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History Reconsidered:



A Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Publication


Rabbi Aaron Panken:

Insider’s Guide to



Spring 2014/5774


Dues Experiments

I have devised a new formula for temple dues.

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Let us commence with the experiment.

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Dear Reader: Audacious Hospitality / Rick Jacobs





History: The Exodus Is Not Fiction / interview with Richard Elliott Friedman


Social Action: Collective Clout Carries California / Stephanie Kolin and Julie Chizewer Weill


21 Cover 22 My Big Small Jewish World / Eileen Winter 23 Turn Your Vacation into a Homecoming RJ INSIDER’S JEWISH WORLD TRAVEL / Gary BrettonGranatoor 27 Tracks of Time in Jamaican G‘day o X f m lp Sands / Aron and Bienvenue Judith HirtWelcome os Manheimer 30 Paris / Bienvenid Stéphane Beder 32 Reform Judaism Worldwide / Joel Oseran 32 Reform Judaism World Map 33 Global News 36 Melbourne / Philip Bliss 39 Cape Town / Alvin Kushner 41 Buenos Aires / Sergio Brukman What I Discovered





14 When Jews Choose Their Dues

Cover: Universal / Photofest; This page: Bicycles © moodboard Photography / Veer

What To Know…

interview with Dan Judson / Several Reform congregations are experimenting with a “free will” system whereby members pay what they wish. What can we learn from them?

What To See…

What To Do



How to make friends with Reform Jews in 49 countries * Where to go, what to see, how to connect.


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44 Terrorism Pays by Edwin Black / For convicted Palestinians in Israeli prisons, the longer their sentence, the higher their salaries—which are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.

50 Engineer of Innovation interview with Aaron Panken / The new HUC-JIR president shares his blueprint for a dynamic seminary.


62 Chairman’s Perspective: Welcome to The Tent / Stephen M. Sacks 62 Quotable 64 My Idea: Bring Jewish Education into the World Students Inhabit / Tali Zelkowicz

56 The Audacious Biennial The December 2013 San Diego Biennial— innovation and impact. reform judaism

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d e a r

Official Publication of the Union for Reform Judaism

Audacious Hospitality

Spring 2014, Vol. 42, No. 3

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

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

On-Line Home Page: reformjudaismmag.org with RJpedia article search by subject Reform Judaism (ISSN 0482-0819) is published quarterly (fall, winter, spring, summer) by the Union for Reform Judaism. Circulation Offices: 633 Third Ave, New York, NY 10017. © Copyright 2014 by the Union for Reform Judaism. Periodical postage paid at New York, New York and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Reform Juda ism, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Members of Union congregations receive Reform Judaism as a service of the Union for Reform Judaism. Subscription rate: One year: $12 each; Canada $18 each; Foreign $24 each. Two years: $22 each; Canada $34 each; Foreign $46 each. Contact us for bulk pricing. The opinions of authors whose works are published in Reform Judaism are their own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Union. REFORM JUDAISM is a registered trademark of the Union for Reform Judaism. Canada Publications Mail Agreement No. 40032276. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to PO Box 875, Stn A, Windsor ON N9A 6P2 Statement of Purpose Reform Judaism is the official voice of the Union for Reform Judaism, linking the institutions and affiliates of Reform Judaism with every Reform Jew. Received quarterly by nearly 300,000 member households (members of nearly 900 congregations) as a benefit of their synagogue’s Union affiliation, RJ strives to convey the creativity, diversity, and dynamism of Reform Judaism. RJ covers developments within our movement while interpreting world events and Jewish tradition from a Reform perspective.


he Jewish people is here today because those who came before us were audacious. By that I mean courageous, fearless, and bold. Genesis teaches us to practice audacious hospitality. On a blisteringly hot day, Abraham runs after three desert wanderers, insisting they come inside for nourishment. What makes his act so memorable is not waiting for the wanderers to knock on his door; instead, he goes out to meet them where they are and invites them in. Some months ago, I arrived early at one of our URJ congregations to speak on a Friday night. In the lobby, a woman wearing a nametag looked at me and barked, “What do you want?” I answered, “I want to be in a congregation filled with warmth and welcome.” She looked at me, her expression communicating, “Boy, do you have the wrong place!” Then she looked over her shoulder at the easel in the entryway, which held a picture of a guy who looked a lot like me. “Are you him?” she asked. I nodded “yes.” With suddenly discovered warmth, she said, “Well, why didn’t you say so?” That’s not audacious hospitality. To be sure, many of our congregations do an outstanding job of welcoming, but many do not. Here’s a simple thing you can do: Take every member of your board, every staff and team member, everyone who might come early one Friday night, and give them a run-through on the power of being Abraham and Sarah. That’s just the beginning. Audacious hospitality isn’t just a temporary act of kindness so people don’t feel excluded. It’s an ongoing invitation to be part of community—and a way to spiritually transform ourselves in the process. Audacious hospitality is a two-way street where synagogue and stranger need each other, where we not only teach newcomers, but they teach us. The paradigm for this audacity arose decades ago, when then UAHC President Rabbi Alexander Schindler overturned all previous Jewish communal assumptions about interfaith families by insisting that we draw them close in all aspects of Jewish life. Nowadays, as a result, thousands of interfaith families are enriching our congregational lives, and thousands of children are being raised with meaningful Jewish commitments. In today’s Jewish world, where many more Jews are outside than inside, we must practice such audacious hospitality with the LGBTQ community, multi-racial Jews, Jews with disabilities, and Gen X and the millennials—including all those who do not identify as part of the religious community. All of them have much to teach us. Only by being inclusive can we be strong. Only by being open can we be whole.

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

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Ian Spanier Photography

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

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l e t t e r s

Standing for the Mourner’s Kaddish


he first times I rose to say Kaddish after the burial of my father, my sister, and my mother-in-law, I was in congregations other than my own. Standing alone in an unfamiliar sanctuary among strangers felt almost unbearable. Ever since, whenever I have visited congregations where only the mourners stand, I remember how that loneliness felt, and have been tempted to stand with them. Unlike Rabbi Rosalind Gold (“My Idea: Let the Mourners Saying Kaddish Stand Alone,” Winter 2013), I believe rising to recite the Kaddish with a loving and supportive community doesn’t diminish, but strengthens the experience. Lori Schwartz Irvine, California


y father died nine years ago. His express wish was for my sister and me to say Kaddish for him. I did so each

Friday night for 11 months, with every other congregant, and, like Rabbi Gold, I came to feel that when one is actually in mourning, one wants to share that experience only with other mourners. As a result, I have stopped standing for Kaddish. I am the only person in my congregation who remains seated. And now, when I observe my parents’ yahrtzeits once a year by standing, Kaddish holds great meaning for me. Elyse Krug Miller Glenwood, Illinois


ly. And that is why I believe any conversation about how Kaddish is to be recited in a congregational community should be discussed not by a ritual committee, but with the mourners themselves. Marcia M. Salton Monticello, New York


y husband passed away this past year. Having my family at Temple Shalom in Monticello stand and join me in saying Kaddish each Friday night comforts me, and reassures me that just as they were there for me during the shiva period, they are there for me now and will be there in the future. I am not alone. Each of us experiences grief different-

t Congregation Shaarey Zedek, East Lansing, Michigan, Rabbi Amy Bigman has found a Solomonic solution to the question of who should stand. She says to us, “If you are willing, please stand and tell us for whom you are reciting Kaddish tonight, and then remain standing until we rise as one congregational family to recite the Kaddish praising God.” And when the mourners rise, she responds to the recitation of each name, “May his/her memory be for a blessing.” Donald Weinshank East Lansing, Michigan







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erhaps Rabbi Gold might consider this alternative ritual. Rabbi Susan Stone, former spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, Ohio, used to ask mourners to stand for the Kaddish at the beginning of the prayer. The rest of our congregation would join the mourners to pray in unison beginning with “yehi shmeih rabba…” When I asked her about this, Rabbi Stone explained to me that the practice enables the community to assist mourners in their prayer. I instantly understood: When I said Kaddish for my family, by the time I got to that line I was emotionally weak and choked up and might not have been able to complete the prayer without the voices of others. Len Rose Fairlawn, Ohio


Divorce Etiquette



ne aspect of “Divorce Etiquette” (Fall 2013) which your article did not address is how even well-intentioned congregational activities can

affect those undergoing divorce or grieving a loss. I am going through a divorce now. It takes time to work your way back into life after divorce. Just like when a loved one dies, you have to learn how to do things all over again. Meanwhile, our rabbi has decided to have the congregation meet and greet after lighting the candles. The last thing I need is a group of smiling people coming after me. I don’t want any attention; it’s hard enough just to be there. And so I have quit going to services. I’m sure no ill will was meant by my community’s actions, but the result was the same. Jeffrey Kirkland Lincoln, Nebraska

ne day my friend asked his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, “Zayde, why didn’t you fight back?” He replied, “With what, pots and pans? We had no guns.” Jews have worked diligently to

teach the world to remember the Holocaust, but the vast majority have not learned its most important lesson. The “resistance of the spirit” Nechama Tec discusses (“Did Jews Go Like Sheep to the Slaughter?” Winter 2013) is a glorious concept, but that alone will never replace possessing the ability and the means to fight back when necessary. Considering the global scale of extremist religious terrorism today, this is no time for Jews to be disarming themselves, or to be claiming the moral authority to disarm their non-Jewish neighbors. Jim Trockman Evansville, Indiana


read “Did Jews Go Like Sheep to the Slaughter” with distress. Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, we still do not seem to understand that all of the Jews of Eastern Europe were victims, whether they fled, were sheltered, hid in forests, organized in the Warsaw ghetto, joined the partisans, or died in the gas chambers. If we are to extract

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valuable lessons from this history, they are to be gained not by judging the victims’ experiences, but, rather, by judging the actions of those outside Nazi territory who knew what was happening and were free to respond, but failed to do so. We should also take a close look at those who did take a stand, among them non-Jewish officials in the American government who fought against the policies of inaction and the Jewish crusaders who urged them on. These unsung heroes can serve as valuable role models as we battle the prejudices of today. Barbara Fichman Matz Great Barrington, Massachusetts

A Torah of Our Own


eading “A Torah of Their Own” (Winter 2013), I felt inspired to share a similar exchange that recently took place between my congregation, Temple Israel of Alameda, California, and Congregation Shir Hatzon in Copenhagen, Denmark. Our rabbi emeritus, Allen Bennett, had spent months advising Shir Hatzon, a small Progressive congregation in Copenhagen that had no building, rabbi, or sefer Torah of its own and was struggling to establish itself in a city that solely recognized the local Orthodox synagogue. Reaching back across the MenschAd_.indd ocean to his successor, Rabbi Barnett Brickner, Rabbi Bennett asked if one of our six Torah scrolls could become the Danish congregation’s first. Our members voted unanimously in favor of the Torah gift. In October 2013, Rabbi Brickner and his wife Erin brought the Torah scroll to Copenhagen and presented it in a moving ceremony attended by the Israeli ambassador to Denmark and officers from the nearby Orthodox synagogue. As Rabbi Brickner later wrote in Temple Israel’s bulletin, “‘Kol Yisrael Avirim Zeh L’zeh—Jews take care of each other.’ These were more than words for me. What we did in Copenhagen was living Torah.” Eric Cohen Alameda, California


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Send letters to: Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, 7th floor, New York, NY 10017-6778, reformjudaismmag.org (click on “Submissions”).

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The Exodus Is Not Fiction Richard Elliott Friedman, who holds a Th.D from Harvard, is the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and was a visiting fellow at Cambridge and Oxford L.: CARVED IMAGE OF PHARAOH RAMESES II’S THRONE TENT IN HIS ENCAMPMENT AT QEDESH; R.: ARTIST RENDERING OF THE and a Senior Fellow of TABERNACLE IN EXODUS. MICHAEL HOMAN POINTS OUT THAT THE TENT AND TABERNACLE SHARE A RECTANGULAR COURTYARD, A SQUARE INTERIOR (TENT AND HOLY OF HOLIES), WINGED FLANKINGS (FALCONS AND CHERUBS), AND AN EASTWARD the American Schools ORIENTATION. ALSO, RAMESES’ REIGN FALLS WITHIN THE LIKELY PERIOD OF THE EXODUS. of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He is the author of seven books, the mass of millions of people whom the the Exodus—the so-called priestly source, including the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible says were there for 40 years. That some 400 years later—that the number Bible? and Commentary on the Torah. assertion is just not true. There have not 603,550 males was added to the story. He participated in the City of David been many major excavations in the Project archaeological excavations Sinai, and we most certainly have not So are you suggesting that a smallof biblical Jerusalem and served as a combed it. Moreover, uncovering objects er group may have left Egypt? And if so, who might they have been? consultant for PBS’s “Nova: The People buried 3,200 years ago is a daunting of the Covenant: The Origins of Ancient endeavor. An Israeli colleague laughingly Yes. At a recent international conferIsrael and the Emergence of Judaism” told me that a vehicle that had been lost ence entitled “Out of Egypt” on the quesand A&E’s “Who Wrote the Bible?” and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War was recent- tion of the Exodus’ historicity, one point “Mysteries of the Bible.” ly uncovered under 16 meters—that’s 52 of agreement, I believe, among most of feet—of sand. Fifty-two feet in 40 years! the 45 participating scholars was that Still, all of us would admit that two Semitic peoples, or Western Asiatics, Following publication of Reform Judaism’s Spring 2013 edition in million people—603,550 males and their were in fact living in Egypt and were which HUC-JIR Professor David families, as the Torah describes—should traveling to and from there for centuries. Sperling and Rabbi David Wolpe have left some remnants that we would And the evidence indicates that the asserted that the biblical Exodus is find. But few of us ever thought that this smaller group among them, who were a fiction, you wrote expressing con- number was historical anyway. Someone connected with the Exodus, were Levites. cern to the magazine editors. Why? calculated long ago that if that number of The Levites were members of the group people were marching, say, eight across, After reading those articles, your associated with Moses, the Exodus, and readers may have concluded that schol- then when the first ones arrived at Sinai, the Sinai events depicted in the Bible. In arship shows that the Exodus is fictional, half of the people would still be in Egypt! the Torah, Moses is identified as a Levite. There is no archaeological evidence when, in fact, that is not so. There is Also, out of all of Israel only Levites had against the historicity of an exodus if it archaeological evidence and especially Egyptian names: Moses, Phinehas, was a smaller group who left Egypt. textual evidence for the Exodus. Hophni, and Hur are all Egyptian names. I respect Professor Sperling and Rabbi Indeed, significantly, the first biblical We in the United States and Canada, mention of the Exodus, the Song of MiriWolpe. They were understandably follands of immigrants, are especially aware lowing the claims of some of our archae- am, which is the oldest text in the Bible, of how much names reveal about peonever mentions how many people were ple’s backgrounds. The names Friedman, ologists. Those archaeologists’ claims involved in the Exodus, and it never Martinez, and Shaughnessy each reveal that the Exodus never happened are not speaks of the whole nation of Israel. It just something different about where they based on evidence, but largely on its refers to a people, an am, leaving Egypt. came from. Levites have names that absence. They assert that we’ve combed It wasn’t until a much later source of come from Egypt. Other Israelites don’t. the Sinai and not found any evidence of reform judaism

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Car ved image photo courtesy of the Zonder van blog; Tabernacle illustration by Balage Balogh / A rchaeolog yIllustrated.com

interview with Richard Elliott Friedman

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Present scholarship on the question of who wrote the Bible bolsters this picture that the Levites were the group who departed Egypt. The Five Books of Moses were not written by Moses but by authors of four main texts, known as J, E, P, and D. Three of the four texts— E, P, and D—are traced to authors who were Levite priests, and these three are the only ones telling the story of Moses, Pharaoh, and the plagues. The fourth main source, called J, the one that shows no signs of having been written by a Levite priest, makes no mention of the plagues. It just jumps from Moses’ saying “Let my people go” to the story of the event at the sea. The Levite authors also devote more ink in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers to the Tabernacle—the Tent of Meeting which held the ark in the Exodus account—than they do to any other subject. The non-Levite text, J, doesn’t mention it. This is also significant because the architecture of the Tabernacle and its surrounding courtyard matches that of the battle tent of Pharaoh Rameses II, for which we have archaeological evidence, as was shown by Professor Michael Homan in a brilliant combination of archaeology and text (To Your Tents, O Israel, 2005). Professor Sperling had emphasized in the RJ article that, archaeologically, there are no Egyptian elements in Israel’s material culture. But in the Tabernacle we do have those Egyptian elements. Egyptian culture is present, but, again, only among the Levites, not all of Israel. Likewise, only the Levite authors emphasize that males have to be circumcised, which was an Egyptian practice. They write of God commanding Abraham to make circumcision the sign of the covenant (Genesis 17), and they include the commandment for all males of Israel to do so (Leviticus 12:3.) Only the non-Levite source, J, does not command it. Again, the connections with Egyptian culture are there—but only among the Levites. And the Levite authors are also the ones who explicitly insist that Israel must not mistreat aliens (foreign residents). The first occurrence of the word “Torah” in the Torah, in Exodus 12, says,

“You shall have one Torah for the citizen and the alien.” The Levite sources say it about 50 more times, and several times tell us why: “Because we were aliens in Egypt!”—we know how it feels. And, again, the non-Levite source, J, doesn’t command this. This most explicit reflection of the Egyptian experience in Israel’s culture occurs in all of the Levite sources and not in the non-Levite source. So if you’re talking about the Levites rather than all of the Israelites, the argument archaeologists have made that we haven’t found evidence of Egyptian cultural influence on the Israelites is not true. It is present in the Egyptian names, circumcision practices, the teachings about aliens, and in the design of the Tabernacle. Is there any other evidence that the Levites left Egypt at the time of the Exodus?

Yes, and it comes from one of the earliest writings in the Bible, the Song of Deborah, composed in Israel in the 12th or 11th century B.C.E. After the Canaanites suffer a major defeat, Deborah summons the victorious tribes of Israel. In uniting the tribes, which constitutes the founding event of Israel’s history as a nation in its land, 10 of the tribes are summoned—but noticeably absent is Levi. Their absence is perfectly consistent with all of the other facts we have observed. The Levites weren’t there in Israel yet; they were in Egypt. Think of this: The two oldest texts in the Bible are the Song of Deborah and the Song of Miriam. The Song of Deborah, in Israel, doesn’t mention Levi. The Song of Miriam, in Egypt, doesn’t mention Israel! If the Levites were latecomers to Israel, how did they convince the Israelite tribes to adopt the Exodus story as their own?

