Friday, October 11, 2013

[Note: The power of WOW is that it was born from a diverse group without ideological consistency, evolved into an Orthodox tefilah group, and is now a group of powerful women who represent the vibrancy of the entire Jewish world. For this we all should be very grateful! - RMC]

[Note: The power of WOW is that it was born from a diverse group without ideological consistency, evolved into an Orthodox tefilah group, and is now a group of powerful women who represent the vibrancy of the entire Jewish world. For this we all should be very grateful! - RMC -


Women of the Wall Vote to Lead the Jewish People towards Change: Three Equal Sections at the Western Wall

October 7, 2013 / by  / 1 Comment / Filed under BlogIn Our Own Voices
Anat Hoffman, "We are not leaving the women's section right now and we reserve the right to prayer freely as a public holy site. However, we are prepared to be the catalyst and leaders of building a new, equal third section for all Jews to pray and celebrate at the Western Wall. When that is completed to our satisfaction, we will pray there."
After going through a comprehensive and emotionally trying decision-making process, Women of the Wall's multi-denominational Executive Board has voted in vast majority to create a future in which, under the right conditions, the women's prayer group would pray in an equal and fully integrated third section of the Kotel. The new area will be governed not by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz but by a board of Jewish leaders, including equal representation of women, who value women's prayer and reject all forms of violence. The process to create an equal, third space for prayer at the Western Wall will be lengthy and Women of the Wall maintain that until all of their conditions and specifications are met for the third section, women's prayer stays where it belongs: in the women's section of the Western Wall.
Hoffman said, "It is with great pain and sadness that we began to consider this new strategy, but we must be agents of change.  We have decided today to stand on the tips of our toes to look into the future. We must rise above our internal conflict in order to build the future we want for our daughters."
A far cry from the area known today as "Robinson's Arch", Women of the Wall have a very clear vision of the potential future. This vision includes but is not limited to: one entrance and one national plaza for all three sections, as well as full equality between the three sections- from budget to topography. A space where women are allowed to govern and lead, where girls can read Torah freely and celebrate their bat mitzvah with great joy and pride, the new section promises to reflect the makeup and spirit of the Israeli people and the Jewish people. Women of the Wall continue to demand change from Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who will have to loosen his grip in order to share the holy space. Likewise, the women have required change of themselves, to lead the charge for this vision.
While the conditions for this process are still being hashed out among the group and will be presented within the week to the Prime Minister's Commission led by Avichai Mendelblit, the wheels have indeed been put in motion for the women to take their rightful seat at the architects table, to create a national space for Jewish and Israelis to pray free from persecution and religious coercion.
For twenty-five years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women's rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.
Press Contact: 
Shira Pruce
Director of Public Relations
Rabbi Menachem Creditor ▶

Thursday, October 10, 2013

From Fair-Trade Judaica: Guilt-free Gelt, Tagline Contest, Guatemala Trip, and More!

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October 2013 Newsletter
  Cheshvan 5774, October 2013

In this issue:


Fair Trade Judaica:

FTJ envisions a world in which Jewish consumers recognize fair trade as an expression of core Jewish values, seek out fair trade Judaica products, and use their purchasing power to support thriving communities of artisans around the world.


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Fair Trade Kosher Chanukah Gelt

Divine Chocolate Dark GeltWe are excited to let you know that Divine Chocolate is partnering with Fair Trade Judaica again this year - for every purchase of their delicious milk or dark chocolate Chanukah gelt YOU buy (wholesale and retail), they will donate 10% of sales to support FTJ's educational efforts when you use promo code FTJUDAICA at checkout! We'll also enter your name into a raffle to win one of our beautifully handmade wire and bead menorahs from South Africa. Here's the info.

Guilt-free Gelt Tagline Contest

Guilt-free Gelt Tagline Contest DetailsJoin the fun and help us find the perfect tagline for our Guilt-free Gelt Chanukah campaign! The winner will receive a treasure trove of delicious Fair Trade gelt and have their winning entry used on our website and outreach materials! Deadline is midnight October 25. Submit your entry!

