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tomers who came out of curiosity and then returned for the innovative ice cream made from fresh ingredients grown by local farmers. The menu includes some uniquely Middle Eastern flavors—pomegranate, pine nuts, even hummus. Yes, hummus. Hey, this is Israel and hummus is a staple! As an added bonus, Ziv and Sawitat serve up conversation along with their
Ronen explains. “I want them to feel pride in their heritage, and the connection that a Jew has to Israel.”
Mukhtar—Usafiya Village in the Galilee (no website) Not much is generally known about the customs and beliefs of the Druze people, except that they are fiercely loyal to their host countries. Here, in the
fare,” introducing the citizens of her new nation to such specialties as wat, a spicy meat stew served on injera (a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made with fermented teff flour). One of Shegar’s specialties is lamb cooked in onion and green peppers. Elem points out that “Every extra second it is kept on the heat makes it come out completely different. Always, I have to choose
LEFT TO RIGHT: FIRING UP A SIGNATURE NORTH AFRICAN DISH AT DR. SHAKSHUKA, JAFFA; A HAFLA (BEDOUIN-STYLE GATHERING) IN KFAR HANOKDIM, ARAD; ENTRANCE TO ARCADIA, JERUSALEM.
Mr. Lachuch Alkabetz Street, Safed (safed.co.il/Lachuch.html)
Here in the ancient city of Safed, the birthplace of the Kabbalah movement, visitors from all over the world flock to Mr. Lachuch (also called Ronen at Azamra) for a taste of lachuch—thick, richly textured Yemenite-style pancakes made from semolina and white flour—which the chef/owner, whom everyone knows as Ronen, flavors with strips of fresh peppers, eggplants, zucchini, chilies, and secret spices from the old country. Ronen immigrated to Israel with his parents in 1949 during “Operation Magic Carpet,” when the majority of Yemenite Jews were airlifted to the newly established Jewish state, and later started the kosher restaurant as a homage to his heritage. Now the quintessentially Yemenilooking man, sporting a bearded smile that meets dark, twinkling eyes, is instantly recognizable as a fixture in Safed, dispensing Jewish wisdom along with lachuch. “I want every Jew who walks in here to see that God is walking with them,”
village of Usafiya in the beautiful, mountainous Carmel region, visitors can catch a glimpse of their culture through the sharing of food. A Druze guide meets arriving visitors and leads them on the “El Carmel” culinary tour. As you walk along the alleys of the village, passing the prayer house, the deserted church, and the ancient olive press, you’ll hear stories about Druze beliefs and customs. The tour ends in a Druze home, where you’ll converse with family members around the taboon (traditional oven) and relax in the madpa (guest room) while tasting authentic Druze food prepared by village women. Be sure to try the knafeh (also known as kunafeh), the Middle Eastern answer to cheesecake, combining goat milk cheese, shredded philo pastry soaked in sweet syrup, and rose water.
Shegar Ethiopian Restaurant—10 Agrippas Street, Jerusalem (ethiopianrestaurant. com/israel/shegar.html)
After immigrating to Israel from Ethiopia, Chef Elem Akuba was inspired to “lift the lid off of Ethiopian reform judaism
when to take the food off the fire.” Dining here, you’ll enjoy a feast fit for the Queen of Sheba.
Kfar Hanokdim—Arad (hanokdim.com)
Israel also offers the adventurous traveler an opportunity to partake in a “hafla,” a Bedouin-style gathering. At Kfar Hanokdim in the Negev Desert town of Arad guests can enjoy spiced Bedouin tea and Turkish coffee while relaxing on soft, colorful sofas in a carpeted goat’s hair tent. Tribal elders regale visitors with tales of their tea/ coffee ceremony, including how every cup of tea or coffee tells a story. The first cup is the welcoming cup; the second is the cup of fun. Traditional Bedouin dinner fare— lamb garnished with parsley, skewered tender chicken, and homemade allkosher kebabs—is placed atop a giant homemade pita bread that serves both as a platter and utensils (cutlery is available upon request). Seasoned Bedouin rice, stuffed vegetables, and sweet corn round out the offerings. Here a traveler can truly dine like a chic sheikh! continued on page 46
K far Hanokdim photo by Merav Maroody, courtesy of K far Hanokdim; A rcadia photo by Daniel Layla
scoops, believing that delicious ice cream can smooth the way to talking peace.
4/12/13 12:49 PM
RJ INSIDER’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL TRAVEL
Nation of Innovation: Fashion By Ori J. Lenkinski
el Aviv dazzles in many ways—its beaches, nightlife, restaurants. Less known but just as vital to this boisterous metropolis is its young, daring, innovative fashion industry. Operating out of improvised studio spaces, sprawling urban factories, homes—and just about anywhere that will fit a drawing table and a sewing machine—are many of the artistic—and elusive—trendsetters of modern Israel. The smart traveler can meet TLVSTYLE FOUNDER GALIT REISMAN. the artists—and potentially walk away with arms full of designer group tours of the studios of fashion booty—by taking an insider’s fashion industry innovators. tour with Galit Reisman. ♦♦♦ A tried and true Tel Avivian, Reismann, 37, got her first taste of Israel’s For our tour, Reismann chose fashion industry in 2006 as a distributor designers she identifies as true envelope for a local shoe brand, then moved to pushers. “They’re particularly innovaAmerica and began selling Israeli tive,” Reismann says, “because they designer goods (“Couple Of” shoes and lack materials such as textiles, leathers, accessories) to high-end boutiques in and metals and because of the disapthe States. Soon, though, Reismann pearance of traditional craftsmanship started feeling she’d lost touch with her from the market. They have to make up home base—the streets of Tel Aviv. for the missing pieces, and this propels “I really missed my city,” she says. them to create something new.” “And then one day, around 2:00 AM, Most Israeli designers lament the scarcity of raw materials. Because of it hit me: I could use my experience Israel’s geographic isolation, much abroad to provide a service in the city sought-after merchandise does not I love.” reach local shelves. Another added difReturning home, Reismann ficulty is the fashion industry’s progresimmersed herself in the Tel Aviv world sion from handcrafting to digitalized of fashion designers. Soon the artists production. These days, fashion stubecame like “my extended family,” she dents rarely come into contact with the says. And now, TLVStyle (tlvstyle. intricate ways of old-world sewing and com), a company Reismann founded tailoring. Thus, current designers in last year, introduces visitors to behindthe-scenes Tel Aviv through tailor-made Israel hold onto their seamstresses and craftsmen for dear life.
Ori J. Lenkinski is a freelance journalist and professional dancer who serves as a cultural correspondent for The Jerusalem Post specializing in dance, fashion, and design.
ur first stop was the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood known as Basel.
There, 29-year-old jewelry designer Chen Fuchs (boticca.com) rents a tiny studio space among trendy coffee shops and upscale boutiques. It was a chilly day for Tel Aviv, around 60 degrees, and Fuchs, bundled up in a thick grey sweater and brown riding boots, was hunched over a small worktable sorting through and polishing rings, necklaces, and brooches. In 2005, Fuchs says, she was driven by a longtime interest in jewelry-making to enroll at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, a small city adjacent to Tel Aviv. In one course, students were instructed to craft an exact replica of an ancient piece of jewelry using any technique they wanted. She chose an old Middle Eastern method called repoussé (literally meaning to grow back) and chasing—otherwise known as embossing—in which the artist forms shapes such as orbs and flowers by hammering the reverse side of metal sheets. Using this technique, Fuchs was able to construct large, hollow objects out of paper-thin metal sheets. For her final project, she fashioned a collection of large, intricately detailed silver pieces, each one lighter in weight than the next. They caught on—many Israelis buying them as sculptures for the home rather than as jewelry. “People couldn’t believe they were made of metal,” she says. Upon graduation, Fuchs went straight to work on a collection interweaving ancient Greek aesthetics with an under-the-sea, coral reef essence, the pieces “looking like fossils or some kind of unpolished matter you’d find at the bottom of the ocean,” she says. Three years later, she’s using repoussé and chasing to transform sheets of gold and silver leaf into delicate earrings and
4/12/13 12:49 PM
A MARIA BERMAN DESIGN.
of 15 pieces—all handmade in her stuwith asymdio—each season, in order to produce metrical them in a tip-top way. Trusting very few hems, people to execute her designs, she works collars and with a team of one or two colleagues to trousers pump out the collections. Her steadily with oversized pockgrowing clientele includes fashion-savvy ets, and teens and young women as well as chic, slightly adventurous professionals. fancier sun Berman is also a firm believer in and party washing all of her clothes before they’re dresses. sold. “Laundry gives clothes a strong, Berman unified look,” she says. “There’s some solves the sort of magic in the washing machine.” problem of scarcity of Muslin Brothers raw materiack out on Allenby Street, Reismann als by juxtaturned us south towards Tel Aviv’s posing Florentine neighborhood. Once home unusual fabrics within her designs. “One to a large community of working-class of my first collections was all dresses Greek Jews, and now inhabited by a mix wearing sweaters,” she says. “I designed of immigrants and hipsters, Florentine dresses out of regular fabrics and then is a hodgepodge of construction sites created the same silhouettes using knit adjacent to dilapidated buildings awaitmaterials.” That first collection officially ing their own inevitable renovation. placed Berman on the Tel Aviv fashion On the third floor of an old building map, attracting the sporting a classic attention of the city’s Tel Aviv wrapquirkier fashionistas. around balcony and In 2010, to try painted tile floors, out new ideas, Berwe met the three man spent three designers of the sparkling new months working Muslin Brothers alongside fashion fashion company icon Vika Gazinska(muslin.brothers@ ya on the grand avenues of Moscow. gmail.com)—who, contrary to what “Moscow made me the name implies, want to do eveningare not all men and wear,” she says, are not related. holding up two The woman in shimmery black cocktail dresses. the group—28The designs are year-old Tamar reminiscent of EastLevit—wore jeans, ern European frocks a deep blue jacket, of the 1940s, but vintage glasses, and A MUSLIN BROTHERS DESIGN. she has chosen cona flowery scarf. Her temporary Japanese fabrics—a decipartners—Nadav Svetlov, also 28, and sion reached after many seasons of Yaen Levi, 35—are both thin, dapper, fruitlessly scouring local textile disbearded men. Svetlof wore navy blue tributors for fabrics she desired to use. chinos, brown lace-up boots, and a tan Eventually she elected to absorb the jacket. Levi sported a snug-fitting vincost of importing from the Far East tage sweatshirt and jeans. rather than settle. In almost perfect contrast to the A staunch advocate for what she calls intricate detailing of Berman’s clothing, “quality,” Berman now fashions a total the Muslin Brothers designers chal-
ur second destination was in the heart of the traffic-heavy, chaotic garment district center. Once the shopping center of the city, Allenby Street is now home to fabric stores, discount outlets, countless independent bakeries, and a handful of restaurants tucked away in side streets and alleyways. It was hard to believe that anything fashionable could be found at the end of the grubby staircase Reismann led us down. But what looked like steps to a subway tunnel opened to an underground, concrete courtyard lined with miniscule storefronts. Set back in one corner was a white door with the handwritten sign: “Maria Berman Clothing Co.” A peppy, slender woman with a warm smile and a touch of a Russian accent, the 33-year-old Berman is a well-known figure in Tel Aviv, having competed as a contestant in the sole season of the Israeli Project Runway. From one corner of the chock-a-block space, she procured teacups, from another half a lemon, and from yet another a small bowl of sugar. She then sat down on a small sofa facing racks of her most recent collection and, sipping tea, described its fiery look as “crumpled structure.” Also a graduate of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Berman began selling one-of-a-kind pieces to local boutiques in 2005. She then brandished her label, Dress Up (mariaberman.com), comprised of reimagined basics: tees
Maria Berman design: Photographer—Michael Fisch, Jewelr y—Paula Bianko, St yling—Maayan Goldman, Hair & Make-Up—Patrick Oved for SOLO, Model—Irina Roshik—MC2 Management; Muslin Brothers dress: Courtesy of Muslin Brothers
other wearable pieces, which she sells at local boutiques as well as on Etsy and other websites. Many of Fuchs’ clients notice how comfortable the pieces feel on the body. Because of their light weight, they can be worn comfortably all day without pain. As far as she knows, she is the only person using this technique in Israel.