The Levites were not people to whom one said “No.” Four different biblical texts connect them to violent acts. Levi is one of the brothers who massacre the city of Shechem for the violation of Dinah (Genesis 34), and he is also cursed for his general violence in Jacob’s deathbed testament (Genesis 49). The Levites slaughter the people associated with the golden calf incident, reform judaism

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thus following Moses’ command to put them to the sword (Exodus 32:26–28). And in the poem at the end of the Torah (Deuteronomy 33), God is asked to “pierce Levi’s adversaries’ hips, and those who hate him, so they won’t get up.” These four texts come from four different authors. So basically everyone knew: You don’t mess with the Levites. So they reached an agreement: The Levites got the priesthood, which included some cities (Joshua 21:13) plus a tithe (10%) of Israel’s produce (Leviticus 27:30). One of the Levites’ main tasks as priests was to teach Torah to the Israelite people. Deuteronomy 33:10 says, “They’ll teach your judgments to Jacob and your Torah to Israel.” Leviticus 10:11 commands that they are to teach what God spoke through Moses. Naturally, when the Levites taught Torah, they taught the tradition they had brought with them out of Egypt. And that is how every Israelite child learned, “We were slaves in Egypt and God brought us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.” Much later, this Torah passage was placed in the haggadah—which is how most of us know it today. And that is how a historical event that happened to the Levite minority became everybody’s celebration—how we all came to say that we were slaves in Egypt, although that was not the experience even of most Israelites of the period. It’s not so different from practicing, say, the American cultural tradition of Thanksgiving, which most Americans do, even though most U.S. citizens are not descended from Pilgrims or Native Americans. How else did the Levites influence Jewish thought?

The Levites worshipped the God Yahweh, while the Israelite tribes worshipped the God of Canaan: El. Once the Levites arrived on the scene, the tribes needed to make a decision as to which God they would worship—Yahweh or El. They could have decided to worship both, in the manner of the pagan peoples around them who worshipped more than one god. They could have developed a mythology in which Yahweh was the son of El, or El the son continued on page 60

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Collective Clout Carries California by Stephanie Kolin and Julie Chizewer Weill

Trust Act rally photo by Bret Hartman / brethartman.com; Jerr y Brown photo: Reuters / Off ice of Mayor Eric Garcetti


ebecca Altamirano, a teacher and member of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, chaperoned a group of high school students on a Civil Rights Movement-themed trip to the deep South that taught them the importance of not being “silent witnesses” whenever they encountered injustice. Shortly after they returned home, she says, “My student Carlos*, 18, looked out of his window and saw a couple being beaten up. Determined not to be a silent witness, he reported the crime to the police, helped them find the criminals, and, at great personal risk, even testified against the perpetrators. But when the police learned that Carlos was an undocumented immigrant, they arrested and deported him to Mexico, where he knew no one. Eventually, his sister used the money she was saving for her education to bring him back to the U.S. Still, we all knew that unless California enacted immigration reform, he could be deported all over again. That’s when I realized I had to get involved to fight for the rights of people like Carlos.”



♦♦♦ Last year, Reuben Bank’s friend Wilmar stopped showing up at soccer games. “As a Rabbi Stephanie Kolin is the Reform CA lead organizer and co-director of the URJ’s Just Congregations. Julie Chizewer Weill is Coordinator of Institutional Advancement at Just Congregations.


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key member of our club soccer team, this raised red flags,” says Reuben, 17, a high school junior and member of University Synagogue in Los Angeles. “I soon found out that his dad, who owned a successful tiling business and had lived in the U.S. 15+ years, had been pulled over for having a broken taillight, and was later arrested for being an undocumented immigrant. Wilmar’s dad was jailed for six months before his lawyer got the charges dropped, and meanwhile my friend had to quit our team to get a job to make ends meet for his family. That’s when I realized: There needs to be immigration reform so families like Wilmar’s will not be torn apart.” Reuben then discovered that one of his rabbis, Joel Simonds, was involved in Reform CA, an organization of Reform leaders and congregants throughout the state of California committed to working together to address a variety of social injustices, starting with the plight of the state’s 3 million undocumented immigrants. “I went to a local Reform CA event at my synagogue and then got involved,” Reuben says, “writing to my congressional representatives about the issue and co-writing a program at URJ Camp Newman that taught my fellow campers about immigration reform. I saw that I wasn’t the only one who cared about this issue; my * Name has been changed to preserve anonymity.

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rabbis, my congregation, other California synagogues, and my peers were also passionate about change.” ♦♦♦ Seven years ago, our URJ Just Congregations (urj.org/justcongregations) team began training rabbis and congregants throughout the U.S. to effect meaningful social change through participation in local, broad-based community organizing. More than 160 synagogues signed on, signaling a shift in the Reform Movement toward training and organizing “Jews in the pews” to use their collective power in pursuit of tikkun olam, the prophetic call to repair the world. In 2013, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Peace, Justice, and Civil Liberties Committee helped us launch two campaigns— “Rabbis Organizing Rabbis” on the national level and “Reform CA” in California—both intent on building communities that would express our Jewish values in the public square, and help to heal suffering in our cities, states, and nation.

On the state level, we started in California, where undocumented residents were being deported after arrest for offenses as minor as selling food without a license. Sometimes even coming into contact with police as victims or witnesses to crimes subjected undocumented residents like Carlos to deportation. And because they feared deportation, most undocumented residents who were crime victims or witnesses did not contact the police, which made their communities less safe for everyone. These law enforcement actions were precipitated by the state’s cooperation with a federal program called Secure Communities that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to hold detainees beyond the normal time for release until ICE officials arrive to begin deportation procedures— a process that often occurs without notification of the individual’s family and results in families being separated indefinitely. Secure Communities had been established to target individuals with a history of serious or violent crimes, but in California was quickly becoming a

wide net used to trap and deport undocumented immigrants. In October 2013, our Reform CA coalition—comprised of more than 120 Reform rabbis and communities fighting for justice for undocumented immigrants—celebrated a major victory: California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the TRUST Act (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools), stipulating that only undocumented residents who have committed specified serious or violent crimes can be jailed for as long it takes Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take them into custody and deport them. ♦♦♦ How did our Movement help bring California to this shechechyanu moment in the legislative struggle for immigrant rights? It began with community organizing. Guided by Just Congregations, Reform Jews in California embarked on an intercongregational listening initiative in which rabbis and congregants shared hundreds of stories about their political and personal concerns. Many spoke of


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being deeply pained by California’s poor economy, by a public education system ranked (by some measures) 50th in the country, by deep class divisions, and by the lost “California dream” of prosperity for a growing number of state residents. In August 2012, 25 rabbis and select lay leaders from California Reform congregations—large and small, suburban and urban, politically and geographically diverse—met in Burlingame to lead and participate in training sessions on the California political system and to imagine the possibilities for social change through building and wielding collective power. Realizing that by acting together to galvanize thousands of Jews across California they might be able to achieve their individual dreams of social change, they formed Reform CA. “For the first time in my rabbinate,” said Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco, “it felt like I had a whole community of colleagues on whom I could call and who would have my back.” Widening the power base, the participating leaders then initiated conversations with 50 other rabbis throughout the state, asking them: What is the California you dream of? Meanwhile, they engaged in high-level meetings with California’s top campaign and coalition leaders, academics, and legislators to ascertain what issues were critical, current, and potentially winnable over the next two years. From there, the leadership team proposed five possible campaigns—immigration reform, public education, gun safety, California’s Prop 13 tax code, and marriage equality. At a Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis conference, the Reform CA leadership team narrowed down the five to two—immigration and education—and, upon their return home, began soliciting community feedback about the two issues. At Temple Israel in Stockton, Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff learned that the father of one of his religious school students was an undocumented immigrant who had to return to Mexico because of current immigration laws. “Let me be very clear here,” he declared during a Reform CA training session. “There are kids in my religious school who are being affected! This is a Jewish issue.” Hopes for immigration reform in California had been dashed in 2012, when

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Still, in Governor Brown’s veto message, which he reiterated on Spanish TV, he vowed to work with the legislature to create a bill he could sign. And so, in 2013, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano introduced an almost identical version of the original bill, hoping this time it would pass. At the time, the coalition working on immigration reform was mainly made up of Latino, Asian, and interfaith groups. We Reform CA advocates recognized the Jewish community’s participation would broaden and diversify the coalition, bolstering its effectiveness. The issue also


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spoke to our experience as a people, having been strangers in strange lands over many centuries, most recently in America, too. Reform CA joined the immigration reform battle. ♦♦♦ Now that Reform CA was on board, how would our broader coalition achieve justice for California’s undocumented residents? In March 2013, 70 California rabbis packed a room at the CCAR conference in Long Beach to develop a strategy for the TRUST Act’s passage, then broke out into seven CA regions to co-plan local campaigns. An 18-person rabbinic and lay leadership team would craft statewide strategies and motivate rabbis and congregants to engage in the cause. A month later, inspired by a Reform CA Passover supplement that asked Reform Jews to share their families’ own immigration stories at the seder table and then lobby their representatives in support of today’s immigrants, hundreds of Jews began sending letters to state legislators and Governor Brown. Rabbis and lay leaders met face-to-face with local Assembly representatives, delivering a message rooted in shared values, such as maintaining families and upholding religious teachings to protect the stranger. Reform leaders also wrote editorials published in local papers. “Unless the Passover story has a modern meaning,” Rabbi David Frank of Temple Solel wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribune, “unless it moves us to act on behalf of those who are still strangers…it is not a story that bears retelling anymore….As it happens, we do know the power and meaning of this story, for in our country there are 11 million undocumented immigrants yearning for a life of hope and freedom…what so many of us already have.” Meanwhile, every Thursday, Reform CA leaders participated in strategic conference calls with our coalition partners, among them the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and People Inspiring Communities through Organizing (a broad coalition across lines of class, race, and faith). We shared individual group strategies and discussed goals we could achieve together, such as persuading a

particular district representative to support the TRUST Act by determining together the best person(s) to meet with that representative. It also turned out that, thanks to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Reform CA had the coalition’s most technologically advanced system to facilitate citizen call-ins to their political representatives, complete with talking points and a one-button push to reach the right legislators. We shared the technology with our partners, who translated the English text into Spanish (press 2 for Espanol) and engaged their constituents in a calling campaign. On May 16, 2013 the TRUST Act passed the Assembly by a 44–22 vote. ♦♦♦ The next goal was passage in the state Senate. The California State Sheriffs Association had been lobbying Governor Brown strongly against the bill. After its passage in the Assembly, the governor sat down with bill author Assembly Member Tom Ammiano to introduce amendments he said would be necessary for him to sign it, among them adding misdemeanors and prior immigration violations to the list of crimes necessitating deportation. Reform CA and our coalition partners knew we had to act. Whichever bill the state Senate passed would be the final legislation making its way to the governor’s office for signature. We needed to uphold a fair and just version of the bill, one that would protect people that had done nothing more than sell food without a license to support their families. In May, 50 Reform Jews from across the state made their way to the Senate floor to meet with more than 30 legislators, including Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and bill author Ammiano. Steinberg, a supporter of the TRUST Act, told the delegation of lay leaders and rabbis that before meeting with them, he had not considered how these amendments might unfairly affect the immigrant community, but he understood now. Another senator, spotting the group (some wore yarmulkes), asked what had brought them to the capitol. He was surprised to hear “immigration” and not “Israel.” “Is immigration a Jewish issue?” he asked. Rabbi Lawrence Raphael from reform judaism

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Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco quickly replied, “We believe it is,” explaining the biblical imperative to care for the stranger in our midst and the Jewish people’s long struggle for full inclusion under the law. One month later, more than 100 Reform clergy signed a letter to Governor Brown, delivered by hand, asking him to sign a bill with fair and just language. Reform CA leaders and our coalition partners then adapted the letter for a several-hundred-strong phone campaign to the governor’s office. ♦♦♦ On September 9, 2013, right before Rosh Hashanah, the state Senate passed the TRUST Act containing the very language we wanted. The bill was then moved to the governor’s desk for signature. He had until October 13 to sign or veto it. (If he did nothing, it would become law without his signature.) Immediately we took action. Our coalition partners initiated calls to the governor and staged a sit-in in his office. Reform CA launched a High Holy Day campaign, asking California Reform rabbis to preach or teach texts on immigration and the TRUST Act. Dozens of rabbis made this issue their central message, urging congregants to phone Governor Brown, ask him to sign the TRUST Act, and say “Shanah Tovah.” More than 1,000 Reform Jews made the calls. Among the rabbis who spoke about immigration to a packed sanctuary was Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles. One of his congregants listening in the pews had a relationship with Governor Brown. Fired up by Rabbi Chasen’s sermon, the congregant quickly arranged a conference call with the governor, Rabbi Chasen, and himself. During their conversation, Rabbi Chasen told the governor that dozens of rabbis throughout California had preached about the TRUST Act on one of the holiest days of the Jewish year: “Up and down the state of California, Reform Jews care deeply about the immigrants in their midst”—a message reinforced by 1,000+ phone calls. ♦♦♦ On October 5, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed the TRUST Act into law.

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Reform CA: Get Involved Reform CA this year “I nwe’ve seen firsthand what a difference it makes when we join forces as a Movement. We go from being isolated, each in our own congregations, to building relationships that lead to the power it takes to make concrete, significant change. We’re inspired to aim for the California of our dreams, and to make those dreams real.” —Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Leo Baeck Temple, Los Angeles Join the Reform CA movement as it identifies and acts on other issues: Learn more by visiting RAC.org/ReformCA Discuss the issues on Facebook by searching for “Reform CA” and clicking on “join” Receive campaign updates and participate in strategic change by texting “ReformCA” to 877–877 For additional information contact Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, skolin@urj.org.

Implementation would begin in January 2014. “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” Brown said after putting his pen to signature. “I’m not waiting.” ♦♦♦ Energized by our success, Reform CA is now deciding upon a second campaign to fight injustice. At the December 2013 URJ Biennial, we began asking Californian synagogue leaders, What is the California you now dream of? We are also researching potentially winnable political issues with experts in the field, and building ever-stronger teams to engage Reform congregational communities in deciding and acting upon our next uphill battle. Reform CA has proven that individuals like us can make a difference—in restoring not only the California dream, but the collective dream of a more just world grounded in the voices and values of our faith.

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D ES In our changing financial and cultural climate, a number of Reform

congregations are experimenting with a “free will� system whereby members can pledge an annual contribution of their own volition. What can we learn from this radical rethinking of dues?

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Rabbi Dan Judson, a member of the URJ faculty of expert practitioners, is director of Professional Development and Placement for the Hebrew College Rabbinical School and author of a dissertation on the history of American synagogues and money. He was interviewed by the RJ magazine editors.


n recent years, an increasing number of congregations are rejecting the old model of congregants paying fixed dues and introducing new systems that include voluntary dues. What has triggered this rethinking? There have been a number of contributing factors. The first factor is the recession. Since it began in late 2007, Americans have less discretionary income. Consequently some congregants have been unable to pay their dues and left their synagogue, leading to a drop-off in membership and revenue. To retain members for whom dues represent a hardship and to attract young families for whom a large upfront dues payment is a barrier to entry, many temple leaders are rethinking the entire dues structure. Historically, this is not a new situation. The financial health of U.S. synagogues has always roughly mirrored the financial health of America. Synagogues saw their most successful expansion and renewal in the roaring 1920s, the suburbanizing 1950s, and the booming 1990s—all periods of substantial economic growth. Conversely, the Depression era saw not only massive economic dislocation but a “spiritual depression,” a marked drop-off in religious participation and religious apathy in both Christian and Jewish communities. A second factor in rethinking the fixed dues system is the perception that it is now out of step with contemporary Jewish culture and values. Over the years, congregations have used differ-

“The financial health of U.S. synagogues has always roughly mirrored the financial health of America.”

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ent revenue-generating systems that made sense for their times. Since the 14th century, a major way most synagogues worldwide raised money was by selling or auctioning off Torah honors. When Jews first came to America in the 17th century, they continued this tradition and found other ways of raising funds, including imposing fines on board members who were absent, late, or disruptive at meetings. The first Reform synagogue in America, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, founded in 1749, abolished the practice of holding mid-service auctions in part because of fears that if Christians saw Jews holding an auction in the middle of services, it would reinforce the perception of Jewish avarice. In time other Reform congregations followed suit. Throughout much of the 19th century, most synagogues funded themselves by selling yearly seat licenses—a system which imitated the American Protestant church practice of selling or renting pews. Members would buy a seat (or seats) in perpetuity and pay a yearly assessment on the seat(s) they owned—similar to today’s buying of season tickets to a pro-football team. But by the early 20th century, selling seats went out of favor. In 1920, the president of Adath Israel, Louisville’s leading Reform synagogue, spoke for many synagogue presidents when he said that at a time of a growing democratic ethos in the country, allowing the wealthy to buy better seats than those who were less well off discouraged everyone from using this system. Instead, a dues system where everyone paid the same was deemed fairer and more in keeping with changing American mores. Membership dues have remained the synagogue’s primary revenue source for roughly the past 100 years. However, this system which once seemed fair and egalitarian is beginning to fall out of favor. Writing a check to a synagogue for dues can feel like paying the price of

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belonging to an exclusive country club, rather than to a sacred community. As Jewish leaders increasingly speak of opening the doors as wide as possible, there is a recognition that the dues system is doing the opposite—narrowing who feels welcome. When congregants experiencing financial hardship are asked to explain their finances to the temple’s executive director or a committee in order to attain dues abatement, they feel judged, and many walk away and/or look for alternatives to the synagogue. Hyper-competition for the Jewish dollar is another contributing factor to congregations’ rethinking of dues. Whereas in the past synagogues were basically the sole providers of Jewish education and lifecycle events, nowadays in most areas with a sizeable Jewish community there are independent Hebrew schools to send your kids to; independent rabbis to perform bar/ bat mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals; Chabad houses where one can experience Shabbat; and a vast variety of free resources on the Internet for Jewish learning. In this environment, some synagogues recognize that it puts them at a competitive disadvantage to be saddled with a funding mechanism that appears so uninviting and out of touch with the contemporary zeitgeist.


tephen Wise Free Synagogue (SWFS) in New York City chose the reverse path. When Rabbi Stephen S. Wise founded the synagogue, it was free of dues, but the congregation later instated them. What lessons can we draw from this reversal? When Rabbi Stephen Wise founded the “Free Synagogue” in 1907, the word “free” had three meanings: the rabbi would have freedom of pulpit (not the norm at that time), the seats would be freely available to all members rather than owned, and the synagogue would be free of dues. As Wise wrote in his autobiography: “Both [dues and owning seats] introduced into what should have been the democratic fellowship of religious communion all the unlovely differentiation of the outer-world.” He believed that only a voluntary giving system would promote the free exchange of ideas he saw as the synagogue’s highest ideal. In practice, Wise’s ideal was hard to achieve. During his tenure, Wise’s prominence as a rabbi and national Jewish leader enabled him to call upon a few significant philanthropists to successfully sustain the community, and one of its most impressive accomplishments was the creation of an entire department of social services

“Writing a check to a synagogue for dues can feel like paying the price of belonging to an exclusive country club, rather than to a sacred community.”

