Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fwd: A Prayer in the Aftermath of a Devastating Storm

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A Prayer in the Aftermath of a Devastating Storm

© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

in recognition of the holy work of the American Red Cross


Elohei haRuchot, God of the Winds,[1]


Fixated as we are by incalculable losses in our families, our neighbors, human beings spanning national borders, we are pummeled into shock, barely even able to call out to You.


We are, as ever, called to share bread with the hungry, to take those who suffer into our homes, to clothe the naked, to not ignore our sisters and brothers.[2] Many more of our brothers and sisters are hungry, homeless, cold, and vulnerable today than were just a few days ago, and we need Your Help.


We pray from the depths of our souls and we pray with the toil of our bodies for healing in the face of devastation. We join our voices in prayer to the prayers of others around the world and cry out for safety. We look to the sacred wells of human resilience and compassion and ask You for even more strength and hope.


God, open our hearts to generously support those determined to undo this chaos.


God, be with us as we utilize every network at our disposal to support each other. Be with First Responders engaged in the work of rescue as they cradle lives new and old, sheltering our souls and bodies from the storm. Be with us and be with them, God.


Be with those awaiting news from loved ones, reeling from fire, water and wind that have crippled cities, decimated villages, and taken lives. Be with all of us, God.


Be with us God, comfort us, and support us as we rebuild that which has been lost.


May all this be Your will.






[1] Numbers 27:16

[2] adapted from Isaiah 58:6-7

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Yizhar Hess, CEO of Masorti Israel, in HuffPost: "Was the Kotel Liberated?"

Yizhar Hess in HuffPost: "Was the Kotel Liberated?"

Yizhar Hess, Executive Director & CEO, The Masorti Movement in Israel

In December 1928, the British Mandate government outlawed the blowing of the shofarnext to the Western Wall (Kotel) following Arab complaints that it was an offense to the sanctity of Islam. Rabbi Kook, then the chief rabbi of Palestine, reacted immediately. He sent an urgent letter to the British High Commissioner, calling the British edict "an affront to religious freedom and conscience."

Jews never accepted the British edict. Every Yom Kippur, they found a volunteer to sound the shofar. In 1930, at the close of Yom Kippur, Beitar member Moshe Segal, who had concealed a shofar under his tallit, sounded a tekiyah g'dola (a long blast of the shofar) as the fast ended. British police arrested him and dragged him to the Kishleh (the Old City of Jerusalem's main police station, then and now).

A few days ago, and 82 years later, on Rosh Hodesh Heshvan, on the renovated grand plaza of the Western Wall -- under Israeli sovereignty since 1967 and freed of the yoke of foreign rule -- police dragged several women into custody for allegedly disturbing the sanctity of the holy site. One of them had led a group of Hadassah women in song and prayer while wrapped in a tallit. Apparently, the authorities thought her chanting of theShema to be too loud. The Shema prayer is the most central in all of Judaism and its words are ones we are all taught to sing with passion and strength.

Two other women were detained by police the next day for violating the "customary practices" of the site by wearing a tallit. They did not pray in the very spacious part of the Western Wall plaza allotted to the men, but in the smaller area designated for women. All three women are members of "Women of the Wall," an Israeli organization of women from all streams of Judaism who have been gathering together every Rosh Hodesh (first of the month) for over 20 years for one purpose only: to exercise their right to pray at the Western Wall.

From the point of view of most Jews in the world, Conservative and Reform Jews, a woman wrapped in a tallit is not unusual; it is Judaism. But of all places, here in the State of Israel, the Jewish state, women are hauled off by police for performing a Jewish ritual. And irony of ironies, the police station was the very same one to which British authorities took Moshe Segal in 1930.

Photographs from the first half of the 20th century show that before the Western Wall was under Israeli sovereignty, men and women prayed there standing together side by side. The area around the Wall was narrow and humble, but it belonged to everyone. My grandmother, Naomi-Zissel, who lived in the Old City as a child, told me of those days.

Following the Six Day War, administration of the Western Wall site was given to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In the early years, a broader sense of community prevailed. If you look at photos of the plaza from the 1970s and compare them to contemporary ones, you can see that the barrier separating men and women has grown higher. Starting in the 1980s, women began to receive nasty looks if they were dressed "immodestly," and have even been obligated to wrap themselves in ragged scarves before being allowed to approach the stones of the Wall.

