Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Prayer in Response to the Terror Attack in Bulgaria


A Prayer in Response to the Terror Attack in Bulgaria

July 2012 - Tammuz 5772

Dear God,


It is just too much. On the eighteenth anniversary of the attack that killed eighty-seven of our brothers and sisters in Buenos Aires, we have lost more of our family, this time in Bulgaria. Again. It is just too much. 


So many people, on their way to enjoy Your world, Adonai... We know there is no sufficient answer, but we call out from the depths of our souls: Why? We cannot absorb the pain. 


Today, we are made aware once more of the fragility of goodness and the urgency of peace. We are one family of many families, God. We are bound together with all families in a common life, in a dream of peace. And on days like this that dream shatters into almost irretrievable shards. We need You. 


We mourn for our murdered sisters and brothers cut down today by evil. May their memories be a blessing, and may their souls be bound up in the bond of Life.


We pray for those injured. Merciful One, grant them the courage to continue their daily living.


We pray for the families of those who died today. Merciful One, we have no words, but we ask You to be a Comforting Presence with them.


We pray for the vigilance and care of emergency responders and medical professionals, tending to those local to the attack. God, guide their hands and hearts.


We pray that that our elected leaders respond with wisdom and justice, that this horrible event not hold us back - as the Jewish People and as citizens of the world - from helping each other to overcome the threat of terrorism.


Give us hope that one day terrorism will cease, Adonai. And give us the wisdom to do what is necessary to live in safety and peace until that day. 


May our world be blessed with peace.



By Rabbi Menachem Creditor 


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

HuffPost: "Solomon Schechter Schools Will Always Be Part of the Conservative Jewish Movement"

HuffPost: "Solomon Schechter Schools Will Always Be Part of the Conservative Jewish Movement"

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik


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The Forward recently reported that the Solomon Schechter Day School Network is examining the possibility of spinning off as an independent organization from USCJ, the Conservative Movement's synagogue organization. The title of the article, "Will Solomon Schechter Leave Conservatives?" mischaracterized the significance of the issue and its implications for larger developments in organizational life. Solomon Schechter will continue to be a network of Conservative day schools; leaving United Synagogue, a large complex organization, is not tantamount to leaving the Conservative Movement.

What makes Solomon Schechter schools Conservative, like their sister organization, Ramah camping, and the synagogues that are members of USCJ, is the set of values and ideals that animate them. Solomon Schechter schools, inspired by their deeply knowledgeable, intensely curious and religiously passionate namesake, have been the training ground for many of American Jewish life's most talented and dedicated young leaders.

Solomon Schechter and scholars who came after him turned the Cairo Geniza -- literally a garbage heap -- into a treasure trove that continues to unfold for us centuries of Jewish society. Without Jewish education, people lose opportunities to be nourished by Jewish tradition because they do not have the tools to understand what they are seeing. The mission of Solomon Schechter schools is to awaken in children the ingenuity to bring Judaism forward.

It is in this spirit that our Conservative rabbis, hand-in-hand with dedicated teachers and lay leaders, founded Solomon Schechter day schools, teach in them, bring religious voice and message to them, and most importantly, inspire parents to make the commitment to become Solomon Schechter families. While these efforts have become more challenging since 2008, it remains the case that the graduates of these fine schools are promising future leaders of whom we are immensely proud.

Similarly, our ability to understand the evolution taking place in Jewish organizations requires not only knowledge but ingenuity. The deconstruction of many large Jewish organizations is a function of many trends. The movement from "united" organizations to "networked" organizations is not an indication that the ideals and ideologies are any less compelling, but that the current climate, technologies and culture do not support command and control models. 

A study conducted by Jack Wertheimer for the Avi Chai Foundation in 2010 demonstrated that a high percentage of young Jewish leaders in their 20s and 30s are the product of non-Orthodox day schools; the majority of these schools were Solomon Schechter Conservative day schools. Conservative day school education works because of its emphases on Hebrew language, text skill, and Israel and Jewish peoplehood, alongside the confidence and facility it builds for students as they learn to grapple with the complex problems of contemporary Judaism. Indeed, a preponderance of the young leaders of the much touted independent minyan movement are also Solomon Schechter alums.

In a tougher economy, day schools are harder to support financially. But they are no less crucial to the future of the Jewish people. Families who choose to send their children to Solomon Schechter day schools do so at significant financial sacrifice. It is a commitment that those families make not only on their own behalf, but really and truly, as a gift they give back to the Jewish community as a whole, in dedicating themselves to raising children who have, as Solomon Schechter did, the knowledge and tools to participate fully in the life of the community, and to lead.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik are leaders of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis.

