Friday, June 28, 2019

Honored to be a finalist for another Religion News Association award - and in great company

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News & Press: Contest
2018 Contest Winners

My three entries for the Excellence in Commentary category:

Finalists named in 2019 RNA Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence

Tuesday, June 25, 2019  
COLUMBIA, MO — Congratulations to the finalists named in the 2019 Religion News Association Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence.
Winners of this year's awards — which showcase religion journalism excellence in the news media among 20 categories of print, online, multiple media, broadcast, book and student entries — will be revealed Sept. 21, 2019 at the RNA Annual Conference Awards Banquet in Las Vegas.

Book finalists

Stephanie L. Derrick, The Fame of C. S. Lewis: A Controversialist's Reception in Britain and America
Dominique Dubois Gilliard, Rethinking Incarceration
James Hudnut-Beumler & Mark Silk, The Future of  Mainline Protestantism in America
Tom Linthicum, A Man Called Mark: The Biography of Bishop Mark Dyer
Jonathan Merritt, Learning to Speak God from Scratch
Elaine Storkey, Scars Across Humanity
Judith Valente, How To Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Reconstructing the Gospel

Broadcast finalists

Becket, Religious Liberty for All
Elaine Clark, RadioWest
Audrey Galex & Jim Raymond, AIB Network
Interfaith Voices: Amber Khan, David Wynn, Laura Kwerel, Stephanie Lecci & Melissa Feito
Interfaith Voices: Amber Khan, Ruth Morris, Catherine Osborn, Stephanie Lecci & Melissa Feito
Interfaith Voices: Amber Khan, Ruth Morris, Alex Kronholm, Stephanie Lecci & Melissa Feito
Interfaith Voices: Amber Khan, Stephanie Lecci & Melissa Feito
KMGH-TV: Kevin Krug, Teal Tyszka, Eric Lupher, Jaclyn Allen, Andrew Bray
Joy Lambert & Alanna Delfino, WBFF
NPR: Danny Hajek & Jason DeRose
NPR: Jerome Socolovsky, Jason DeRose, Diamond Kennedy, Amara Omeokwe
StartUp: Eric Mennel, Lulu Miller, Sara Sarasohn, Lauren Silverman
Studio 360: Sonia Paul, Tommy Bazarian, Andy Newman, Jocelyn Gonzales
Finalists will not be named in the TV National or TV News Magazine categories.

Newspapers, online, magazine finalists

Hannah Allam, BuzzFeed News
Taha Anis, Moment Magazine
Elisabeth Auvillain, Global Sisters Report
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
Stacey Barchenger, Asbury Park Press
Michelle Boorstein & Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post
David R. Brockman, Texas Observer
Norris Burkes, The Ledger
Christianity Today
Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News
Elizabeth Dias, The New York Times
Mike Ellis, Greenville News & Independent Mail
Sarah Ellis, The State
Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans, National Catholic Reporter/Global Sisters Report
The Forward
Silvia Foster-Frau, San Antonio Express-News
Loretta Fulton, Abilene Reporter-News
Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer
Catherine Godbey, The Decatur Daily
Emma Green, The Atlantic
Rachel E. Gross, Undark 
Melissa Harrison, The Media Project
Christopher D. Herlinger, Global Sisters Report
Aysha Khan, Religion News Service
Lori Johnston, The Washington Post
Melanie Lidman, Global Sisters Report
Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service
Paul Moses, The Daily Beast
Sharon Otterman & Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
Manya Brachear Pashman & Jeff Coen, Chicago Tribune
Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter
Bobby Ross Jr., The Christian Chronicle
Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter
Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service
Bob Smietana, Christianity Today
Tiffany Stanley, The Washington Post Magazine
Laura Turner, Buzzfeed
Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today