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lenge themselves with simple silhouettes such as seamless, draping tees and drawstring trousers. “Making simple things is actually more difficult,” Levi says. “What looks simple is actually not simple at all.” “We are also always trying to break boundaries,” Levi notes, pointing, as an example, to an oversized jacket made of upholstery fabric. “Sometimes we like to create interesting pieces out of fabrics that are gross or unappealing.” “Amazingly, our craziest pieces are always the first to go,” Svetlof adds. In addition, the Muslin Brothers are known for an almost humoristic play on volume. Yards of fabric are interwoven into unisex, geometric tops and trousers, while maintaining the effortless, spontaneous vibe of their label. And, Svetlof says, “We like to play with the boundary between masculine and feminine.” Their new label has a few dresses which they maintain can be worn by men. Levi pointed out a long, sheath dress in a vibrant green and orange safari print as an example of one look men could sport. All of their fabrics are manufactured in Israel, because of the partners’ deep commitment to localism—which sets them apart from many of their peers and presents an added challenge they are happy to take on. “In Israel, the fabric search is really tough,” Levi says. “It’s very difficult to find color fabrics, because in the 90s, at the beginning of the local fashion boom, everyone wanted grey, so the fabric stores brought in tons of greys and blacks. We really have to dig.” Judging by the vibrant oranges and soft teals of the summer 2013 collection, the Muslins are good diggers. “In today’s Tel Aviv,” Svetlof says, “if you wear bright colors, you’re a hipster, and you’re usually dressed in vintage clothes because the vintage markets are the only place to find colorful outfits. If you are a serious person, you wear blacks and greys.” The Muslins hope to change this stigma, introducing current, edgy, and vibrant garments into the first-hand market.
Florentine’s Kastiel district, a fiveblock radius that takes its name from a local design house whose presence brought foot traffic back to this rundown part of town after most locals had long abandoned it. Opening the door to her second floor apartment, Sivan Moshkovitz welcomed us into the living room, where she laid out homemade granola cookies and mugs of hot coffee. (Her workspace had been recently overtaken by her boyfriend’s business venture, bicycle bags that fit the baskets
of the city’s Tel O-Fun municipal bike rentals.) Now in its eighth month, Complet (completboutique.com), Moshkovitz’s boutique accessories label, features her own unique fabric printing process. In 2004, as a fashion design student at Shenkar, Moshkovitz, 29, was just as disappointed as her peers with the fabrics available in Israel. Her solution: Develop her own method of generating materials. She begins with photographs, often of a crumbling wall or moldy tiles. “I love old maps and rust,”
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Innovation: Cuisine continued from page 42
Arcadia—10 Agrippas Street, Jerusalem (arcadiarest.com) “Mediterranean food is smiling food,” says Ezra Kedem, executive chef and owner of this high-end French-Mediterranean eatery hailed by Frommer’s as “the finest restaurant in Jerusalem.” He believes that “the fresh flavors of our sun-grown produce make Israel the world’s next kitchen to explore. We combine our wonderful produce in ways that give a modern twist to traditional foods.” Israelis, he adds, “are open to culinary innovations; they’re well traveled and have adventurous palates.” For example, after he pioneered eggplant carpaccio—eggplant with tahini and spices—it became such a hit, it is now served in other fine restaurants. ♦♦♦ The culinary innovations one finds throughout Israel say a lot about the society itself—culturally diverse, passionate, spicy, inventive, and fearless.
Photo by Tal Terr y
leather, which sings alongside the rustic she says softly. Using Photoshop, she texture of the straps and closures. At then distorts the images, and prints once relaxed yet edgy, Complet’s backthem onto a special durable and waterpack can spruce up jeans or accompany proof material. On the opposite wall hang two of the a cocktail dress. A truly ambitious photos that inspired spirit, Moshkovitz is some of Complet’s now planning to try first bags. To me, the her technique on images looked someclothing, shoes, and what like Rorschach stationery. blots. “It’s funny,” Moshkovitz says, ♦♦♦ “because I know “Edgy. Indepenwhere each print began, but everyone dent. Brave,” Reissees something differmann says as we ent in these pictures.” head home. A SIVAN MOSHKOVITZ DESIGN. Her inaugural colAfter browsing lection blended 10 the workrooms of Tel different prints—everything from Aviv’s fashion pioneers, these words deconstructed florals to abstract, linear seemed to take on a different meaning. designs—with a variety of leathers to Each of the designers we met offers a create bags, wallets, and laptop cases. unique aesthetic philosophy and prodThe bestseller—purchased by young uct. Whether that is thanks to or in women as well as the office-going spite of the Israeli environment, these crowd—was a black leather backpack artists offer a glimpse into the heart and with a black and white printed body, its soul of a city that is blossoming, every pattern creating the illusion of stone second, with life, energy, and spirit.
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Photo by Galit Lifshits Melamed
continued from page 32 November—as well as buzzards, falcons, egrets, kingfishers, kite, and other bird species that stop to rest on their migration path between Africa, Europe, and Asia? About 75 miles north of Kibbutz Ein Shemer you’ll find the Agamon Hula Lake Ornithological and Nature Park, a bird and animal sanctuary encompassing a 247-acre lake bordered by papyrus bushes and various species of indigenous flowers and trees. You can rent electric golf carts (for two, four, or six passengers) or bikes or hop on the tractor-drawn “Safari Wagon” to travel the 5.28-mile waterside path around the lake. All along the banks, you’ll see coypu (nutria), large beaver-like animals feasting on aquatic plants, roots, and waterside vegetation. Alternatively, you can hire a private guide to take you on an educational tour around the lake and show you the Crane Feeding Project and “Bird Island” bird-ringing station. Our guide explained that, until the mid-20th century, much of the Hula Valley was covered by a lake and seasonal wetlands that served as a resting and foraging station for some 500 million migratory birds. In 1951 the Israeli government decided to drain the “malariainfested swamps” for habitation and agriculture—and 30 years later the damaging consequences of that decision became evident. First, the land was no longer usable for agriculture. The soil lacked natural nutrients (because of soil oxidization); sinkholes were forming and underground fires spontaneously erupting, sometimes lasting for months (both due to loss of water content and wind-erosion) and causing injury to farmers. Moreover, varieties of plants, fish, and other animals that had depended on the wetlands became extinct; migratory birds could no longer nest in the valley; and nitrogen compounds that had washed into the drainage channels were polluting the Sea of Galilee. Finally, in 1994, the JNF initiated the Hula Valley Peat Soil Restoration Project to rehabilitate the soil and prevent further damage to the sea. Part of the project included creating a public park to foster and conserve Israel’s natural landscape.
of healing on the very spot. He bought the land from Baron Rothschild, but it took until 1968, when he was in his early 70s, for the first 12 rooms to open. At age 91, he sold the Mitzpe Hayaproperty to Sammy Chazan, an agriculmim Hotel, tural school graduSpa, and ate with a similar, Organic Farm (mizpe-hayamim. but grander vision com) for the facility: a softly lit garden luxurious health welcomed us and beauty hotel CHEF GATHERING PRODUCE FROM THE to Mitzpe Hayamim ORGANIC GARDENS, MITZPE HAYAMIM. featuring two fineHotel, Spa, and dining restaurants that would serve organic vegetables and Organic Farm, about 15 miles south of Agamon Hula past Rosh Pina on the road fruits harvested from their own gardens and orchards (now 30+ acres), cheeses to Safed. In the old-fashioned lobby and tea corner, people wrapped in fluffy white and milk products from its own dairy bathrobes relaxed on wingback chairs and cows (now 30 different products), and fresh breads and pastries baked on site. sofas drinking herbal teas crafted from Guests can take water aerobics, tai fresh organic herbs. Other guests were chi, yoga, and walks, and work out at the swimming, taking saunas, enjoying masfitness center. The hotel spa offers relaxsages, relaxing in the Jacuzzi, or reading in the library—a vast selection of books is ation and beauty treatments. available in many languages. ♦♦♦ The hotel got its start in a moment of These are just a few of the unique, serendipity, Mitzpe Hayamim tour guide Adi Taubenhouse explained. In 1923, innovative experiences Israel offers the Berlin émigré Dr. Eric Yaros, a physieco-traveler. For additional ideas, contact cian, homeopath and naturopath, was local tourism associations (science.co.il/ traveling from Safed to Rosh Pina when municipal/Regional-Councils.asp), visit suddenly he asked his driver to stop the the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s official car. Jumping out, he climbed to the top of website (goisrael.com), and/or engage the hill and took in the vista from the an Israel tour company. I believe you’ll Golan Heights to the Sea of Galilee. At be in awe, as I was, at the Israeli ingenuthat moment he decided to build a place ity behind your eco-adventure. Today, indigenous fauna and flora are once again flourishing, and 500 million birds representing 400 different species stop here on their migration journeys.