“Free will nurtures a community culture grounded in transparency and trust.”

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within the synagogue to provide resources and counseling for members and non-members in need. But once Wise retired, the leadership was unable to keep the congregation afloat without assessing dues. His vision of a synagogue free from dues was officially abandoned in 1984, and for the past 30 years SWFS has functioned as most other synagogues have with regard to dues. There are instructive lessons here. Wise was correct in his belief that cultivating voluntary gifts reinforces the value of community. The fact that the SWFS system was not sustained does not mean it is unworkable; I know of a dozen synagogues in America right now that would say otherwise. It does, however, caution synagogue leaders not to rely on a few philanthropists to make the budget; in the long run congregations need to build a broad base of financial support.


oes the Torah prescribe a particular way of financially supporting a synagogue? The Torah, Talmud, and other sacred writings do not specify a single model that must be followed, allowing congregations to implement systems that work best from a practical point of view. The Bible does offer different models of raising funds. One is tithing. In Genesis 28 Jacob promises God a tenth of all he possesses if he is returned in safety to his father’s home, and in Numbers 18 the Israelites are told it is incumbent upon them to each give a portion of their produce to the Levites. Another model is giving freely from the heart. In Exodus 25, Moses stirringly calls upon everyone whose heart moves them to give a gift toward the building of the Mishkan, the holy Tabernacle—which has inspired what some congregations today describe as a “free will” giving model (there is of yet no single term to define this voluntary payment system).


ow have today’s congregations gone about transforming from dues to a “free will” system? Over the past few years, a small number of URJ synagogues have done something which is quite simple but radical. They have asked their members for money in the form of donations, but have done away with congregational oversight of those donations, eliminating abatement committees and/or other follow-up procedures to secure payment when funds are not forthcoming. Leaders furnish guidelines for pledging, typically dividing their total budget by the number of member


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families, and asking every member to contribute their “sustaining amount.” They reiterate, however, that this is not a dues number, and members are free to pay as they wish; no questions will be asked of them and they will not need to speak to anyone about how much they desire to contribute.


hile this system sounds appealing, financially it seems like a risky proposition. If no one is being held financially accountable, won’t many members undercontribute, leading to a deficit? I can understand this fear given the amount of time congregations now spend trying to get people to pay their dues, but the facts show that every URJ synagogue that has moved to this model in the past five years has experienced either modest growth or stayed even—a very impressive statistic given the trend of decreasing congregational revenue nationwide. In short, when given the chance to value the synagogue on their own terms, most members come through. And while these synagogues do rely upon some members to pay above the sustaining amount, none of the synagogues say that this is any different than under the previous structure, where some members contributed philanthropic dollars beyond dues.

“Non-Jewish spouses who grew up in churches found it strange to get an invoice from a religious community. Free will makes sense to them.”


hy do you believe this model has been so successful and advantageous for synagogues? Free will transforms congregants’ relationships with their synagogues, nurturing a community culture grounded in transparency and trust. Scott Roseman, vice president of the Board and Leadership Development for 500+ family Temple Beth El (TBE) in Aptos, California, points to the good will and trust TBE engendered after enacting the free will system as a key factor in revitalizing the congregation in the midst of an economic downturn three years ago when TBE was losing members and revenue and leaders had to cut back staff and programming. Changing to a free will system reversed the downward slide, as both membership numbers and revenues increased, in part, Roseman believes, because “We removed the whole paternalistic system of dues forgiveness where people had to justify why they paid what they paid. Now, our system honors everyone for whatever s/he is able to pay, everybody is on the same ‘honor’ system, and most people reform judaism

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choose to be ‘honorable.’ This is much more compatible with the kind of Judaism that our members—including myself—want to part of.” Similarly, free will leaves members feeling better about money in the synagogue context. When congregants are experiencing the squeeze of competing economic priorities, a fixed dues system with financial oversight might cause them to leave the community; with this system, they are more likely to stay and pay what is comfortable for them. Rabbi Debra Hachen of 150-member Temple Beth El in Jersey City, New Jersey believes that this way of encouraging folks to stay is one reason their synagogue has seen membership and revenue growth since instituting the free will system two years ago. “This system makes it harder for current members to quit,” she says. “After the bar/bat mitzvah years, some members consider leaving the synagogue. In the past, when they got their dues bill, they often didn’t renew their membership. Now they stay.” She points out that some of the congregation’s membership growth might have happened naturally because the temple is situated in an urban area that’s become increasingly popular with 20s and 30s, but “having this very low barrier to entry has made it even easier for them to join.” Cheryl Chaben Friedman, executive director of 325-family Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, Michigan says the free will system—in place only for one year—has already exceeded expectations. “When Detroit took a hit,” she says, “a lot of families faced the decision to resign their membership or face an uncomfortable phone conversation about abatement. Moving to this system changed the tone and dynamic. Now, people feel good about what they can do as opposed to feeling badly about what they cannot do.” When Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Illinois was founded in the mid-1990s, free will was part of the founding vision. “We wanted to rely on people’s integrity,” says executive director Judy Buckman, “because we believe people have integrity. Tzedakah is the fabric of our community—for example, displaced and homeless individuals live in the synagogue for a week at a time—and our financial system is part of that culture. Potential members and congregants feel good about belonging to a shul with this philosophy. It’s especially comfortable for the non-Jewish spouses in the congregation who are not used to a dues system; our system makes sense to them.” Temple B’rith Achim, King of Prussia, Penn-

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sylvania moved to the free will system about four years ago, “in part because we had some folks who had grown up in churches and they found it strange that you would get an invoice from a religious community,” Rabbi Eric Lazar says. “We all started thinking about this. And then free will made sense to us, because it is specifically based upon the story in the Torah where God asks the Israelites: In building the mishkan, the holy space, give as your hearts move you. In our community we’ve now created our own mishkan. In order to be a member, you submit both a gift of the hand and gift of the heart— which enables us to value everyone for the gifts they can bring.”


re there other economic benefits to the free will system? Yes. In addition to stabilizing or increasing synagogues revenues, this system can facilitate financial management. When congregants set their own donation level without any sense of coercion, they almost always pay their pledge amount, and do so in a timely way. As a result, congregations have fewer write-offs, better cash flow, and more precise budget projections. Rabbi Hachen points to another significant economic benefit: maximizing revenue from members who under a fixed dues system might have been be asked to pay less because of their age or marital status, when, in fact, they could have afforded to pay more. “The age and marital status categories are artificial, lumping together singles and young people who are struggling with singles and young people who are very wealthy. The free will system is more nimble, maximizing what we receive in pledge income from those who can afford it while simultaneously minimizing the stress on those who cannot.”

“Every URJ congregation that has moved to a free will model in the past five years has experienced either modest growth or stayed even.”


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Strategic Experiment in Synagogue Finance Seventeen Reform congregations have joined together in the “URJ Reimagining Financial Support Community of Practice” (COP) to experiment with and implement new financial models. Led by a network of peers and staff and grounded in the premise that strengthening personal relationships leads to higher financial contributions, these congregations are learning how to build a relational culture and measure its success, as well as best fundraising principles and all of the possible financial models.

hat can we learn about the free will system outside the synagogue realm? A few years ago Panera Bread, headed by CEO Ron Shaich, a member of Temple Israel in Boston, established a nonprofit division of the company, Panera Cares, and opened restaurants in six cities. There are no cashiers, only a bin to collect money and a suggested donation; customers are told to pay what they can. The results are instructive: Panera Cares restaurants do not raise as much revenue as regular Panera venues, but they do break even. When people are given the option without the reform judaism

enforcement of a cashier, roughly 60% of folks still pay the suggested donation, 20% round up and pay more, and 20% pay less. These percentages are similar to what synagogues have found when they track their donations under the free will system. Another insight: When, early on, suggested donation prices did not appear on all Panera Cares food items, customers did not pay enough for those items. People are generally bad at valuation. It would therefore not be advantageous for free will congregations to say, “Give whatever you want” without some suggested number(s). Providing that information and being transparent about how much things cost is important, because without guidance, even people who want to do the right thing often have no idea how to do it. Economists do caution that pay-as-youcan systems such as Panera’s will only work for small value items—and will not work for large ticket items such as a car or university tuition. While synagogue membership is certainly not a small value item, I believe the free will system will still function well because in


The URJ’s new Reimagining Financial Support Active Learning Network (ALN), or miniCommunity of Practice, will enable all URJ congregations to learn from the COP’s successes, challenges, and experiments. The ALN will explore practical tools, resources, and networking opportunities to help congregations understand, evaluate, and reimagine their financial support. For COP information: urj.org/cong/cop; to join the ALN: urj.org/cong/cop/ aln/financialsupport.

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an engaged congregation, people want to see their religious community survive. There is a deep value at stake.


o temples with successful free will systems have anything in common? There are perhaps as many differences as there are commonalities among the nine URJ free will congregations I’ve studied. They range in size from small to medium, are in different regions, approach Reform Judaism from differing perspectives, have different economic profiles, are urban and suburban, have different age profiles, and face differing levels of competition from other synagogues. That said, four general commonalities may contribute to their success. First, before they eliminated dues, all of them were well-functioning, engaged communities—vital qualities when people no longer have a dues obligation but are asked to value the synagogue themselves. Take, for example, Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson, Mississippi. Peter Sharp, the vice president for finance, says the congregation was “very down to earth, with people giving of their time, and very social with each other. Our community was solid, without a lot of turnover. We moved to the free will system in part because we were kind of doing it anyway. Lots of people weren’t paying full dues, and we never chased after them, so we figured, let’s turn this into a positive and promote a system that reflects our values. Now pledges are up by 5%.” Second, in all congregations, strong lay leaders, not clergy and/or professional staff, acted as the catalysts for change. Kay Magilavy put this change at the top of her agenda when she became president of Beth-El in Jersey City, New Jersey “because it was the right thing to do.” Third, a business owner or financial expert was the primary driver of change at many—though not all—synagogues. Having a leader with business credibility facilitated buy-in from the rest of the decision-makers, who had confidence that s/he could be trusted to be realistic about money and would not leave the congregation in ruins. Fourth, most of these congregations took a year to talk to their members about

the new system before implementing it. They held open meetings, discussed it in the temple bulletin, and held individual conversations with many members, asking the majority of them, “If we move to this system, can we count on you to support us by paying the sustaining amount?” In the case of families with means, they asked, “Will you be supportive over and above the sustaining amount?” In other words, the congregations did enough groundwork so that everyone felt relatively comfortable that the transition year would be successful—and it was. I would not encourage any synagogue to change its financial system without such a deliberative and inclusive process.


f a congregation wants to consider other new models, what are the alternatives? A couple of congregations are experimenting with hybrid financing models. A Conservative synagogue in Pennsylvania has had success in creating a tiered system of dues whereby people pledge at different levels and receive different benefits based on their level. Leaders also promise not to ask members for additional funding during the year. For more information: tbhbe.org/drupal/ content/membership. A Reconstructionist congregation in Massachusetts has designed a successful two-part system: a half-shekel campaign (their language) whereby everyone pays a minimum amount, and, above that level, a fair share commitment. For more information: dorsheitzedek.org/nediv-lev.


hat other basic models of synagogue financing are congregations using? In addition to the two we’ve discussed— dues and free will—there are two other basic models: fair share and development. In the fair share model, some synagogues ask members to give a percentage of their income—usually somewhere between 1% and 2% of gross income. Others specify different dues amounts based on income, e.g., “If you make between $60,000 and $70,000 your dues are $1,200.” Some synagogues use a progresreform judaism

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sive system, similar to the U.S. tax code: the more you make, the higher percentage you are asked to pay. The pros of this system are economic fairness. The cons are twofold. First, it can create negative feelings, because many congregants believe it’s an invasion of privacy to tell congregational leaders how much they make. Second, many leaders feel they’re being taken advantage of, believing that many members are putting themselves in a lower income bracket than they really are. In the development model, of which Chabad is the best example, building donor relationships and writing grants become the core—rather than a component—of the organization’s funding. Chabad’s impressive development work at the national level, combined with low expenses on the local level, has made this model work very well for them. The main pro of the development model is making Jewish life more affordable for everyone. The cons are the slim likelihood of a congregation being able to fundraise at the level that would be needed to drastically reduce dues, and the possibility that the congregation might become less democratic in decision making if a few philanthropic donors held undue dominance over synagogue affairs. Right now, 17 URJ congregations are in the process of changing their financial models (see sidebar, “Strategic Experiment in Synagogue Finance”). In many cases, the best approach for any congregation weighing the options is to research the various financial experiments happening in other congregations and then engage in a community-wide conversation about money in the synagogue, focusing both on practical monetary questions as well as broader questions concerning how the congregation’s financial decisions reflect its values. Ultimately I think we are going to see many more congregations adopting a free will model. Members want to feel good about giving to their synagogue, and this system allows that to happen in deeper ways than a dues model. The congregations that have already made this change report that they are doing well financially, living more in tune with their values, and engaging members more than ever.

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What I Discovered

What To Know…

What To See…

What To Do







How to make friends with Reform Jews in 49 countries * Where to go, what to see, how to connect.

‘ y a d G o p l m Xf Bienvenue Welcome

s o d i n e Bienv


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My Big Small Jewish World By Eileen Winter


ast Spring, my husband Ken ly young professionals and a few “elder hours. We were exhausted. There was and I decided to tour Eastern statesmen” sitting in rows of chairs. We really one motivation to refresh ourEurope to experience the part took the only open seats—two overselves and head out to Beit Warszawa: of the world our ancestors had Rabbi Gil Nativ was personally expect- stuffed armchairs toward the back. left behind. About It was easy to feel part of the four weeks before our departure, service. Although the readings in the midst of my researching were in Polish, Rabbi Gil Nativ cities to visit, I picked up the spoke to everyone in English— mail—and lo and behold, there whether that was because the was the Spring 2013 issue of vast majority of congregants Reform Judaism magazine with understood English, or because its “World Jewish Travel Guide” the congregation is committed Cover Story and an article by to making English-speaking Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor visitors feel included, I don’t offering to connect readers know, but it was wonderful for with Progressive synagogues us. The service was full of singworldwide. I was thrilled! ing, the songs entirely in Within 20 minutes of my Hebrew, and most tunes, such emailing Rabbi Bretton-Granaas V’Shamru, familiar to us, so toor of the World Union for we gladly sang along. Progressive Judaism, he sent Every Kabbalat Shabbat serme the names of the rabbis, vice at Beit Warszawa is typiKEN AND ME AT RYNEK GŁÓWNY / MAIN MARKET SQUARE, KRAKOW. presidents, and administrators of cally followed by Kiddush and a the Progressive congregations in Warsaw, ing us at services that evening. buffet dinner. Rabbi Nativ had invited us Budapest, and Prague. He also asked to join the 40 people partaking in authenOne of the most harrowing taxi rides them to assist me in planning my itinerin my life ended in front of a non-descript tic Polish cuisine—salads, soup, cheeses, ary. Before long, I was exchanging pierogies, dumplings, and desserts— commercial building with a sign reading emails in English with welcoming people “Beit Warszawa.” But where was the along with discussion and camaraderie. across the world. entrance to the synagogue? We wandered At our table, a man regaled us with stointo one doorway, only to be redirected to ries of Polish history, the modern Jewish ♦♦♦ community in Warsaw, and a legend another building farther back from the We arrived in Warsaw on a Friday we’d never heard of: a 16th-century Jew street. There, a nice older gentleman in a afternoon, after traveling more than 18 white jacket and kippah who didn’t speak named Saul who became King of Poland for a single day while the reigning couna word of English led us upstairs. cil of the time decided between three Eileen Winter is a member of Temple The small prayer space was filled Emanuel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. almost to capacity with 50 people, most- contenders to the throne! (We later found the legend documented on Wikipedia.) In a surprising coincidence, my husband Ken discovered that the father of Beit Warszawa congregant Michael Levi he Reform Judaism magazine editors express their gratitude to the had designed a refinery in the Bahamas following donors, whose generous contributions made this “RJ Insider’s that had been recently purchased by my Guide to World Jewish Travel” possible: Jean and Jay Abarbanel, Austin and husband’s friend’s company. At the end of Nani Beutel, Stephen K. Breslauer, James and Linda Cherney, The Golomb the evening, Michael drove us back to our Family, Anne Molloy and Henry Posner III, Rosalyn G. Rosenthal, Jerry hotel, an unexpected gesture of kindness Tanenbaum, and Dolores K. Wilkenfeld. that also allowed us to see the National To explore how you might contribute to a future Insider’s Guide, please Stadium, Old Town, and the Royal Castle contact the editors—Aron Hirt-Manheimer, editor, or Joy Weinberg, managing all lit up at night—experiences we likely editor—at rjmagazine@urj.org. wouldn’t have had on our own.