Multiple media finalists

Al Jazeera: Imaeyen Ibanga, Sana Saeed, Omar Duwaji, Sarah Nasr, Brian Joseph, Michael Zipkin, Kathryn Wheeler
The Associated Press: Dake Kang, Yanan Wang & The Team  
Christianity Today: Ted Olsen, Mark Galli, Alecia Sharp, Sarah Gordon
Dilshad Ali, Religion News Service
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
Julia Bicknell & Barbara Baker, World Watch Monitor
Julia Bicknell & Steve Dew-Jones, World Watch Monitor
David R. Brockman, Texas Observer
Liz Bucar, Freelance
Liz Bucar & Amanda Randone, Teen Vogue
Daniel Burke, CNN
Steph Chambers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gary S. Chapman, Christianity Today
Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News
Julia Duin, & The Wall Street Journal 
Cathleen Falsani, Sojourners
David Gambacorta, The Philadelphia Inquirer
John Gehring, Commonweal
Global Sisters Report
Emma Green, The Atlantic
Joshua Hammerman, RNS & The New York Jewish Week
Fouad K & Julia Bicknell, World Watch Monitor
Brian Kaylor, Word&Way
JP Keenan, Sojourners
Jacob Lupfer, Religion News Service
Jamie L. Manson, National Catholic Reporter
Steve Mellon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service
Josh Nathan-Kazis, The Forward
Manya Brachear Pashman & Jeff Coen, Chicago Tribune
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Jeremy Roebuck, Julia Terruso, William Bender & The Boston Globe: Jenn Abelson, Thomas Farragher 
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Moment Magazine
Alexandra Radu, Religion News Service
Andrew Rush, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter
Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today
Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service
Simran Jeet Singh, Religion News Service & The Revealer
Tiffany Stanley, The Washington Post Magazine
Irving Cabrera Torres, Religion News Service
Krithika Varagur, Freelance
Celia Viggo Wexler, San Francisco Chronicle
Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service
Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post
Finalists will not be named in the sections category.


Hannah Bernstein, Northeastern University
Shoshy Ciment, Yeshiva University
Benjamin Collinger, Trinity University
Zachary Davis, Harvard Divinity School
Hannah Jane Finnerty, Bowling Green State University
Devika Girish, University of Southern California
Haidyn Harvey, Pepperdine University
Lauren Jackson, University of Oxford
Samantha Nower, Ball State University
Seana Scott, Dallas Theological Seminary

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Shabbat-O-Gram for June 28


Shabbat Shalom!

Join us Friday evening at Cove Island for our Shabbat at the Beach.  Steve Epstein and Natasha Fenster will lead music for the kids at 5:30 and at 6:30 (note the time), Steve will assist me for a relaxing, family style Shab n' Surf (not "surf n' turf") service.  The service is for all generations and the yahrzeit list will be read.  The forecast is for clear weather, so join us!  From the parking lot at Cove (and we have special permission to park without a sticker), simply walk to the right until you find us on the beach.

During the summer, the Shabbat-O-Gram is typically on hiatus. So this is the final official one until Labor Day, though I'll be sending out periodic reminders and special messages.  The world does not stop during the summer, and that means, sadly, that it may be important to share important perspectives on current events, such as the statement from the Conservative Movement leadership that you will find elsewhere in this email.  And don't forget to join us for services all summer long.  One highlight will be on July 13, when we'll have three ufrufs - a TBE first!!

Last week I mentioned that we would be receiving a photo of the secret synagogue of Terezin taken by noted photographer Daniel Bogaev.  Well, it has arrived and you will soon be able to see it in our lobby.  For those looking for more background on that synagogue - and why it is so inspirational - here is the backstory.


As i announced last week, we will be doing another trip to Poland, Budapest, Prague and Berlin a year from now, in the summer of 2020.

More information will be forthcoming over the next couple of weeks (and yes, the Cuba trip set for next March is still good to go). Let me know if you are interested.  This trip is for all ages (except for young children), and the Holocaust Memorial Committee is offering significant scholarship assistance for those teens and college students who join their parents on this journey, in tribute to Dr. Hesh Romanowitz, of blessed memory. We feel it is a very important trip for all Jews to take.


Summer Camp Transformations and Hebrew

This week's Canadian Jewish News scoured the internet for Jewish summer camp experiences.  And lo and behold, the writer found something I wrote over a decade ago.  It still rings true today.  I shared a letter that I sent home from camp:

"Dear Folks,
I REALLY am sad now. I need more food because I haven't had anything to eat. My swimming teacher is making me jump into the water but I don't want to. I'm scared of putting my clothes into the laundry because I'll lose them and they'll come back different colors. Send ear plugs."

