Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rabbinical Assembly Statement upon the Supreme Court's upholding the Affordable Health Care Act



The Supreme Court today decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act. We released the following statement in response:


President Obama entered office on a message of hope for all Americans, modeled most clearly in the vision of affordable health care. Americans without access to affordable health care cannot sustain hope for themselves nor for their families. The President's vision is consistent with Jewish tradition, which is unambiguous about the requirement of a just and decent society to provide a basic level of health care. We are gratified to see that American society, whose values we also cherish, also lives up to this standard... (Read more)


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ynet: "Conservative Rabbis file complaint against Rabbi Amar"

07:08 , 06.27.12


Rabbi Wars
Photo: Yoav ZitunRabbi Amar Photo: Yoav Zitun 
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Conservative Rabbis file complaint against Rabbi Amar

Two senior rabbis from Conservative Movement claim chief rabbi incited against them in letter calling for emergency meeting over State's decision to recognize non-Orthodox rabbis
Kobi Nahshoni

Conservative rabbis filed a complaint with the police against Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, claiming he incited against them and slandered them in a letter calling rabbis of cities and regional councils to attend an emergency gathering against the state's decision to recognize of non-Orthodox rabbis.


Rabbi Mauricio Balter, President of the Israeli Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly, and Conservative Rabbi Avinoam Sharom, who is a member of the movement, filed separate complaints with the police against Rabbi Amar.

Orthodox vs. Reform
Rabbinate declares 'war' on non-Orthodox rabbis  / Kobi Nahshoni
Israel's chief rabbis call for 'emergency meeting' following state's decision to recognize non-Orthodox rabbis. Head of Reform movement: Rabbi Amar should resign his position
Full story


According to them, the letter he distributed and was directed against them can "arouse strife and animosity between different sectors of the population, which is considered mutiny according to Article 136/4 of the Penal Code.


"I was shocked by the way in which I was dishonored and humiliated in public, turning me into an object of hate and disdain," said Sharon, who is subscribed to the Rabbinate's mailing list and received a copy of the letter against him.


"Rabbi Amar describes in the letter how me and my colleagues trample the Torah, eradicate Judaism, destroy the religion and are responsible for the devastation of the people of Israel – all with the aim of harming the sanctity of the Torah."


Rabbi Sharon emphasized that the chief rabbi can disagree with him, "But as someone who is public office, he must not negate 80% of the Jewish people and accuse their leaders of despising Judaism.

"It proves that he doesn't really serve the public, but is acting out of political interests," he said, adding that "this letter proves once against that the Chief Rabbinate is no longer relevant and must be abolished."


Last week, Israel's Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar called on rabbis of cities, communities and regional councils to attend an "emergency gathering" following the state's decision to recognize rabbis of conservative and reform communities as official rabbis and give them the same funding as orthodox rabbis who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate.




Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

From the Rabbinical Assembly: A Statement on Incitement by Israeli Chief Rabbi Amar



June 2012 - Tammuz 5772 

Incitement by Chief Rabbi Amar

Amar Letter  

The Rabbinical Assembly is outraged by a letter issued on official Israeli government stationery by Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar calling for a rally at his office this coming Tuesday. The language used in the statement is inflammatory and inciting, referring to our members as "terrorists" whose "sole intention is to do harm to the holiness of Torah." 


The State of Israel and the Jewish people have learned the most bitter lesson in the murder of our beloved Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin (z"l) that incendiary language can result in devastating consequences. We speak as a worldwide Conservative community in demanding that this threat to Masorti rabbis' physical safety, not only their personal integrity, be defended. The Talmud (Arakhin 15b) teaches that hateful speech has the potential to kill. Rabbi Amar's language places all Jewish people at risk of violence, all because Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein directed that non-Orthodox rabbis in agricultural communities could be paid salaries from non-religious budgets. 


The vast majority of the world's Jews do not conform to the unfathomably hateful language of one of the two chief religious leaders funded by the Government of Israel. We ask that the resources of the Jewish state be devoted to teaching and propagating a love of Judaism and the Jewish people. As the Talmud concludes (Arakhin 15b), "What is the remedy for slanderers? If he be a scholar, let him engage in the Torah, as it is said: The healing for the tongue is the tree of life."


Rabbi Gerry Skolnik, president

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president


Download the letter (full translation)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fwd: [Shefa] more on Koach: "Congratulations Koach Supporters. Now what?" (cross-post with jewschool)

Congratulations Koach Supporters. Now what?

by  [] · Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

I recently wrote about USCJ's proposal to defund their college student program, KOACH. As typical for USCJ, this plan was made without much public discussion. Even after the proposal became public, the only formal USCJ response was essentially: We wanted to make this decision behind closed doors, but someone leaked our discussion to the press. We appreciate the public discussion this has generated and, in the future, hope do a better job keeping more of our discussions regarding Koach behind closed doors.
Also as expected, people who support Koach protested. Also as typical for USCJ, their board decided it was easier to vote against the plan and continue funding Koach this year rather than make a difficult and unpopular decision. The press release says that the USCJ board decided to provide $100K of funding to keep Koach operational through December & have Koach supporters directly raise another $130K to complete the year's funding. After Koach's supporters take a deep breath, it's time to decide what's next.