We must now admit to ourselves what has befallen us. The Western Wall was liberated, yet free religious access has been obliterated. The Wall has been captured lock, stock and barrel, hijacked by a group of extremists who represent a minority among the Jewish people, a minority in Israel as well as around the world. And there is also a High Commissioner, the "Rabbi" of the Western Wall, who has been free to institute greater stringencies and prohibitions, and raise the barriers separating men from women, all according to his will. Sadly, the government and the Israeli police, yielding to the political pressure of the ultra-Orthodox, enforce his directives.

In the ongoing process of segregation, the Western Wall has been transformed from a treasured national symbol to an ultra-Orthodox synagogue. Hadassah women can build hospitals in Israel, but they cannot pray or sing at this holy site. The arrest carried out by the police symbolizes to Diaspora Jewry how far the State of Israel has distanced itself from them. Projects such as Birthright and Masa attempt to educate Jewish youth from around the world that Israel is also their country, but this latest folly makes this all the more difficult. How sad. The State of Israel is the only democracy in the world where Jews do not enjoy full religious freedoms.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rosh Chodesh "Mar Cheshvan": A Response by an IDF soldier to Anat Hoffman's arrest

Dear Chevreh,

I share below an email from a dear friend, Debby Tamir, who with her mother and her younger daughter was at the Kotel for Rosh Hodesh.  Anat Hoffman, leader of Women of the Wall, was arrested Tuesday night when Hadassah Women came to celebrate Rosh Hodesh with Women of the Wall.  Debby and her daughter went back Wednesday morning for the Rosh Hodesh tefillot and 2 more WOW board members were arrested. Below, please find - and please read - an excerpt from the Jerusalem Post about Anat's experience while in police custody AND something that Debby's older daughter, currently serving in the IDF, wrote in response to the experience.

May this month find us angry at and willing to do something about an unjust Judaism that must not be allowed to continue in our heart's home,

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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from the Jerusalem Post article:

"It was awful," Hoffman told The Forward. "In the past when I was detained I had to have a policewoman come with me to the bathroom, but this was something different. This time they checked me naked, completely, without my underwear. They dragged me on the floor 15 meters; my arms are bruised. They put me in a cell without a bed, with three other prisoners, including a prostitute and a car thief. They threw the food through a little window in the door. I laid on the floor covered with my tallit. I'm a tough cookie, but I was just so miserable. And for what? I was with the Hadassah women saying Sh'ma Yisrael."

In a press statement, the group said that it remains "committed to their struggle to gain the right of all women to pray at the Kotel, each according to her own custom, with Torah, tallit and voices raised in song."

Israeli law, upheld by the Supreme Court, stipulates that it is forbidden to conduct a religious ceremony "contrary to accepted practice" at a holy site, or one that may "hurt the feelings of other worshipers."

Rosh Chodesh "Mar Cheshvan": A Response to Anat Hoffman's arrest
from Orly Tamir

I am a 20 year old female soldier serving in the IDF for a year now. After making Aliya with my family in August 2006, I could not wait to be a part of the army - organization - that protects my beloved country of Israel, day in and day out.

My mother, sister and Savta were at the Kotel last night along with Hadassah however due to my army duties I was not able to join. While hearing my Ima and sister tell me the stories from last night, I started to cry and cry. While this is an issue I have spoken about and thought about many times before, it simply never gets easier.

Now that I am part of the armed forces protecting this country that I call home, I feel that my love for israel, my zionism, is being taken for granted. THIS is not the country I wish to fight for- a country that arrests women for expressing feminism and zionism in the holiest place for the Jewish people.

I know that there is more to this wonderful country than that and yet I find myself finding more and more things that I would like to change than things I would like to keep.

I thank everyone from WOW for reminding me day after day that I am NOT crazy to belive in religious freedom - for reminding me what it means to be a fighter, a believer and a TRUE Zionist.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rabbi Jack Moline and Rev. Clark Lobenstine in the Washington Post: "Anti-Jihad Metro ads: An interfaith response to hatred"

Anti-Jihad Metro ads: An interfaith response to hatred

By  and Clark Lobenstine, Monday, October 15, 12:04 PM

Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria is director of public policy for the Rabbinical Assembly. The Rev. Clark Lobenstine is executive director of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. Moline and Lobenstine are partnering with Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a national campaign of interfaith, faith-based and religious organizations dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment, and are contributors to The Washington Post'slocal faith leader network .

We don't have to look far back into American history to see when the words "savage" and "civilized" were used to justify the oppression of various American communities. Among others, Catholic Americans, Jewish Americans, African Americans and Native Americans have been victims of this shameful slander. Ads placed infour local Metro stations last week borrow shamelessly from this rejected pattern of our past.

The ads, placed by Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat  Jihad." Riders who pass through the Glenmont, Tacoma Park, U Street and Georgia/Petworth stations are now confronted by this hateful language.

