Monday, November 19, 2012

Masorti UK: A Prayer in These Difficult Times by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

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A prayer in these difficult times

by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Thank God, tonight there seems to be more talk about a cease fire. Let's pray that it may be the beginning of a process which removes the rocket attacks on Israel's cities and lands not just in the short but in the long term. Let's pray too that the people truly suffering in Gaza will find safety and hope for their future.

Being a community rabbi over many years has taught me nothing about military strategy but quite a lot about the human heart. I've listened to many words of suffering and anguish, and to the silence in between, when pain can find no other speech. I've been with many people as they explore the huge wounds, the torn and jagged edges of the soul, left by the deaths of their children, their spouses, their parents.

If I'm asked where God is, I certainly believe that the presence of God is here, weeping in the broken heart. That heart may be Jewish or Christian, Israeli or Palestinian. That is all the same. God is near to those in pain; God seeks healing, and is with all those who strive to heal.

I've been with doctors, nurses, ambulance personnel and police. But I've always, an unusual privilege, been with them in peacetime, never amidst the cry of sirens or the smash of explosions. I have no real conception of what terror, rage and a sense of utter helplessness before violence may do to make wounds worse, but I can only imagine that their impact is immense. The very thought of the fear and hate such experiences are likely to engender is itself extremely frightening, and unbearably troubling when one thinks about the future.

Therefore I pray that the politics of the Middle East and the world may not lead us into ever more violent confrontation, but enable us to be healers rather than the receivers or givers of hurts, and that the presence of God may be with us all.

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


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Masorti Foundation: War Diary - Our Communities in Israel

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the masorti (conservative) movement in israel - promoting religious pluralism and building community through inclusive, traditional, egalitarian Judaism
Dear Friends:
The message below is from our dear friend, Rabbi Mauricio Balter, President of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel and rabbi at Kehillat Eshel Avraham in Beersheva.

I hesitate to use difficult times like these as springboards for appeals, but the fact is that our Masorti communities in places such as Beersheva, Omer and Ashkelon are providing enormous support and assistance to local residents, and they need our help to keep doing so. Donate here or mail a check to the address below.
Rabbi Balter's message follows.

David H. Lissy
Executive Director & CEO

Subject: War Diary - Letter 1 - Wednesday November 14
This is my third time writing a "war diary": the first one was during "Lebanon war 2", the second time was during the attacks towards Beer Sheva last year and today, with the beginning of the operation 'Amud Anan' (pillar of clouds).
This afternoon, as IDF first reacted we realized that we were about to face something important. Chaverim, during the last four years 11,000  missiles were fired at Israel. No, I didn't add any zeros by mistake. I am not the kind of person who is pro-attacking anyone. But this is not a way to live!!!
Today we had to cancel the activities in our Kehilla, an act that started a line of dilemmas…
A 'shivah' – what should we do? The family needs the 'shivah', inviting people puts them in a risky situation because the way is not safe. At the end we decided not to invite but have the ceremony with those who still came by their own initiative. 30 people came and our Tefilah was rather quiet. As soon as we were done and started deliberating what to do tomorrow the first alarm started. We went to the protected area, soon we heard 8 explosions, they sounded really close. We were all really quiet. We are experienced at this situations, we already know what we have to do. No one complains. In the middle of this situation, one of our Kehilla members decides to leave, while ignoring the alarm.
Each one of us went his own way while I was designated to drive two elderly members of our Kehilla to their houses because it's too difficult for them to walk.  About 500 meters after we started the drive – another alarm. I stopped the car and looked around to find the closest building to have as a shelter, I began running… but then I realized that the other two can't run, even worse: they can't even climb the stairs that separate us from our semi-shelter.
WHAT SHOULD I DO? Run and protect myself or take a risk and wait for them? I am no hero, but I couldn't run alone, so I went back for them and together we walked to our improvised shelter. The alarm was soon over so we continued our journey.  About 1 km ahead' another alarm – and the same situation, the same nightmare.  Thank G-d I got home.
Life confronts us daily with dilemmas about life and death.
May G-d give us the strength to take the right choices during the most critical moments.
Him who Makes peace in His heights may He make peace upon us, and upon  Israel and upon all humanity. Amen.
Rabbi Mauricio Balter
Beer Sheva
To learn more, please contact:
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832
New York, NY 10115-0068
(212) 870-2216; 1-877-287-7414;

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rabbi Yonina Creditor: "A Misheberach For Veterans"

A Misheberach For Veterans
© Rabbi Yonina Creditor

To the one who blessed our ancestors,
Abraham and Sarah,
Isaac and Rebecca,
Jacob, Leah and Rachel,

Bless ____________________ (Name, rank, branch of the military) and all of those who have served this country in the armed forces.