Join our 2014 Guatemala Trip

2014 Guatemala Trip DetailsFair Trade Judaica's inaugural 2013 trip to Guatemala was a major success, and we're looking forward to traveling there again January 30-February 12, 2014. This is a unique opportunity to spend Shabbat with the Jewish communities in Guatemala City, meet Fair Trade artisan groups who make beautiful Judaica products, and visit major cultural and historical sites. Experience firsthand the positive impact that Fair Trade has on the artisans and their communities. We'll be able to see several new products that were inspired from our first visit (pine needle challah trays, new challah covers, and more). Sample itinerary, logistics, and info can be found here.

Visit us in DC, Philly, and Brooklyn

Chocolate and Jewish Values EventFTJ will be on the road in early November, so come visit us!
Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville is sponsoring an entire weekend, November 1-3, devoted to fair trade, chocolate, and the Jewish connection! Come listen to interesting talks, watch a documentary DVD followed by a chocolate tasting, and find wonderful handmade fair trade items at an afternoon market.
Ilana Schatz, founding director of FTJ, will be speaking on "Guilt-Free Gelt: How & Why Our Food Choices Matter" at Kol Tzedek, November 6. The talk is part of the Feinstein Center's (Temple University) "What's Your Food Worth Series."
FTJ is joining with Brooklyn synagogues and other organizations to host a special Chanukah fair on Sunday, November 10. A great place to buy interesting fair trade menorahs, beautifully handmade and paraffin free fair trade Chanukah candles, and more, listen to music, and just have a good time! For more info, contact

New Brocade Challah Cover

We saw the first design of this new Mayan Hands Brocade Challah Cover on our trip to Guatemala last year, and it's really beautiful! Handwoven on a backstrap loom, it comes in three color designs and will add elegance and beauty to your Shabbat table.
Brocade Challah Cover, Teal Brocade Challah Cover, Red Brocade Challah Cover, Purple

Fair Trade Calendar

2014 Fair Trade CalendarThe new 2014 Fair Trade Calendar is now available, featuring the 12 winning photos of fair trade artisans and farmers submitted from around the world. The calendar includes a "Where to Buy Fair Trade" section and stories about the positive impact fair trade makes in the lives of thousands of people around the world. Discounts are available for multiple copies.

October is Fair Trade Month

Fair Trade Month DetailsDuring Fair Trade Month, people across the US come together to learn about, celebrate, and promote Fair Trade. You can enter a raffle to win a basket for Fairtrade goodies, find lots of information to learn more, join events around the country, share your passion about fair trade, and more! Check out our Facebook page for almost daily news and announcements.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chancellor Eisen in Haaretz on the New Pew Report: "Reengaging American Jews - Before They Drift Away"

Dear JTS Community,

The most recent report on American Jews from the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project makes it crystal clear: this is no longer our grandparents' Jewish community—nor, for that matter, that of our parents.

The statistics say that, in the last 10 years, interest in Jewish religion has continued to decline and the number of intermarriages has increased—how should we respond to this information? What do these changes mean to Jewish life as a whole? And what is Judaism anyway? A religion? A people? A culture? 

I reflect on these questions and more in my newest article for Israel's Haaretz newspaper, "Reengaging American Jews—Before They Drift Away," which can be accessed in its entirety on my blog, On My Mind: Arnie Eisen.

If you have some thoughts on the new Pew report, or want to share how you would engage or reengage Jews, I encourage you to share your comments online at On My Mind: Arnie Eisen.

arnold eisen signature 2
Arnold M. Eisen
The Jewish Theological Seminary

P.S. You can also follow me on Twitter @ArnoldEisen
( or read my blog at

Thursday, October 3, 2013

MasortiUK Reflections 2013: Noach

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Reflections - Noach - Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan By Rabbi Deborah Silver

In the various collections of Midrash that we have, we find our Rabbis preoccupied with the question of what exact sort of wickedness it was on the part of human beings that caused God, as it were, to throw up God's hands and proceed directly to Version 2.0.

One explanation that is offered can be found in Midrash Tanhuma (Bereishit 12). In this, we are told that the reason the earth was destroyed is immorality - in Hebrew, zimmah - since this is the one thing that God simply cannot bear. Because of zimmah, the Rabbis teach, chaos comes to the world, sweeping away the good and the evil alike.

We moderns might react by rolling our eyes. How Victorian, we might say to ourselves; how preoccupied the ancients were with sexual rectitude! And yet, there is a lesson here for us, too.

