Saturday, September 28, 2013

announcing the publication of "A Manifesto for the Future: The ShefaNetwork Archive: Conservative/Masorti Judaism Dreaming from Within"

announcing the publication of

A Manifesto for the Future: The ShefaNetwork Archive

Conservative/Masorti Judaism Dreaming from Within

Edited by Rabbi Menachem Creditor

(See Table of Contents Below)

This collection has been nine years in the making and is an archive of overflowing Jewish passion. There future of Conservative/Masorti Judaism depends on voices like those shared in this book, which was created to fulfill the mission of ShefaNetwork: to bring together dreamers from within the Conservative/Masorti Movement and to give their dreams an audible voice. ShefaNetwork was born in December of 2004 to create a virtual community of professional and lay activists in the Conservative/Masorti movement and a place to discuss the movement's direction and ways of strengthening Conservative Judaism for the future. Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the Shefa enterprise is the way it has avoided strict boundaries between the intellectual and the practical. Shefa has provided a very fruitful engagement between intellectuals and practitioners, many of whom should be described as falling in both categories. This is as it should be, because a religious movement needs both a coherent vision with philosophical rigor and historical perspective, and the practical wisdom to enact this vision. Usually, these two tasks are not done well by the same people, but that too is a bias that leads us to divide the world into "theorists" and "practitioners," as if the two are from different planets. If the Conservative movement is going to succeed in creating spiritual communities in its schools, synagogues and camps, it will have to bring together the theological visions of the movement's intellectual lights with the practical wisdom of professionals and lay people. The most important accomplishment of ShefaNetwork may be that it has begun a conversation that includes all of these essential voices.


1             Introduction, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

From ShefaJournal 5766: Definitions

15           Foreword, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

17    Editors' Introduction, Sara Shapiro-Plevan and Rabbi William Plevan

33    The Challenge Facing the Conservative Movement, Rabbi Judith Hauptman

37    Between the Holy and the Sacred: Conservative Judaism's Halachah Controversy, Rabbi Ira F. Stone

46    Fostering Holiness and Spirituality in a Solomon Schechter Day School, Jane Taubenfeld Cohen

52    Finding Spiritual Jewish Prayer, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

55           Traditional and Egalitarian, Emily Fishman

62    Revitalizing the Conservative Synagogue, Fran Gordon

71    A Manifesto for the Future: Drop 'Conservative' Label to Tap True Meaning and Reach the Faithful, Rabbi David Wolpe

81           To My Rabbis and Teachers, Jonathan Lopatin

89           On Being a Conservative Jew, Rose Shoshana Wolok

91     Halachah and the Conservative Movement, Aaron Weininger

95    Ethically Driven Halachah: The Future of the Conservative Movement, Rabbi Judith Hauptman

100  The Struggle for Self-Definition in Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Robert Gordis

123  Maintaining the Balance: Achieving the Dream, Nicole Guzik

From ShefaJournal 5768.1: Instrumental Music on Shabbat and Chag

131  Editor's Introduction, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

133-168  A conversation including Robert L. Smith, Dahlia Schwartz, Glenn Tamir, Rebecca Boggs, Rabbi David Kay, Craig Taubman, Rabbi Barry Leff, Karen Silberman, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Fran Gordon, and Rabbi Neal Loevenger (January through May 2008)

169  Conservative Judaism and Social Justice, Rabbi Bill Plevan

169  Merge the Movements?, Rabbi David Kay

From ShefaNetwork Journal 5768.2: Kashrut, Halachah, and Conservative Jews

177  Editor's Introduction, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

179  The Invitation from Rabbi Barry Leff

181-250  A conversation including Zack Berger, Fred Passman, R.L. Smith, Larry Lenhoff, Steve, Rabbi Barry Leff, Avi Hein, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Fran Gordon, Rabbi Jim Rogozen, Rabbi Joshua Heller, Rabbi Bill Plevan, Rebecca Boggs, Anne Pettet, Rabbi David Bockman, Ilan Glazer, Rabbi David Siff, Gella Solomon, Rabbi Len Sharzer, Rabbi David Kay, Rabbi Andy Sacks, and Rabbi Dr. Ilana Rosansky (Messages 2109‐2164 on the Shefa listserv)