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An Animator’s Tale continued from page 12 That’s when I got the idea of making Torah wisdom accessible to non-religious people like myself. I would create animated conversations between my parents and me, calling it “Jewish Food For Thought: The Animated Series” (jewish foodforthought.com). With a Covenant Foundation grant, I took a leave from my teaching job and studied with dozens of rabbis and other Jewish scholars (who, in the process, become life-changing mentors). Curiously, my father developed a strong interest in the project and became one of my teachers. We held lengthy conversations about many topics, portions of which made their way into the animations. Often we communicated via Skype. Once, with my infant son Benjamin sitting on my lap, I shared the Torah passage commanding us to Love your fellow as yourself and the accompanying commentary noting that Rabbi Akiva considered this the greatest principle of the Torah. Suddenly my father burst out into a Hebrew song that summarized Akiva’s teachings which he’d learned on the kibbutz as a child. Both Benjamin and I were smiling broadly as my father sang the song (to watch: jewish foodforthought.com/?page_id=161). The animations took an immense amount of research. Each source pointed to more sources, leading to more questions. One scholar led me in one direction; the next took me elsewhere. Contradictions and questions proved essential to the process. In this way, I gained a new understanding of Yom Kippur—that to make mistakes is human. What matters is how we handle ourselves after we’ve made a mistake. Judaism provides a process of acknowledging the mistake, apologizing, expressing remorse, fixing what can be fixed, and most importantly, looking honestly inside of oneself to see how the mistake happened and to improve so as not to repeat it. Suddenly, both my own mistakes and those of others became opportunities. Forgiveness
was an opportunity to let go of resentment towards a person who had wronged me, or as Rabbi Abraham Twerski put it: “Stop letting the person
live rent free inside of your head!” These insights were reflected in my first two animations, “Repair” (on the theme of t’shuvah, or return—jewish foodforthought.com/?page_id=17) and “Landlord” (on the theme of forgiveness—jewishfoodforthought.com/ ?page_id=20), released prior to the High Holy Days in 2011 and shown widely, including at the 2011 URJ Biennial. At the same time I completed a rough draft of the third episode of the series, “You Can Dance” (on the theme of gratitude—jewishfoodforthought.com/ ?page_id=79), based on conversations with my father. My dad was feeling depressed because he felt he had not achieved in life as much as he’d hoped. I tried to ease his unhappiness by sharing a teaching from Pirke Avot (Ethics of Our Sages): “Who is rich? Those who rejoice in their own portion.” Being grateful connects you to the present moment, I pointed out, instead of living in the future of expectations or the past of regrets. And being in the present moment, through gratitude, allows you to actually take in and truly experience how much you really have. My father was able to follow the logic of this teaching, but he remained unconvinced. Shortly after this encounter, my father became ill and died. He was buried on the shores of the Galilee near the kibbutz of his youth. I began to go to shul every Saturday to say Kaddish for him. One Shabbat, a congregant informed me that, traditionally, a Jew was required to recite Kaddish for only 11 months—I had reform judaism
actually overdone it by a couple of weeks. I continued to go to shul, but not standing up to say Kaddish left me feeling strange and empty. I found myself looking forward to my father’s first yahrzeit, when I would have the opportunity to say Kaddish again. On that day, I was called to the bimah in honor of my father’s first yahrzeit. I recited the Torah blessing—and saw, to my amazement, that the Torah portion I was called up for happened to be Exodus, Parashat Bo, 12:8, the very text I had stumbled upon four years earlier when I began reading Torah seriously for the first time! At that moment, everything seemed to fit. I saw my father taking us out of Israel to America as the beginning of the journey that would return me to the Jewish roots of my grandparents before they immigrated to Israel and gave up their religion. I was returning to something never lost, but simply hidden.
Streaming into New Year continued from page 14 No doubt, the experience of sitting at home alone at my computer during Rosh Hashanah lacked the intimacy and power of attending services at my own congregation and the pleasure of greeting my friends. Still, live streaming services proved a splendid substitute, far preferable to what my father used to do because of physical problems: he’d lie on his bed and read his prayer book alone, while the rest of the family trooped off to services. If I was as physically alone as he had been, I didn’t feel it. At the conclusion of Rosh Hashanah I gave thanks for the technology that allowed me to participate, in a singularly 21st-century way, in observing the holiday in the company of hospitable Jewish strangers, including one woman who smiled into the camera and said, surely speaking to me, “L’shanah Tovah to everyone I know and everyone I don’t know.” Thank you, I responded to my computer. L’shanah Tovah to you, too.
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g n i t n e v n i Re the e u g o g a n y S ine F n o s Alli h t i w iew Interv
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new a d e ne ity …We f commun — l—o versation e d o m con feeling n i d roote urish the s.” to no atter-nes of “m
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llison Fine is president of Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, New York; author of Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age (2006); and co-author, with Beth Kanter, of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change (2010). She was interviewed by the Reform Judaism magazine editors.
Is this flight from congregational community specifically a Jewish problem? It is a much larger problem. Social scientists are lamenting the loss of social capital in communities. With so many of us living largely alone inside our homes, member rates in local clubs, political parties, and congregations across denominations have fallen precipitously.
“Are the pe thing ople wh identi s happen o make fie cl No on d on your early logo; e wants to website? peopl talk t e w a nt to t o a other, a real p eople lk to .”
Why are congregations losing members at an alarming rate? For a long time Reform synagogues lost members after b’nai mitzvah, but the pipeline of incoming families with young children was robust, so we were in good shape. Regardless of how people felt about synagogues as b’nai mitzvah factories, it was a sustainable business model. A new trend fundamentally changes this model. Instead of joining a synagogue solely for the purpose of seeing their children become bar or bat mitzvah, families are finding less expensive and less time-consuming routes, such as hiring bar/bat mitzvah tutors and hiring a rabbi to officiate at a service held in their home, at a catering hall, or another venue. But perhaps without realizing it, families are losing something very important—the community that comes with synagogue life. Jews cannot be Jewish alone, by themselves. The most powerful part of our religion is the communal experience of being together to worship, learn, serve, and take care of one another. Doing so takes a community, and a community needs a place. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but there has to be a gathering place, on the ground.
What do you believe synagogues need to do differently to retain and attract members? Congregations need to rethink the decades-old model of synagogues as top-down hierarchies churning out life cycle events and programs for their membership. Synagogues are overflowing with wonderful people, but the structure—and, therefore, by definition, the processes and systems—demand caution and control. In this risk averse environment, congregations suffocate creativity and lose opportunities to experiment with new ways to engage their communities. Synagogues tend to be very busy places, with people rushing to get out the newsletter, organize that next event, and send donation thank-you letters. But in all this busyness, congregants become little more than dues-paying, High Holy Day-going, b’nai mitz-
Illustrations: John Lund / Blend Images
You have said that congregations must operate differently than they do today. Why shouldn’t synagogues continue to function as they do now? The downside of the status quo is easy to see—the downsizing of Reform synagogues throughout North America. Today, congregations are losing members at an alarming rate. The rate of attrition is more pronounced in areas with large Jewish populations because people have so many choices of ways to explore or express their Judaism. In my area, Westchester, New York, for example, there are five synagogues, a JCC, and Chabad in just a few square miles. But whatever the location, fewer Jews are simply choosing to affiliate.
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vah-getting consumers. In this model, leaders lose sight of each individual congregant: his/her passions and fears, struggles and gifts. I call this the loss of “matter-ness.” When people feel like they are just one more of anything in a system, it is personally devastating. This is why the Dilbert cartoon exists, to make fun of the cog-ness felt by so many employees. But at least those workers are getting paid! In the synagogue model, congregants too often feel that they are being asked to pay to be a cog. That isn’t a sustainable model. Beneath any complaint I’ve ever received as temple president (e.g. “no one called when I was sick,” “my bill is wrong,” “the event I organized wasn’t listed in the announcements”) was the individual’s sense that he or she didn’t matter to the synagogue—that if s/he disappeared from the temple today, no one would care. We began calling all of our congregants right before the High Holy Days two years ago just to say thank you for being members of our community. At first, people thought we were just warming up to ask them for a donation. But that was it; thank you. We have heard from dozens of congregants how appreciated we made them feel. If synagogues lose the battle of “matter-ness,” they cannot survive. They need to move to a networked model to create a more authentic and fulfilling engagement between leaders and congregants—as well as between congregants.
What do you mean by a networked model? Networks are flat and open. Information flows freely, and people do what they do best, which is talk, share, and connect with like-minded people. In this environment, individuals self-organize, shape their situations, and give generously of time and money. In short, networks are the opposite of top-down hierarchical institutions. When an organization envisions itself as part of a network, just one node in a larger network of people and institutions, all sorts of wonderful things are possible. Rather than staff rolling the boulder uphill alone, people on the outside can offer their ingenuity in problem solving. When they believe they matter, they will be openhearted in contributing their artistry. In a networked model, communities are “in conversation.” If you think about it, all social networks are powered by conversations—and all social media tools are vehicles for conversations. That’s how we have always reform judaism
laint p m o any c ived h t a e “Ben ever rece t was I’ve presiden e ple sens as tem dividual’s atter the in he didn’t m .” ue e/s that h e synagog to th
connected, shared, and built relationships. Videos that go viral are stories that strike us as particularly funny or sad or moving. Facebook and Twitter messages are parts of larger, ongoing conversations about what matters to us. Sometimes they’re poignant, such as a friend’s announcement on Facebook that she just completed her last chemotherapy treatment. Sometimes they are controversial, such as a blog post from the parent of a camper with special needs who was sent home because the child required more care than the camp was prepared to provide. And, yes, sometimes these conversacontinued on page 59
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Teach You WhatYourHeart_su13_be4.idnn 54
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Can you think of a time when you felt so overwhelmed by power and mystery, it triggered awe, fear, and reverence all at once? At such moments, our heart is open to discovering the essential meaning of our lives. by Alan Morinis
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t is said that we humans
can’t understand the meaning of our lives any better than fish in an aquarium can understand their own. Confined to our own environment, we cannot escape to an outside vantage point from which to look onto and make sense of our existence. Still, we humans do have an advantage over the fish. We come equipped with another way of knowing: through the heart. everything having been heard, yirah God and keep His* commandments, for this is the whole of the person” (12:13). Understanding the use of the Hebrew word yirah here provides the key to accessing the heart’s wisdom about the meaning of life. This word appears 41 times in Torah. Often it carries promise. In Psalms, for example, the promise is happiness: “Happy is the person l’yirah the Lord” (112:1). In the Book of Job the promise is wisdom: “Behold, the yirah of the Lord is wisdom” (28:28). It can also connote reverence, as in Leviticus 19:3: “Every person shall yirah his mother and his father.” Another understanding is awe, as we see in the story in the Book of Kings I, when Solomon determines which of two women is the real mother of a child by watching how they react to his threat to cut the baby in two. * The gendered translations from the Tanach in this article do not reflect the theology of the author or of the Reform Movement.
Each of us is given free tastes of all the important spiritual traits as we pass through the avenue of our lives.
Previous spread: Image © Ocean Photography/ Veer
By attending to the lessons of our hearts, we can glean insight into the meaning of our lives. In Jewish thought, the heart has many functions. Kohelet Rabbah (the rabbinical commentary on Ecclesiastes) explains that the heart sees and hears, stands and falls, feels and knows, breaks and heals. Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz (1873–1936), the late spiritual supervisor of the Mir Yeshiva, says the heart is like a seismograph, recording every tiny tremor that passes through us, even if our conscious minds remain unaware of the impact. But if the heart is recording every fluctuation, how can we possibly focus on the particular lessons the heart can teach us about life’s meaning? The Book of Ecclesiastes tells of a powerful king who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, without restraint. What lesson has this king learned after a lifetime of pursuing wealth, possessions, pleasure, and other worldly goals? The answer appears in the last line of the book: “The end of the matter,
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Heart © Ma x K rasnov/ Veer
If we devote ourselves to overcoming inner impediments, such as laziness, worry, and greed, we will succeed in circumcising our hearts.