When the last attempt to close Koach failed in March 2011, USCJ committed to thinking how to improve their support of Conservative college students. Since then, there's been no public discussion or programmatic innovations from USCJ and then this second attempt to defund Koach. USCJ is again committing to thinking about college students and to work on a 3-5 year business plan for Koach, but, given that (1) long-term planning for their programs is already a core purpose of USCJ, and (2) this doesn't seem very different from the commitment to rethinking college outreach only a year ago, I see no reason to assume this year will be different. USCJ CEO Rabbi Wernick even described defunding Koach for an entire year (which, I assume, would include firing or reassigning all Koach staff), as merely a "summer hiatus," with no serious explanation of how USCJ would reopen a staffless & student-less program. This suggests that engaging college students is a low priority for USCJ. I wouldn't be surprised if the sum of a USCJ designed business plan is to give $50K next year and ask Koach supporters to fund-raise $180K and give nothing the following year & ask Koach to raise $230K.

But who will spearhead efforts to put more priority on engaging college students? The Koach supporters who returned Koach to the USCJ strategic plan dispersed after that success and the recent pro Koach press release is more focused on fundraising than ideas.

Is Koach even the institution the Conservative movement needs for college student outreach? As commentators on this site have noted, Koach is a modestly successful program at best and isn't essential for Conservative life on many campuses. It's reasonably cost effective at around $77 for each of the 3000 students it reaches each year. I was a student at two universities–one with no Koach chapter, but Conservative services on Shabbat that were part of a healthy multi-denominational community, and a second with a Koach chapter, that seemed to mean little more than that Conservative Shabbat services were called "Koach services".

I realize that many of the people who signed the 'save Koach' petition are leaders in the Conservative movement who were influenced by Koach. Still, Koach doesn't have a far reach even on the 25 campuses with chapters. Inreach and outreach to the relatively few students who attend retreats each year is probably worth the modest cost. Losing Koach & the people it currently benefits would definitely be bad for the Conservative movement. But "Let's not make things worse," is hardly a good long-term vision for USCJ or Koach.

I've heard some people say, that we can't expect much from Koach for $230K per year, but I haven't heard what we would expect from a million dollar or even larger Koach. For those of you who were pushing to save Koach, now what? Where is Koach spending its money well? What could it do better with or without a modest increase in funds? The Save Koach FAQ lists a few things that Koach does, but not why these are part of Koach, or why Koach is the right organization to do them.

What could make Koach an actually indispensable organization? How can it better engage volunteers, other Jewish professionals near colleges, and become more relevant for students? For those not connected to the Conservative movement, how could a national organization with a goal of supporting egalitarian observant Jewish life have improved your college experience? Why should the broader Jewish community and potential donors care about Koach?

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Save KOACH: The Future is Now Press Release

Press Release                                 

SAVE KOACH: Conservative Jewish Life On Campus

The Future is Now

Contact: or

June 14th, 2012 (New York, NY) - The Save KOACH coalition is pleased to hear of the recent news regarding the intent of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) to continue funding KOACH, the college outreach program of the Conservative movement in North America.  While we understand the financial concerns which necessitate a decrease in funding for KOACH, as well as the expectation that the program is now faced with hefty fundraising goals, we are disappointed by the limitations on service to college students that these require.  USCJ, as well as the many other faces of the Conservative movement, must seize this opportunity to reinforce the importance of maintaining a presence on college campuses.  It is essential that this be a time of growth, not retrenchment.  We thank Women's League for Conservative Judaism for their continued support of the annual KOACH Kallah and look forward to the collaboration of other movement partners in this very important work.

As future leaders of the Jewish community, and the Conservative movement in particular, Save KOACH appreciates that the students of KOACH have been heard and that there is a clear interest in working together to develop a long-term strategic plan for the sustainable growth of KOACH.  We look forward to building an organization which will fulfill the goals of fostering continued campus participation in the Jewish community, as well as provide opportunities and spiritual growth for collegiate Conservative Jewry.

We are committed to being active partners in the dual goals of visioning and fundraising.

We encourage supporters of the KOACH program to visit, and to donate in any manner they see fit.  We have made great strides in sustaining KOACH through the end of December 2012, but are in need of significant financial support to help us through the remainder of the academic year.  This will greatly help to ensure the continued koach (strength) and evolution of the movement's programming for college students across North America.