251  A Closing Reflection on the Conversation with Rabbi Leff, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

From ShefaNetwork Journal 5769.1: USCJ (Vol 1)

256  Editor's Introduction, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

257-311 A conversation including Zack Frankel, Steven Katz, Rabbi David Kay, Fred Passman, Jonathan Loring, Rabbi Bill Plevan, Anne Pettit, Ira Fink, Rabbi  Menachem Creditor, Steven Katz, Nina Kretzmer, Matt Shapiro, Shoshana Michael-Zucker, Rabbi Leonard Gordon, Marc Stober, and Dahlia Schwartz (selected posts between February 17 and February 22, 2009)

From ShefaNetwork Journal 5769.2: USCJ (Vol 2)

313  Editor's Introduction, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

315  Toward a new vision for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Neil A. Tow

317  Conservative Judaism's Future, Karla Worell

321  To What do We Aspire? Dr. Jonathan Woocher

324  Conservative Judaism: Valued and Validated, Rabbi David Kay

327  Moving Forward, Rabbi Jason Miller

329  What is Success? Fred Passman

330  No Plant is Fed from the Top, Paul Levine

331 The Chance to Build a Jewish Organization from the Ground Up, Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger

From ShefaNetwork Journal 5770.1: The Relationship Between Conservative Judaism and the Conservative Movement

335        Editor's Note, Nina S. Kretzmer

339        Shmirat HaGuf, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Part IThe Shmirat HaGuf Discussion

341              It Begins with the Local Community, Fred Passman

346              Body or Method, Rabbi David Bockman

348              Response to Rabbi Bockman, Fred Passman

350              Response to Fred Passman, Steven Katz

352              The Compelling Idea, Dr. Jonathan S. Woocher

355              Response to Dr. Woocher, Fred Passman

Part IIAn Issue of Past, An Issue of Present: Responses to Previous ShefaJournals

357  Rabbi Nicole Guzik, Response by Rabbi Neil Gillman

359  Rabbi Jim Rogozen, Larry Lenhoff, Response by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg

366  Jacob B. Ukeles, Responses by Paul Levine & (p. 370) Jonah Rank

377  Paul Levine, Response by Fred Passman

ShefaJournal 5770.2: "Tech-Tonic" is available online at

From ShefaJournal 5770.3: Why Must Masorti/Conservative Judaism Thrive?

383        Editor's Note, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

385        Response 1: Nina S. Kretzmer

386        Response 2: Rabbi Neil Tow

387        Response 3: Karla Worrell

From ShefaJournal 5771.1: HaYom uMachar: Visions of the Conservative/ Masorti Movement in North America

391        Editor's Note, Rabbi Menachem Creditor

395        Bring Sacred Back, Ilan Glazer

398        Response to Ilan Glazer, Fred Passman

401 Public Letter to the ShefaNetwork and members of the Hayom Coalition, Nina S. Kretzmer

404  Strategic Plan Feedback for College Students and Young Adults, Rabbi Daniel Greyber

409        Suggested Responses Rabbi David Kay

413  Visioning Future Success: The Next Iteration of a Central Organization for Conservative Judaism and Kehillot, Rabbi Loren Sykes

426  A 3-Part Jewschool Post : "The USCJ Strategic Plan", by  "ImproveUSCJ"

452  My Dream, Gabriel Nachman Seed

458  Learning for the Future, Nina S. Kretzmer

462  Towards a New Model of Leadership for College Kehillot, and the Entire Movement, Sandy Johnston

473  Input on the USCJ's Strategic Plan, Judy Gerstenblith (University of Maryland, College Park)

485        About ShefaNetwork

Rabbi Menachem Creditor ▶

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

AJWS Chag v'Chesed: Sukkot


Chag v'Chesed: Holiday Dvar Tzedek

Sukkot 5774
By Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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For more Sukkot resources, visit our website and On1Foot.