In Acknowledgement

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© Roy Botterell /Corbis

The following Friday we arrived in Budapest. Making Shabbat services here was going to be easy, we thought. After all, one of the two Progressive synagogues, Sim Shalom, was only down the street from our hotel. Street address in hand, we walked back and forth, back and forth—where was Sim Shalom? Finally, we realized the congregation had to be housed within a nearby apartment building that had an inner courtyard. There we found the temple’s call button and were buzzed inside. We walked up the stairs and into the second-floor apartment. An open room led into a second large room that had been set up for the service: two rows of chairs shaped into a semi-circle, and a small table with Shabbat candles and a Kiddush cup. Ken and I chatted with about a dozen friendly, mostly young people who spoke English, including Rabbi Katalin Kelemen, whose husband Jesse Weil, the synagogue’s treasurer, had written to me, welcoming us to Sim Shalom. Rabbi Kelemen then announced to the congregation that Ken and I were visiting from the United States, and invited me to light the Shabbat candles. What an honor, to participate in the same ritual in Budapest that I had done countless times at my home congregation in New Jersey. I immediately felt “at home.” Like at Beit Warszawa, most of Sim Shalom’s service was musical, led on vocals and guitar by Cantor Miklos Budai and accompanied on drums by a young congregant named David. Except for the melody for the Sh’ma, the songs were mostly unfamiliar to us, but we caught on and sang along. We especially loved the congregation’s version of Lecha Dodi, a catchy Chasidic melody with a “Ya ba ba ba bam” refrain that transported me into the imagined shtetl life of my ancestors. All the prayers were chanted in Hebrew, and we knew them well. The service was in both Hungarian and English, and although we didn’t understand the Hungarian readings, both Ken and I were honored with English readings, contributing to our sense of belonging. Afterwards Sim Shalom held a potluck supper in lieu of an oneg. Our contribution was a cake we’d purchased at

Turning a Vacation into a Homecoming by Gary Bretton-Granatoor


ince the publication of Reform Judaism magazine’s first Guide to Jewish World Travel (Spring 2013), I have fielded dozens of requests by travelers wishing to visit Progressive and Reform congregations around the world. For many of them, the experience of meeting spiritual leaders and Progressive Jews abroad on Shabbat is a kind of revelation: “I am part of a wider Reform Jewish family. In 49 countries around the world I can connect with people like me who are striving to create warm, welcoming, egalitarian, pluralistic Jewish communities.” In North America we are called Reform. In other parts of the world, we are known as Progressive or Liberal (in most of Europe, if you ask for a Reform congregation, you’ll be directed to a Protestant church). How do you find your larger Progressive/Reform/Liberal family when travelling outside North America? The process is different than what you find in North America, where synagogues and Jewish institutions in North America generally have an “open-door” policy and regularly welcome visitors. In most other lands there are pervasive security concerns. Synagogues do not publish their street addresses, return phone calls or emails, or openly declare their presence. A random visitor, even one claiming affiliation

Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor is the Vice President—Philanthropy at the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

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with a Reform synagogue in the U.S. or Canada, is likely to be turned away if visiting unannounced. The best way to connect is to have the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the institution that now serves, nurtures, and supports 1,176 Reform/Progressive/ Liberal Jewish congregations worldwide, make an introduction for you. This process takes time, so be sure to contact us several weeks in advance of your trip. First, go to the World Union for Progressive Judaism website, wupj.org. On the main page, use the dialogue box to search for WUPJ congregations by country and then city. Once you have verified the presence of a congregation in the area you plan to visit, email me, Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor (gary@wupj.org), at the WUPJ’s New York office. Provide your travel dates, where you plan to stay, when you would like to visit the congregation, the number of people in your party, and a way to contact you once you are there (to make sure you are advised of any last minute changes in the synagogue’s plans). If given sufficient time, we can try to arrange a personal visit. Connecting with your “cousins” is a great way to experience a country and a Jewish community. You’ll get insight into the challenges and the triumphs of living as a Jew in that place—and, most of all, you will see that we are all a part of one extended family.


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♦♦♦ The next Friday afternoon we were in Prague, sightseeing. We’d planned to return to our hotel and freshen up before attending Kabbalat Shabbat services at Bejt Simcha, but we’d packed in too much touring and time had gotten away from us. We were tired, windblown, outfitted in sneakers and backpacks, and nowhere near our hotel—and services would be starting soon. My husband and I weighed the options. He felt uncomfortable attending services in such casual clothing; I didn’t want to miss Shabbat in Prague. “Besides,” I pointed out, “They are expecting us! Surely it must be more important to attend the service ‘as we are’ than not to come at all.” I reminded him, too, of our home congregation’s relatively recent tradition where some

and the Maisel Synagogue, set back services are designated “come as you behind an iron fence. When we got to are,” imparting the message that it is more important to worship together then Maiselova 4, the building where Bejt Simcha rents to focus on space for dressing up services, the for the young man occasion. who opened We the door for chose a us could not third alterhave been native: more welarriving at coming. the syna“By all gogue means,” he before the said, “please service and stay and apologizpray with ing to the INTERIOR OF BEJT SIMCHA, PRAGUE. members us; it does for not having had time to make ournot matter how you are dressed.” People started arriving, members as selves more presentable. If, then, it didn’t well as Americans and Canadians visiting seem appropriate to stay, we’d leave. Prague. We struck up a conversation with We walked through Prague’s Jewish David, a 20-something Prague native who quarter, passing the Pinkas Synagogue told us excitedly, in good English, that with its cobblestone drive and white stucco exterior; the King Solomon Kosher he’d be in the U.S. in the summer, having gotten a job teaching Torah to young peoRestaurant, fronted by a clock that uses ple at the URJ’s Kutz Camp in Warwick, the Hebrew alphabet in lieu of numbers;

Photograph by Joseph Getzoff

the Great Market Hall. Unbeknownst to us, the rabbi’s birthday was that week, so our cake served as her impromptu birthday cake. And Ken was also celebrating his birthday that week, so it became a joint celebration!




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New York. Astonishingly, our daughter, Debra, was going to be head songleader at the same camp, and the two had already been in touch on Facebook! It is a small Jewish world indeed. About 25–30 people prayed with us. The siddur was in Hebrew and Czech— but even though I didn’t know a word of Czech, we were reciting the Hebrew prayers in the same order as we did at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and singing the same melodies for the Sh’ma, Lecha Dodi, and V’Shamru. Closing my eyes during some parts of the service, I could have been in New Jersey instead of across the world. ♦♦♦ In our journey to the land of our ancestors, we saw many beautiful landmarks, Shoah memorials, and remnants of Jewish communities long past. I realize now that the experience would not have been complete without our also connecting to a living Judaism, as we did while worshipping with our brethren in Warsaw, Budapest, and Prague on three successive Shabbatot. And, we could not have done this without assistance from the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Unlike U.S. congregations that typically have stand-alone buildings, most of the Eastern European congregations we visited used prayer spaces tucked away in apartments or courtyards well-off the street. Some did not exhibit signage indicating that a house of worship was within. For their own protection, many synagogues outside North America do not welcome strangers who have not made advance arrangements. Had we not connected with the WUPJ, I’m not sure we would have ever made it to services. We were also struck by how comfortable we felt. Each Jewish community warmly welcomed the stranger into their midst. More people than we expected spoke English, and in Budapest we played an active role in the service. The presence of Hebrew in prayer and song united us in a common bond with our host communities. And it was inspiring to meet other Progressive Jews who worship as we do, share our values, and are part of our Jewish family. I’m already dreaming about my next Progressive adventure abroad!

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Tracks of Time in Jamaican Sands By Aron and Judith Hirt-Manheimer


t Congregation Sha’are Shalom in Kingston, Jamaica, we experienced a Jewish community the likes of which are not to be found anywhere else in the world. Where else does a community’s “Prayer for the People” conclude with an homage to “One Love,” the anthem of Jamaica’s late reggae star Bob Marley: “May the people of our country be safe from strife and affliction and may we…join together in one love, one heart, and let us say amen.”

floor covered in sand, a practice of unknown origin shared by only four other functioning synagogues in the world. Some say the sand came into use to muffle the sounds of marranos, forcibly baptized Jews who continued to practice Judaism in

asked what draws him to the synagogue, he explained that he follows the teaching, “For I give you a good doctrine, forsake ye not my Torah” (Prov. 4:2). He hopes that Gabrielle “may grow in the Jewish faith and become a bat mitzvah.” ♦♦♦ One of the congregation’s elder statesmen, Ainsley Henriques, a man of aristocratic bearing and sharp wit, introduced himself to us as “the Jewish genealogy of Jamaican Jewry.” After all, he told us, “I

Photographs by Judy Hirt-Manheimer


The last functioning synagogue in Jamaica, a stately white building, looks somewhat out of place in the run-down neighborhood of Central Kingston. Most of the city’s Jews had lived here 100 years ago, but later moved to more affluent parts of the city. Entering the sanctuary, we found the Aron Hirt-Manheimer is editor and Judith Hirt-Manheimer copy-editor of Reform Judaism magazine.

secret. Others believe it symbolizes the sand of the Sinai Desert in the Exodus story. Still others say it was to absorb the mud tracked in from the outside. We devised our own theory while watching three-yearold Gabrielle playing with her toy pony on the sand-filled floor—a sandbox to keep children occupied. Gabrielle’s father, William Rennalls, 41, who wears a kippah over his flowing dreadlocks, worships weekly at Sha’are Shalom, although he is not Jewish. When reform judaism

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have been here for about 250 years. I am not as old as I look.” Ainsley, actually 75, traces his ancestry in Jamaica to Raphael Cohen Belinfante, a Hebrew teacher who arrived on the island from Amsterdam in 1745. For Ainsley, as with other congregants we met, veneration of one’s ancestors seems to tie him to the Jewish community as much as religious conviction. Past and present here are inexorably linked. Member Jennifer Millicent Lim proudly

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♦♦♦ Today’s Jamaican Jewish community is considerably smaller than it was in its heyday in the mid-19th century, when Jews who prospered from international trade and commerce had the financial wherewithal to maintain a half dozen synagogues here. Over the next 150 years, assimilation and emigration reduced the organized Jewish community from approximately 2,500

individuals to 200 today. The attrition has faces the challenge of deciding how far to diverge from the traditions that have continued, as most young people leave defined and governed this community for college and do not return. Ainsley’s while still preserving its inherited three daughters, for example, now live in cultural identity. Boston, Manhattan, and Syracuse. Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan, who “Fifty years ago,” Ainsley lamented, “we filled our synagogue’s 350– 400 seats, especially on the High Holy Days; now only 70–80 worshipers come. On Friday night, about 50 people used to attend; now we get half that number. And we no lonFROM L. TO R.: MARINA DELFOS, CARETAKER OF THE JEWISH CEMETERY ger have enough children IN FALMOUTH, DISPLAYS A PHOTOGRAPH OF ANGELINA ANSELL; AUTHORS ARON AND JUDY HIRT-MANHEIMER IN FRONT OF THE BOB MARLEY HOUSE. to run our relimoved to Jamaica from the United gious school.” States in 2011 to become the congrega♦♦♦ tion’s first ordained rabbi in 33 years, With the congregation’s diminishing believes that a promising way to grow Sha’are Shalom would be through outdemographic, the Board of Directors

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Photographs by Elie K lein

showed us her family tree, pointing out her earliest known ancestor, Gabriel Pinedo, born in 1652. The congregation’s prayer book, an amalgam of prayers in Hebrew (with transliteration) and English (drawn mostly from Sephardic as well as British and American Reform sources), documents historical communal milestones, telling us on the very first page that it was “established in secret by marranos fleeing the Inquisition during the Spanish rule….” The subsequent 15 pages present a history of Sha’are Shalom’s predecessor synagogues, including photographs of the original buildings and noting the various causes of their demise—earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and/or factionalism.

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reach to non-Jews. He wants, he told us, “to build a multiracial community in Jamaica that can be a model for the world.” Early in his tenure, the congregation’s lay-led beth din permitted him to officiate at six conversions. He estimates that an additional 20 candidates are interested in becoming Jews, but the beth din has yet to interview any of them. Rabbi Kaplan believes that the committee is more interested in “bringing back people of Jewish descent who were lost, and thereby preserving the seed of Israel.” Ainsley told us that his first wife, the late Sheila Chung, was the first woman of color (Chinese, Indian, African, and Scottish) to be converted to Judaism in Jamaica. “Racism,” he explained “is not an issue in Jamaica; class is an issue.” Rabbi Kaplan pointed out that “the six recent converts, of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, are all in the upper class of Jamaican society.” Patrick Mudahy is one of the congregation’s most vocal critics of Rabbi Kaplan’s conversion efforts. “We have to be careful who we take in,” he told us. “We have to maintain our blood line.” A born Jew who had been raised as a Christian, Patrick returned to “the faith of my ancestors” as an adult seeking connection to his roots in the aftermath of marital difficulties. When asked how the community could survive without an infusion of new blood, he responded, “Like Masada, it is better to die in honor than to die in shame.”

as adding the matriarchs to the recitation of the Amidah prayer, have met with strong resistance. When one influential member heard the rabbi invoke the name of the matriarch Sarah, he walked out of the sanctuary in protest. Why, we asked, would a congregation where women receive aliyot and sit alongside men in the sanctuary be so opposed to a liturgical change reflecting gender equality? “What’s written in the prayer book is perceived by the ‘conservationists’ as received truth,” Rabbi Kaplan said. “Any devia-

tion from that is seen as a termination of their traditions.” Ainsley told us that because change is so controversial here, it has to be handled through a deliberate process managed by the congregation’s directors rather than imposed in an ad-hoc manner. The last major change came about 30 plus years ago, he said, “when we recognized women as equals for religious practices.” The decision to allow mixed seating, he explained, went back to 1921, when a number of synagogues of varicontinued on page 43

♦♦♦ On the Friday night we attended services, Rabbi Kaplan delivered an impassioned sermon warning that the congregation’s very future depended upon breaking the impasse between what he termed the “conservationists” and “innovationists.” The rabbi hopes to convince the “conservationists” to add contemporary Jamaican culture, such as reggae music, to the congregation’s cherished Sephardic and Classical Reform traditions, because he believes it will appeal to the younger generation. His “Prayer for the People of Jamaica” and his introduction of Debbie Friedman’s Mi Shebeirach have gone largely unopposed by the “conservationists,” but most of his other innovations, such reform judaism

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PARIS: Culture & Community interview with Stéphane Beder

Greetings from Les Philosophes.

contemporary and modern art center in the 16th arrondissement (neighborhood); and Les Ombres on the rooftop of Musée des Arts Premiers, which offers one of the best views in the city of the twinkling Eiffel Tower at night. Food is a French obsession. Parisians spend hours comparing the merits of local bakeries, cheese stores, and restaurants. What should Today, a travelers number of not miss young chefs in Paris? have joined the “fooding” There is a PROGRESSIVE COMMUNITIES IN PARIS CELEBRATE PURIM, 2013. movement, a reason why Charles Dickens dubbed Paris “the most fusion of the words food and feeling, extraordinary place in the world,” Henry which emphasizes quality products preJames referred to it as “the greatest tem- pared in fun, modern, and accessible ways. At Pierre Sang Boyer, for example, ple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes,” and Ernest Hemingway the chef serves up affordable, gourmet called it a “moveable feast.” Beyond the dishes, such as panned fried foie gras with figs, to walk-in patrons. Reservations are historical landmarks, monuments, not accepted and there are no tables— incredible museums, and restaurants only bar stools. Les Cocottes, too, serves that serve meals that can only be exquisite food, but in verrines (canning described as sensuous, Paris displays a jars) and cocottes (cast-iron pots). unique beauty you can discover just by In Paris you can also experience walking and looking at buildings at difkosher gastronomy. Yayin pairs excelferent angles in different lights of day lent wines with reinvented traditional and night. History and romance are part dishes, such as gefilte fish wrapped in of the fabric of every street, bridge, and banana leaves with coconut milk and shop you visit. Interestingly, some Pariduck filet with a charoset crust. sian museums offer great restaurant experiences with fabulous views that are not tourist traps. I recommend Georges What is your top travel tip? on top of the Pompidou Museum; MonDon’t schedule too much. Allow sieur Bleu within Palais de Tokyo, a time to wander and just look around at reform judaism

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places and people. Be open to the unexpected. That is how I met my American wife 30 years ago, in an elevator, the day she arrived in Paris. What are the Jewish sites?

Don’t miss Rue des Rosiers, the heart of the Jewish quarter, with its mix of bohemian clothing shops, art galleries, falafel stands, kosher butchers, Jewish bakeries, and crowds of eclectic Parisians, everyone from Orthodox Jews in shtreimels to gay hipsters decked out in the latest fashions. For great falafel, locals flock to L’as du Falafel. If you’re a strudel lover, don’t miss Florence Kahn on rue des Ecouffes, which intersects with Rue des Rosiers. When you’re done feasting, visit Le Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme, which displays Judaic objects dating back to the Middle Ages. The Memorial de la Shoah captures the horrors of the Second World War, when nearly 76,000 French Jews were deported to concentration camps and only 2,500 survived. Many French Jews lost their lives because they were betrayed by their fellow citizens. As a result, to this day, many French Jews prefer to keep their religious affiliations private. Is it difficult, then, to live as a Jew in France today?

France’s reputation as an anti-Semitic country is overblown. Today France is probably the least complacent country in the world when it comes to anti-Semitic acts or statements. American readers who are attached to notions of freedom of speech may be surprised to learn that many anti-Semitic statements about continued on page 34

Les Philosophes: Photo by John Weiss

Interview with Stéphane Beder, president of the Federation of French-Speaking Liberal Jews (an organization representing liberal communities across France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg), vice-chairman of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, and a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s executive board.

spring 2014

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ack in 1926, when the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) was established in London to serve as an international movement of Progressive Judaism, the world map of Reform (also known as Progressive or Liberal) congregations looked quite different than it does today. Outside of the U.S., there were but a handful of Progressive/Reform congregations in the UK, Germany, and France. The WUPJ began sending young, dynamic Reform rabbis to the far corners of the world to plant the seeds of this modern Jewish movement, and by the 1930s, Progressive congregations were established in Australia, South Africa, Latin America, and the land of Israel. The renewal of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since the late 1980s has given rise to nearly 100 new congregations affiliated with the World Union. In Spain, the newest frontier for Progressive Judaism in Europe, numbers of Anusim (forced converts) are looking to the World Union for their way back to Jewish life. And who in the 1920s could have predicted a growing Reform Movement in Asia, including congregations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the newest Asian Reform congregation in Shanghai. Today’s map of the World Union testifies to just how far we have come.

−› First congregation: New Israelite Temple Society, European Union for Progressive Judaism:

28 Canada


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Union for Progressive Judaism (Australia, New Zealand, and Asia): First congregation: Temple Beth

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Israel, Melbourne, Australia, 1929. Today: 22 congregations in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, India, and Singapore.





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Union for Reform Judaism (North America):

South Carolina, 1824. Today: 864 congregations.


United States


Hamburg, Germany, 1817 (before the European region was established). Today: 148 congregations.

−› First congregation: Beth Elohim, Charleston,




9 Peru


South African Union for Progressive Judaism: 3

First congregation: Temple Israel, Johannesburg, 1936. Today: 10 congregations.

−› First congregation: Congregação Israelita Paulista, World Union-Latin American Region/UJCL:

Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1936. Today: 48 congregations. Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism: First congregation: Har El Congregation, Jerusalem, 1958. Today: 41 congregations throughout Israel. Former Soviet Union (FSU): First congregation: Congregation Hineini, Moscow, 1990. Today: 43 congregations in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.



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Rabbi Joel Oseran, VP, International Development, WUPJ

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Reform Congregations Worldwide • Each number represents the number of World Union for Progressive Judaism congregations currently in that country. • There are now 49 countries with World Union congregations. • As of Spring 2014, there are 1,176 Reform congregations worldwide.