The ads do absolutely nothing to strengthen our nation as we work to unite and work for peace in the face of violence. Instead, they exploit very real concerns in order to cultivate mistrust of those who practice Islam.  As such, these ads are an embarrassing example of hate speech. They rely solely on bigotry and ignorance to reduce a complex conflict to simplistic and simple-minded stereotypes. Hate speech cannot address the complexity of issues we face as a country.  Rather, it deepens misconceptions and far too often promotes violence.   

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, faith leaders play an essential role in speaking out against hate, especially when it targets a fellow faith community. It falls on our shoulders to counter the misinformation about American Muslims that has become commonplace in media, in religious education and in our congregations. 

Religious freedom is a foundational value in our Constitution. What the Constitution legislates, citizens have the responsibility to uphold.  When anti-Muslim sentiment rises to a level that jeopardizes American Muslims' opportunity to practice their faith without fear of reprisal, it undermines the ability of other faith communities to depend on this essential American right. As citizens of faith, we must therefore adamantly defend the protectionsof those of different faiths. 

American Muslims already face increasing rates of discrimination in government training materials, legislation aimed at religious law, zoning manipulation and attacks on persons and property. We are deeply concerned that the public display of this message, which dehumanizes Muslims and thereby validates violence against them, adds to a cumulative impact on our community and on our society. Misinformation becomes mainstream and provides fuel to deepen divisions between Americans.

Our nation has prided itself, since its founding, as a home for all to practice their faith without fear of prejudice or discrimination. We have no more to fear from American Muslims than from Americans of any faith or no faith at all. They are our neighbors. They proudly serve in our military and as doctors, school teachers and local first responders. We stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and they stand shoulder to shoulder with us.

The Constitution also guarantees free speech, which allows Ms. Geller and her colleagues at AFDI the right to insist that we return again to a society where exclusion and oppression can be justified by pitting the "civilized" against the "savage." But a right to hate speech does not make hate speech right. As you travel to work, shop for groceries or ride with your children to the monuments to our freedom, look with pride at the faces of American diversity and look away from the words that bring us shame.


Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Welfare of the Government: A Jewish Concern #register #vote! (& CA registration information)

The Welfare of the Government: A Jewish Concern
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
jewish america
The Mishnah teaches Jews to pray for their governments:
Rabbi Chanina deputy of the Kohanim said 'Pray for the welfare of the government. If it were not for the fear of the government, each person would eat his neighbor alive!' (Pirkei Avot 3:2)
Rabbeinu Yonah explains that praying for the peace of the government is a means to a greater end, and that one should pray on behalf of the entire world, and be pained at the pain of others, which is the way of the righteous. One should pray not just for one's own needs, but rather should pray on behalf of every person, that they too should have peace. This tradition is alive in the Jewish mandate to participate in civic society, calling us to see voting as a religious requirement. The Jewish mandate is not about whom you vote for, but that it is a mitzvah to vote. In that spirit, this email is a reminder to register and to vote.

The deadline for CA voter registration is only eleven days away, on October 22. 
The easiest way to register to vote is to do it online. This is a brand new service from the California Secretary of State's Office.  You can register online at: 

The registration process takes you through a series of web pages that allows you to complete the registration process entirely online.  You won't need to submit a paper form or a signature card, and at the end of the process you can print a receipt or obtain an electronic copy. Online registration will be valid for the November 6 election if you do it before midnight on October 22.  Paper registration forms will be valid for the November 6 election if postmarked on or before October 22.

Here is information from the California Secretary of State's website about voter registration:
How do I register to vote?
To register to vote you must complete a brief voter registration application on paper or online. When you register online, the system will search the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database for your California driver license or identification card number, date of birth, and last four digits of your social security number. If your information is found and you authorize elections officials' use of your DMV signature, an electronic image of your DMV signature will be added to your voter registration application after you click "submit" at the end of the online application. If there is no signature on file with DMV, all of your information will be transmitted to your county elections office; you will just need to click "print," sign the paper application, and mail it. Your county elections official will contact you when your voter registration application is approved or when more information is needed to confirm your eligibility.

What is the deadline to register to vote? 
The deadline to register to vote is 15 days prior to Election Day, often called E-15. You must submit the voter registration application by midnight on the registration deadline day. A timestamp will be attached to your online voter registration application. If you register to vote using a paper application, it must be postmarked or hand-delivered to your county elections office at least 15 days prior to the election.

For further information please visit

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflections from #Masorti UK on Hol Hamoed #Sukkot

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Chag Sameach from everyone at Masorti Judaism!