What is it about the holiday of Sukkot that makes it so powerful? Tradition teaches that the energy of Sukkot is so intense, so visceral and delightful, that seven mythic figures leave the Garden of Eden to join in the light of our earthly sukkot (temporary shelters). But why? What is it about the sukkah that compels even those who have tasted Paradise?

These spirit guests, known as the Ushpizin, are invited each night into our sukkot. Groupings of Ushpizin vary by community, and include biblical prophetess, revered sages and modern heroes, invoked in turn each night of Sukkot. Jewish mystical tradition suggests that each guest also serves as a reminder of an action through which the brokenness of our world is repaired.

Ironically, the Ushpizin and their message of an aching world typically function as spiritual enhancements during the physical experience of plenty. Many of us live lives far removed from direct contact with those truly in need of shelter. The week we spend dwelling in the sukkah, enjoying bountiful and joyful meals, does little to help us identify with their experience. The temporary walls and roof of our sukkot are, paradoxically and luxuriously, positioned near enough to our permanent home to facilitate the smooth flow of good food and sweet guests we are blessed to share during the holiday. We'd understand better the sacred urgency of the sukkah if we had nothing else.

I experienced the urgency of Sukkot just over one year ago when I participated in an AJWS Rabbinic Delegation to Ghana, West Africa. We went to support and learn about Challenging Heights, a child-centered organization dedicated to promoting children's rights to education and freedom from forced labor, in order to end child poverty. Since that journey, neither Jewish ritual moments nor interpersonal encounters have been the same. One experience stands out, and has changed Sukkot (and everything else) for me.

One day, a circle of a few rabbis and children took turns telling each other stories. During one story, the girl on my right, Gladys, rested her head on my arm, obviously glad for human contact, something we were told would likely occur, as every experience of affirmation was part of the healing process for these children saved from slavery. I truly can't remember the stories we were telling, but I can feel the warmth of Gladys' head on my arm right now.

And then Gladys looked at me and asked if I had eaten. I told her I would eat later. She nodded, and said, "I hope you eat tomorrow, too." I nodded, accepting her blessing, wishing it back to her a million fold.

My teacher Gladys changed me profoundly, giving me new eyes through which to see as a Global Jewish citizen. She transformed my Jewish life, by blessing me to realize that every ounce of strength we put into building our joyous, temporary structures must, in effect, be a sensitizing training for the higher purpose of building a world in which everyone eats tomorrow. Gladys has become my precious Sukkot spirit guest, my Ushpiza, whose message I commit to amplify until it is, one day soon, unnecessary in our world.

Discussing the Ushpizin, the mystical text, the Zohar teaches:

One must also gladden the poor, and the portion that would otherwise have been set aside for these Ushpizin guests should go to the poor. For if a person sits in the shadow of faith and invites those guests and does not give their portion to the poor, they all remain distant from him. ...The first of everything must be for one's guests. If one gladdens guests and satisfies them, God rejoices over him. (Zohar, Emor 103a)

So what makes Sukkot so powerful that it compels the attention of heaven and earth? The answer can be discovered within the wisdom of the Ushpizin. The force of the Ushpizin custom, infusing our present with mythic possibility, invites us to consider internalizing spiritual values each day, transforming the sukkah into a safe space for sacred justice and radical welcome, for intentional encounter and deep feelings. In short, the Ushpizin teaches that a sukkah is, after all, an ancient microcosm of the world as it could be, as it must become—a universal shelter of peace.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA. Named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America (2013), he is a published author, musician, teacher and activist who has spent time working in Ghana with American Jewish World Service and in the White House with the PICO Network to amplify a prophetic Jewish voice in the world. His most recent books are Peace in Our Cities: Rabbis Against Gun Violence and Slavery, Freedom, and Everything Between. A frequent speaker on Jewish Leadership and Literacy in communities around the United States and Israel, he serves on many boards, including the Executive Council for the Rabbinical Assembly and the Chancellor's Rabbinic Leadership team for the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

AJWS is committed to a pluralistic view of Judaism and honors the broadest spectrum of interpretation of our texts and traditions. The statements made and views expressed in this commentary are solely the responsibility of the author.