Bless them for their unselfish service as they defended freedom around the world,
Stood up for those who could not do so themselves,
Protected the innocent and defenseless,
Through combative or non-combative posts,
By air, by land and by sea.

Bless them with peace,
healing the wounds that we can see and those we cannot.

Bring them comfort, knowing their actions
brought peace and security to those who had none.

May they see the pride that fills our eyes when we look at them as veterans, the honor we have of having their presence with us today as symbols of the embodiment of what it means to be an American Jew.

May God guard them, bless them and keep them in peace, just as they brought peace to others.

And let us say, Amen.

Rabbi Yonina Creditor
Interim Associate Rabbi
Congregation Beth Am
Longwood, FL
Chaplain, USNR
(804) 337-7594

Thursday, November 8, 2012

National Ramah Appoints Three New Educational Leaders: Richard S. Moline, Rabbi Amy Bolton, and Meir Hoyzman

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National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary 
November 8, 2012
23 Heshvan 5773
National Ramah Commission Appoints
Three New Educational Leaders

The National Ramah Commission (NRC) is delighted to announce that three outstanding Jewish educators, Richard S. Moline, Rabbi Amy Bolton, and Meir Hoyzman, have joined the Ramah team of dedicated professionals:

National Ramah 

Richard S. Moline, Director of Reshet Ramah: Alumni and Community Engagement 

Richard S. Moline Effective January 1, 2013, Rich will become Director of Reshet Ramah, the groundbreaking new Ramah initiative for alumni outreach and community engagement. Rich has many years of experience in Jewish education and communal leadership. During his years at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, he served as Chief Outreach Officer, Director of Youth and Young Adult Services, and Director of College Outreach.

Rich has dedicated his career to advancing Jewish identity formation for teenagers and young adults throughout North America and Israel. His long-time connection to Ramah includes not only summers as a camper at Ramah Wisconsin, but also many summers there as a visiting faculty member. Rich has degrees from the University of Illinois in Psychology and Jewish Studies, as well as a degree in Jewish Studies from Spertus College.

As Director of Alumni and Community Engagement, Rich will lead a team of professionals and lay volunteers dedicated to advancing Jewish engagement through the power of the Ramah alumni network. Ramah will benefit greatly from Rich's wealth of experience with thousands of alumni who have participated in Ramah camps, USY, Solomon Schechter schools, KOACH, Hillel, and other youth and campus programs. This will enable us, through Reshet Ramah initiatives, to enhance existing partnerships with many of the organizations within the Conservative Movement and the Jewish community at large, as well as to build new coalitions for increased Jewish engagement.

Dr. Jeffrey Kopin, Chairman of the Reshet Ramah Board of Directors, states, "There is enormous excitement over the potential reach of Reshet Ramah programming, and Rich Moline is the perfect candidate, given his outstanding personal and professional skills, to lead our effort to further connect Ramah alumni and engage them, throughout their lives, with deeper Jewish learning, observance and joyful connections to community." 

Reshet Ramah is supported by generous grants from the Maimonides Fund and The AVI CHAI Foundation.

Rabbi Amy Bolton, Community Outreach Coordinator

Rabbi Amy Bolton Earlier this fall, Rabbi Amy Bolton joined the NRC staff part-time as Community Outreach Coordinator. Amy brings her background in organizational development and community outreach to her new position, which will focus on overseeing Ramah's new pilot program to bring more children with little or no Jewish institutional affiliation into Ramah day camps and overnight camps. This pilot program is supported by a grant from the Zell Family Foundation and The AVI CHAI Foundation and will focus, in the first stage, on the Ramah Canada, Poconos, and Wisconsin overnight camps, and the Ramah day camps in Chicago and Philadelphia. In cooperation with all our camp offices, Amy will also work on increasing our outreach and connection to rabbis, hazzanim, educators, and synagogues.

In addition to serving on the education staff at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack for the past two summers, Amy has experience working in a variety of interdenominational, interfaith, and multi-cultural settings including synagogues, camps, and social service agencies. Along with her group facilitation and spiritual counseling responsibilities as Director of The Living Room at Jewish Family Service in Teaneck, NJ, Amy was on their management team and chaired their social media committee. Previously, she was the founding chaplain and co-Bereavement Director of the Martin and Edith Stein Hospice in Central NJ. Amy was also a member of the spiritual counseling and bereavement team of Holy Name Medical Center Hospice and Palliative Care in Teaneck, NJ.

