Sunday, July 25, 2010

How not to miss J'slem - Tefillin strap marks

So, this morning, for the nearly the first time since I left Israel last year, I was relieved for a moment that I was NOT in Jerusalem this today.

Got up, went to morning minyan (also an unusual occurrence since I haven't been able to daven much these days, another post later on that), layed tefillin, davened, took the tefillin off, left shul, headed to the local Starbucks for something cold and unhealthy to drink.

As I got out of my car in the parking lot in front of Starbucks I happened to glance down at my arm and saw the imprints from the tefillin straps. My first thought was, "Oh well, at least I'm not in Jerusalem." 

I never thought twice about tefillin strap imprints when I was in Jerusalem - how has so much changed in so short a time? How sad is that?

וְאֵרַשְׂתִ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם
וְאֵרַשְׂתִ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים
וְאֵרַשְׂתִ֥יךְ לִ֖י בֶּאֱמוּנָ֑ה וְיָדַ֖עַתְ אֶת־יְהֹוָה

And I will betroth you to me forever,
And I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice,
And in loving kindness and in compassion;
And I will betroth you to me in faithfulness,
And you will know Hashem.
Hoshea 2:21-22

Created by Jen Taylor Friedman in 2006. Check out her blog at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Act of Becoming Human - A poem by Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The Act of Becoming Human
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

At what point do we, does one, do I decide who I am? 
Is it a matter of time? 
Of learning? 

The search for "my authentic self" is
internal and beyond,
immanent and transcendent.... 

It is in the process of encountering the other,
every other,
and The Other,
as life unfolds
that the contours of your soul, our Soul, my soul
can be felt, discerned.

How can I know God if I do not know myself?
How can I know myself if I do not encounter you?
What am I alone?
Is there such a thing?


God is.
You are. 
I am.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sinat Chinam: Will We Never Learn?

Anat Hoffman, who is often the most public face of Women of the Wall (Nashot HaKotel) was arrested this morning during 
WoW's Rosh Hodesh Av service. 

Shalom Chevre,

I wanted to share this article in Jewschool about Anat Hoffman being arrested this morning for holding a Torah at the Wall. She was there with Women of the Wall for davening for Rosh Chodesh Av. Several friends of mine from RRC were there as well. This blog presents an accurate account of what went down there. If you are on facebook, you can see some pictures on the page of the "Women of the Wall Nashot HaKotel."

The blog entry ends with the very words that I had just typed to a friend of mine. Today, Rosh Chodesh Av, begins a 9 day period of semi mourning before enter a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the Temple over Sinat Chinam - baseless hatred.  Have we learned nothing??

May me all go into these 9 days with open eyes and open hearts.


Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall Arrested | Jewschool

Friday, June 4, 2010

Interfaith Study of Sacred Text

Haven't blogged in months. Being back in the states, back at home, in school -- just being "present" in life has taken all that I have to give. But wanted to sharing a blog posting that talks about one of the wonderful things that I've been doing - learning sacred text with seminarians from the Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

This is from Leadership for a World of Religious Diversity a blog started by Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, one of the Rabbis at RRC.  She takes leadership in all the interfaith initiatives at the school and has recently brought on Rabbi Melissa Heller to be part of the project. Melissa has been facilitating the wonderful Jewish-Christian Hevruta classes that I've been participating in these past two years. The blog I want to share is a posting by Melissa on our most recent class, along with a picture... if I can figure out how to do it.  I guess I'll just do it the old fashioned way - cut and paste - as I am not home where my 16 year old can show me the technologically correct method!

I was  pleased to be able to attend the conference in April sponsored by Andover Newton Theological School and Hebrew College Rabbinical School, “Educating Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Leaders for Service in a Multi-Religious World: The American Seminary Context.”

Like my colleague Nancy, who blogged about the experience below, I came away impressed and inspired, also noting many of the recurring themes that Nancy listed in her last post.
One of them- including Evangelical Christians in inter-religious dialogue- resonates deeply with me. A course that I am currently co-teaching with Professor Emmanuel Itapson at Palmer Theological Seminary (PTS) is doing exactly that.

“Jewish-Christian Encounter Through Text”- a course offered jointly by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and PTS brings together 8 Rabbinical students from RRC and 8 seminarians from PTS to study in interfaith pairs. For a semester, the students engage deeply with one another, with Biblical text as a foundation for their explorations and conversations.

What happens when you bring these seemingly disparate groups of emerging religious leaders together?
A lot.
They seek commonality. They tell stories. They bring their vulnerabilities. They navigate issues of accessibility and ownership of the text. They are offered a new lens through which to view their sacred text. They are forced to articulate their beliefs and explain aspects of their traditions to their partners, helping them to clarify their relationships to their tradition, their sacred literature and to God. As the semester progresses and trust develops, they share their challenges. They question their partners. They practice humility. They come to understand their differences-and respect them.

As the relationships deepen between the pairs, and among the group, so too does understanding. What results is a broadening of the definitions of “Progressive Jew” and “Evangelical Christian” –to include nuance, personal narratives and diversity.

While there is much I could say about the ways this experience has been thus far transformative for the students (and the instructors!) I would rather share a few words from one of the Rabbinical students taking the course. She writes:

“Each study session with [my partner] takes us deeper into the text, into our curiosity about one another and each other’s faith tradition, and into the spaces where we differ, which is where the energy and excitement (and fear of what we will encounter) lie. When we first met, we were a bit shy and polite, almost like a first date when you are excited and want to make a good first impression, and most of all do not want to get off on the wrong foot. Now we jump right into our dialogue, not wanting to waste a second and I feel slightly annoyed when someone comes to the door of “our space” and says we have to stop!…Anyway, the conversations now are beyond intellectually stimulating – they are soul stirring!”

This is my class of 18 seminarians (RRC and PTS), Melissa and Emmanuel, at our last J-C Hevruta Class. We spent this class at Palmer, sharing a (kosher) meal, sharing text on social justice, and then sharing personal blessings for each other. A wonderful way to end a semester full of shared learning.