The verse says, “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they had yirah of the king, because they saw that he had wisdom from God.” And, sometimes, yirah means “fear,” as in the last line of the Adon Olam prayer: “God is with me, I will not yirah (fear)” or Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I yirah?” But yirah can mean much more than promise or reverence or awe or fear. To get a real understanding of what yirah means, imagine yourself in the following situations: You stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon, looking down into a vast, deep, magnificent chasm. At one and the same time you may feel dread at the sheer drop into the yawning abyss, astonishment at the beauty of the immense gorge, and perhaps a sense of the divine majesty in our world. You gaze upon the night sky and behold the millions of glimmering stars that reach billions of light years into the past. You feel terrified by your smallness and vulnerability in this expanse and simultaneously awed at the immensity of space, and perhaps a sense of reverence for the mysterious source of this unfathomable universe. The Book of Jonah describes such a yirah experience. The prophet is sleeping in the hold of a boat when a great storm blows in. “Then [the sailors] had yirah for the Lord exceedingly” (1:16). If you have ever been engulfed in a great storm, you know how terrifying it is—you fear for your life—as tumultuous forces of nature thunder around you. Yet at the same time, you may feel awe for the astounding power of nature and its Source. Can you think of times like these in your life— when you felt so overwhelmed by power and mystery that it triggered awe, fear, and reverence in one intertwined experience? Perhaps when you gave birth to a child? When you drove through a blinding snowstorm? When you held the hand of a loved one whose soul was departing? I’ve come to believe that every human being has yirah experiences to one degree or another, because, strange as it may sound, I think that God and Costco had the same idea. How so? At Costco you can find free samples in almost every aisle. In the same way, each of us is given free tastes of all the important spiritual traits as we pass through the avenues of our lives. Alan Morinis, author of Climbing Jacob’s Ladder and Everyday Holiness, is founder and dean of The Mussar Institute, mussarinstitute.org, which provides courses on developing and improving inner life traits as spiritual practice. reform judaism
If it weren’t for the free samples, how would we know what love is, or kindness, compassion, generosity, or indeed yirah—the most important spiritual trait of all, for it is the beginning of wisdom, the source of happiness, and “the whole of a person”? Just as a bolt of lightning briefly lights up the dark world, offering a glimpse of reality we do not ordinarily see, an experience of awe-fear-reverence can draw back a habitual curtain to unveil the precious holiness that is the essence of all life. It is when our hearts are spontaneously overtaken by yirah that we taste and feel that which is profoundly and eternally real and always present before and within us. ♦♦♦
nce we have tasted this free sample of profound holiness, how can we bring it home and make it part of our lives? One means is Mussar, an ancient Jewish tradition that teaches us the importance of cultivating ideal inner traits and then shows us how we can do that in our lives. Mussar practice helps us to identify which of our inner traits impede our spiritual continued on page 65
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What Do You Know…about Synagogues? Do you know as much about synagogues as you think you do? Take the quiz. 1. According to Jewish tradition, which of these features is necessary in order for a building to be considered a synagogue? a. Carpet b. A window c. Pews d. A good sound system
Sanctuary of Temple B’nai Tikvah, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Susan Esther Barnes blogs for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal at jewishjournal.com/religiousandreform.
2. Where are the Torah scrolls kept? a. The ark b. The synagogue office c. The geniza (depository) d. The synagogue safe
3. What will you almost always find above where the Torah scrolls are housed? a. A chuppah (canopy) b. A box of prayer shawls c. An Eternal Light d. A Star of David 4. Is it proper to place a mezuzah on the doorpost of a synagogue? a. Yes, but traditionally only if people eat and sleep in the synagogue b. Yes, all synagogues should have one c. No, no synagogue should have one d. Yes, but only if a rabbi lives in it
Photo courtesy of Louis Davidson, Synagog ues360.org ©
By Susan Esther Barnes
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5. Is there a traditional prayer to say upon entering a synagogue? a. No b. Yes, “The Sh’ma,” about how God is one c. Yes, “Hinei Ma Tov,” about how good it is to be together d. Yes, “Ma Tovu,” about the loveliness of the Israelites’ dwellings 6. What direction do North American Jews face when standing and praying in a synagogue? a. North b. South c. East d. West 7. Why does a curtain appear in front of the ark? a. To heighten the theatricality of the service b. To remind us of the curtain around the ark in the Jerusalem Temple c. To protect the Torahs from dust d. To keep people from peeking at the Torahs during services 8. What do worshipers do in order to demonstrate respect for the Torah scroll? a. Face it at all times b. Reach out with a hand, prayer book, or tzitzit (fringes) to kiss it c. Stand when the ark is open d. All of the above 9. Why is a synagogue called a beit knesset in Hebrew? a. It means house of gathering b. It means holy house c. It means house of prayer d. It is a place where people argue, like in the Knesset in Israel 10. How is the weekly Torah portion selected? a. The rabbi or cantor picks a portion that can be easily linked to a current event b. By majority vote of the Ritual Committee c. By that week’s bar or bat mitzvah celebrant d. According to a set schedule followed by most synagogues worldwide Answers on page 63
Reinventing Synagogue continued from page 53 tions are inane—but, then, sometimes life is inane, too. Congregants are our best problem solvers. They know far better than staff, clergy, or lay leadership what they want and why. The job of leadership is to be “in conversation” with as many congregants as possible, engaging them in discussions about “where we want and need to go as a community.” Once leaders are listening to what really matters to people, then they can create new programs together as experiments, and provide a running commentary about how things are going. Being “in conversation” with your community does take practice. My synagogue is still a work in progress in this regard. As temple president I often asked a question online and didn’t receive any answers or comments. I didn’t make a mistake by asking it; I learned that the language I was using, or the timing, didn’t make it sticky for anyone. If it’s an important question, I’ll try it again another way. This conversational way of working should be a natural transition for synagogues—we like talking a lot! However, it requires organizational leaders to give up control of the message and get over the assumption that they are supposed to have answers in order to appear “smart.”
How would synagogues need to relinquish control? For decades, people running institutions have been taught that their job is to create, plan, strategize behind closed doors, and then announce their initiatives to an outside world breathlessly awaiting the new campaign. Maybe that worked at one time, but it certainly doesn’t today. For instance, a Jewish day school announced a significant change in their schedule as a fait accompli by email. It would have been much more effective and actually built their community to have started the conversation on their blog about what they were thinking about doing and why. What evolved would automatically have more buy-in from their community at the end, even if everyone didn’t agree with it. The goal isn’t to create a complete consensus on an issue (we are Jews, after all!); reform judaism
it is to make sure people feel the process was transparent and thoughtful. Rabbi David Levy of Temple Shalom in Succasunna, New Jersey brings congregants into conversation by posting text and questions on Twitter, Facebook, and his blog and then inviting all community members to learn, discuss, and explore the text together. Towards the end of the week he uses the community comments “like a primary text,” he says, weaving the communal conversation into his sermon. But this kind of transparency is very difficult for organizations accustomed to having high walls for protection.
Are Jewish institutions particularly reluctant to practice openness? Jewish institutions have historic and legitimate reasons to shy away from transparency and exposure—people have been trying to kill us for a long time. Years ago it was much safer to hide behind high, opaque walls, and much wiser to become risk averse, as mistakes could lead to persecution. This is the DNA embedded not only in our institutions, but in our souls, and it’s very hard to undo. But we need to do it. The walls are already down between people and institutions. Any information that used to be inside is now out by email, text message, photos, blogs, Facebook posts, and tweets. Trying to keep stuff in is like playing a game of whack-a-mole. And, thank goodness, our challenges are so different today in North America. Threats aren’t from the outside, but from the inside—from existing members who feel anonymous and overlooked, as well as from potential members who have so many ways they can express and practice their Judaism. For our ultimate success, synagogues must become easier to enter from the outside and easier for congregants to understand and help shape on the inside.
What are some practical steps that synagogues can take to become easier to enter and to shape? Here are three. First, ask people who are not members of your congregation to look at your website, bulletin, and other materials. Are your continued on page 62
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The Talmud & the Twitterverse
t the time of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, authorship of the tradition was in the hands of the learned elite. All of that changed after the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 C.E. Escaping from Jerusalem, many rabbis settled in Yavneh, a garrison town in the southern central plain south of Jaffa. They faced a daunting challenge: to keep Judaism alive without the national focal point of the Jewish people. There was no longer a Temple where they could come on their thrice-yearly pilgrimages and offer sacrifices to God. Judaism would die out, they realized, unless they could create a new model of Jewish worship and a new way to transmit the Jewish story. Unsure of how to proceed in this unfamiliar world, the rabbis chose as their new spiritual leader Rabban Gamliel, a senior statesman whose family was among the descendants of King David. Even though his style of leadership was authoritarian, harsh, and not always fair (Brakhot 27–28), he was nonetheless perceived as one who could hold things together at this time of crisis. It didn’t take long, however, before Rabban Gamliel’s leadership was challenged. A younger generation of Jewish leaders believed that the new reality demanded a radically new solution. To make Judaism meaningful once again, they needed an open-minded and openhearted practice, one in which every Jew could connect—open source. Time and time again, Rabbi Yehoshua, a young rabbi of modest means and Daniel Reisel is a Jewish educator based in London.