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Rabbi Elected to Argentinian Congress: Rabbi Sergio Bergman, who was ordained through both the Reform and Conservative movements, was elected last Fall to Argentina’s lower SERGIO BERGMAN house of parliament, making him the only rabbi to serve as a member of parliament outside of Israel. A social activist, community leader, and educational innovator, Rabbi Bergman founded Fundación Judaica, a network of Jewish schools and educational projects; created the Arlene Fern school, which integrates children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms; and networks needy Argentinians with food and employment sources. After winning a PRO party’s seat for municipal legislature in 2011, he employed unorthodox methods to reduce tensions in the city, for example, organizing a day of meditation for legislative employees. He also installed a popcorn machine in his office, joking that “the struggles and also some projects are funnier than some movies.” He always appears in public in his trademark colorful kippah. Miriam Vasserman, chair of the WUPJ-Latin American region, notes that “This election is not only in recognition of who Congressman Rabbi Sergio Bregman is; it is also a turning point in the democracy of Argentina.”

~& ~


First School of Jewish Theology: In 1836, Reform pioneer Rabbi Abraham Geiger called on the German government to estab-


Jews that would be viewed as “opinions” in the U.S, such as Holocaust denial, are illegal in France and punished with fines and jail terms. The French courts recently ordered Twitter to furnish personal details about everyone who has tweeted an anti-Semitic insult. And very precise statistics regarding anti-Semitic acts— which do occasionally occur, as they do in the United States—are maintained in coordination with the French police. Overall, France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community is thriving. Jewish classes, conferences, concerts, and cultural activities are held every day or night. And kosher restaurants are multiplying—in my neighborhood, in the 17th arrondissement, there are more than a dozen within a five minutes’ walk. How did Progressive Judaism first come to your city?

The first Progressive synagogue, the Union Libérale Israélite de France (ULIF, ulif.org), opened in 1907. Its founding rabbi, Louis Germain-Levy, wanted to combine Judaism with science and philosophy, and the synagogue grew quickly. Nowadays, the majority of Jews in France think of themselves as traditionalists, but the Progressive movement is growing. Like in Israel, many French Jews think the Jewish choice is being Orthodox or nothing at all—but once they are exposed to the reality of Progressive Judaism, many realize this is what they have always wanted. Today we have four Progressive congregations in Paris, plus Progressive synagogues in Grenoble, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Strasbourg. What is Progressive congregational life like in Paris today?

ULIF, led by Rabbi Yossi Kleiner and Cantor Armand Benhamou, is renowned for developing a musical liturgy derived from 19th-century “consistorial” music, with an organ and a mixed choir. Rabbi Pauline Bebe, the first woman rabbi in France, created Communaute Juive Liberale Ile de France (CJL, cjl-paris.org/ English), a warm and welcoming community with a participatory style which reform judaism

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continued from page 30


lish a Jewish divinity school as evidence for the completion of Jewish emancipation in the nation. That milestone was finally reached 177 years later, when the first department of Jewish theology was established in a state university. On November 19, 2013, the University of Potsdam, working with the Progressive and Conservative Jewish Movements and financed by about $1 million annually by both the German federal and Brandenburg state governments, launched the School of Jewish Theology. Its BA and MA programs in Jewish Theology are components of gaining ordination at both the liberal Abraham Geiger College and the conservative Zacharias Frankel College, both co-institutes of the university.


“Jewish theology will finally become a regular academic subject in Germany, putting us on a par with Christian denominations and with Islam,” says Rabbi Professor Dr. Walter Homolka, rector of the Abraham Geiger College at Potsdam University.


~& ~

Beit Din in Barcelona: Last June, the beit din (rabbinical court) of the European Union for Progressive Judaism welcomed to the Jewish people 20 converts from all over Spain who were continued on p.35

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GLOBAL NEWS from p.34 educated in Jewish history, thought, and practice mostly via Skype. On Friday night they received their certificates of conversion, and, on Saturday morning, their first aliyot, in the medieval synagogue in the heart of former Jewish Barcelona. “About half the group said they were annusim, descendants of Jews converted to Catholicism back in the 15th century,” says beit din co-chair Rabbi Dr. Andrew Goldstein. “They shared accounts of grandmothers lighting candles on Friday night behind closed shutters, of never mixing meat and milk, and of never eating bread at Easter—practices that had once been explained to them as ‘old family customs,’ but they now share as evidence of their Jewish family origins.”

focuses on social action, welcoming strangers, helping the unemployed, collecting food and clothes for the needy, and supporting people with AIDS. Kehilat Gesher (kehilatgesher.org) is served by an American rabbi, Tom Cohen, and holds trilingual services (Hebrew, English, French). With its primary sanctuary in the 15th arrondissement , Mouvement Juif Liberal de France (MJLF, mjlf.org/ English) is led by a woman and a male rabbi, Delphine Horvilleur and Yann Boissière. MJLF has organized France’s Yom Hashoah commemoration, with the reading, over a 24-hour period, of the names of every Jewish child, man, and woman deported from France during WWII. All the worship services differ, but many of our congregations bestow a special place to music. Kehilat Gesher has its own choir; CJL has Shabbat Rock; MJLF has Shabbat Zimra, a musical Shabbat featuring musicians that mix traditional and new tunes; and Copernic hosts concerts featuring klezmer music, Israeli jazz, traditional liturgy, and choirs. What is unique about Progressive Jewish life in your city?


Rabbi Goldstein explains that “Several candidates spoke of antiSemitism in Spain and of experiencing opposition to their conversion. All had prepared to face these problems, the expense, and, in some cases, the time to travel hundreds of kilometres to Barcelona to achieve their goal of joining a religion that gave them comfort and a feeling of belonging.” This was the third annual beit din in Barcelona. Thirty people converted in the first two beit din, bringing the total number of recent converts to 50, and a fourth beit din will take place in Summer 2014.

Along with Israel, France is one of the few countries with a strong Sephardi community. A large percentage of our Jewish families emigrated from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia in the early 60s, when these nations gained their independence from France. As a result, we benefit from a very interesting mix of traditions. For instance, we enjoy the more joyous Sephardi approach at the end of Yom Kippur, singing the Neila (closure) with an upbeat tune rather than the more solemn Ashkenazi melody. And many Sephardi foods are now part of our French Jewish experience, everything from traditional Friday night couscous to the specialty pancake Mofletta, which we eat at the Mimouna celebration beginning after nightfall on the last day of Passover when North African families typically consume all kinds of chametz (leavened food). I hope that you can visit us and enjoy the diversity and richness of Progressive Jewish life in France. A bientôt! (See you soon!). reform judaism

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Historic Dedication: Last September, Congregation Hatikva in Kiev, Progressive Judaism’s flagship center in the Ukraine, joined with an international


delegation of World Union for Progressive Judaism leaders to dedicate the synagogue’s new center. The congregation, which also runs two kindergartens, had been working out of very inadequate rental facilities for 22 years until three World Union families furnished the funds to purchase a new property; the “right” property was found within the historic Jewish neighborhood of Podol; and renovations made to accommodate a 150-seat sanctuary, spacious activity rooms, library, Netzer youth center, administrative offices, and a kitchenette. “Perhaps the most significant feeling shared by all present at the dedication was tikva (hope),” says Judy Smith in the WUPJ e-newsletter Connections. “In the context of the death and destruction of more than 70% of Ukrainian Jewry during the Shoah, it is nothing short of a miracle that Jewish life continues to flourish in the Ukraine.”

Read and share the RJ Insider’s Guide to World Travel on your computer, iPad, or smartphone. Go to reformjudaismmag.org.

spring 2014

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MELBOURNE: Culture & Community interview with Philip Bliss

Greetings from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

robbers) is now a fascinating museum that displays the last used gallows. The beautiful Botanical Gardens in South Yarra will give you a wonderful glimpse into Australian native trees and flowers. Free tourist trams will take What do tourists find most interest- you around the city. ing about Melbourne? Almost every month the city comes Melbourne is a vibrant city with alive as tens of thousands of locals and something visitors for every flock to person. our festiFamous for vals, such its steaks as the and fresh Mellocal fish, it bourne has worldInternaclass restional taurants— Film Fesamong tival, the them Vue MelGERSH LAZEROW INSTRUCTS PRE-B’NAI MITZVAH Du Monde RABBI bourne STUDENTS AT TEMPLE BETH ISRAEL. atop the Internahigh-rise Rialto Tower, a gourmet’s tional Writers Festival, the Melbourne delight second to none. And as home to International Arts Festival, The people of 138 different nationalities— Melbourne International Food and including one of the largest Greek popu- Wine Festival, the International Grand lations outside of Athens—the city offers Prix (motor racing), and the Australian cuisines from every corner of the world. Open Tennis Championships. Melbourne also has a rich theatre Melbourne is also the sports capital and music scene, art galleries and of Australia, with Australian Rules museums. Federation Square is full of Football the dominant winter sport and galleries, restaurants, and cinemas as cricket the main summer spectator well as the famous colorful artistic event. The Melbourne Cricket Ground graffiti-filled Melbourne laneways seats 100,000 sports-crazy fans, houses (narrow pedestrian walkways), many a sports museum full of interesting of which are populated with small bars memorabilia, and runs daily tours when and restaurants. Also, be sure to no matches are on. And the city is a explore the Arts Centre, encompassing golfer’s paradise, with many internathe newly renovated National Gallery tional level courses. and multi theater and recital centers on You’ll also find many friendly visithe bank of the Yarra River. The Old tor information booths around the city. Melbourne Jail that once held notoriAustralians are generally very welcomous villains and bushrangers (highway ing, so don’t be afraid to ask people in reform judaism

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the street for help or directions. You’ll see why several travel magazines have voted Melbourne the most livable city in the world. What are the best Jewish sites?

The Jewish Museum of Australia in St Kilda offers a very well-designed visual history of Australian Jewry. The Holocaust Museum provides personal testimonies and ever-changing exhibitions. Along Carlisle Street in East St Kilda you’ll find many kosher bakeries, food stores, and butchers as well as a good number of Jewish book and Judaica stores. And there are many Jewish festivals—an annual Jewish film festival, an Israeli film festival, a summer Jewish LGBT festival, and soon, starting in 2014, the first Melbourne Jewish Writers festival. We also have Jewish choirs and a Yiddish theatre. Can you give us a brief history of Jews in Australia?

Australian Jewry has a proud history downunder. Fourteen Jews were among the convicts on the first fleet aboard the Bounty that arrived on the shores of what is now Sydney Cove in 1788. The convict Esther Abrahams became the wife of one of Australia’s first governors (the British Queen/King’s representative). There have been two Jewish governor generals (representatives of the sovereign in Australia): former Chief Justice Sir Isaac Isaacs in 1926 and the much beloved Sir Zelman Cowan, who was called upon in 1977 to heal the nation after the divisive dismissal of the previous prime minister. His funeral two years ago at Temple Beth Israel, broadcast live on national television, was attended by govern-

Melbourne Cricket Club Photo © JanBran

Dr. Philip Bliss is secretary of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and former president both of the Union of Progressive Judaism and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Australia.

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ment officials, the current and previous living prime ministers, and the current governor general. Another Australian Jewish hero and statesman, General Sir John Monash, led the Allied forces in the First World War. Much has been named after him, including Monash University. Most of the Jews who first came to Australia arrived from England. Some were seeking a better life from the slums of London and other English cities; others were transported here by Her Majesty’s government to serve out criminal sentences, often for nothing more than stealing a loaf of bread. Next to arrive were Russian Jews escaping from pogroms and forced military service. Many of these immigrants went on to build successful businesses and professional careers as they assimilated into Australian society. It was not until after the Holocaust, when a huge influx of European Jews immigrated and created many Jewish day schools and community organizations, that the Jewish community revived. Notably, Melbourne has had the largest number of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel. Australia opened its doors soon after the Shoah, and many survivors wanted to get as far away from Europe as possible. Most of the Polish survivors went to Melbourne and the Hungarians to Sydney. Because of the very early Jewish involvement in Australian settlement and the number of highly respected and prominent Jewish personalities, anti-Semitism has been relatively minimal here. In 1947, Australia was the first country to vote in the United Nations for the establishment of the State of Israel. Today, Israel and Australia have very close relations in trade, research, and culture. How many Jews live in Australia?

Approximately 130,000, mainly in Melbourne and Sydney, although every state capital city has a Jewish community. In recent years there has been a large influx of Russian and South African Jews as well as upwards of 20,000 Israelis, nearly all of whom are seeking a better and safer life in Australia. ➢






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Progressive Jews constitute about 20% of the Jewish community. Melbourne has four Progressive congregations, the largest of which, Temple Beth Israel, has 2500 members and seats 1800+ in the main sanctuary during the High Holy Days. What is Progressive worship like?

Each of the four synagogues provides a slightly different ambiance. At Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda, which holds services every Friday night and Shabbat morning followed by a nice Kiddush, you might find a meditationbased service, one that is all music, an alternative lay-led service, or one geared for families. It’s well worth a trip just to see the temple’s beautiful stained glass windows depicting all the festivals and Shabbat. Friday night services generally attract 200 members and visitors, and this number can rise considerably on Shabbat morning if there is a bar or bat mitzvah or other simcha. At the Leo Baeck Centre in Kew and Ayz Chaim in Bentleigh, a warm, welcoming, rabbiled service is available every Shabbat morning and for all festivals. Occasional Friday evening services at both congregations are followed by a dinner in the shul hall attended by as many as 60 people. At Kedem in Armadale, all services are lay-led and held on alternative weeks. Most North American visitors would feel at home at any of Melbourne’s Progressive congregations. Our services have a good mixture of Hebrew and English, and our uplifting modern and traditional Reform music would be very familiar. All of our synagogues use the World Union for Progressive Judaism edition of Mishkan T’fillah, which has been adapted for Southern Hemisphere seasons and local sensibilities. It is customary for males to wear head coverings, and on Shabbat morning men and many women wear their own tallitot. Visitors are most welcome to worship with us. Please make yourself known to the members at the door and/or to the rabbi. And let us know if you are celebrating a special occasion, so we can celebrate with you!

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CAPE TOWN: Culture & Community interview with Alvin Kushner

Interview with Alvin Kushner, regional chairman of the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation, vice chairman of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism, chairman of the SA Jewish Maritime League, and director of Cape Rainbow Tours

Greetings from penguins in Simon’s Town. marks 12:00 in Cape Town. Set against Table Mountain’s eastern slopes is Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, one of the great gardens of the world and the first to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora. You’ll find more than 7,000 species, many of them

To experience a facet of Cape Town revealed to few tourists, consider exploring the townships with the help of a tourist guide, who can arrange insightful, fun-filled ways to experience the informal settlements while keeping safety paramount. By meeting and


Simon’s Town peng uins: Photo by Gui Stafford

What excites tourists about Cape Town?

Its beauty and grandeur. The 16thcentury explorer Sir Francis Drake declared Cape Town, situated in the Western Cape of South Africa, “the fairest we saw in the whole circumference of the earth!” Today the cosmopolitan, vibrant city, situated amidst the sea, valley, and mountaintops, is considered among the most breathtaking spots on the planet. What sightseeing is a must?

Table Mountain is a huge, flat-topped block of sandstone; after ascending the summit by cable car, you can take in magnificent panoramic views and stroll around on a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk. For excellent views of the city and harbor, visit Signal Hill, the northernmost tip of the terrestrial area of the park, where the noon-day gun

rare or threatened. Summer sunset concerts at the garden are a relaxing way to spend Sundays from November to April. Pack a food basket and enjoy picnicking on the soft grass that slopes downwards towards the stage. Just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, at the southwestern tip of Africa, is Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where you can see zebra and eland (large, spiral-horned African antelopes) and hike or bike the scenic trails. About 10 miles north is the Boulders Penguin Colony in Simon’s Town, home to a unique, endangered, land-based colony of African penguins. If you visit between August and November (Winter/Spring), you can go whale-watching. Each year at this time, Southern Right whales and other species migrate into the Southern coastal waters by the quaint seaside village of Hermanus to calve and nurse their young. reform judaism

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speaking with local people, tourists come to appreciate the townships’ vibrant culture and gain insight into challenges faced by the majority of South Africans. A visit to the District 6 museum facilitates understanding of how earlier classification laws had fragmented our society until about the last 20 years. During the dark years of apartheid, many people whom tourists assume were defined as black were in fact classified as Coloured or Indian and did not live in the townships, but in other designated areas, For example, Bo-Kaap, the oldest part of Cape Town, is largely comprised of a community of descendants of Malaysian/Indian slaves from Southeast Asia brought here in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company to work the provision station that supplied ships bound for Malaysia. Notably, their descendants have maintained their unique culture, traditions,

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and recipes. Their Cape Malay cuisine is a careful blend of spices, turmeric being most important; and their homes are brightly colored. To learn more, visit the beautiful Bo-Kaap Museum. Are there safaris in the area?

Yes, there are three game reserves within a two- to three-hour drive. You’ll travel in an open four-by-four vehicle, with a ranger, through the bio-diverse natural habitats of elephants, lions, buffalo, giraffes, zebra, rhinos, ostriches, baboons, springboks, blesboks, wildebeest, and other animals. Is South Africa’s wine country near Cape Town?

Yes, wine farms are studded all over the Cape, and some are within a 40 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. Food and lifestyle blogger Tandy Sinclair suggests wine tasting at Vergenoegd Wine Estate, followed by lunch at 96 Winery Road (skip the coffee, but don’t miss the crème brûlée). You can sip freshly brewed coffee at the nearby Lourensford Wine Estate, which is also a coffee roasting company, and then enjoy chocolates and wine in the wine tasting center. About five miles down the road, stop in at Spier Wine Farm, dating back to 1692, where award-winning wines are paired with fabulous food grown on the farm or locally. Music and market events enhance the experience. One of the best wine experiences in the Cape is at Die Bergkelder, the famous “Cellar in the Mountain,” home to award-winning Fleur du Cap wines, wine tasting, and an audio-visual presentation about the winery. Can you share some of Cape Town’s culinary delights?

South Africa is well known for its exceptional meat cuts, and Chef Giorgio Nava serves up the real deal at Carne SA, one of the best steakhouses in the country. Local venison, ostrich, and kudu are often featured on the menu. One of Cape Town’s most soughtafter venues is Sevruga, on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Its extensive menu features world-class sushi and seafood and a temperature-controlled glass

wine wall housing 3,000 bottles of South Africa’s finest wines. I also recommend a visit to The Pot Luck Club, a tapas-style restaurant owned by Chef Luke Dale-Roberts, who has won the Eat Out Top Restaurant Award. He also runs The Test Kitchen, a fine-dining eatery popular with young South Africans. The team in the openplan kitchen move fast in their chefs’ whites, prepping and cooking for everyone to see. Dining alone here is easy— there’s plenty of entertainment. What are your top travel tips?