Amy was ordained and received her master's degree in Rabbinic Studies from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, and received her bachelor's degree in Psychology with a concentration in Neural and Behavioral Sciences from Haverford College. She also holds a Certificate in Informal Education from the Melitz Institute for Zionist Youth Education in Jerusalem.

Ramah Programs in Israel 

Meir Hoyzman, Executive Director, Ramah Programs in Israel

Meir Hoyzman Beginning January 1, 2013, Meir Hoyzman will become Executive Director of Ramah Programs in Israel. Meir brings to Ramah his extensive skills in organizational management and educational leadership, including 17 years of experience as a director in the fields of Jewish camping and Israel experiences for youth and young adults.

Most recently, Meir served as Director of The Israel Experience: Educational Tourism for English-Speaking Countries. There, he managed a $15 million budget and supervised 122 full-time and seasonal staff members, all dedicated to providing teens and young adults with high quality short- and long-term educational Israel experiences. Meir spent many years as a director in the Young Judaea Zionist camping movement, most recently as Director of Camp Tel Yehudah, their national teen leadership camp, from 2002-2007. Meir also directed Young Judaea's alumni outreach program in Israel, Merkaz Hamagshimim, which created a strong network of support for alumni who were visiting Israel or moving to Israel, as well as for Israeli alumni of various programs in North America.

Meir was born in New York and grew up in Israel, and served as a commander in the Golani infantry combat division. He has a degree in Jewish History, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Education and Organizational Management from Hebrew University.

Meir follows a decade of excellent leadership by Dr. Joe Freedman, who will continue to work with us for the coming months to ensure a smooth transition. Meir will lead a team of outstanding professionals who continue to operate our Ramah Israel Seminar, The Ramah Jerusalem High School (TRY), Educational Trips for Synagogue and School Groups (RII), and the Ramah Day Camps in Jerusalem.

Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for over 9,000 children, teens, and young adults annually. The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides oversight, educational planning, and coordination on behalf of the network of Ramah camps throughout North America and Ramah programs in Israel. For more information please visit

NIF News: It Won't End with the Vote

8 November 2012

It Won't End with the Vote

Some Israeli and American friends have undoubtedly spent the last twenty-four hours casting re-elected President Obama and Vice President Biden in the roles of Samuel Jackson and John Travolta from the classic Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction -- plotting how best to avenge Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's unseemly interventions in the American election. Make no mistake, the Israeli Premier's blunt incursions into America politics were real, unbefitting of his office and did not go unnoticed in the White House. 

Equally, make no mistake that President Obama is not about to indulge in a round of tit-for-tat and that Israel's path out of its current deep malaise ultimately depends on whether Israelis themselves can drive progressive change. Certainly those who care about Israel in America have a role to play, including President Obama himself. The President's actions in the coming months regarding the Israeli/ Palestinian file and the Iran file and other Middle Eastern matters in his in-tray will clearly impact the Israeli scene. 

But perhaps the biggest impact will be a product of how Israelis and Americans relate to the subtext of the way in which Israel became entangled in American electoral politics and of the deeper questions on the Israeli ballot in January. The key issue in both, without wishing to over-dramatize, is that of Israeli democracy. Israel was never a perfect democracy (and neither is anywhere else, although Israel's challenge in balancing a self-defined Jewish state and equality for all its citizens is particularly pronounced) but the democratic deficit Israel has recently experienced is of a whole new order of magnitude. The Israel-related shenanigans in Tuesday's elections are only superficially about the super-donor who is shared by Israel's prime minister and the GOP challenger. Something else was also going on here. It was partly an attempt to redefine American and Israeli shared values as being less about liberal democracy and more about some kind of civilizational struggle on behalf of a narrow view of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which would seemingly necessitate cutting certain corners when it comes to democracy. And, apparently, the current Israeli government has no intention of reversing the occupation and is on a path away from governing a democracy. 

The hope now is that in reasserting the American interest in resolving the conflict and being allied to a democratic Israel, that president Obama will also serve the Israeli interest by reminding Israelis of the democratic path its future must tread. It matters that President Obama should re-launch a credible drive to advance de-occupation and a resolution on Israel/ Palestine.  It is not for the President to interfere in Israeli politics – again, no tit-for-tat --  but he can certainly articulate clear goals and principles and remind Israeli voters of crucial issues that might otherwise disappear from the agenda for the convenience of leaders of both Likud and Labor. 