no family connections, challenged the old master on points of law. And, unable or unwilling to engage in meaningful dialogue with a rabbi he viewed as an upstart, Rabban Gamliel inadvertently allowed discord to take root in the academy. Finally, the rabbis decided to depose Rabban Gamliel, but rather than elevate Rabbi Yehoshua to head the academy, which likely would have led to a schism, they elected the young and charismatic Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah. On that day, the Talmud states, the academy gates were opened, the doorkeepers were discharged of their duties, and anyone who wanted to enter and learn was welcomed. The response was tremendous. Rows and rows of benches had to be added to the house of learning—some say as many as 700—to seat the many people clamoring to learn. Most extraordinary, the Talmud says, Rabban Gamliel was not forced into retirement. Instead, he was invited to address the academy regularly. As his power waned, his popularity and influence soared. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to receive his teachings. Years later, the successors of the Yavneh rabbis compiled a book of their maxims. Entitled Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers), it is an instruction manual to Jewish life, traditionally studied on Shabbat afternoon. In its liturgical reform judaism
form it is prefaced with a quote from the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1): “Kol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek be-olam haba—All Israel has a place in the world to come.” In a commentary, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808—1888) explains the intention of this preface: to invite all Jews, no matter how much they know or where they come from, to apply themselves to the task of Jewish learning and living. Thanks to the founding generation of Yavneh and its disciples, we have the Mishnah, Talmud, and countless works of midrash—the magnificent crowdsourcing that is Rabbinic Judaism. And, in keeping with the spirit of Yavneh, the rabbis make Judaism accessible to all, in a democratic way. Moreover, every talmudic debate is written in the present tense, which allows each student who opens the text to engage in dialogue with the sages, as if s/he were their contemporaries. We, too, are invited to join the ongoing fray. By building the ideal of debate into the hardware of our tradition, the rabbis ensured that the tradition would thrive. In Judaism, the goal of a good argument is not to convince the opponent that your view is correct. It is not even necessarily to agree. Rather, it is to conduct the debate in such a way that it reveals the truth of both perspectives. As Pirkei Avot (5:17) points out, to argue about the meaning of Torah le-shem Shamayim—for the sake of Heaven”—is a righteous act, a mitzvah. There is no merit in having the final word. The democratic and innovative rabbinic traditions that originated at
A lberto Ruggieri / illustrationsource.com
By Daniel Reisel
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Yavneh continued for many centuries. But, by the 17th century, because of the harsh conditions of exile, authorship of the tradition was confined largely to the talmid hakham—the professional Jewish scholar—in the hallowed halls of the Eastern-European yeshiva. Once again, Jewish learning was outsourced to the learned few. This state of affairs came to a tragic end in the Holocaust, in which more than 90% of all rabbis and approximately 80% of all yeshiva students were murdered, and the great European centers of Jewish learning and culture were obliterated. ♦♦♦ Since then, and still today, our people have needed to find a way to restore the open, participative learning of the Yavneh model, placing the oral tradition in the mouths and hearts of the people. How do we create a Yavneh 2.0 in which our tradition is accessible to all? Now we have a great way—the Internet. Jewish learning websites such as reformjudaism.org, myjewishlearning. com, and on1foot.org offer an array of rich choices to suit different kinds of learners and those at different stages of their Jewish journey. A challenge yet to be met fully is to facilitate the experiential, interactive element of traditional Jewish learning. Typically, learning was conducted through personal encounters between teacher and student, or between students in face-to-face pairs (chavruta)— preferably loudly. As Pirkei Avot teaches, “Wherever two people learn words of Torah together, the Shekhinah is present” (3:2). Jewish spiritual growth is about plugging into the tradition and connecting to each other. For technology-powered Jewish learning, this is our challenge. The rabbis at Yavneh realized that to preserve the tradition they needed to open the doors of the academy and accord respect to everyone who joined the unruly Jewish Twitterverse with integrity. We can do no less today. Judaism will survive and flourish only if all Jews feel that their voice is heard, that their arguments are part of the conversation.
Making of an Activist continued from page 15 Grandfather Dr. Joseph Lõvi and grandmother Anna Abrahamsohn-Lõvi were murdered on June 4, 1944 in the gas chambers of Birkenau. They were deported by Nazis and fascists from Slovakia/Hungary. Dr. Joseph Lõvi was a highly respected physician and a man of letters. He spoke many languages, wrote poetry, and translated French and German literary works into Hungarian. In his medical practice he treated the poor free of charge, and in return the community maintained a seat of honor in the synagogue for him and the family. He was active in the fledgling Zionist movement, fervently believing that the Jewish people needed to build a nation state of their own in Palestine. Anna Abrahamsohn both fulfilled the traditional role of a Jewish mother and was a community organizer. She established a dining hall for poor Jewish students and was one of the founders of a Jewish orphanage. As children, we learned about the compassion, activism, and tragic deaths of our grandparents. One of my earliest memories is trying to comprehend our grandparents dying in the gas chamber. How could the world allow that? How could one human do that to another? Family stories of courage and survival also permeated our childhood. Our mom, Judith Lõvi Maté, had survived the Holocaust in the Budapest ghetto with her baby son, my brother Gabor. At one point, to save her 11-month-old baby from starvation, she made the courageous decision to ask a complete stranger to deliver Gabor from the ghetto to another branch of the family. For weeks she didn’t know that Gabor had survived. Our father, Andor Maté, was conscripted into the Jewish Forced Labor Battalions of the Hungarian Army. Several times he saved the lives of others. Once, at great risk to himself, he physically stopped the severe beating of another Jew by the drunken sergeant. Our family was not religious. With the exception of the High Holy Days, our parents rarely went to synagogue. Nevertheless, we identified ourselves as Jews. reform judaism
We therefore were, by definition, different from the mainstream, and were seen by our neighbors as not fitting in. Living with this sense of being an outsider has provided me with a clearer insight into the narratives by which destructive practices are rationalized by the mainstream. It helped me peel away society’s denials. But mainly it instilled in me compassion for the powerless and a desire to pursue justice. These sensibilities, in theory at least, were reinforced by the Communist education system, the movies and plays we saw, the songs we learned, the books we read, the holidays we celebrated, the May Day parades we participated in as part of a global movement. Communism invited us to embrace the ideals of peace, equality, freedom, fairness, and respect for human dignity. As children, we were oblivious to the hypocrisies of the system. On October 23, 1956, as students and workers took to the streets in protest, a popular revolution broke out. The regime responded with force and an armed struggle ensued. Armed men were running on our street. A few bullets ricocheted off our apartment building. Antisemitic graffiti soon appeared throughout the city. Our parents decided to flee Hungary after an acquaintance told father, “You are a good man, but all other Jews can go to Hell.” On the morning of November 23rd, we took a train jammed with would-be refugees to the border town of Sopron, where father hired a local peasant to lead us across into Austria. It had been raining for many days. We slogged through ankle-deep mud. Our mother, whose ability to walk is hindered by muscular dystrophy, kept falling. Mud filled her boots and rubbed the skin off the back of her ankles. Occasional search flares lit up the night. A border patrol holding a German shepherd approached us, and our guide vanished into the dark. Father handed the soldiers his watch, along with whatever cash he had. They took the bribe and pointed us in the right direction. Our guide mysteriously reappeared. We proceeded. Finally we saw the faint headlight beams of several Jeeps belonging to the International Red Cross and the Austrian Border Police. ➢
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We had arrived. We were now refugees. My childhood had ended. ♦♦♦ Many years later, when a colleague commented, “Crossing the Austro-Hungarian border at the age of 10 was your first direct action,” I thought about the courage of our parents, who with two young sons, a couple of suitcases in hand, and virtually no financial resources, left everything behind to create better prospects for their children. After a stormy ten-day voyage across the Atlantic, we arrived in Halifax, Canada. As we felt marginalized in Hungary for being Jewish, in Canada we felt marginalized for being DPs (displaced persons). I was once attacked by a group of Italian boys, who in Italian accents yelled, “You dirty DP, why you no go back where you come from.” Several other similar incidents resulted in fist fights. I was acutely conscious of being the outsider who spoke with an accent. Finally, I found a haven in Ichud Habonim, a socialist Zionist, kibbutz-oriented youth movement. One of the youth leaders greeted me with just the words I needed to hear: “Having an accent means that you have a more interesting background.” I quickly developed a sense of belonging, and for the first time in my life, a positive identification with my Jewish background. The central tenet of Habonim’s teaching—“hagshama atzmit,” or selfrealization through living your ideals— presented us with a passionate, empowering, activist philosophy. It called us to action: to eventually make aliyah, live on a kibbutz, and thereby help build a just Jewish state. It engaged us in the universal themes of peace and social justice, and imbued us with a positive, secular sense of being engaged in the Jewish historical process. ♦♦♦ The ’67 Six-Day War is looming, and Israel calls for volunteers. I find myself, rifle in hand, patrolling the boundaries of Kibbutz Urim, near the Gaza border. Without ever having fired the old Czechoslovakian 303, we are told to
shoot anyone who fails to provide the requisite password. Night after night we patrol the darkness, listening to the crescendo of every whisper of sound. Fearful, I experience a sense of unreality, as if I am in a movie. I have no control over events, over my life. I am swept away by history. Should the need arise, I shall have to shoot or be killed. But all along my sense is that I am in the right place. I am living my beliefs. ♦♦♦ Over the years I have engaged in numerous humanitarian, animal rights, and environmental issues. Often such engagement requires non-violent civil disobedience, or so-called direct action. At times I have been arrested. And in the midst of it I often think of my grandparents and parents, and dedicate my involvement to their legacy. And always, I trace my activism to my formative years in Habonim. Today I understand activism as a way of life. It is living with the conscious choice to keep one’s eyes open and to bear witness. It is striving to peel away society’s denials and having the courage to speak and act on the truth as I know it. I fear for the future of my grandchildren. Human activity is already stressing nature’s limits. I worry that within their lifetime cataclysmic changes will come. Often, the human response to the constant barrage of bad news is moral fatigue and cynicism. There are two antidotes to moral fatigue: appreciation for what life offers in the present, and taking action even when opposing forces seem insurmountable. The activist’s challenge is to keep the light burning, to maintain a better vision as to how humans can coexist in harmony with nature and with other humans. When a critical mass in awareness is reached in the world, change comes about—as in 1996, in the wake of the international outcry against its nuclear testing program at Moruroa, when the French government was compelled to cancel all future nuclear explosions and dismantle the testing facilities. As for me, I look into the eyes of my grandchildren knowing I am trying my best to secure their generation’s future. reform judaism
Reinventing Synagogue continued from page 59 values clear? Is it easy to find out when things are happening? Most importantly, are the people who make things happen clearly identified, to answer visitors’ questions? No one wants to talk to a logo; people want to talk to other, real people. Second, be in conversation with your congregation online, through a blog on your website, or on Facebook. My congregation’s Facebook group has become a popular venue for people to share articles, ask questions (“Which caterer did you use?” “Where do I get the best challah?” “I just lost my job; anyone know a labor attorney?”). To be successful, it’s important that a staff person or congregant be trained as a network weaver—someone who can host conversations, post good content, make sure questions are answered, stir the pot every day. Third, temple leaders need to talk more openly about money. For folks who ask congregants for money all the time, we ourselves are awfully reluctant to share where it goes. I’m not suggesting that salary information be posted online, but that synagogues create a financial narrative of how much money comes in from dues and contributions; how it is allocated using metacategories, such as staffing and building; and, most importantly, what the outcomes are from all of this work. Synagogue outcomes aren’t measured simply by counting fannies in seats on Friday night. They include clergy and congregant hospital visits, the number of times the temple served meals to homeless people…in essence, the amount of goodness we are sending into the world. Tikkun olam, repair of our world, is what matters most.
You have advocated a new approach to Youth Engagement which you call “Followship.” What does that mean? In using the word “followship” I am describing the more nuanced realities of leadership. The truth is, people are and need to be both leaders and followers at the same time. Just as life is never going to be all online or on land but a combination of both, good leaders don’t just take charge and bull their way forward; they need to follow their communities as well. With youth engagement, just like
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adult engagement, it all begins by leaders being great listeners. The good news is, we already have an amazing toolset— social media—that allows us, like never before, to listen carefully to what our kids are doing and saying. I’m not advocating lurking or stalking young people, but rather, asking them good questions and connecting with them online, where they already are. A particularly important component of followship is leaving the specifics of the journey up to the participants. So, rather than setting the religious school curriculum for the year and giving young people a few choices of topics, perhaps during the summer synagogue leaders could engage teens in an online conversation about their interests. Leaders would be active participants in the conversations, but would refrain from dominating and steering the discussion to a particular outcome. If a number of teens express interest in sports, for example, leaders might propose a threemonth discussion about Jewish ethics in sports: “Is it OK to use steroids if everyone else is?” “Would you let cheaters into the Hall of Fame?”