Over the past few weeks, we have been sending Reflections to our entire mailing list on a trial basis. We hope you have enjoyed reading it. If for any reason you would like to stop receiving Reflections, please unsubscribe using the link below.


Hol Hamo'ed Sukkot

By Chazan Jaclyn Chernett

In our Haftarah, the prophet Ezekiel warns of the events leading to the day of Armageddon – the final war bringing about the end of the world as he knew it. It is preceded by the terrible mythical Gog, the destroyer from the North, from a land called Magog, spreading the worst kind of hellish devastation which would lead to a purification of the land and, to some, the messianic age which, in Ezekiel's vision, was a new Temple in Jerusalem bringing with it a new order.

Gog and Magog are central to apocalyptic literature, bizarre and mystical writings of the end of time, which emanated from the destruction of the first Temple and the exile. It is reflected in the writings of some of the prophets and later in some of the apocryphal and other literature that did not form part of the Hebrew Bible but were taken into Christian teachings onwards into the middle ages.

In a cursory glance at Gog and Magog on the internet, I came across some Islamic articles. According to the Qur'an, Gog and Magog are both people, Juj wa Majuj. One writer identifies them as Jews, Christians, Hindus and pagans and the ongoing battle with them signifies the victory of Islam. Another writer identifies Gog and Magog as the Khazars who, he says, are Ashkenazi Jews, the Zionist enemy. He exonerates Sephardim. And there are more and I won't describe them here. Needless to say, it does not make happy reading.

The promotion of fundamentalist notions that lead to hatred are dangerous and destructive. How much more so with the internet and social media providing instant spread to millions of people!
The writings of Ezekiel are indeed weird and mythic. In his frenzy, trying to know the mysterious ways of God, he saw bizarre visions. Many Jewish commentaries exist with regard to these eschatological ideas and indeed about Ezekiel himself. Most important, the message of the Hebrew prophets was ultimately that of hope and world peace.

The point of this is that Judaism's eternal genius is its insistence on interpretation and re-interpretation for every age.

So here we Jews are on Hol Hamo'ed Sukkot, celebrating the beautiful harvest of ripe produce, God's bounty. We have come through the Days of Awe, soul searching and hopefully cleansed. We are reminded about the frailty of life as we sit in our ramshackle huts, looking at the sky. If there is ever a message for us at this time it must be to share the prophetic dream of world peace.
Abraham Joshua Heschel (God in Search of Man) quotes the Shir Hakavod (An'im Z'mirot): "My soul desired in Your shelter to know all Your mystery" but then Psalm 131: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in things too great or in things too marvellous for me". It isn't for us to know the mysterious ways of God.

Chazan Jaclyn Chernett is a member of Kol Nefesh Masorti and a Vice President of Masorti Judaism


Masorti FAQs

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner - Part 3

What are the Parameters of Change?

When we presented the Masorti view of halacha, we saw that the idea of "change" is central to the thinking of the Masorti movement. Many of those who are opposed to Masorti challenge us over our willingness to adopt changes. They claim that any change, no matter how small, undermines the framework of halacha. They view an openness to change as a kind of slippery slope, where changes start small but become ever greater and more radical as time passes. How does Masorti answer this challenge? This challenge must be considered carefully. One of the main attractions of tradition is the sense it gives that we are part of something greater than ourselves. It is tremendously satisfying to know that we are observing a tradition in much the same way that our parents, grandparents and ancestors have. There is a comfort that comes from the familiarity of tunes and practices, of words and rituals that a great religion such as ours can give. Any tradition which is too open to change risks losing one of the most important things that it has to offer.

However, ignoring change is also a dangerous route to follow. A society that does not adapt to the changes around it becomes irrelevant, and is doomed to disappear. The Masorti position is that there is a need to balance these two demands. Change is not a goal in and of itself. Changes are only adopted when necessary. But when it is necessary, the halacha must adapt itself. The halacha does have the ability to adopt change and has changed in the past. It is the ability to address itself to change that has kept the Jewish tradition alive through the centuries.

How can these two needs, the need to maintain a tradition and the need to adapt to change, be balanced? 

There is no clear answer to this dilemma. Different thinkers within the movement have answered the challenge in different ways. It is my opinion that the answer lies in the way we determine both when a change is necessary and what the limits of that change can be.

Changing Jewish practice is not a whim, and does not happen at the spur of the moment. Change can be introduced only as the result of a serious, deep rooted and compelling change in society. Only when society has changed significantly from what it was in the past is there a reason for Jewish practice to take the change into consideration. The classic example of this is the change in the status and role of women in our society. The role of women has changed so much as to call into question many of the assumptions regarding women that underpin the thinking regarding their roles that defined the halacha. This is a case where change is an imperative.