This can not only be about President Obama, it is also about us. The President made that much clear in his victory speech, when he turned to the crowd and the listening American public and said that "the role of citizen does not end with your vote." Looking back over the last twenty years of struggle, for instance for gay rights, it seems remarkable the progress that has been made from 'don't ask don't tell' to a president promoting marriage equality.  Looking at the punishment voters meted out to Senate candidates espousing obscenities with allegories of rape and a woman's right to choose- in states not known for social liberalism- proves again the potency of that fuller version of citizenship. 

That is the challenge that the president has set for many communities – and  not least the NIF community -- to create a moral, intellectual and public climate on our issues that disqualifies and makes inadmissible a set of policies that drive Israel further from the camp of liberal democracy and deeper into the murky waters of occupation, extremism and intolerance. A clearer, strong and committed voice from American Jews supporting the plethora of progressive voices struggling in Israel today is the best way to start responding to the divides between Israel and the U.S. made all too apparent by this week's election. 

Daniel Levy is a board member of the New Israel Fund, directs the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations and is a fellow of the New America Foundation.

NIF in the News

Israel holds the key to its relations with the U.S.

6 November 2012

Avigdor Lieberman's New Role Raises Worries

The Forward,
4 November 2012

Trouble, Can't You See?

The Daily Beast,
25 October 2012

On Topic

ACRI, migrants declare victory over Yishai

Jerusalem Post,
29 October 2012

Israeli Insider Turns Dissident

24 October 2012

Don't Mistake Criticism Of Policies As Lack Of Caring For Israel

Jewish Week,
23 October 2012

A dangerous position

19 October 2012


[MA] Boston New Gen: Israeli Democracy 101

8 November 2012

[SF] SF New Gen Presents Sikkuy and The Equality Index: Jewish and Arab Citizens of Israel

8 November 2012


NIF/SHATIL Social Justice Fellowships

Applications are now available for the 2013-2014 Fellowship!




Monday, November 5, 2012

#VOTE with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might! #civicdutyisamitzvah

#VOTE with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might! #civicdutyisamitzvah

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fwd: New Ramah365 Mobile App Highlighted in Today's eJewishPhilanthropy

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NRC Website Banner
National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary 
November 2012
Heshvan 5773
New Ramah365 Mobile App Creates Opportunities for Jewish Engagement and Promotes Volunteerism  

Excerpt from "Young Jewish Engagement: Get Them Involved with the Ramah365 App," in the November 4, 2012 issue of eJewishPhilanthropy

It's the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. You're a young Jewish adult in New York City, seeking opportunities to help elderly homebound Jews recover after the storm's devastation. Imagine if you had an app for that, one that not only gives you some ideas and direction, but also allows you to share your experiences through photos and videos with other like-minded friends. Or what if you want to engage in conversation around Jewish civic values, and had an app that makes that possible while inviting you to post a photo of yourself outside the voting booth on Election Day? Or an app that lets you learn with a growing community of young Jewish adults on campuses throughout North America as part of a weekly Virtual Mishmar, posting Jewish texts, questions, and inviting your video responses? Or an app that promotes "meet-ups" around Israel advocacy, charity races, Sukkah building, and Shabbat meals, and keeps you connected and engaged with Jewish peers? All that and more characterizes Ramah365...[which] has identified a young adult sweet spot, and is helping to satisfy a real hunger for Jewish engagement. (read more)

- Rabbi Ami Hersh and Dana Levinson

Ramah365On October 25, the official launch of the Ramah365 app took place simultaneously in New York City, at Binghamton University, and in Jerusalem. More than 100 college-age Ramahniks spread across those three central sites came together to launch the app through live-streamed learning, sharing, and celebration. Through Jewish leadership and alumni engagement, Ramahniks from all over the world can now converge in one place--fun and exciting missions, prizes, and interactions with Ramah staff members and alumni across the globe. Ramah365 is a project of the National Ramah Commission, Inc. of The Jewish Theological Seminary, generously funded by a Signature Grant from the Covenant Foundation.

App Store logoGoogle Play logo      
Ramah is the camping arm of Conservative Judaism. Together, our programs provide Ramah experiences for over 9,000 children, teens, and young adults annually. The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides oversight, educational planning, and coordination on behalf of the network of Ramah camps throughout North America and Ramah programs in Israel.