Synagogue Quiz Answers continued from page 59 1. B. In Berakhot 31a, Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba says, “One should always pray in a house with windows” because Daniel prayed in a house with open windows. Not all synagogues follow this custom, but many do. 2. A. Torahs are stored in arks, which can vary considerably in shape, size, decoration, and composition. A geniza is used to store holy texts and other items inscribed with God’s name before they are buried; such texts are never to be discarded. 3. C. Usually hanging above or in front of the ark is an Eternal Light (ner tamid), representing the continually burning light on the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem. 4. A. A mezuzah is traditionally placed on the doorposts of a person’s home, in accordance with Deuteronomy 11:20: “Write [these words] on the
In this model, leadership means guiding others to a place of collective responsibility and meaning. It pushes the reset button on the very notion of teaching, which I think is a very exciting opportunity.
You are now completing your term as president of Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, New York. Have you implemented some of these ideas in your congregation, and how well have they worked? My tenure as temple president was not a victory lap. A lot of work needed to be done internally to change our culture, rethink expectations of congregants, and take down our protective walls. The biggest challenge was reorienting the board to lean into an uncertain future rather than raise the walls higher. This meant unhooking from the micro-management of activities that so many boards fall into by accident or habit (e.g. board time spent reading through financial statements line by line.) We also had to trust that our congregants would love us if we did a better job of listening to and appreciating them. doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Jewish tradition came to consider “home” any place where people sleep and eat. Hence, some synagogues have a mezuzah, and others do not. 5. D. The song “Ma Tovu” includes some words from Numbers 24:5, in which the diviner Balaam praises the beauty of the Jewish people’s dwelling places. Singing this song when entering the synagogue is a means to acknowledge the loveliness of the synagogue as well as Balaam’s blessing. 6. C. Jews worldwide face toward the site in Jerusalem where the Temple once stood. In the United States and Canada, worshipers face East, toward Jerusalem. Jews to the East of Jerusalem face West, Jews to the North face South, and Jews to the South face North. 7. B. Like many other items in the synagogue, the curtain in front of the reform judaism
ReinventSynagogue_su13_be5_revise.idnn 2 63
To read my case study about this, “The Prequel to The Networked Nonprofit,” visit reformjudaismmag.org. However, I don’t know if we have deepened our relationship with individual congregants. I don’t know if we are doing a better job of keeping congregants longer. It will be years before we know whether we have really reversed the tide of members leaving after b’nai mitzvah. In the meantime, we have at least begun a congregation-wide conversation about our dues structure and whether or how we could replace it with a voluntary system of contributions. To read our initial thoughts about restructuring dues on the temple blog, visit tba-ny.org/2013/01/27/ dues-restructuring-effort. I sincerely hope our temple moves away from sending people a bill to pay and towards a system of donations that builds upon the generosity and good will of our wonderful community. It will take a great leap of faith for us to undo the financial certainty of dues, even though in the long run, I think, it does us more harm than good. But where better to take a leap of faith than at temple? ark reminds us of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem—in this instance, recalling the parochet (curtain) that once screened the Holy of Holies in the Temple. 8. D. We demonstrate respect for the Torah scroll in all these ways and sometimes in others, such as dressing the Torah with a colorful covering and placing a breastplate and crown upon it. 9. A. Beit knesset, meaning “house of gathering,” always refers to a synagogue, a place where people gather to pray, among other activities. 10. D. Following a set schedule allows Jews worldwide to read and study the entire Torah scroll in one year’s time. Because of holiday timing, though, including the fact that in the diaspora we celebrate holidays for one day longer than in Israel, in some years and seasons the diaspora schedule deviates from the Israel schedule for about a week.
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...Heart Can Teach You continued from page 57 insight and growth, and provides a method for recalibrating those inner traits so we can approach the world with a more open heart and more spiritual awareness. Mussar guides me in my efforts to open my heart to yirah and to become more adept at connecting to the transcendent in any of life’s timeless moments—beholding a flower, the flow of traffic, the beat of a drum, a stranger’s face, the flight of a bird…. To cultivate this capacity, Mussar stresses that we must first recognize any internal habits such as impatience, laziness, worry, and greed that are sure to block our access to deeper truths. If we devote ourselves to overcoming those inner impediments, then we will succeed in circumcising our hearts, which is how the Torah describes the inner sensitivity that makes possible our experience of yirah (Deuteronomy 10:16). From the Mussar perspective, these habits aren’t just quirks of character or weaknesses; nor are they necessarily anyone’s “fault.” But they are barriers to our spiritual growth and they keep us disconnected from other people and from God. If, through journaling and discussions, we can become aware of which traits operate as barriers in our lives, we may see patterns of anger we might not have noticed before, be surprised at how often we become impatient, or see how habitual our tendency to worry has become. Then we can begin cultivating the opposite tendency. If we are angry we can foster equanimity, if we are impatient we can work at patience, if we are worried we can practice trust, and so on. The second stage to developing a greater capacity to experience awe-fear-reverence—and, in so doing, to learning its lessons—involves making the effort to stop and pay attention to the profundity of this very moment—every moment—recognizing that if we do not, its deep truth will escape us. To do this we need to take conscious steps to free ourselves from excessive involvement with the ferociously invasive clutter of life. Unending fixation on communication devices, trivial news, and our hectic schedules stand in the way of spiritual awareness. Only by forcing back relentless engagement to clear some open space in our lives can we be present to the continued on page 67
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OF REFORM JEWS Plugging in on Shabbat “For many people, Shabbat is the perfect time to ‘unplug’ from technology. But turning off my technology isn’t something that resonates with me as a desirable way to celebrate Shabbat. It all started during my first year as a rabbi. I took a pulpit halfway across the country from my family and friends. While I was enjoying my time there and meeting lots of new people, I was extremely lonely—but social media saved me. Through Facebook, Twitter, Google Chat, and Skype, I was able to stay virtually connected to my support system, and I didn’t feel so alone, except for one day of the week— Shabbat. The day when I felt that I wanted my community around me the most, I was suddenly unplugged from them. I didn’t want to be ‘unplugged’ on Shabbat. I like the technology. It’s not a burden to me, and it’s not tiresome. It energizes me and makes me feel more connected to the world and the people around me. Just as rabbi and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel said, the purpose of Shabbat is to elevate time
continued on page 68 PHOTOS: 1 Ann Hughes 2 Rabbi Jeffrey Glickman 3 Rabbi Marci Bloch 4 Kati Kristol 5 Jennifer Elgin 6 Mark Raffman 7 Elana Margolis For more about these leaders read on….
CHAIRMAN’S PERSPECTIVE Join Me in San Diego The next Union for Reform Judaism Biennial and Women of Reform Judaism Assembly will convene December 11–15, 2013 in San Diego, California, and I urge you to be part of it. For Reform Jews, there is really nothing like the feeling of being at Biennial. What excitement to worship on Shabbat with 5,000 Reform Jews from all over the world. Many of our Movement’s finest musical talents lead us in song sessions. Keynote speakers—in the past, President Barack Obama, actor and activist Michael J. Fox, actor and musician Theodore Bikel, and former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak—offer life-changing insights on the critical issues of our times. Dozens of different workshops and study sessions deepen our Jewish knowledge and help us to better serve our CONNECTING THROUGH MUSIC, TORONTO BIENNIAL, 2009. congregations. (For more on how Biennial transforms synagogues, see “The Biennial as Change Agent” on page 67.) And, if you’re like me, you’ll also relish the many spontaneous opportunities to share experiences and ideas with Jewish leaders and thinkers throughout the Movement. In a new spirit of openness, this year the URJ is inviting the wider Jewish world to join with us as participants and presenters in San Diego—a decision made possible by the URJ Board’s vote last December to open up Biennial registration to all who are interested in attending. Showcasing our Movement to the wider Jewish community and offering a wider range of workshop topics—from the arts, to politics, to synagogue governance—will, we believe, help our congregations expand their reach. I feel confident that once unaffiliated Jews experience our Movement at a Biennial, they will be inspired to join a Reform congregation near them. Working tirelessly to make the upcoming Biennial an extraordinary experience are Biennial Chair Ed Burger (Congregation B’nai Israel, Bridgeport, Connecticut) and Vice-Chair Jan Marion (Temple B’nai Israel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma). They join me in inviting you to learn, connect, and share your expertise and enthusiasm at the largest gathering in North American Jewish life. For more information and updates, visit urj.org/biennial13. STEPHEN M. SACKS See you in San Diego. Stephen M. Sacks, Chairman Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees reform judaism
Biennial: Photo by Mark Blinch; Stephen M. Sacks: Photograph by Marshall H. Cohen
QUOTABLE The Blogs
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...Heart Can Teach You continued from page 65
ACTION The Biennial as Change Agent In December 2011, 180-family Glickman says. “It’s not about a rabbi Temple Beth Hillel (TBH) in South coming in and Judaizing them; it’s parWindsor, Connecticut (templebethticipatory. They saw what Judaism hillel.info) sent as many members could be and they wanted to have more as it could to the URJ’s Biennial of it, and on a deeper level. We also now outside Washington, DC. It was the offer basic, intermediate, and advanced culmination Hebrew; of TBH’s plus, mem2010–2011 bers are Jubilee Year, learning the and President prayer serAnn Hughes vice and how (photo #1; to read see previous Torah.” page) “Before believed the Biennial,” Biennial, Hughes says, rather than “people JEWISH MARTIAL ARTS CLASS AT CONGREGATION a retreat, would grudgB’NAI ISRAEL, BOCA RATON, FLORIDA. would best ingly agree invigorate the congregation. Rabbi Jef- to be chair of ‘Development’ or ‘Memfrey Glickman (photo #2) also knew bership,’ but they had little interest or that “the URJ would plan a convention support from other congregants. We well beyond anything our temple alone returned with focus groups brimming could accomplish.” with ideas, and those groups became “We rented a bus, with faith that we active committees.” Two new lay-led could find the funds and people to groups formed: a Rosh Chodesh Circle attend,” Hughes says. It wasn’t easy, and a Jewish Book Group. but that December, 36 TBH members TBH committees now work syneraged 13 to 80, couples and singles, a gistically. For example, every committrue cross-section of the congregation, tee, from Adult Education to the youth headed for Jewish immersion—a kind group, contributed to this past Decemmany had not experienced since they ber’s “Chanukah Hop,” which took were children at camp, and others never place on Friday night at the synagogue had. “We were surrounded by 5,000+ and at the homes of different congrepeople who all ‘get’ what it means to gants on each of the other nights. be Jewish, who care deeply about their The music at Biennial was also a faith, and who understand its relevancy game changer. “Seeing thousands of to our lives,” Rabbi Glickman says. people singing and praying together, “We left for Biennial as a group of right away we knew we wanted to bring skeptical individuals and returned as a that energy to our synagogue,” Rabbi committed team,” Hughes adds. “We Glickman says. After Biennial, TBH did had a block of rooms close together; in just that by finding the funds to hire a the evenings we’d meet and enthusiasti- full-time cantor. Now Cantor Scott Harcally share what we had learned. Our ris introduces a new melody for a song ideas quickly grew into big dreams of or prayer every month or so—often a what we could accomplish.” single line with a catchy tune—and, the Leaders and congregants had a difwhole congregation is learning the songs ferent mindset when they returned. and prayers. “We start each service with “Biennial helped people here realize Cantor Harris playing Shabbat melodies that Judaism is their religion,” Rabbi continued on next page reform judaism
moment enough that it will yield up its deeper truth. Leading a frantic life gives rise to another, internal kind of busyness that also cuts us off from the present moment. The ceaseless chatter that possesses the mind allows us only a superficial experience, remote and disconnected from the profound life lessons available to us, if only we would touch inwards, deeply. Sometimes when I am giving a talk, I ask the audience to tell me which film won the Oscar for Best Picture two years ago or which team won the World Series that same year. Most people have no idea. At the time of these competitions, the airwaves are filled with every detail of who wore and won what, but it is soon forgotten. This is in itself a lesson about spending less time on the trivial and more on the words, thoughts, and deeds informed by the spiritual depths present this moment, every moment. This is the beginning of wisdom and the source of happiness to which the ancient texts point. Jewish tradition underlines the importance of yirah experiences because they are the great teacher, helping us to understand the meaning of our lives with a steadfast conviction. These lessons are learned not through our mind, but through what our heart has come to know through experience. Because I so value the lessons I learn from my own heart’s yirah experiences, I have restructured my life so I am as available to it as it is to me. Recently my cell phone broke, and when I went to replace it I told the clerk I expressly did not want a smartphone because I did not want my email accessible to me all the time. Rather, I choose to carve out quiet, uncluttered, open time, so I can welcome the expansive and tender yirah experience into my heart. Rabbi Yehudah Loew, the 16th century Maharal of Prague, interprets the same last verse from Ecclesiastes—“The end of the matter, everything having been heard, yirah God and keep His Commandments, for this is the whole of the person”—to mean that yirah is in fact the purpose of a human being. Purpose arises from encountering all of the moments that make up the life each of us has been blessed to have in this world.