Dress is almost universally informal. Be cautious about walking in isolated areas at night. Tipping for service often starts at 10% of a bill. South Africans drive on the left, so the vehicles are all right-hand drive. The Cape Town roads are excellent, and we have a very good rapid bus transit system, but you may need taxis, as buses don’t run to all areas. Only use metered taxis. What Jewish sites are most worth visiting?

In the heart of Cape Town you’ll find a thriving Jewish center which includes the South African Jewish Museum and the Cape Town Holocaust Centre. At the museum you can delve into how South African Jews responded to the moral and political issues confronting them, and visit the nation’s first synagogue, an Egyptian-styled building built in 1863 that now houses rare Jewish artifacts of the period. The Holocaust Centre explores Cape Town survivor stories, the pseudoscience of “race,” anti-Semitism, and the institutionalized racism of apartheid. How long have Jews lived in Cape Town?

About three Jewish families, and a handful of individual Jews, first came to Cape Town in 1820 as part of a larger group of British settlers. Seventeen Jews founded the first congregation in South Africa, the Gardens Shul, 21 years later. Some of the early Jewish settlers were commercial pioneers. The Mosenthal brothers—Julius, Adolph, and James— traveled to Asia and returned in 1856 with 30 Angora goats, thereby becoming the originators of the mohair industry in reform judaism

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South Africa. Aaron and Daniel de Pass, the largest ship owners in Cape Town, were leaders in the fishing industry. Jews were also among the first in South Africa to farm ostrich, and were players in the early diamond industry. What role did Jews play during the apartheid struggle?

A significant number of Jewish South Africans, both individuals and organizations, helped support the anti-apartheid movement. Many opposed the National Party’s apartheid policies, and the Union of Jewish Women sought to alleviate the suffering of blacks through charitable self-help projects. Five of the 17 African National Congress members who were arrested for anti-apartheid activities in 1963 were Jewish. Anti-apartheid movement leader Nelson Mandela wrote: “I have found Jews to be more broadminded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice.” Today South Africa is a true rainbow nation where all religions and cultures thrive freely. Have Jews played prominent roles in political leadership?

Yes. Thirteen Jewish mayors have served Cape Town, from Hyman Lieberman (1904–1907) to, most recently, Patricia Sulcas Kreiner (1993–1995). Jews representing different political parties have also been elected onto town councils and served as mayors and members of the Provincial Administration and Parliament. The Jewish Board of Deputies–Cape Council, 30% of whose members are affiliated with the Cape Town Progressive Jewish movement, keeps watch on proposed legislation that could affect South African Jewry. What is the Progressive Jewish community like in Cape Town today?

The city has three Progressive (Reform) synagogues, in Wynberg, Green Point, and West Coast, all of which are under the umbrella of the Cape Town Progressive Jewish Congregation, also known as Temple Israel. They hold services in Hebrew and English, using Mishkan T’filah—World continued on page 42

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BUENOS AIRES: Culture & Community interview with Sergio Brukman

Tango dancers: Photo © Hemis / A lamy

Sergio Brukman is chairman of the Judaica Foundation.

Greetings from tango dancers in La Boca.

(Jewish Congregation of Argentina). In 2013 the synagogue celebrated the 150year anniversary of its hosting the first registered minyan in Buenos Aires. ForWhat should travelers not miss in your city? merly Liberal, it is now a Conservative congregation welcoming people from all Buenos Aires has so many great religious streams. In the same building cultural sites and activities, it’s hard to you’ll find the Buenos Aires Jewish choose what not to miss. Museum, documenting the Jewish experiAt Mayo Square, you’ll see the ence, and the Judaica Foundation, a network of Jewish institutions representing all religious streams in Buenos Aires: synagogues, a school, a Jewish gay organization, Jewish community development, social L.: SANCTUARY, NCI—EMANU EL CONGERGATION. R.: RABBI SERGIO BERGMAN (L., TODAY MEMBER OF ARGENTINIAN PARLIAMENT), RABBI services for the ALEJANDRO AVRUJ, & CARDINAL JORGE BERGOGLIO (TODAY POPE FRANCIS) LIGHT HANUKKAH CANDLES IN THE CONGREGATION, 2012. general community, etc. The Foundation enables organifamous balcony of the government the site of abandoned customs warehouse from which Argentinian President houses, has now become one of the most zations with very different ideologies to focus on common goals—a unique model Juan Peron and his wife Evita saluted beautiful and upscale areas of modern of cooperation in the Jewish world. the crowd in both the musical and the Buenos Aires, with many great restauWhile each institution is independent and movie “Evita.” The building and balcorants offering a wide variety of food. ny are open to visitors, so you can have And don’t miss Tigre, a beautiful river- autonomous, together they solve problems, share experiences, promote one a photograph taken of yourself in the side city about 20 miles north of Buenos another’s activities, and build community. guise of a beloved 1940s political leader. Aires, where you can visit an estancia In the Jewish neighborhoods of “VilThe portside neighborhood La Boca, (a local ranch), complete with traditional la Crespo” and “Once” you’ll see Jewwhich was the gateway for thousands of asado (BBQ), horseback riding, Argenish schools, synagogues, and Jewish immigrants—most of them Italian—in tinian folk music, dances, and demonresidents going about their daily lives— the early 20th century, is now the place to strations of “gaucho” (cowboy) skills. and police stations with Hebrew signs. go to see shows of live tango—our local Another neighborhood populated by dance—on the streets throughout the day. What Jewish sites are most worth visiting? Jews in the last couple of decades is Many people don’t realize that tango Belgrano, home to both the Progressive Start with the synagogue of Libertad started in the brothels here and originally NCI-Emanue El Congregation and the Street, which is what everybody calls it, was danced solely by men while waiting Arlene Fern Community School. although its official name is Congregafor “social services.” The houses still Other must-sees are the Israel ción Israelita de la República Argentina have the Italian imprint of those immigrant years, and you can visit the ones called “conventillos,” which served as small hotels for arriving families. Palermo Park, designed by the famous French architect and landscape designer Charles Thays, features lovely botanical gardens and the Palermo Zoo. After being refurbished in the ’90s, the Puerto Madero neighborhood, once

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Embassy square and the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building, where the terrorist attacks took place in 1992 and 1994. Rebuilt on the original site, the AMIA building is now a cultural memorial featuring a work of art designed and donated by Israeli artist Yaakov Agam. Be sure to book your visit in advance, because for security reasons unregistered people are not allowed to enter the building. If you have time, leave the city and visit places such as Entre Rios and Santa Fe, where Jewish colonies funded by Baron de Hirsch were established in the 19th and 20th centuries. Eastern European Jews resettled there and farmed the land. They became known as “Jewish gauchos,” the Argentinian equivalent of cowboys. Today, 30 Jews still live and work as farmers in the very last settlement within the small town of Avigdor, 300 miles north of Buenos Aires, established in the early 1930s as a shelter for Jews escaping Germany. Our Judaica Foundation is working to rescue the colony by building schools, a cheese factory, a medical center, and a camp where youth can learn the story of Jewish immigration to Argentina. On the way to Avigdor, stop at the village of Dominguez and visit the Museum of the Jewish Immigration to Argentina, where you can learn about the immigrants’ daily life and their contributions to Argentinian society. What is your top travel tip?

Although Buenos Aires is safer than most cities in Latin America, some extra care won’t hurt. Try not to take personal valuables while you’re touring, and ask your hotel staff about recommended places to go and not to go. In Buenos Aires you don’t have to be afraid, but you have to be careful. What are great local dishes?

The asado (local word for a BBQ) is both tradition and a source of pride. I recommend the restaurants Cabaña Las Lilas, La Brigada, and La Cabrera. And because Italians are one of our largest immigrant communities, finding good pasta restaurants, such as La Parolaccia or Sottovoce, is as easy as finding good meat. Plus, don’t miss the pizza at Banchero, Güerrin,

or Las Cuartetas. Just don’t expect the pizza you’re are used to; ours is thicker, and no “extra cheese” is required! When did Progressive Judaism begin in Buenos Aires?

It started at Emanu El Congregation in the early 70s. About 12 years ago the community merged with NCI and today is known as NCI-Emanu El Congregation. We now have a second beautiful Progressive congregation, too: Mishkan. About 200,000 Jews live in Argentina, nearly 80% in the greater Buenos Aires area. Currently Conservative Judaism is the biggest religious stream, but I think Progressive Jewry has a lot of growth potential, as long as we continue to be welcoming, inclusive, and spiritual; encourage people to be actively involved; and adapt what we offer to the needs of Jewish families today. Jews are already drawn to our congregations because of the feeling of community: the personal relationship with the rabbis and the sense of living their Jewish lifecycle in community. We say that we build community through our actions, and we behave according to this saying. Our cultural tradition bids us to make sure that every person who comes to one of our synagogues feels a sense of belonging. People tell us it is easy to become part of our mishpuche (family). What are worship services like?

Music is an essential part of services. We mix Ashkenazi and Sepharadi melodies, using Shlomo Carlebach music as well as music composed by our own people. Keyboards, drums, violin, etc. are always present on Shabbat. Women can wear kipot and tallitot and of course we all sit together, as services are moments to share with the whole family. In our siddur (prayer book) all the texts are written in Hebrew and Spanish, and the Hebrew songs are transliterated. Our rabbis deliver strong divrei Torah and create an atmosphere of togetherness. Our lay leaders play an essential role as well, educating each new generation in the spirit of community service. As our grandparents used to say, our services are a mechayah (a great pleasure), and we invite any visitor to take part in them to confirm this! reform judaism

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What are your most popular holiday celebrations?

The High Holy Days, for sure. At the end of Neila, the lights are turned off, and the children enter with Havdallah candles while the congregation sings niggunim (wordless Jewish melodies) in the dark. When the shofar is blown with t’kia g’dola, you can feel the energy of a community praying together. The service ends with everyone singing “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, as a symbol of our commitment to Israel and our hopes for the next year. What else is unique about Progressive Jewish life in your city?

We Argentinians are very passionate in everything we do, and being Jewish is part of this passion. You see this, for example, in our major identification with the State of Israel. We joke that the strongest religious stream in Argentina is Zionism. I hope you come to Argentina, as you will have a great vacation experience. And don’t forget to visit us. We’ll be honored to receive you.

Cape Town

continued from page 40 Union Edition, on Friday nights, and shiurim (study sessions) before the Shabbat service on Saturday mornings. Wynberg and Green Point feature a monthly “Shabbat Magic”; we call it magic because the shuls are full to the brim with congregants of all ages. Wynberg also hosts Shabbat Chessed, an inclusive, participatory, lay-led, alternative Shabbat experience. And, one Shabbat morning every quarter, all three communities join for a “Super Shabbat” or “Unity Shabbat.” The day begins with seven speakers, each presenting a seven-minute talk on a Jewish topic of his/her choice, followed by alternative concurrent services—traditional, family-friendly, yoga, or creative Torah telling—a joint Torah service, and then a festive meal. From my experience as a tour operator, I can say that Cape Town regularly exceeds the expectations of even the best-travelled tourists. Come visit us. You’ll enjoy our natural beauty, diverse cultures, and warm hospitality.

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...Jamaican Sands continued from page 29

ous traditions merged in the aftermath of the great Kingston fire. ♦♦♦


Logo designed by studio Kalderon ©

Ainsley, founder of Jamaica’s Jewish Genealogy Society and chairman of the nation’s National Heritage Trust, walked us through the Jewish cemetery at Hunt’s Bay, which served the Jews of Port Royal until 1692, when an earthquake destroyed the city. Its 359 tombstones, which date from the 1670s to early 1700s, are inscribed in Spanish and Hebrew and oriented eastward toward Jerusalem. Among those buried here are “Snr. Moses Cohen Henriques (Esther),” believed to be the wife of one of the most famous Jewish pirate warriors, Moses Cohen Henriques, who aided the Dutch in capturing the Spanish silver fleet and in invading Brazil. Like other Jewish pirates of the time, Moses Henriques had a score to settle with Spain and Portugal: His parents had suffered under the Inquisition and had to flee to Amsterdam. We also visited the walled Jewish cemetery in the port city of Falmouth, where 113 Jews are buried. Its caretaker, Marina Delfos, told us that a cholera epidemic in the 1850s had resulted in dozens of deaths and the exodus of many of the city’s Jews. Among the probable victims of the epidemic was the physician Lewis Ashenhiem, who died at age 42. His descendant, Sir Neville Noel Ashenheim (1900–1984), served as Jamaica’s first ambassador to the U.S. after the nation won its independence from Great Britain in 1962.



♦♦♦ Despite many devastating natural disasters, generations of Jews have, through time, left indelible tracks on the Jamaican landscape. Today, serious challenges face the leaders of this dwindling community, but, hopefully they will find a way to join together, in Bob Marley’s words, in “one love, one heart,” and become a living model of how to integrate traditions and peoples in our increasingly multicultural world. reform judaism


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Palestinian prisoners in Israelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hadarim jail.

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TERRORISM PAYS For convicted

Palestinians in Israeli prisons, the more heinous the

act of violence & the longer the sentence, the higher their salariesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; and the cost is subsidized by

US taxpayers. by Edwin Black

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“The United States continues to finance imprisoned Palestinian terrorists.” to grab a ride. This day, Evyatar was among them. Salam asked the bus driver to drop him off about 60 meters down the way from the intersection. He lit a cigarette and texted Abdulfattah: “My dear brother, take care of dad, mom, and my sister, and keep your head up.” He then sent a second text to his famreform judaism

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Investigative journalist Edwin Black is the New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust (for which he received the American Society of Journalists and Authors’ Best Book of the Year award), War Against the Weak (for which he received the World Affairs Council’s International Human Rights Award), and The Transfer Agreement (for which he received the Carl Sandburg and two Folio awards), among other books. His articles are syndicated worldwide by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post Syndicate, JTA, and Feature Group News Service. This article is adapted from his latest investigative book, Financing the Flames: How TaxExempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terror in Israel (Dialog Press, October 2013). To learn more, read the footnoted version of this article, with links to official documents, news articles, and other sources, on reformjudaism.org.


Previous spread: Tal Cohen /Stringer / AFP / Gett y Images; This spread: Both photos © Suhaib Salem / Reuters / Corbis


sraeli Evyatar Borovsky, 31, was a therapeutic clown with a big heart. His life mission was to inject comic diversion into those who needed it most—hospitalized children. In his pocket he always carried two puppet eyes. He’d just slip them on the fingers, show his lustrous smile, and a child would laugh. All the children, including his own five kids, adored him. Palestinian Salam Zaghal, 21, was a jobless man who had recently spent three years in an Israeli prison for attempting to plant a bomb. His older brother, Abdulfattah, had also been in prison—but a Palestinian prison, for being an Israeli spy. Among Palestinians, “collaboration” with the Zionists is considered the worst of crimes. But after a year A freed Palesin jail, Palestinian authorities paroled Abdultinian prisoner receives a hero’s fattah so he could return to the West Bank vilwelcome at the lage of Shuka to help his poverty-stricken family. Gaza-Israel border, On April 30, 2013, Salam, carrying a blue plastic August 2013. bag, boarded a bus to Tapuach Junction, a major highway crossroads about an hour’s ride from Jerusalem and a hitchhiking nexus for both Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinian day laborers and ordinary employees from the West Bank, as well high tech Israeli technocrats and office workers, all gather there

ily: “Forgive me in life, in death, and in the end of days.” Minutes later, Salam reached into his bag, pulled out a kitchen knife almost eight inches long, and screamed, “Allahu Akbar—God is greater!” as he plunged the metal blade directly into Evyatar’s stomach and then again deep into his chest. The clown with the big heart lay dying on the asphalt. Salam then grabbed Evyatar’s gun, but before he could inflict more damage, was shot in the leg and rushed to an Israeli hospital. The Zaghal family expressed joy at their son’s act. Surrounded by a circle of comforting villagers, Salam’s elderly father Assad declared, “It was a destiny, and we take pride in him as a family. What he [Salam] did is a duty for all Palestinians living with the aggression of the army and settlers.” The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the militant wing of the Fatah party, claimed full responsibility for the killing and declared it a “heroic operation…carried out by the liberated prisoner—the hero, Salam Assad Zaghal.” The proclamation added that such “quality operations” were “a gift to all prisoners in the occupation prisons.” At Evyatar’s funeral, his widow, Tzovia, bent over her husband in lamentation. Waving five fingers, she declared, “Five orphans he left behind! Five orphans! Five orphans!” For the medical clown, engraved plaques will be laid. For the unemployed killer and his family, their money problems will be a thing of the past. Salam awaits sentencing and will subsequently enjoy a salary of thousands per year.

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errorism has become a salient industry in the Palestinian economy, with high governmental salaries awarded to those who carry out attacks on Israelis. Convicted terrorists are cherished as heroes in Palestinian society. They are honored every April 17 on “Prisoners Day,” a national Palestinian observance. From its beginnings, the Palestinian Authority (PA), created in 1993 in conjunction with the Oslo Accords, has treated terrorists imprisoned in Israel as “employees.” Palestinians who have perpetrated crimes of terror against Israeli civilians or infrastructure receive monthly payments officially and openly allocated by the PA. Two national bodies administer these salaries and other benefits: the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners Affairs, which dispenses the salaries; and the semi-official Prisoners Club, which lobbies for ever greater prisoner payments and benefits. The payments, amounting to millions of dollars each month, constitute the highest levels of personal compensation and family benefits awarded anywhere in the Palestinian Territory, often dwarfing payments to civil servants. Salaries to prisoners follow a sliding scale based on “quality”—the more heinous the act of terrorism, and the longer the Israeli prison sentence, the higher the salary. According to a 2011 report produced by the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israelibased NGO and media watchdog group, Palestinians

in detention for acts of terrorism fetch a salary of about $400/month. Prisoners incarcerated between three and five years receive about $560/monthly—more than what many ordinary West Bank workers earn. Those who are incarcerated for between five and 10 years, for having committed more serious acts receive more than $1,100/month, and so it goes with salaries set for 10–15 years, 15–20 years, 20–25 years, and 25–30 years, until the highest level of $3,400/month to terrorists sentenced to 30 years or more. When payments to prisoners are not forthcoming, during periodic financial crunches, the Prisoners Club takes action. On July 10, 2004, for example, the Prisoners Club delivered two memos to Salam Fayyad, then PA Finance Minister, demanding additional funding despite what Fayyad described as “our lack of resources.” In a speech, Fayyad retorted, “We are facing a financial crisis, of which everybody is aware, but there are those that choose not to listen….The Palestinian Authority has always positioned the issue of prisoners on the top of its list of priorities.” Nonetheless, just four days after the memos, the PA transmitted a check of $175,000 to cover overdue Prisoners Club expenses, and did so “at a time when no ministry or PA institution received a payment,” Fayyad later complained. Later that year, in December 2004, the PA codified the paying of terrorists in its Law of Prisoners, also known as Resolution 2004/19, narrowing the

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Palestinian children rally in support of Palestinian Prisoners Day, Gaza City, April 2012.