Inspired by the Jewish commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

from the Rabbinical Assembly: Holiday Resources, Anniversary of 9/11


 RA News 

September 2013 - Tishrei 5774 

Holiday Resources

Resources for the upcoming holidays (be sure log in as a member to access all of the materials):

Upcoming Events


Pastoral Care | Oct 8

JOIN Conference | Oct 28-29

Retirement Planning | Oct 30

Career Development | Nov 7

For RA Women | Dec 9-10 

For Campus Rabbis | Dec 12

Rav HaMakhshir | Dec 15-19  


Find out more

Movement Postings

View upcoming programs and info from Conservative Movement affiliates.


Find out more

Yesterday the Rabbinical Assembly had the privilege of co-hosting a conference call with Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, to discuss the events unfolding in Syria and the President's response to them. The call, which was also sponsored by the CCAR, RRC, and RCA, involved close to 700 rabbis and Jewish professionals... [read more]

Freedom Tower These resources include reflections solicited by the RA in the weeks following 9/11/01. From the introduction to those reflections:


"Our lives will never be the same after September 11, 2001. Every time you get on an airplane, train, go to a ballgame or think about the World Trade Center, your life has changed. Six thousand innocent human beings lost their lives. The United States is involved in a serious military action and the entire country, in fact, the entire world, is on a heightened state of alert..." [read more]


View the Resources

(photo source)

Hodesh Tov

"The Non-Fasting Shatz" 

By Gail Labovitz, Associate Professor of Rabbinic Literature, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies


Hodesh Tov

Listen to the podcast 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Prayer on the 40th Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War

A Prayer on the 40th Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God,
Forty years ago, on this Day of Awe,
2,569 of our children raced in every direction
to protect their families, our family, our home.

We and these children, alike in form and size,
had mistakenly believed we had emerged, finally,
from the shadow of collective pain,
finally strong enough to refill our cisterns,
forgiven by You for all the sins of all people for all time.

We, ancient and young, were as dreamers,
alike in dreams and frailty,
thinking we had finally emerged
pure from the fire.

We were wrong, Adonai.
And our children died.
2,569 of our precious children died.

It is these fallen children, Dear God,
we remember today,
bitter tears flowing down our faces.

It is their ineffable names we today prolong,
stretching their sacrifice
to reach Your Heart and our own.

Years turn history into story:
We misremember children in toy tanks
on the Suez and in the Golan, facing hordes.
Grasshoppers against ferocious giants.
But our dead children's blood,
sprinkled on an earthly altar,
demand more than this.

Their blood screams questions from that earth,
amplified through years of ongoing 
insult, cruelty, quarrel, and transgression, 
mockery, betrayal, and violence,
from without and from within.

What do our fallen children teach us?
When will we ever learn?

History and pain filled our souls
and so we were caught off-guard,
ignoring timid offers of peace.

Recent victory and arrogance filled our hearts
and so we were caught off-guard,
ignoring signs of war.

Forty year later,
our family is still unsure.
Our home is still vulnerable.

We are Your children,
and you are our Parent,
and we need You.

History has made us afraid,
even as we now struggle with the burden of power.
We are still too full of mistrust
for each other and for every Other.
Help us remember that true strength is restraint.

Help us learn, Adonai.
Help us to not miss offers of peace
as we remain ever-vigilant for signs of war.

Help us channel our People's all-too evident mortality
into life-affirming decisions 
for all Your scarred children - every one.

May the One who brings Peace in the Heavens help us make Peace on Earth.


Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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