Friday, February 5, 2016

Shabbat-O-Gram for Feb. 5

Happy snowy Friday. 

Join us tonight as we celebrate our continued relationship with Carmel Academy, and hear head of school Nora Anderson speak on: Teaching Our Children the Value of Justice through the 
Study of Mishpatim.

People are still buzzing about last week’s presentation by Footsteps and Shulem Deen.  You can find a number of his audio and video appearances on his website and you can read more about Footsteps here.

Other follow up from last week: See my study packets on Jewish sources on relationships (from last Sunday’s board retreat) and, from Shabbat morning’s Torah discussion, Jewish sources on leadership and democracy.

See also my featured op-ed in the Times of Israel, “Bernie Sanders and the Return of Old Jew Chic” (an expansion of my comments in last week’s O-Gram)
I hope to see everyone at our spectacular Temple Rock on Sat. night (it just gets better every year – and once again, weather will not be a problem). 

This Sunday marks four important events:
-          Our annual World Wide Wrap family program for b’nai mitzvah families as well as others simply interested in learning about the mitzvot of tallit and tefillin. Thank you to our men’s club for their sponsorship of this event. Click here for FAQs about tefillin and here, for videos and other content from the Federation of Jewish Mens Clubs

-          UJF Super Sunday.  Make sure to answer the call!

-          The actual Super Bowl.  No prediction this year (I’m still getting over that missed extra point), but  here are three Jewish lessons one can gain from the Super Bowl and how the number 18 factors into a bet between Carolina and Denver rabbis.

-          Oh, and the 4th important event?  Happy 25th birthday, Ethan Hammerman! (And happy birthday to Cantor Fishman, too!)

Armor of Light
And don’t forget Tuesday at 7:30, the Stamford Premiere of a film that is receiving wide acclaim, “The Armor of Light.”  It’s got numerous festival raves, was directed by Abigail Disney and will be shown next month at the Avon.  See it here first! I’ve previewed this tale of how an Evangelical preacher, the voice of the right wing, evolved into a gun control activist, driven by his pro-life beliefs. It will get us all thinking and reconsidering our own values,, which is what we try to do here – and a very Jewish thing to do  There is another fascinating Jewish twist to this story, which I will not give away.

A Sad Week
This has been a week of unspeakable sadness in our community.  Aside from the four funerals that have occurred here, there was one other that overshadowed everything else: the passing of a local teenager, Evan Hyman.  On Tuesday evening, approximately 25 teens gathered at my home, where Mara and I tried to help them come to grips with an unbearable pain, reassuring them that we are always there for them and that they are never alone.  Most importantly, we had an open conversation about the growing phenomenon of teen depression, which too often leads to thoughts of suicide – and for some, to acting on those thoughts.  This conversation needs to happen all over our community.  It is too important to push under a rug and goes far beyond the specifics of this case.   I extend a plea to anyone who is having trouble dealing with these events to seek help – and never to hesitate to contact me at  Anytime. 
Our hearts go out to Evan’s family, to the BBYO and AITE students who knew him best and to Temple Sinai’s community.  I also am reaching out to our college students, many of whom have been severely troubled by Evan’s death, some of whom have already contacted me or Mara.  Their pain is ours as well.

Marranos No More
For the first time in nearly seven decades of Israel’s existence, and nearly fifty years since the reunification of Jerusalem, a non Orthodox Jew can pray with pride in his or her own way, at Judaism’s holiest site.

The historic announcement of the revisioning of the Kotel is not without its detractors and legitimate concerns. 

Read here a defiant retort by one of the Women of the Wall, concerned that the WOW are abandoning the objective of free worship in the women’s section, a concern echoed in this article.

My feeling is that this is a historic moment, not because of what it provides for us today, but for what it portends for the future.  Once the new egalitarian section is complete, attractive, open and equally accessible, Jews will all see that many different visions of Judaism are available.  At that point, it won’t be simply about tourists.  Israelis will choose to have their Bar AND Bat Mitzvahs at a place where women don’t need to stand on chairs and crane their necks to see anything.  Israeli schools will bring their kids to see this flowering of a pluralistic Judaism.  Over time, this will make a huge impact.

For the first time in many years, I will be able to go to our holiest site and feel that my way of being Jewish is not second class.  For so long, I’ve felt like a medieval Spanish Marrano, forced to practice my form of Judaism in secret because of the bullying tactics of those in power.  Now we, who represent the largest groups of affiliated American Jews (and most of the unaffiliated too) are Marranos no more.

