Wednesday, February 26, 2014

update on the shefanetwork website

Dear Shefa Chevreh,

Over the last 9+ years, the ShefaNetwork has morphed many times, from an online conversation, to 3 conferences and a Learning Mission to the Conservative Yeshiva, to 9 journals, and, most recently to a book, archiving all of the journals for posterity. Shefa's website migrated from a yahoogroup to a formal website, and finally to the most recent incarnation as a blog: There remains much work to be done before the mission of the ShefaNetwork, "to bring together dreamers from within the Conservative/Masorti Movement and to give their dreams an audible voice" is accomplished.

(The ongoing need for movemental healing is well-attested to by these two recent publications: today's NY Jewish Week OpEd by Jerome A. Chanes, "What Went Wrong With Conservative Judaism?" & last week's ejewishphinlantropy piece by Rabbi Eric M. Lankin, entitled "The Missing Piece.")

The important news is that that the two things everyone seems to agree upon - and care about - are:
  • 1) Conservative Jews are the majority on the ground and in leadership positions in so many national and local Jewish efforts (Avodah, Hadar, AJWS, NIF, AIPAC, T'ruah, etc...)
  • 2) The vital middle Jewish stream must survive for the Jewish community to endure
So, as the ShefaNetwork morphs yet again into an infrequent email list and a more static website (, the work goes on in many spheres, only some of which are institutions of the movement, perhaps proof of the success of Schechter's desire to see our ideology spread broadly within "Catholic Israel" and Kaplan's delivery systems of shuls as "Community Centers." Regardless of what has been accomplished to date, the need is ever greater for strength and dynamism throughout the Jewish institutions and far beyond. That was why, over 9 years ago, we chose the name "Shefa", to help Torah "flow" (Shefa translates literally as "flow") within the world.

May we all do our part in amplifying others' creative souls.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Menachem Creditor ▶

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Letter To the Editor NYTimes: In Search of Concern

Letter To the Editor NYTimes: In Search of Concern

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It was painful to read Marc Tracy's review of Shai Held's "Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence" (The Prophet's Prophet, Feb, 16), not only because Heschel's profound emphasis on 'transitive concern', one spiritually mature human being's response to the needs of another, seems to have gone unlearned, but also because Held's deft treatment of Heschel's passion for truth and meaning is so quickly dismissed by Tracy (a co-editor of 'Jewish Jocks') as "opaque." Most clear in Tracy's screed is a conservative worldview that precludes the wonder of expansive theological writing and, more to the point,  ignores the lessons of prophets, as if distracted by their "big glasses." A clearer lens would have seen that Held's writing offers newcomers to Heschel a much-needed transfusion of interpersonal concern and a reminder that the present isn't so perfect.


Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Congregation Netivot Shalom

Berkeley, CA



Rabbi Menachem Creditor ▶

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fwd: Kiev Riots affecting Masorti Community

Update on Kehilla Masoret in Kiev
As the news from Kiev, Ukraine worsens and grows more violent, we spoke this morning with our Masorti/Conservative Rabbi Reuven Stamov and his wife Lena who are in Israel for a short visit. Their two young daughters are still in Ukraine but are staying with their grandmother outside of the city.

As of Thursday morning, 28 people had been killed and almost 250 hospitalized following the breaking of the barricades by Ukrainian authorities.  The protestors have refused to capitulate to government demands and recent attempts at a truce have not held. The dispute began between the opposition and the current President Yanukovych over a trade pact with the EU but has since escalated into an Russia/EU divide.

The Masorti Kehillah Center is only 2 metro stops away from the violent protests at Independence Square. According to Reuven, they can hear everything, see the fires and smell the smoke that comes from only a 20 minute walk away. All of Kiev is scared to leave their homes and send their kids to school. At night, there are no street lights making a bad situation even worse.  People are stocking up on food, buying at least a 2 weeks supply in anticipation of rioting or shortages. The entire Jewish community is working together to safeguard their schools, synagogues and centers.

On a previous Shabbat, there was a general panic in the city and some people called for not holding services. But, according to Rabbi Stamov, the majority of people wanted to come together as a community even amidst the crisis.  

Is anti-semitism part of the opposition? According to Reuven and Lena, anti-semitism is indeed alive and well in Kiev but not as official government or protest policy. However, the government doesn't have the time or money to try and combat incidents of anti-semitism from people who are taking advantage of the overall chaos. A neighbor of the Stamov family received a coarsely worded note informing her that because she was a Jew, she needed to leave Kiev. Yet another reason, people are afraid to leave their homes.

The Stamovs are not sure what will be happening when they return next week but they don't have plans to close or cancel their many synagogue activities. They are already gearing up for a fun Purim which last year included a carnival and a funny dramatic reenactment of Megillat Esther. All they need is to find a safe place to celebrate another historic occasion of Jews eluding danger and being welcomed in a strange land.

Purim Appeal:  Support our Kehilla in Kiev

In light of the difficult events in Kiev, Masorti Olami is launching a Purim Appeal with all proceeds going to our Masorti Kehilla in Kiev. The Kehilla Masoret Kiev is supported by Masorti Olami and by Midreshet Yerushalayim at the Schechter Institute.  Funds are limited and the kehilla is in immediate need of a sophisticated security system that will enable them to feel safe in their space.  


We will also be raising funds to purchase food for the homebound and elderly, medicines and anything else that the kehilla needs to insure the well being and safety of their community.  


We need your help to treat the children to a day of fun outside of the city. Toys and treats for mishloach manot will be provided as well to make sure that smiles abound on Purim!


Help us support our kehilla in Kiev by clicking here. Be sure to mark Purim Appeal in the dedication box.


Thank you,


Rabbi Tzvi Graetz

Executive Director, Masorti Olami & MERCAZ Olami

Rabbi Mark Cooper presenting Rabbi Tzvi Graetz with a Megillat Esther for Kiev this week.  The Megillah was a gift from Rabbi Cooper, Rabbi Stephen Stern and Rabbi Benjamin Adler.  
Purim Play Kiev 2013
Lena & Rabbi Reuven Stamov Purim 2013
Purim 2013


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