To request an interview, or for more information about KOACH, please contact or visit

KOACH provides college-age students the opportunity to maintain and develop connections to Conservative Judaism. KOACH nurtures a love of Torah, the Jewish people, Israel and God through a variety of activities, including social, religious, educational, cultural and social action programs. We seek to create a passionate Jew who is committed to the future of the Jewish people and the improvement of the world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

jpost: "High Court justices who recommended support for non-Orthodox rabbis had conflicts of interest, Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi charged."

2, 2012 Tuesday 22 Sivan 5772 21:30 IST print gohome
Print Edition
Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski
Margi accuses High Court justices of conflict of interest.
Gafni expels Reform Movement director from committee hearing on state funding, calls Reform and Conservative movements 'clowns.'
The High Court justices who recommended state support for non-Orthodox rabbis had conflicts of interest, Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi charged on Tuesday morning.

Margi made his accusations during a tempestuous hearing in the Knesset Finance Committee, which committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) had called to address how the state would fund the salaries of Reform and Conservative rabbis.

At the end of May, the Attorney-General's Office announced that in accordance with the recommendation from the High Court of Justice, the state would allocate funds to pay the wages of non-Orthodox rabbis serving in regional councils, kibbutzim and moshavim, as it does for Orthodox rabbis.

Until now, the state has refused to recognize or fund any non- Orthodox leaders, although it employs and pays many Orthodox rabbis.

During the meeting, Margi said that the justices who ruled on the case should have recused themselves due to "a conflict of interests and a lack of good faith."

One of the justices, the minister claimed, had received an award from the Reform Movement; a second informed the court that he had represented the Reform Movement in the past in a professional capacity; and another justice told the court that he was a friend of one of the petitioners and had studied with him in the past.

Margi also claimed that the Attorney-General's Office advocate who was dealing with the issue had gotten married in a Reform ceremony.

The justices presiding over the case were Elyakim Rubinstein, Hanan Melcer and Uzi Vogelman.

In considering a petition from the Reform Movement from 2005, they informed the attorney-general in May that unless the state revoked its policy of refusing funding to non-Orthodox rabbis, they would issue a ruling in favor of the petitioners.

The director of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who was invited to the hearing as a speaker, said that Margi's accusations were baseless and accused Gafni and the religious establishment of trying to halt the implementation of the attorney-general's decision.

Kariv asked to respond to the claims during the hearing, but Gafni refused the request, saying there would be an opportunity to do so in coming meetings. Kariv then accused Gafni of running the committee "as if it were the editorial board of the Yated Ne'eman haredi newspaper," whereupon Gafni had stewards remove him from the room.

Kariv said he would be submitting an official complaint against Gafni for not allowing an invited guest to speak during the hearing, as well as for the "web of lies" presented during the meeting and "the attack on the High Court justices."

MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), who was present at the hearing, stated that in her opinion, the Chief Rabbinate should be dismantled, and that "its behavior is causing people to go to other streams of Judaism" for their spiritual needs.

She also demanded that there be a timetable for implementing the attorney-general's decision on non-Orthodox rabbis.

Yizhar Hass, head of the Masorti Movement (the branch of Conservative Judaism in Israel), accused Margi of mud-slinging under the cover of parliamentary immunity.

"Margi and Gafni, who for many years have allocated thousands of jobs to Orthodox rabbis, are behaving like Cossacks who have been robbed," he said.

"[These claims] are the height of impudence."

Gafni called the hearing to inquire about the level of funding the state intended to provide non-Orthodox rabbis, and also demanded to know how the Treasury would fund them and whether this would affect the Religious Services Ministry's budget.

Ariel Yutzar of the Treasury's Budgets Division did not go into specifics when addressing these questions, but said that the Treasury was still examining the issue in conjunction with the Culture and Sport Ministry, through which the funds will be transferred.

The budgets will be constructed in accordance with these deliberations, he said.

During the hearing, Gafni expressed displeasure with the attorney-general's decision to "fund from state coffers someone who is not defined by law as a rabbi and who was not ordained by the Chief Rabbinate."

He said that in his eyes, the Reform and Conservative movements "don't exist," and labeled them "clowns."

"Who authorized the attorney-general to make this kind of decision?" he asked. "The attorney-general ruled in opposition to the stance of the Knesset, which recognizes the Chief Rabbinate as the only body authorized to deal with rabbinical issues. If he authorized himself to deal with rabbinical matters, will he be doing the same regarding health and culture?"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

NY Jewish Week: "Students, Women’s League Rally Behind Campus Program"

[A clarification of and call to action based on the article pasted below. The article's subtitle says "$225k program may be cut as Conservative movement struggles with shrinking membership." The threat facing KOACH is not about shrinking numbers. It is part of an ongoing mistaken prioritization of institution over mission. This moment is an opportunity to assert that the Jewish future is today's priority. Organizations come and go, but the mission to transform the world through the dynamism of Conservative Jewish Torah is at our core. Please direct your support to this fund. -- - Rabbi Creditor]

NY Jewish Week: "Students, Women's League Rally Behind Campus Program"

$225k program may be cut as Conservative movement struggles with shrinking membership.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Staff Writer -

Stunned by the revelation that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's trustees might be on the verge of defunding its Koach college program, students have begun a petition drive and fundraising effort to convince them to change their minds at their meeting Sunday.