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rather than things. To me, the holiness I find in elevating Shabbat lies in the time rather than the activities I engage in. It doesn’t matter whether I use technology or not on Shabbat; it matters that I’m making choices to feel rested and refreshed.”
as people walk in and shmooze,” he says. “Even before the service begins, there is a feeling of Shabbat, of something Jewish happening.” Rabbi Glickman reports that “attendance at Friday night services has doubled since the Biennial. We’ve been averaging 50 to 75 people at services each week—a large number for a small congregation. And now people tell me they look forward to Shabbat; that it’s a seminal part of their week. They attend services not because they’ve been ‘guilted’ into it, but because they want to be there.” TBH struggled with declining membership and dues revenue in the years preceding the 2011 Biennial, after some congregants who lost their jobs were unable to contribute financially. “Biennial empowered us,” says Hughes. “It prompted us to form our first membership committee in 18 years, and taught us how to succeed. We learned what worked for others and applied it. Now, if someone shows an interest in TBH, s/he receives a phone call and an invitation to a ‘new member’ dinner or a synagogue event. We say, ‘We’ve made a reservation for you and would love for you to come; don’t worry about buying tickets.’” Already TBH has added 12 new households, a net gain in membership. “Most importantly, our members are now working together to create a more joyful Jewish community experience,” says Hughes. “When you have that, other people see it and want to join you.”
—Rabbi Elizabeth Wood, on rj.org
On My Sabbatical in Israel “The lines in the supermarkets can be long. One frustrated woman explained it is something she is still having trouble getting used to. Asked how long she had lived here, she replied, ‘60 years.’ The schools are incredibly nurturing and caring. They work hard to ensure my children feel included and teach them from where they are, even though we are coming in the middle of the year and staying only a short while. When people say 15 minutes, plan for 90. When people say something will be done within the hour, you might want to specify to which hour they are referring. Today, a bus driver honked at someone in the crosswalk rather than stopping to allow the person to cross. Yesterday, another bus driver made a special stop to allow elderly passengers to disembark right at the open air market, instead of making them walk the block and a half from the scheduled stop. Everywhere we go, people are eager to assist us—stopping in the street to see if we are lost, walking out of their way to show us the building we seek, deciphering special labels in the market so we can purchase products on sale. On Fridays, people say ‘Shabbat Shalom’ on the street. There will be parades on Purim. Every morning for six months we get to wake up in
♦♦♦ Also attending the December 2011 Biennial were Rabbi Marci Bloch (photo #3) and Marketing and Projects Director Kati Kristol (photo #4) of 1,000-household Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI) in Boca Raton, Florida (cbiboca.org). “Our staff tries never to miss a Biennial,” says Rabbi Bloch. “And while our rabbis are often workshop presenters, we always bring back fresh ideas.” Listening to incoming reform judaism
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and incoming URJ Vice President Rabbi Jonah Pesner announce the “Campaign for Youth Engagement,” the two CBI leaders were inspired by the message to “meet students where they are.” “Seeing enthusiastic teens at Biennial spotlighted as ‘the future,’” Rabbi Bloch says, “encouraged us to further empower our teens to think of ways to become an integral part of synagogue life.” Returning home, Rabbi Bloch and Kristol sat down with CBI Religious School Director Kim Beame, and shared their enthusiasm for an updated youth initiative agenda. A key component was continuing to transform their religious school curriculum from traditional, formal desk-and-paper to experiential, interactive, hands-on learning. “Kids spend enough time behind desks,” Beame says. “We decided to offer courses designed to spark their creativity, and to offer electives, giving them more of a voice.” “Now,” she says, , “the younger children learn about holidays with building blocks, art supplies, or Jewish cooking; and teens learn Jewish values through martial arts, or by creating Instagrams and posting them on our school’s Facebook page. A weekly dinner program has already attracted 40 students: seventh graders eat dinner with the rabbis, and eighth through tenth graders dine weekly with the youth group.” Moreover, this year, CBI’s eighth through twelfth grades have had a 90% retention rate—and several teens who’d left after b’nai mitzvah rejoined the religious school. This success is partly attributable to CBI’s popular new Jewish Philanthropy class, a URJJewish Teen Funders Network course. Sixty juniors and seniors are creating fundraising plans, choosing causes, issuing RFP’s (request for proposals), raising funds, and directing how those funds will be used. Some have even formed their own 501c3’s [non-profit charity]. “As part of the Campaign for Youth Engagement, Rabbi Jacobs noted that philanthropy must be kept
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‘front and center,’” Kristol says, “and indeed we’ve discovered that teens can be very passionate about causes they want to support.” Recognizing, too, that “technology is how teens live in this world—so if we are going to meet them where they are, we have to be online,” Rabbi Bloch and CBI staff have recruited a 30-something CBI alumnus to create an Alumni Association website for graduates of the temple’s religious school. Partially funded by a URJ “incubator grant,” the website will post internships and job opportunities, information about Jewish life on university campuses, Jewish Instagrams, Facebook links, Jewish music, Israel trips, NFTY news, and more. “We know what teens are excited about and how they like to communicate. The last Biennial enabled us to up our game—to use that knowledge to make CBI a more exciting place for them,” says Beame. ♦♦♦ Before the 2011 Biennial, 130-household Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Loudoun County, Virginia (bethchaverim.org/about-us) was struggling to grow. It was particularly difficult to attract families with very young children, as the congregation is too small to support a preschool and young families typically waited to join until their children were ready to attend Hebrew school. Sometimes they signed up as late as third or fourth grade, making it more difficult both for the children to learn Hebrew and for the families to develop strong social and emotional bonds to the synagogue. Then, at the Biennial, Jennifer Elgin (photo #5), an attorney who serves as the congregation’s Vice President of Community Events, attended a session entitled “Meeting the Needs of Today’s Families With Young Children.” “The workshop was packed with suggestions, and I took notes furiously,” Elgin says. After Biennial, with financial support from an anonymous donor, the BCRC Young Family Initiative was
born. To meet its goal of attracting and engaging new families with very young children, BCRC adopted two key recommendations at the Biennial session: improving pre-K programming and revising dues structures. “We added a monthly Pajama Havdallah, led by an outside song leader who specializes in programs for young children,” Elgin says, “and the kids love it. Now we also have a Sunday morning play group following religious school and have held several tot concerts.” At the Biennial, Elgin had also learned how to upgrade the temple’s website by using the URJ’s Web Builder 2.0 template, which facilitates adding photos and videos, as well as posting calendar events. “Now our web look is more dynamic and warm—a truer reflection of who we are,” Elgin says. “And that’s important, because the website is often the first glimpse potential members have of our temple.” The early childhood initiative appears to be working. This past year, six new young families have joined the temple, as compared to only one the year before; and pre-K Sunday school class enrollment has increased from three children the previous year to eight this year. The end result is a slight boost to the temple’s bottom line, even though BCRC cut dues in half for families whose oldest child was in first grade or below, deferred their building fund payments, and reduced kindergarten and pre-K tuition. “It costs the same to pay a teacher to teach a class of three or eight students,” says BCRC President Mark Raffman (photo #6). “And when you collect half the amount of dues while more than doubling the number of new families, you still come out ahead.” Raffman also observes that “once young families join, they discover all of the other benefits of synagogue life they did not anticipate—friendships, a Jewish network, a feeling of community and connection. Many are diving into synagogue life. People who are CPAs are contributing services to the continued on next page reform judaism
QUOTABLE from p. 68 this 3,000-year-old city, the symbolic heart of our people. Life here sometimes makes you crazy, and sometimes overwhelms you with beauty, kindness, and tradition. What a blessing to experience it all.” —Rabbi Jackie Mates-Muchin, Temple Sinai, Oakland, CA, on reformjudaism.org/blog
NOTEWORTHY German Government Supports Circumcision Thanks in part to the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the German parliament has passed a law in support of religious circumcision. After a German court had banned the practice of circumcision on religious grounds, the WUPJ, among others, successfully petitioned the court and government to reverse the decision. The new law states that the ritual must be conducted according to established medical standards, and, if done in the first six months after birth, it may only be performed by persons with adequate training authorized by a religious community. URJ Expands into Day Camping To build upon the URJ’s success in Jewishly engaging young people through summer camping, in Summer 2014 the URJ will launch its first affiliated day camp, Harlam Day Camp, in the Greater Philadelphia area. Run by the leadership of URJ Camp Harlam, it will build on the successful URJ Camp Harlam brand, which has a strong area following. To learn more contact Aaron Selkow, director of Camp Harlam, at ASelkow@ URJ.org or Lisa David, associate director of Camping, at LDavid@URJ.org.