The word the Rabbis use for chaos is itself a chaotic word - anderalamusia. We can see from its structure that it isn't really Hebrew - in fact, it comes from the Greek word for plague, carrying the idea of wholesale destruction of humanity. What is it about zimmah that creates destruction that is so immense that it's beyond the powers of ordinary Hebrew to convey?

The examples the Rabbis give of zimmah - the coupling of the heavenly beings (bnai elohim) with humans and the antics of the residents of Sodom - have in common an act of flagrant breach. Zimmah runs red lights; it recklessly ignores accepted, or proper, standards of behavior, combining what should not be combined. When that happens, the Rabbis are suggesting, other boundaries get broken too. The lack of discrimination that causes an act of zimmah in the first place overflows into the result - a wholesale and likewise indiscriminate destruction.

This definition of zimmah can work for us, too, and examples of it abound. At time of writing here in California, commentators are still discussing Miley Cyrus' routine at the VMA in which the actress who formally played Hannah Montana (making her required viewing for a generation of pre-teenage and teenage girls) performed a song in which, clad in a latex bikini, she 'twerked' - danced in an explicitly sexual way - with an older (and fully clothed) man. There has been a lot of discussion of that dance - was she being adult or was she being flagrant? Was it a rite of passage to show that she's finally left Hannah Montana behind her for good? Or was she simply a product of the team who planned the costume and the choreography?

Stories like this are a nine days' wonder (if that); we might wrinkle our noses at them in distaste before getting on with our lives. If we have daughters of our own they might draw our attention a little more. But we'd hardly use the word 'immoral' to describe them...would we?

And yet, in the way that boundaries between childhood and adulthood were breached, in the combining of what should not be combined (young and old? innocence and corruption?) this might well be an example, albeit a minor one, of zimmah. And perhaps, too, it creates a small amount of chaos in the world. Hardly a crisis, hardly a flood - but, nonetheless, a ripple of disorder. The Rabbis are teaching us to notice it, and to name it.

Rabbi Deborah Silver is a member of New North London Synagogue and Assistant Rabbi at Adat Ari El, Valley Village, Los Angeles

©2013 Masorti Judaism | Alexander House. 3 Shakespeare Road. London N3 1XE   


Tuesday, October 1, 2013 "Conservative Jews Shrug Off Evidence of Dramatic Decline in Landmark Pew Story"

A Thought: I believe that a response to these accurate numbers is found in the hearts, words, and dreams of the ShefaNetwork. Purchase the archive of our 9-year conversation! -- - rmc "Conservative Jews Shrug Off Evidence of Dramatic Decline in Landmark Pew Story"

Plunging Numbers Nothing 'New,' Declares Steve Wernick

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 01, 2013. -

Conservative Jewish leaders brushed off evidence that their denomination is dramatically shrinking that appeared in the new Pew survey of Jewish America.

Denominational officials said that the data, which showed that just 11% of young Jews identify with Conservative Judaism, confirmed what the movement already knows about the problems its facing. Some said that the contraction isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I don't think there's anything new here," said Rabbi Steve Wernick, executive director of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. "We know this story, and it further validates it."

The Pew Research Center's Portrait of Jewish Americans, published October 1, found that 18% of U.S. Jews identify with the Conservative movement. As the Forward reported this morning, the survey showed that Jews are far less likely than older Jews to say they are Conservative.

For Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, the rapidly declining numbers don't mean that the movement is failing. "By its size, Conservative Judaism is losing numbers," Artson said. "Thats true. But I want to focus on our quality."

Artson said that the smaller size of the movement may correlate to what it asks of its members. "It's very hard to be a casual Conservative Jew," Artson said. "If you're passionate about integrating tradition and modernity, we continue to be a great home."

Others said that the movement is already working to address the membership crisis outlined in the survey results. Wernick noted that movement's convention, set to take place in early October, will deal with these broad issues. Eight hundred people are expected to attend.

In an emailed statement, Jewish Theological Seminary chancellor Arnold Eisen said that his institution was working on the problem as well. "While this information is not a surprise, and institutions like JTS have long been addressing these concerns, we must create more compelling - and more meaningful - opportunities to strengthen the connection between the next generation of Jews and Jewish communities and tradition," Eisen wrote.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, head of the Rabbinical Assembly, the Conservative movement's rabbinical association, was not immediately available for comment.

Read more:

Rabbi Menachem Creditor ▶