Even where change is mandated it does not mean that every change is allowed or even desirable. Here there must also be guidelines. We are guided in the direction we choose in our change by the sources of Jewish law. Once we have decided that our practice will be different from what it has been until now, we must go back to the sources, find legal precedents, understand the principles that have been established and be guided by them. This is the way that we guarantee that we remain faithful to our covenant even when we have adapted our practice to changing circumstances.

Finally, in deciding how to reflect the changing society around us, we must be biased in the direction of tradition. If there is no reason to introduce change, one must leave things as they are. Rapid change undermines tradition. Time must be the test. Only those issues that have been on the communal agenda for a long time, reflecting basic changes in society, are worthy of being considered. Halacha does not adapt to every passing fad.

In short, Masorti tries to be open to change when it is necessary, but equally opposed to change when it is not. When we change, we move within the precedents of our tradition. It is our belief that this approach, rather than being a slippery slope, is a ladder to an ever greater commitment to Jewish tradition and observance by ever greater numbers of Jews.

Rabbi Chaim Weiner is Av Bet Din of the European Masorti Bet Din and Director of Masorti Europe

©2012 Masorti Judaism | Alexander House, 3 Shakespeare Road London N3 1XE


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

MERCAZ USA Sukkot E-letter 2012/5773


October 2012 MERCAZ USA Sukkot E-letter Tishri 5773

WELCOME to the new
MERCAZ USA E-Letter being sent to MERCAZ members and supporters. Information to Unsubscribe is available below.

MERCAZ USA is the Zionist membership organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. Click here to see the MERCAZ Mission Statement. Click here to (re)join for the current 2012-2013 fiscal year.

In This Issue:


Looking to join an organized trip to Israel? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2012-2013.

MERCAZ is planning the third in its series of Israel Advocacy seminars November 4-5 in Los Angeles. Click here for information about the seminar. Click here to register. Click here for a report on the first MERCAZ Israel Advocacy Seminar held this past December.

Masorti Olami has opened registration for its next Kiyum Leadership Seminar, a one-week educational leadership seminar at Kibbutz Hannaton for young Masorti community leaders. The seminar will take place December 24-31, 2012 and is open to English-speaking Conservative/Masorti affiliated young adults aged 24-35. For more information, email

As reported in the Masorti Foundation's July newsletter, the Masorti Movement has begun providing kashrut supervision to small boutique Israeli wineries. The first winery to receive Masorti hashgacha is the High Desert winery located near Mitzpe Ramon. Click here for more information.

The United Synagogue's Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem offers Conservative Jews visiting Israel the choice of meaningful volunteer opportunities based on individual interests and time availability. Additionally, the Gemilut Hesed Project collects supplies for distribution to various social service agencies in Israel. Click here for a description of the different hesed projects and for a list of supplies needed for distribution.




[Ed: Following the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision to invalidate the "Tal Law" on army deferments for the ultra-Orthodox, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, the former president of the Rabbinical Assembly and author of the 1987 Masorti rabbinic responsum on conscription of yeshivah students into the Israel Defense Forces, published this past March the following op-ed article in the Jerusalem Post]

"We again call upon the Knesset not to look for ways around this issue so that we will no longer have the situation in which some brothers go to war, while others sit idly by; rather all will share the burden, as the Torah envisioned.

It has taken 25 years, but the Israeli Supreme Court has finally caught up with the rulings of the Law Committee (Vaad Halakhah) of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel regarding service in the IDF.

In 1987 the Law Committee issued two responsa, one authored by this writer concerning Yeshiva students and one by Rabbi Rafael Harris concerning women, requiring all eligible men and women to serve in the defense of their country, with no exceptions because of Torah study or religious observance. Now the court has adopted that same position from the point of view of civil law, ruling the Tal law unconstitutional and discriminatory for allowing yeshivah students to receive permission not to serve.

What took so long for Israeli civil law to catch up with religious law? It is sad and ironic that that those who claim to be the most observant of Jewish law are those who are blatantly in violation of it... "

Click here for the balance of Rabbi Hammer's article.

Click here and scroll to the Va'ad HaHa'lakhah English summaries, Volume 2:7, for an English summary of Rabbi Hammer's responsum.

Click here for Rabbi Hammer's original responsum in Hebrew.

Click here for the list of the Masorti Movement's "Principles" including "military/national service [that] are obligations that fall on every citizen, men and women alike".