Monday, July 2, 2012

[crosspost from Shefa] Proposing Asafsuf 5773 - a response to Rabbi David's call

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Date: Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 12:50 PM

Shalom Chevreh,

First of all, Kudos to Adam Frank for sparking the conversation, Ilana Rosansky for making sure we all saw it by forwarding it to the list, and David Kay, for reminding us that internal self-gratification/flagellation is the very problem Shefa was born (in Dec. 2004) to combat. 

When Shefa emerged, it was, as inaugural ShefaConference keynote speaker Rabbi Ira Stone pointed out, the first time a convening happened in the Conservative Movement that one group (rabbis, women, etc...) didn't invite another. It was a 'simple' gathering of Conservative Jews, or, in ShefaSpeak, "a conversation of parity."

As Rabbi Steven Wernick has recently explained the USCJ is not the Conservative Movement, nor is it the organization for Conservative Jews, but rather its focus is:

"...on four core functions: strengthening and transforming kehillot; creating an integrated and collaborative learning paradigm; reaching out to young adults; and nurturing new and emerging communities. (NY Jewish Week, June 26)"

David's call for a one-day conference is a call for a rally, not a retreat; a moment of spontaneous combustion whose focus is NOT kehillot, creating paradigms, young adults, nor nurturing communities. It would be a gathering of Passionate Conservative/Masorti Jews beyond borders. If Orlando (where David serves as a rabbi) or Chicago (where oodles of good Masorti stuff happens) won't work, then I'm glad to offer Berkeley as a venue. If a Shefanik is willing to (perhaps using Kickstarter) handle logistics, let's gather to rally around Masorti Messaging and good old, non-hierarchical Masorti Torah. If this is to succeed, it likely shouldn't be cosponsored by any Conservative Institutions, but rather should be the destination no Masorti Leader can afford to miss.

The only way this will happen is if someone from the grassroots level steps forward without an institutional agenda and says they'll help lead. That would be awesome. I propose the date of Feb 3 for an inaugural non-institutional "Asafsuf 5773" (see Num. 11:4 & the Mighty Rumpus of Sendak z"l). My community, Congregation Netivot Shalom, will host and help coordinate the Torah-content if someone else steps up to own the other logistics. Who's ready to be that all-important "Yop" (see Gen 2:9 & the Whoville Savior of  Dr. Seuss z"l)?

Who's in?

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to

ps. check out my new Yom Kippur kids' book "Avodah: A Yom Kippur Story" -  a rhyming riff on the kohen gadol's perspective of the Avodah service! (click here!)

On Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM, David Kay <> wrote:

H.evre --

The recent discussion generated by Adam Frank's "I Believe" essay and the linked article on whether there are too many congregations underscores for me the words of the late Walt Kelly, uttered more popularly through is comic strip creation, Pogo: "We has met the enemy, and he is us."

Personally, I both agree and disagree with various of Rabbi Frank's points regarding Conservative Judaism and his perception of its perception among the laity (and, it would appear from the responses, among the clergy as well). But that's not the point which bothers me -- actually profoundly upsets me to the brink of depression.

That point is simply this: despite its call to rattle cages, be unapologetic, be passionate, and inspire, Adam's manifesto and all the responses it generated (including his own) amount to no more than all of, the self-appointed "best and brightest," once again talking among ourselves.

This, more than anything else, defines what's ailing our movement . . . l'fi aniyut da'ati.

By now, many of you who have grown weary of my harping on this point are ready to tune me out (or already have :) ). I would only add, then, that we consider this:

How many years now has Shefa been in existence? How many times have we had these same conversations? What substantive progress has been made as a result?

There is a well-known quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, that insanity may be defined as doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. What's needed, I will continue to insist, is doing something ELSE. At the very least, it means agreeing that we've done more than enough analysis, getting off our collective backside, and doing what needs to be done -- without fear, without looking over either shoulder to see if we have the approval of other denominations, and above all without apology for being who and what we are.

So here and now, I will again propose Step One: a U.S. national (or perhaps North American) one-day rally in a central location (I would propose Chicago).

Discuss . . . and by that I don't mean criticize or red-light. I mean, if you think it's not a good idea, make it a better one. And if you think it IS a good idea, then STILL make an even better one.


Rabbi David Kay
Congregation Ohev Shalom
Maitland, Florida (Orlando)
(407) 298-4650, ext. 115


" The Lord's kindness is attracted to gayety. A joyful person is usually blessed with plenty, even though he may be impious. A sad person is usually in want, even though he be God-fearing."
(Simcha Bunim of Parsischa
"The Wisdom of Israel"
ed. Lewis Browne)
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