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WHAT WORKS Helping Israeli Soldiers Heal
finance committee and others are volunteering to do email blasts as well as teach in our Sunday school. They’re helping to build our future.”
“This has been a life altering expethe congregation became the second rience,” the handsome young Israeli man Reform synagogue in the world (after remarked to Elissa Rozov just before Kehilat Gesher - The French American he boarded an El Al flight home. “We Congregation in Paris) and the first in the came to you as 16 people in one state of U.S. to host a Peace of Mind group. Sixmind; now we are leaving as 16 different teen soldiers and their two therapists people.” were treated Two years to home hosago, Rozov, a pitality (in clinical psymany differchologist and ent memmember of bers’ housAnshe Emeth es), catered Memorial kosher Temple, New meals, and Brunswick, entertainNew Jersey, ment (includSOLDIERS IN ANSHE EMETH MEMORIAL TEMPLE’S learned about ISRAELI ing theater “PEACE OF MIND” GROUP CONNECT WITH PRINCETON UNIVERSITY’S ISRAEL ADVOCACY GROUP, TIGERS FOR ISRAEL. “Peace of tickets and a Mind” (trautrip to the top maweb.org), the Israel Center for the of New York’s Empire State Building). Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP) pro- Between the activities and the planning, gram that helps members of the Israel congregants from a wide range of backDefense Forces who have experienced grounds and Jewish involvements particularly stressful combat situations formed new relationships with each other transition back to civilian life. Many of and with their synagogue. In addition, these men and women are ready to Anshe Emeth forged relationships with move on—to work, enroll in school, and members of a local Orthodox communistart families—but the stresses of war ty when homes were needed to host nonetheless endure, draining their vitalsome Orthodox soldiers. ity and spirit. Most important was the soldiers’ To help each soldier regain his or her take-away from the experience. At a folsense of well being, both individually low-up workshop six weeks after they and together as a group, Peace of Mind returned home, the soldiers reported reconstitutes their original unit (15—17 being able to support one another as a people) in therapist-facilitated workgroup as well as opening up to their famshops, and then brings the soldiers to ilies about their combat experiences for Jewish communities overseas (including the first time. “Also, when we showed the U.S., Canada, England, France, and them our love and deep appreciation for Italy) for a week of working through the sacrifice they make by defending their traumatic experiences as a group. Israel,” Rozov says, “they were so sur“It may seem odd to take the soldiers prised. They had no idea how much supout of Israel, but Israeli culture does not port they had outside of Israel!” support the kind of openness and vulnerICTP Director Danny Brom likens ability they need in order to share their Peace of Mind to a “reverse Birthright difficult memories together,” Rozov says. program; if Jewish young people worldAnshe Emeth spent 18 months planwide travel to Israel in order to build ning logistics and raising the necessary their relationship with the Jewish state, $55,000 to cover expenses (airfare, shouldn’t Israelis who have given three ground transportation, professional facil- years of their lives to defend the Jewish itation, etc.). Then, in November 2012, state understand the importance of what
♦♦♦ Elana Margolis (photo #7), then copresident of 460-member Temple Sinai in Sarasota, Florida (templesinai-sarasota.org), a congregation with a sizable aging population, attended the 2011 Biennial in search of ways to revive its weak Caring Committee. She knew it wasn’t enough to have one member of the Membership Committee reach out to congregants who were ill, isolated, or celebrating simchas, in addition to her own sending an occasional card or making a needed phone call or visit. At Biennial sessions, she asked lots of questions; afterwards, she networked with other synagogue presidents to discover what worked for them. “I quickly came to the conclusion that Temple Sinai’s efforts fell apart because the job was too encompassing for any one person and too important for a sub-committee,” she says. “Upon my return, our board supported my recommendation to give the issue the attention it deserved by amending the by-laws to create a new Vice President of Caring.” After completing her tenure as president, Margolis stepped into the new VP of Caring role, and three board members donated the necessary funds to launch initiatives she had read about in Becoming a Kehillat Chesed: Creating and Sustaining a Caring Congregation (URJ Press)—a resource also brought to her attention at Biennial. “This past year,” Margolis says, “we distributed honey sticks to wish all congregants a Sweet New Year, delivered Rosh Hashanah flowers to homebound members and members in assisted living or nursing facilities, sent Chanukah and Purim packages as well as Starbucks cards to college student memcontinued on page 71
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Celebrate Israel! they have done for the Jewish people?” “Personally,” Rozov says, “as a Jew who lives in the Diaspora, I regularly become frustrated with Israeli politics, which divides a country to which I feel deeply connected but also powerless to affect. To know that our synagogue has helped Israeli combat soldiers heal from the emotional wounds of war is one way Diaspora Jews like me can make a personal contribution to Israel’s future. We would like to host another Peace of Mind
group in the future, and I hope that other Reform congregations will embrace this very personal way of giving back to Israel. Right now, 12 IDF groups are ready to go, but need communities to host them.” To learn more about hosting a Peace of Mind group: Alon Weitman, The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212– 444–1669. For advice on congregational logistics: Elissa Rozov, 732–545–6538, email@example.com.
ACTION continued from page 70 bers, and sent birthday cards to all our preschoolers, regardless of whether their families are synagogue members.” And, Margolis says, “now about a dozen Caring Committee volunteers, with home-baked challahs or Care Bears in hand, supplement clergy visits to homebound and hospitalized members. We’re receiving positive feedback from everyone we reach out to. It’s all about staying connected. “I’m an optimist,” Margolis adds. “Attending Biennial reinforces that. It gives you the freedom to try things and just see what works, but it also instills in you the sense that your efforts will be successful.” ♦♦♦ How can a congregation turn an invigorating Biennial experience into lasting change? Here are four tips: If your synagogue is located close to the Biennial site (San Diego in 2013—urj.org/biennial13, Orlando in 2015), offer to serve as a host congregation. “Every temple volunteer will receive a free pass for one day of the conference,” Elgin says, “and the more people you have attend, the more excitement it will generate in your congregation. That’s what happened in ours.” Following Biennial, sit down with your temple staff and brainstorm. “We brought back so many new ideas,” says Rabbi Marci Bloch. “By holding a session with those unable to attend, we crystallized our own thoughts,
determined which initiatives would work best at our synagogue, and planned ways to put them into action.” Attend with a goal in mind, but be open to new ideas. “I was hoping to find ways to build membership, and when I attended the session on attracting young families, things began to click,” Elgin says. “Surprisingly, I also came back with many other ideas, such as holding a series of holiday classes designed for interfaith families—which I’d love to make happen next year.” Use Biennial as a retreat. “With 36 attendees and printed TBH T-shirts, we were the most popular—and recognizable—group at Biennial,” Hughes says proudly. “And meeting every night for a pow-wow was the perfect bonding experience. The teens who attended became the nucleus of our youth group—which we didn’t have before. I’d like to see the URJ offer a special rate for large groups from a single synagogue, to allow others to experience Biennial the way we did.” When Hughes initiated her campaign to send a large group of congregants to the Biennial, few congregants believed it would change anything. “Now they are believers,” Hughes says, “and I’m a ridiculously better synagogue president than I was before.” —Julie Schwartz, a freelance writer, public speaker, licensed New Orleans tour guide, and president of the New Orleans Chapter of Hadassah reform judaism
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DEBATABLE Should We Support Physician-Assisted Suicide? Rabbi Phil Cohen
Rabbi Barry Block
A congregant of mine had advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She lay in bed on a respirator, paralyzed, helpless, unable to control voluntary muscles. Her only means of communication was via an electronic monitor that responded to eye blinks. Her death was slow, painful, as her paralysis became total. How much more humane it would have been to allow her to end her life quickly with her physician’s assistance! Patients like my congregant need to be made comfortable through their final days. Yet for some, Let us offer a humane even treatment at response to patients the most supportive hospice or palliawho needlessly suffer. tive care unit does not alleviate their physical and psychological pain. In these dire circumstances, it is not right to force a human being to suffer against his/her will. We should instead honor one of the hallmarks of Reform Jewish thinking—individual autonomy—and grant a patient the right to end his or her own life. Some people have argued that legalizing physicianassisted suicide will open up the floodgates of Americans taking their own lives. However, in the past 15 years since Oregon passed the Death With Dignity Act (DWDA) allowing for physician-assisted suicide, only 935 people applied for DWDA prescriptions and just 596 patients used them to end their lives—evidence that physician-assisted suicide happens rarely, judiciously, and only in the most dire of circumstances. And the truth is, because of quality-of-life concerns, the lives of many comatose and terminally ill patients are often terminated prior to what would have been their natural deaths. In every state, for example, families will remove feeding tubes from relatives in irreversible comas, and, similarly, individuals on dialysis will opt to cease dialysis. Families and doctors regularly “pull the plug” on the dying, albeit quietly, out of view. It is time that we legalize this option for all patients who are needlessly suffering. This is the more humane response for our times.
Jewish law (halachah) is clear, and reaffirmed by our CCAR Responsa Committee: While we may withhold treatments that prolong the natural dying process, we may not take steps intended to hasten death (CCAR Responsum 5754.14). As liberal Jews, though, we go beyond the letter of halachah. I oppose physician-assisted suicide because it short-circuits the comfort and the deep spiritual meaning that can come from the natural process of dying. I sympathize with PAS advocates, who understandably seek to spare patients pain Don’t short-circuit and agony. the deep meaning in the However, in natural process of death. 20+ years as a rabbi ministering to dying congregants, I have learned two lessons: 1. Suicide, assisted or otherwise, is not the only way to avoid the suffering that precedes death. Removing impediments to death, with quality hospice care, brings a peaceful death free of ventilators, feeding tubes, dialysis, or other interventions that slow life’s natural end. 2. Congregations and families can ease suffering. The meaningful alternative to euthanasia is hard work. Rabbis and caring congregants can offer their constant, supportive presence to those facing life-threatening illnesses. We can be knowledgeable about euthanasia alternatives. When we perceive suffering, we can suggest questions and concerns that families may pose to doctors. We may even advocate—with families and sometimes even directly with medical personnel—for transition to hospice care, increased pain medication, or psychiatric referral. If we do not hasten death, we also have more time to explore each patient’s individual emotional and spiritual needs. We can ask, “Do you feel right with the people in your life, and with God?” We can discuss Judaism’s rich teachings about everlasting life, which can be as comforting as any palliative care. And when we pray together with the person who is dying and his/her loved ones, we can help our fellow human beings face eternity with faith and hope.
Rabbi Phil Cohen is the rabbi of Agudas Israel Congregation in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Rabbi Barry Block will assume the pulpit of Congregation B’nai Israel, Little Rock, Arkansas beginning July 1.
VOTE YOUR VIEW Should We Support Physician-Assisted Suicide? www.reformjudaismmag.org VIEW THE LAST VOTE Should Our Seminary Admit Students with Non-Jewish Partners? 62% YES 38% NO
Rabbi Phil Cohen: Patrick Sullivan / Times-News
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