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definition of a salaried prisoner to “Anyone imprisoned in the occupation’s [Israel’s] prisons as a result of his participation in the struggle against the occupation,” thereby differentiating those considered as national heroes, by virtue of their attacks, from common criminals. Six years later, in 2010, the PA enacted additional prisoner regulations, resolutions, policies, and special benefits, which were published on April 13, 2011 in Volume 90 of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official gazette of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Media Watch then began scrutinizing, digesting, translating, and publishing the Al-Hayat Al-Jadida references pertaining to prisoner benefits, including the following: Government Resolution #19: “A released prisoner will be exempt from tuition fees at government schools and universities if he served a period of five years or more in prison….These prisoners are entitled to transfer the exemption to one of their children, or to their spouse….A prisoner’s children will be exempt from 80 percent of university tuition fees if the prisoner was sentenced to at least 20 years and has been in prison for at least five years. Children of female prisoners will be exempt from 80 percent of university tuition

“Because prisoners have become a bargaining chip, sooner rather than later, terrorists are released.” fees if the prisoner was sentenced to at least 10 years, and has served at least three years.” Government Resolution #21: “Every prisoner will be paid a uniform sum linked to the cost of living index, as a monthly expenditure. Additionally, every prisoner will be paid a uniform sum of 400 [Israeli] shekels reform judaism

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he 2011 Palestinian Media Watch reports triggered reactions in the United Kingdom and Norway, both major donor countries to the PA. Citing PMW’s disclosures, British MP Robert Halfon wrote to Britain’s Foreign Office and its Department for International Development demanding answers as to whether or not taxpayer money was being utilized for terrorist salaries. International Development Minister Alan Duncan defended the expenditures, saying, “The PA operates two social assistance programs to provide welfare payments to households who have lost their main breadwinner…dependent spouses or children should not be held responsible for the crimes of family members, or forced to live in poverty as a consequence.” Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide justified the PA payments to his parliament by explaining that they were merely family welfare stipends. ♦♦♦


he United States has also continued to finance imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, even though on September 23, 2001—just 12 days after 9/11—President George W. Bush issued an executive order prohibiting the support of organizations or individuals designated as terrorists. Long before 9/11, several elaborate “vetting procedures” attached to various forms of budgetary financial assistance to the PA had been written into U.S. laws, but these had not stopped the payments through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). In 2006 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on this situation titled “Recent Improvements Made, but USAID Should Do More to Help Ensure Aid Is Not Provided for Terrorist Activities in West Bank and Gaza.” Calling for greater scrutiny and vetting, the report concluded, “The timing of the…financial audits and certain other issues


Photo by Avishag Shaar Yashuv / FLASH90

One of Evytar Borovsky’s sons mourns his father, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist, April 2013.

for clothing. The sum will be paid twice a year, and will be added to the prisoner’s salary.” Government Resolution #23: “Every prisoner will be granted a monthly salary, to be paid to him or to his family, on condition that he does not receive a salary from a [different] governmental or semi-governmental body or official institution….The salary will be paid to the prisoner from the date of his arrest, and a special supplement will be paid to prisoners from Jerusalem and from the Interior [i.e., Israeli Arabs]; a spousal supplement will be paid, and a special supplement for children up to the age of 18. All references to salaries use the Arabic word “ratib,” the same word utilized by official Palestinian budget documents to describe the regular compensation granted its civil servants and other employees.

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limited their usefulness to the mission for determining whether awardees had complied with the antiterrorism requirements….Until recently, the mission’s vetting of individuals associated with awardees was limited by the mission’s decision not to collect certain identifying information for key individuals.” A subsequent 2009 GAO report titled “Measures to Prevent Inadvertent Payments to Terrorists under Palestinian Aid Programs Have Been Strengthened, But Some Weaknesses Remain” explained that the GAO found incomplete compliance with even minimal paperwork requirements for vetting procedures. Most tellingly, it made no reference to either a Ministry of Prisoners Affairs or the Prisoners Club. More recently, a GAO official who spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak to the press, asserted, “Following the 2009 report, we were confident that the agencies made the changes we asked them to make. As of 2012, we closed our recommendations as implemented.” ♦♦♦


s a cautionary move to make sure payments from donor nations would continue, in December 2012 the PA began replacing its term ratib—Arabic for “salary”—with words connoting “social welfare,” asserting that the recipients of payment were actually the prisoners’ wives and children—not the prisoners themselves. Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs Issa Karake and Prisoners Club chairman Qadura Fares took umbrage at the PA’s change of language. On December 27, 2012, WAFA, the official Palestinian Authority news agency, reported that “Karake denies rumors about changing salaries [rawatib is used] into social assistance,” adding that, according to Karake, the PA had recognized that “the prisoners’ cause is central, and has authorized regulations to support and protect them out of esteem for their sacrifice and struggle.” In fact, the moneys are not paid to families for humanitarian purposes, but as salaries to individual prisoners via a wakil, a power of attorney. The Palestinian Law of Prisoners says that the prisoner himself decides who will have the power of attorney to receive and administer the salary in his place (Regulation #18, paragraph 1). Paragraph 5 states: “If the prisoner is married, his wife will be his authorized agent,” but the law provides personalized exemption language, specifying, “Unless the prisoner appoints someone else instead of her.” The text goes on: “If the prisoner is not married, one of his parents will be the authorized agent. The prisoner determines which one of them or any other person [will be the authorized agent] in the event of a dispute.” Nor is compensation based on family need. Nearly two thirds of current prisoners are unmarried without children and not the head of households, accordreform judaism

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ing to a Ministry of Prisoners summary reported by the al-Quds newspaper on January 3, 2010. Payment is gauged strictly on the severity of the Israeli prison sentence. The Palestinian tax code also specifies that prisoners will pay “income taxes” and typical “income tax withholding” because their PA monies are considered ordinary salary. On June 19, 2011, the official Palestinian Authority gazette Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported: “The tax rate is graduated, reaching at most only 10 percent of prisoners’ salaries.” ♦♦♦


lso, sometimes sooner rather than later Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons come home to a hero’s welcome. Because prisoner releases have become a bargaining chip in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations efforts, Palestinian prisoners can be viewed as diplo-economic currency. The 1994 Agreement on Gaza Strip and Jericho Area, for example, included this stipulation: “Upon the signing of this Agreement, Israel will release, or turn over, to the Palestinian Authority within a period of 5 weeks, about 5,000 Palestinian detainees and prisoners, residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Those released will be free to return to their homes anywhere in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Prisoners turned over to the Palestinian Authority shall be obliged to remain in the Gaza Strip or the Jericho Area for the remainder of their sentence.” In 2011, the ransom for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit required the release of 1,027 terrorists, including numerous murderers of innocent civilians. In 2013, Israel agreed to Palestinian demands to release 104 security prisoners, many with blood on their hands, in exchange for a resumption of peace talks. This periodic political ritual heightens the grief of many Israeli victim families, whose protests are held in Israel’s public squares and posted to the Internet, to no avail. That is why, in a court hearing, Tzovia Borovsky said of her husband Evyatar’s killer: “It is really useless to put him in jail, when one takes into account that he will be released in one swap or another….The continued court proceedings and jailing of the murderer until the next release of murderers, which will take place sooner or later, creates a false impression of justice, when the reality is that of a circus.” In Palestinian society, becoming a terrorist offers a good wage sponsored by foreign-country taxes, plus a nice pension, good family benefits, local celebrity, and the seemingly sure prospect of early release to a local fireworks reception as soon as politics make it “your turn.” And the system works because of ample outside continued on page 63


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Engineer of Innovation New Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion President Aaron D. Panken, an engineer turned rabbi, shares his blueprint for a dynamic seminary that is the intellectual center of global Progressive Judaism.

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n January 1, 2014, Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, Ph.D. assumed the presidency of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Reform Movement’s global seminary, providing academic and professional training for rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, as well as graduate programs for scholars of all faiths. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s electrical engineering program, Rabbi Panken was ordained by HUC-JIR in 1991 and received his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. As rabbinical intern and rabbi, he has served at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York and Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City, respectively, before going on to serve the College-Institute in a variety of leadership roles: faculty member, dean of students, dean of the New York campus, and vice president for Strategic Initiatives. Author of The Rhetoric of Innovation (which explores legal change in rabbinic texts) and articles in leading scholarly journals, he has lectured at academic conferences, universities, and synagogues throughout North America and served as a visiting faculty member at universities in Australia and China.

A MAFTY (MidAtlantic Federation of Temple Youth) Board retreat, 1984. I am on the far left.

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ally became president of CRaFTY (NFTY’s New York City region); and went on to spend summers at Eisner Camp, where I met my wife Lisa. From then on, it was clear to me that I was going to be thoroughly involved in Jewish life. Yet you majored in electrical engineering. Yes. The systematic approach involved in engineering has always fascinated me. When you have a problem to solve or want to design something new, you plan, build, test, and revise. Eventually, you have a working product that actually does what you would like it to do. This careful process, a kind of planful innovation that carries you from nascent idea to functional outcome, is a methodology I try to bring to everything I do. It truly applies in almost every corner of life. What, then, led you to pursue religion? Though I was doing fascinating work in two biomedical engineering labs at Johns Hopkins Medical School, designing small computer systems that helped analyze neural control of the kidneys and supporting cardiovascular experiments, I realized that as an engineer I would be spending the vast majority of my time in a laboratory with at most two or three other people. I wanted meaningful learning and the kind of interactions with people I’d enjoyed during my Jewish youth group days. I also felt that something else was missing—something I could only describe as “real work” within a community. So, the summer between my junior and senior years in college, I decided to find a position in the Jewish community to test out if this might be a path for my life. As a youthful-looking 19-year-old, I applied to be regional youth director of NFTY’s Mid-Atlantic Federation of Temple Youth. They hired me on one condition: that I grow a beard; otherwise, they said, the 14- to 18-year-olds I would be advising might not


Previous spread, portrait of Aaron Panken: Photo by Paul Colliton

Engineer of Innovation

You have just been elected to one of the top leadership positions in the Reform Movement. Would you describe yourself as one who has come up through the ranks? Very much so. It all began when I was in the fifth grade. Inexplicably, one afternoon as I walked home from school in Manhattan, I entered the Lincoln Square Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation on Amsterdam Avenue. “I’d like to go to religious school,” I told the receptionist. The next thing I knew, the cantor appeared and asked, “How can I help you?” “I’d like to go to religious school,” I repeated. “That’s lovely,” he said. “Could I talk to your parents about that?” Sitting me down later that day, my parents said, “Aaron, we’d prefer that you to go to a place where what they teach is a little closer to what we believe.” And so, starting at age 11, I attended religious school at New York’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. I became a bar mitzvah there; eventu-

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take me seriously. I grew the beard and got the job. After two great years, I came to the conclusion that the rabbinate was the right path for me—it offered precisely the right combination of community involvement, intellectual challenge, teaching, and pastoral care. So I applied to HUC-JIR and began my studies in Jerusalem in 1986. What were your HUC-JIR studies like? I was deeply influenced by my professors and their extraordinary commitment to teaching. Michael Chernick, my first Talmud professor, is just one example. He is a unique human being: an Orthodox rabbi with a Ph.D. from Yeshiva University who teaches Talmud to Reform rabbinical students and a revered persona in our Movement’s camps, synagogues, and intellectual life. His mentorship extended even beyond ordination. When I was already serving as a rabbi at New York’s Congregation Rodeph Sholom, he called me up and said, “I’m going to come to your office two or three days a week this summer and teach you more Talmud. We’ll study a whole tractate together.” And we did. Michael believed I had potential, and he fanned the flame of Talmud study within me. He is one of many HUC-JIR professors whose love of Jewish tradition, knowledge, and eagerness to mentor and challenge students is inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders to grow in commitment to our people, faith, textual tradition, and history. How has the faculty changed since then? Our faculty, of which half are women today, reflects greater diversity than in the past, and, as such, encourages open and respectful debate among students who hold divergent positions on religious, political, and economic issues—enabling them to become more analytical thinkers, better able to understand the arc of Jewish tradition and the challenges facing Jewish continuity today. How has HUC-JIR’s training of clergy changed since your ordination in 1991? An electronics metaphor is apt here. Most of our home computers have a dual core processor. The combination of two “cores” allows integrated activity that far exceeds what one can do on a single processor. By working together, these two cores enable your computer to do all the regular work of a computer, but in a far more effective way. The first core of our HUC-JIR education is traditional text study, which is the foundation for living an authentic Jewish life. This core allows us to graduate literate Jews who know how to access and teach the sacred texts, reform judaism

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philosophy, history, and literature of our people. It has now been integrated with a second core of professional development, which includes pastoral counseling, social responsibility, and spirituality initiatives. In both cores, our students benefit from experts whose applied research is transforming today’s Jewish community. For example, three HUC-JIR facul-

Leading a trip of Congregation Rodeph Sholom, NYC teens to the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC, c.1992. I am third from right.

“The systematic approach involved in engineering has always fascinated me. The planful innovation that carries you from nascent idea to functional outcome is a methodology I try to bring to everything I do.” ty members were lead researchers in the recent Pew “Portrait of American Jews” study, whose findings will transform Jewish social policy; and our professors are consistently writing books and papers and giving lectures that extend Jewish academic knowledge. Our students apply that innovative knowledge during their yearly internships at 400+ Reform congregations, including small synagogues that would otherwise lack professional leadership. ➢


With my friend Steve Lefkowitz after I piloted a flight.

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Sharing ideas about Talmud with secondyear rabbinical students, 2013.

You are a certified commercial pilot and a sailor. Do you see any parallels between steering a plane or ship and steering HUC-JIR? Definitely. Federal Aviation Administration rules require that, before takeoff, a pilot assess everything that might affect the flight: conditions of the taxiways and runways, capabilities of the aircraft, terrain heights, wind reform judaism

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Top Photo by Paul Colliton

Engineer of Innovation

Is it HUC-JIR’s responsibility to In effect, you are using prepare students to be entreprehistorical texts to facilitate neurial, to think outside the box? change management. Yes. Thinking outside the box is a Yes. In order to effect positive constant theme in my classes. This change, we need to know the tramorning, for example, while teachdition well. In Judaism there has ing a text from the Book of Ezra, I always been a tension between tradisaid, “Picture a Jewish community tion and innovation. There are times that has just spent 70 years in exile when moving away from meaningand is about to return to the Land of ful tradition leaves behind important Israel. In effect, the Jewish people pieces the community needs to prehave to reconstitute their community.” serve. Conversely, there are times I then posed the questions, when you have to say, “This tradi“What are the elements of recon- With my wife Lisa Messinger. tion is no longer serving us and we stitution?” “What does this comneed to think in new ways.” So, for munity in biblical antiquity need—the right kind example, our students and graduates are out there of people, leaders, religious institutions?” “Does experimenting as “entrepreneurs” by establishing everyone have to speak the same language?” the first-ever pluralistic mikveh for Jews in New From this historical basis, I believe we can begin York City, and reaching out to 20- and 30-yearto examine how one formulates effective commu- olds by holding Jewish congregational events in nity in North America in our day: “Who should be the cafes, bookstores, and community service venincluded?” “What institutions, such as the syna- ues many of them frequent. gogue, can bring people together?” Historical context also helps students think more In our day, what makes a rabbi or cantor broadly about why traditional institutions were fash- successful? ioned as they were. Students can then ask, “Is this Successful clergy are in a sacred relationship with the best way to structure the synagogue today?” their congregants. They listen to their members “Should we be improving our current structures or and are there for them when needed. At the same exploring ways to form new ones?” “Should we be time, they stand up for what they believe. The inventing new directions to increase Jewish com- clergy who have had the most profound influmunal participation?” This kind of questioning ence upon me—such as those who marched in roots students appropriately in prior Jewish expe- Selma to help lead the struggle for civil rights— rience, teaches them how to think creatively, and spoke truth to power, asserting the Jewish value helps us make our institutions better—incremen- of human rights. I’m very proud of our alumni tally, and sometimes exponentially. who have been at the forefront of the struggle for women’s right to pray at the Western Wall. Our graduates need to possess the strength of character and spirit to lead with such conviction and resolve.

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velocity, weather patterns, the passengers’ health, even the pilot’s own skill and experience. Only then does the pilot chart the course. This process is consonant with my approach to leadership. Since being elected president in August, I have intensively studied HUC-JIR and its relationship to North American Jewry, Israel, and world Jewry. Now, with the help of a talented staff, administration, and faculty, and the guidance of our dedicated Board, we will set the course in advancing our sacred mission.

students’ understanding of outreach and conversion. In addition, I plan to share our School of Jewish Non-Profit Management’s expertise more broadly with the larger Jewish community, and leverage our regional campuses to serve as nuclei for deepening Reform Jewish learning in their parts of the country. And I intend to strengthen the continuing education of our 4,000 alumni who lead nearly 900 Reform synagogues, Hillels, schools, federations, Jewish agencies, and hospital and military chaplaincies worldwide.