And the Women's League for Conservative Judaism, which raised $35,000 to subsidize last February's Koach convention, known as a kallah, has already started receiving donations to help reduce the cost of next year's scheduled kallah in Philadelphia. One hundred and fifty students participated in the kallah this year, compared to 75 the previous year.

"Women's League decided that Koach is important," explained Sarrae Crane, the group's executive director. "I think there will be resistance [to defunding Koach]. It's likely there will be people who come up with some funding. The question is what will United Synagogue do, and what will other people do. Will the movement allow Koach to fall apart?"

The budget committee of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism is scheduled to recommend to the board of trustees Sunday that funding be halted for Koach because of the movement's budgetary constraints.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive officer for the United Synagogue, told The Jewish Week last week that while Koach remains "a valued program," it would be "on hiatus" unless and until philanthropic funds can be secured to continue its work at colleges around the country. Koach operates on 25 campuses; it is not clear how many students are involved in its programs.

Rabbi Wernick said painful decisions were necessary in seeking to balance the United Synagogue budget, and that while "the impact [of Koach] on those we reached was quite high, we had to look at the return on our investment," suggesting that the $225,000 program was seen as too costly in terms of the number of students who participate.

Crane said there are a number of rabbis who "are upset" with that decision "because a lot of them are products of Koach and its predecessor organizations."

She said she would not be at Sunday's trustees' meeting but has already spoken with Rabbi Wernick to tell him of her organization's "commitment to doing what we can" to raise money for Koach.

The Reform movement discontinued its campus program, Kesher, in 2009. In place of the stand-alone program, the Union for Reform Judaism opted to partner with Hillel on various efforts, including hiring student interns to reach out to Reform students and publicize programs like the URJ's Birthright Israel trips and employment opportunities at movement summer camps.

A website,, has been created that asks students to sign an online petition in support of Koach and to make donations. Several thousand dollars has been raised, according to one of the organizers, Douglas Kandl, 20, of Cranford, N.J., an incoming junior at Pace University in Manhattan.

"We had a conference call last night with 10 undergraduates from across the country and we would like to see a reversal of the decision [to defund it]," he said. "We would like to have the same funding as we did last year and a dedicated fundraising program to ensure the group's future. In 48 hours, we collected about 500 signatures."

Kandl said the students would ask to send a representative to the trustees' meeting to "explain the importance of the survival of Conservative Judaism. Without Koach, you are going to lose people in college to the ultra-Orthodox and pluralistic Jewish groups. There is not another organization that offers Conservative progamming on campus. All the resources United Synagogue is spending on Camp Ramah, United Synagogue Youth and NATIV (college leadership program) would be lost when they entered college. This is the first time students are living on their own with so much to explore. It is the most important time of their lives to define their Jewish identity — a time when Koach is needed most."

In addition to collecting more than 400 online signatures, 140 students who were marching with the Hillel contingent in the Celebrate Israel Parade last Sunday also signed the petition brought around on clipboards by other students.

One of them, Jael Goldstein of Chicago who chaired the Koach chapter at Barnard College, described Koach as a "comfort bubble amid all the craziness of college."

Henry Schulman, who just completed his junior year at Binghamton University, said there was "no other forum of Conservative Judaism [on campus]; Koach is it."

The Koach program was in jeopardy last year too, when Rabbi Wernick revealed plans to downsize it. (A decade ago Koach had a budget of $750,000).

In response, a number of college students took to Facebook and YouTube to express how important Koach was in their lives. More than 300 signed a Facebook petition calling on the United Synagogue to "save Conservative Jewish life on college campuses," and the Rabbinical Assembly, the group representing the movement's rabbis, spoke out in favor of the program.

Rabbi Wernick said that while his organization remains committed to serving college youth, it has over the last three years been "very aggressive in aligning budget, staff and governance with our vision and mission in a strategic way." Faced with an aging membership, a long-term decline in membership and attendant financial challenges, the United Synagogue has been focusing on shoring up existing congregations, seeking to integrate the educational system and engage the next generation of leadership.

Editor Gary Rosenblatt and editorial intern Gabriela Geselowitz contributed to this report. Geselowitz is also the co-editor of Koach-On-Campus, Koach's online magazine.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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