That is a big deal. But there’s a long way to go: civil marriage, women’s rights, government support for non-Orthodox institutions, but we are on the right side of history and progress is happening, in large part because of the efforts of Anat Hoffman, who spoke here last November (hear the Hoffman lecture).  The reason why the current government, including the Ultra-Orthodox parties, accepted this compromise (albeit kicking and screaming) is that they knew that Hoffman would just keep on taking them to court, and that she would win.
This victory validates that Diaspora Jewry needs to be vocal about Israel – even when it means different with current Israeli policy

Ari Shavit believes that American Jews need an AIPAC style lobby in Jerusalem, to “ensure that Israel’s identity and values are in keeping with those of the Jewish people in the Diaspora.”
He asks, “Why let (American Jews) have a say in what (Israelis) do? Because that is Zionism. Because by its own definition, Israel is responsible to world Jewry. Because Israel was built with world Jewry’s support.  Because even today Israel survives thanks to the strategic front that world Jewry provides it. Thus, it is only right that there be a powerful institution in Israel to faithfully represent the beliefs and ways of life practiced by the Jews of the world.”
We are all now on the front lines of Israel’s fight for survival and against delegitimazation.   So if we are fighting the battles – and absorbing threats and attacks on our institutions – we should be able to make our voices heard

The following is the Masorti movement’s summary of the Kotel Compromise:
This historic resolution has changed forever how the non Orthodox streams will be treated in Israel.
  • This agreement is about a historic compromise that redefines the relationship between religion and state in the State of Israel. For the first time in the State of Israel, in the holiest of places of the Jewish people - the Western Wall - the non-orthodox Streams triumphed in attaining formal status; Women of the Wall prevailed and achieved their own space; and Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism have arrived at familiar landscape.
  • From here on out, solutions to issues of religion and state will be able to rely upon a new legal anchor. From today, every solution to every dispute must give expression to the simple, basic and natural fact that there is more than one way to be Jewish. We did not achieve everything that we wanted, but this day is a day of celebration for Jewish pluralism in Israel. Conversion. Marriage and Kashrut.
  • From the moment that the resolution will come into effect, families will be able to celebrate together - mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies - at the kotel. Standing on plastic chairs in the women's section will be eliminated once and for all!

Achievements of the resolution:
a. One Kotel: There will be one common entrance to the Western Wall after which every person can choose which part of the Kotel they would like to pray at or visit. To choose (!) between the Northern plaza of the Western Wall which respects Orthodox custom, or the Southern plaza of the Western Wall that respects the equality as suited to the customs of Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism. The two plazas, north and south, will provide Torah scrolls, siddurim, tables for reading the Torah and everything necessary for every man and woman to pray as they see fit.
b. Equality and pluralism: The requirements of safeguarding holy sites will be updated, and for the first time in history, the following explicit words will appear in the law books of the State of Israel: "The customs of this site will be based on principles of pluralism and gender equality, and prayer at this site will be egalitarian and unsegregated, women and men together, without a partition."
c. Size: The egalitarian plaza will have several large and extensive levels. The plaza will spread out over an expanse that will include a raised prayer plaza (constructed) and all of the Herodian Street area. The entire prayer plaza will stand at almost 900 square meters (for means of comparison, the area is about 70% as large as the present men's section at the Western Wall and 130% larger than the present women's section).
 d. Management of the Prayer Plaza: A Public Council, to be appointed by the Prime Minister, will be headed by the Chairperson of the Jewish Agency and six representatives from the Conservative Movement, the Reform Movement and Women of the Wall, alongside six professional representatives from the Prime Minister's office and various Ministries, as well as the Israel Antiquities Authority. This is the first Statutory Council in which representatives of the Conservative and Reform Movements in Israel, by definition, will have been officially appointed to participate.
e. Budgets: The Prime Minister's office will assign a permanent annual budget of no less than 5,000,000 NIS for the management of the site, as well as the maintenance, marketing and religious services that will be provided to the public at-large.
f. Round tables: Once every half year at least, the Cabinet Secretary will be responsible to convene a collective round table to manage and settle all issues that remain controversial and/or that may arise between all of the involved parties responsible for management of the Western Wall in both of the plazas – the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (Northern plaza) and the egalitarian Western Wall Council (Southern plaza).

g. The Public Plaza: The upper Western Wall plaza, that which is further up from the current prayer plaza (the men's and women's sections of today) will be defined as the Public Plaza and will be used to conduct national and military ceremonies only. Prayer will only be permitted in the Public Plaza during a specific number of times throughout the year (Tisha Ba'av, the three pilgrimage festivals, etc.) during which there will not be enough space in the lower prayer sections. Prayer at these times will take place in the Public Plaza as per the Orthodox custom.

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