What are some of your priorities? My goal is to advance HUC-JIR as the intellectual center within our Movement. Through conferences and Internet venues, lay and professional leaders will be able to engage in thoughtful conversations about important Jewish issues affecting our community, the Jewish people, North American society, and the larger world. Through hybrid learning (face-to-face class time blended with online and out-of-class coursework) and high-quality video learning, we will bring the treasures of HUCJIR’s faculty, libraries, and archives to congregants, exceptional high school and college students, and Jewish learners around the globe. Financially, my priorities are to develop the relationships and support to sustain our faculty and grow scholarship funding, so that HUC-JIR graduate programs are affordable to all who seek careers as professional Jewish leaders. I also plan to sustain and grow the many transformative partnerships instituted under my predecessor and mentor, Rabbi David Ellenson, including the service learning program sponsored by the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, the rabbinical student mentoring program made possible by the Mandel Foundation, the engagement programs of the Schusterman Foundation, and the Jewish educational leadership programs funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation. And I hope to strengthen the Gerecht Institute for Outreach at HUC-JIR, which I founded 15 years ago through the generosity of the Gerecht family, to deepen our rabbinical and cantorial

What is your vision for partnership within the Reform Movement? To realize a dream of deep cooperation to strengthen Reform Judaism. One important step forward is HUC-JIR and the URJ’s strategic partnership to bring the staff of the URJ’s Campaign for Youth Engagement to new offices on our New York campus. Having the URJ youth staff work with faculty and students in our building will create new synergies for joint programming, shared training and planning, and HUC-JIR recruitment. Our Jerusalem campus, overlooking the Old City, has enormous potential to enrich North American Jewry as an experiential learning center, whether as the venue for young people who want to become b’nai mitzvah in Israel; as a destination for multi-generational congregational Israel trips; or as an educational, spiritual, and cultural resource for students spending gap or college years there. As we continue to build the Israeli Reform Movement, preparing new leaders for its burgeoning synagogues, our access to rabbinical alumni who serve the greater Israeli Reform Movement offers opportunities for learning, celebration, and connection to the vital Jewish narrative unfolding in Israel today. Most of all, we must always be a Makom Torah—a place where our eternal tradition brings forth leaders ready to inspire learning and faith, implement innovation, and build communities of enduring meaning. If I can help assure this vision of a vibrant Jewish future, I will be fulfilled indeed.

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spring 

KICKSTART YOUR CAREER Question what is. Imagine what can be.

Rabbi | Cantor | Scholar Leader in Jewish Education Nonprofit Professional

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Shabbat morning service.

Audacious B


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he Shabbat morning service, led by URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and Rabbi/Cantor Angela Buchdahl of New York City’s Central Synagogue, was stunning, not because of its size—Biennial Shabbatot have long been grand—but for its creativity and dynamism. Five thousand worshipers moved their arms, hands, and fingers to the prayers in a dance, guided by choreographer Liz Lerman; and heard the voices of our ancestors Jacob, Joseph, and Dinah dramatically brought to life by Storahtelling founder Amichai Lau-Lavie. And, later, as URJ Board Chairman Stephen Sacks chanted from the Torah on the bimah, worshipers from all over the world read Torah simultaneously at 13 platforms scattered through the vast hall. The Union for Reform Judaism Biennial and Women of Reform Judaism Assembly in San Diego, December 12–16, 2013, was dramatically different in many other ways, too. Realizing URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ rallying cry for audacious hospitality (see “Dear Reader,” page 2), the entire convention was open—for the first time—to all kinds of Jews and seekers interested in participat-

Celebrating WRJ’s 100th birthday.

ing. Underscoring the bonds between Israel and the Diaspora, Benjamin Netanyahu, the first sitting Prime Minister ever to address a Biennial, echoed the theme when he declared via live satellite from Jerusalem: “While the Wall may be in Israel, it belongs to all of you…and to all the Jewish people, and I am committed to making sure that all Jews feel at home in our holiest site.…Israel is and must continue to be the homeland of the entire Jewish people. That’s the place where all Jews, including Reform Jews, experience nothing less than ‘audacious hospitality.’” Top scholars, activists, thinkers, and innovators representing many perspectives, Reform

s Biennial

San Diego, CA December 2013

Left: Performer Shira Klein leads a family Shabbat program. Center: URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs calls for audacious hospitality. Right: One of the 13 simultaneous Torah readings at the Shabbat morning service.

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and beyond—including Knesset member Ruth Calderon and civil rights pioneer Julian Bond— addressed 140 workshops, new “intensive” miniconferences, and panels. A new “town square” area called the Kikar allowed participants to relax, network, and enjoy live music and poetry performances on the URJ Books and Music stage. And in another first, the Movement-wide gathering also reached beyond the walls of the convention center into downtown San Diego during the Biennial Music Festival, as nearly 20 Jewish performers entertained audiences in local restaurants, cafes, and clubs throughout the historic Gaslamp District.


t this time of great challenge and change, delegates learned about reinventing their congregations from some of North America’s most successful entrepreneurs and experts in synagogue transformation. They heard Rabbi Jacobs articulate his visions for drawing the next generation into Jewish life, engaging North American Reform congregations with Israel, and realizing full inclusion for Jews with disabilities (see “Moving Forward,” facing page). And they engaged with one another in vital conversations about strengthening their communities and the Jewish people. The 5,000 attendees also participated in a Women of Reform Judaism Centenary Celebration honoring the Jewish women in the Reform Movement who, over the course of 100 years, organized locally and nationally to educate the community, strengthen Jewish life, and repair the world. World-class Jewish music performances abounded, from long-time favorites Josh Nelson, Julie Silver, and Rick Recht to Biennial newcomer Neshama Carlebach, daughter of the late Orthodox rabbi/troubadour Shlomo Carlebach, who announced to the audience on Saturday night: “I am making aliyah to the Reform Movement.” For more Biennial information, including video highlights, visit urj.org/biennial. And mark your calendars for the next URJ Biennial, which will take place in Orlando, Florida November 4–8, 2015. We look forward to seeing you there!

At this time of great challenge, delegates

The Audacious Biennial reform judaism

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Moving Forward Youth Engagement • Expand NFTY to include sixth, seventh, and eighth graders • Give all teens, including those whose families are not members of URJ congregations, access to Reform Movement youth programming • Attract and train welleducated, innovative youth professionals • Reach out to families with young children through the PJ Library Israel Engagement (partner: Shalom Hartman Institute) • Reframe the relationship between the State of Israel and Jews worldwide by articulating why Israel is fundamental to Jews’ identities and lives • Thirty Reform congregations to pilot the Shalom Hartman Institute’s iEngage curriculum, designed to bring Israel engagement into other areas of communal life

s learned about reinventing their congregations. Honoring outgoing HUC-JIR President Rabbi David Ellenson, who uses the occasion to teach Torah.

Singer/songwriter Michelle Citrin joins in WRJ’s centennial celebration.

Rabbi Jacobs welcomes Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver the first Biennial address by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

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Biennial chairs light the Shabbat candles. From l. to r.: Luise Burger, Ed Burger (chair), Jan Marion (co-chair), Brad Marion, Rabbi Joel Sisenwine.

Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion (partner: Ruderman Family Foundation) • Increase understanding and ensure full participation of people with disabilities in Reform life • An Active Learning Network of congregations will share ideas and participate in webinars with experts on disabilities and congregational change. • Congregations that commit to “intensive learning and creative change” through independent initiatives or engagement in an upcoming Community of Practice can be certified as Ruderman Congregations of Merit in Inclusion, modeling best practices for the Jewish community. • The Religious Action Center will advocate for legislation guaranteeing people with disabilities equal rights and opportunities under the law, and guide congregations in disability advocacy. • The Ruderman-URJ partnership facilitated the most disability-inclusive Biennial, with workshops, a designated registration desk, signage, a networking lunch, and a plenary interview with Jay Ruderman.

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The Exodus is Not Fiction

tant than just the question of whether the Exodus was historical. If the picture that I’ve been describing based on the facts that are known to us is correct, then those events were foundational to Judaism ever after.

continued from page 8 of Yahweh, just as the pagans did when they said that Ba’al was the son of El. Alternatively, they could have decided to worship only El or only Yahweh. Instead, the tribes decided that El and Yahweh were one, in essence saying, “the same God by a different name.” That explains why two of the Leviteauthored sources (E and P) both developed the point that God was known as El until the time of the Exodus, and then God revealed to Moses that his true personal name was Yahweh (Exodus 6:2–3 and Exodus 3:15). El and Yahweh were one and the same. This decision was a crucial step toward the victory of monotheism over pagan religion. Who knows how long it would have taken—if ever—to have developed monotheism as we know it in Judaism if we had spent our first few centuries believing in two primary deities? So, what we have been discussing here turns out to be vastly more impor-

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Given the centrality of the Exodus story to Jewish tradition, does it really matter if the Exodus was history or a foundational myth of Judaism?

My rabbi used to tell me as a child that even if we could prove that biblical events were not true, the Bible still contained great lessons. Over time, though, I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. History matters. First, history is part of our legacy. The Jews, in fact, invented the writing of history. Prior to the court history of King David in Second Samuel, there was no history writing anywhere on Earth. We Jews haven’t taken enough cognizance of this. We’ve accepted the prevailing notion that the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the fifth reform judaism

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century B.C.E., was the father of history, when in truth the court history of David, probably written in the ninth or eighth century B.C.E., preceded Herodotus by some 400 years. Second, history is exhilarating. Think of the excitement we feel when an archaeologist verifies or challenges something in the Bible and we read about it on the front page of The New York Times, like when Avraham Biran of the Hebrew Union College uncovered the “House of David” inscription, the very first confirmation of the dynasty of David in an archaeological artifact, just 20 years ago. I’m not arguing that everything in the Bible is factual. I may not believe, for example, that the world was created in seven days, or that humanity began with two naked people and a magic tree and a talking snake. But real evidence exists that the Exodus is historical, with text and archaeology mutually supporting one another. What lies next for us is to give due consideration to this evidence and refine it further in our work.

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I am pleased to tell you about a new website the URJ is in the process of creating—an information portal we call The Tent. With The Tent, you can log on to a series of private and open sites and: • Research and access resources posted by congregations and the URJ Resources Library for information pertinent to your congregation; • Search through past discussions and participate in live chats about how


other congregations have handled a specific challenge your synagogue faces; • Chat with other leaders who either hold similar positions within the Movement or those who are interested in discussing similar topics. For example, you can participate in conversations about spirituality, worship, and education on the Torah site; you can discuss synagogue administration, communications, and security on our Avodah site; and you can also talk about social action, inclusion, and outreach on our G’milut Chasadim site. With my nontechnical mind, I view The Tent as the Reform Movement’s combination of Google and Facebook—a place where we will be able to build community by sharing ideas and at the same time be strengthened by new sources of information and support developed by both Movement congregations and the URJ. As my grandson Josh always reminds me, “Grandpa, it is the 21st century,” and the URJ with The Tent is joining it in full. To date, sites for the Central Conference of American Rabbis, American Conference of Cantors, and National Association for Temple Administration, among other organizations, have been launched within The Tent. Sites for temple presidents, program directors, other affiliate organizations and URJ partners, and many more will become part of the mix. To discover how the Tent can support your work, visit us at thetent.urj.net. We look forward to meeting and STEPHEN M. SACKS connecting with you there. Stephen M. Sacks, Chairman Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees reform judaism

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It’s Time for a New Israel-Diaspora Conversation The Reform Movement in North America is larger than the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements combined….With Sen. Lieberman’s retirement, every Jewish member of the Senate and House is a Reform or Conservative Jew….Reform and Conservative Jews are leaders in every part of our society, so the fact that Israel remains the only democracy in the world that legally discriminates against the streams of Judaism representing the majority of Jews alienates Jews and... erodes Israel’s image as a home to democracy and religious freedom.... It is time for a new conversation between Israelis and the Diaspora. —URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs speaking at the Knesset, November 2013

Inroad into Religious Equality “We’ve gotten a foot in the door [of religious equality] and are moving towards the next level—to be part of decisions on personal status: freedom of choice in marriage, divorce, conversions.” —Steven Beck, director, IsraelDiaspora Relations, Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), in response to the successful resolution of a 2005 IRAC lawsuit against the State of Israel spearheaded by Rabbi Miri Gold. In early January 2014, Israel’s Culture and Sport Ministry transferred funds to Israel’s Reform Movement to cover the salaries of four non-Orthodox communal rabbis the government had been ordered to pay in June 2012—the first time such salaries have been paid by the government. Orthodox rabbis have long received funding by the Israeli government for their service to Israeli communities.

Stephen M. Sacks: Photograph by Marshall H. Cohen


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MY IDEA continued from page 64 alism” consciously and confidently, rather than fearfully and fretfully. For preschoolers who are just beginning to represent the world symbolically, abstract education such as “What does it mean for you to be Jewish?” doesn’t work; you’ll get answers like “actually, I’m ticklish.” Instead, youngsters can learn to distinguish things they encounter in everyday life—like the range of lights, everything from Christmas tree lights to streetlights to flashlights to lights inside pumpkins to “Jewish lights,” such as those illuminated by Shabbat and Hanukkah candles. As students enter primary grades, they might explore the similarities and differences between Halloween and Purim from historical, ethical, and/or culinary perspectives. In the best of worlds, they should be able to articulate each holiday’s rituals, narratives, and messages, and, by analyzing Halloween’s prominent role in our lives, better understand Purim’s significance to the Jewish people. Heading into the intermediate grades and b’nai mitzvah, students are mature enough to develop their own sense of what it means to take on greater responsibility, both as a good person and as a Jew. These

Terrorism Pays continued from page 49 funding from Western governments, including our own.

Editors’ Postscript Reform Judaism magazine was first to break this story in its November 2013 online edition, hours after the release of author Edwin Black’s new book, Financing the Flames, from which the article is adapted. (To receive future notifications of breaking, exclusive RJ magazine content, email a request to rjmagazine@urj.org.) Legislators in the U.S. and Europe have responded to the revelations by calling for immediate action to end or curtail aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Representative James Gerlach (Pennsylvania) wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry: “U.S. foreign aid...must not be used by the PA directly or indirectly to compensate convicted terrorists and/or their families.” The Dutch parliament passed a res-

young adults might be asked to reflect on such questions as: “What is the issue I most struggle with as a Jew and as a member of the larger society?” Adults could join the conversation, discussing dilemmas they face and strategies they use to resolve or at least manage them. And post-b’nai mitzvah teens could be asked to make decisions concerning navigating the public sphere as adults, such as “Will I wear a Star of David or other Jewish symbol in public, why or why not, and if yes, under what circumstances?” The more we can help our students and families to face cultural dilemmas proudly and creatively, without the ultimate weight of Jewish continuity on their backs, the more they will be willing and able to create a vibrant Jewish life for themselves and the larger Jewish community. When we “come out” proudly as ambivalent Jews, confronting our doubts and contradictions while striving to become simultaneously “a part of and apart from” our American/Canadian cultures, we will actually reinforce Jewish continuity. Rabbi Dr. Tali Zelkowicz is assistant professor of Jewish education at HUC-JIR and a member of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. olution calling upon the “government in its bilateral contacts with the Palestinian Authority to demand it stop its support, as it can be interpreted as encouragement for crime.” Four Norwegian parties, on the eve of winning the nation’s elections, issued a statement saying they “find it unacceptable that Norwegian money goes directly or indirectly to fund financial aid for terrorists.” In Denmark, MP Soren Espersen demanded of Foreign Minister Villy Sovndal: “What will [you] do to ensure us that our money is spent on [the intended] purpose, and not on terrorists?” In the Swedish parliament, a bill calling for “suspending aid to the PA” was introduced but defeated. As international awareness of the PA’s rewarding of terrorists with foreign contributions mounts, additional governments and bodies are sounding the alarm. Black appeared before the European Parliament, the Israeli Knesset, and the United Kingdom House of Commons this past February. reform judaism

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MY IDEA Bring Jewish Education into the World Students Inhabit

A pervasive pattern of cultural dissonance cuts across just about every type of liberal Jewish educational setting and program. In short, there is a deep divide between what educators teach students and what their families actually believe and do in “real life.”

haven from the secular world. As best we can, we shelter and protect our kids from those forces, and create an island of safety from the secular world.” This school did not allow students to bring in candy or costumes or talk about what they did on Halloween night. And yet, almost all the

stop fearing that their every decision will either ensure or threaten Jewish continuity. Rather than measuring the effectiveness of Jewish education in outcomes such as Hillel affiliation and in-marriage, we would do better to treat each and every learning moment as an opportunity to embrace the

Most liberal Jews strive to be what Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna describes as “simultaneously a part of and apart from” North America. But this reality is not reflected in most religious school curricula—leaving Jewish students ill equipped to straddle both Jewish and American cultures. The answer is not to attempt to consolidate or conflate these two worlds into one, for that only produces an artificial synthesis. The solution is a Jewish education built on honest dialogue about the real world students inhabit. Too often, though, rather than responding to students’ seemingly rebellious pleas to “keep it real,” many Jewish educators become defensive and thereby inadvertently reinforce the dissonance. Many despairing Reform congregational educators and rabbis, for example, indict their families’ commitments to soccer, ballet, karate, and other activities that conflict with the religious school schedule to such a degree, you’d think a vicious drug addiction problem had afflicted their schools. And I heard one liberal Jewish day school head say this about Halloween: “Our school is a safe

students had gone trick-or-treating. Moreover, virtually every teacher in the school had celebrated Halloween as kids and taken their own children trick-or-treating. Liberal Jewish families clearly do not feel endangered by this popular North American ritual. Thus, when educators call for a safe haven—which reflects their own anxiety about families’ ability to navigate living in multiple cultures simultaneously—this only serves to strike a dissonant chord among the very families they seek to engage in Jewish life. When Reform educators view Judaism as being in opposition to music lessons, sports, or Halloween and wall off children from supposed outside “threats,” they set up a cultural war that is neither productive nor winnable. Instead, religious school needs to be a place where students learn how to handle normal cultural dissonance. Otherwise, our youth may never know how to do so later in life, as college students and adults, in a fully integrated world absent of externally monitored Jewish boundaries. Successful Jewish education requires that we face our survivalist anxieties and

dilemmas of contemporary American Jewish life. In that spirit, Jewish education can be a safe and playful laboratory to practice addressing the challenges of living as part of (at least) two cultures. Surprisingly, there seem to be precious few examples of institutions willing to address this challenge head on. Among dozens of day schools and religious schools I have visited around the U.S., only one, for example, displayed Halloween books in the library in October. When I asked the librarian to explain her school’s policy surrounding the celebration of Halloween, she proudly took me around to the other side of the display table, where an array of Jewish books addressed the themes of Jewish goblins and spirits, such as golems or the mazikim (demons) mentioned in the Talmud. Here was one school willing to engage students in conversation about two traditions. In a sense, by juxtaposing them back-to-back, the school was unabashedly mirroring contemporary Jewish experience in North America. It is time we begin to teach “biculturcontinued on page 63

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Dr um k it © f Stop Photography / Veer; K ipot © Evgenia Kachlon / Dreamstime.com; Bicycles © moodboard Photography / Veer

by Tali Zelkowicz

spring 2014

2/19/14 2:27 PM

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2/20/14 1:58 PM

Profile for Reform Judaism magazine

Reform Judaism Spring 2014  

Reform Judaism Spring 2014