What's funny is that I actually loved camp-even that first year-because I discovered there what children have been discovering about summer camp for decades, and what Jews have known for millennia: When you leave home, you can reinvent yourself. As Eric Simonoff wrote in his book about the American summer camp experience, "Sleepaway," camp was the place, "where I knew I wouldn't be that weird, bookish kid who always had his hand up in class-where, instead, I would be the popular kid, the lifelong camper who knew all the counselors, all the camp songs."

Summer camp is, in short, a transformational experience.  

This week, Tablet Magazine features an article about how some Jewish summer camps tried to create a Hebrew speaking utopia in the heartlands of America, particularly during the baby boom years after World War Two.  The birth of Israel had just transformed us from perennial victims to victors.  I was part of that experiment, attending Camp Ramah in New England, though at a time when the use of Hebrew was not quite so doctrinaire as it had been in '50s.  (You can read about the Ramah movement's history and vision here)

The Tablet article talks about the phenomenon of Hebrew Infusion.  Interestingly, the Hebrew that was taught at Ramah and other camps developed a life of its own.  I suspect many Israelis would not recognize aspects of it. But I still can hum the lyrics of West Side Story in Hebrew - we performed the musical when I was in 5th grade.

Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv - America - West Side Story
Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv - America - West Side Story
And I can umpire an entire game of softball without ever once reverting to my native tongue.  What's a ball?  Ka-Door.  An out?  Yitzi-ya.  What about a home run?  The same term used for circling the sanctuary with the Torah is used for circling the bases: Ha-ka-fa. 

When speaking a new language becomes as natural as circling the bases (and I was quite the athlete back in my camp days), something transformational has happened.

And something else transformational happened to me as a counselor at camp.... I met Mara - and our anniversary is tomorrow! 

So what are some of your memories of camp?  And what made summer camp so significant in your growth?

Wherever you are and wherever you go, have a transformational summer!

And as a public service, here is a brief lexicon of summer-y words in Hebrew.  See how many you can use over the coming weeks! 


And your word for the day is GAL-SHAN - surfboard.
dani sanderson - my surf board
dani sanderson - my surf board

 Conservative/Masorti Movement Expresses Anger at Immigrant Detention Centers
The Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism expressed intense anger today at the status of immigrant detention in the United States, particularly reports of children being held in inhumane conditions and that a former internment camp used during World War II for Japanese-Americans at Fort Still, Oklahoma is now slated to be used as a new detention center for immigrant children.
The movement issued the following joint statement:
"Today, most Americans recognize the 1940's internment of American citizens of Japanese descent as immoral, illegal, and certainly lamentable. How tragic that America is again on the verge of incarcerating a new generation, this time of would-be immigrants. Hundreds and thousands of people are so desperate for a better life that they flee to the United States of America  - knowing that the country's leader says they are not wanted - and once here are placed in pens, cages, jails and prisons. Our government is paying for-profit companies with arguably no supervision and no oversight to hold these human beings - for unlimited time in subhuman conditions.
Judaism has a strong tradition of calling for loving the stranger (Deut 10:19) because we were strangers in a strange land. Two of the most powerful values Judaism teaches are the dignity of all creatures (k'vod habriyot) and b'tzelem Elohim, the firm belief that each and every human being is created in the image and likeness of God.
Our tradition values children. They are our future and our hope. Yet today in this country, we leave them in outdoor detention pens - with no diapers for babies, no toothpaste, no soap, often no clothes to speak of, and certainly no toys.
Children must be reunited with their families immediately and everyone seeking asylum at our borders deserves a fair hearing. We need more judges and more adjudication of asylum seekers at our borders, not more camps. We need more humanity and sympathy. Not more camps.
Further, we continue our support for a fair immigration policy that guarantees due process in immigration proceedings and protects the civil liberties of immigrants. We vehemently oppose capricious immigration raids like the one recently proposed.
To detain human beings in prison-like conditions, for undetermined amounts of time, despite the fact that they are not charged with any crime is unconscionable. Today's transfer of children is only the first of many critical steps needed. The detention centers must be closed. Now. The United States of America and the Jewish community know this all too well from our histories. When we say never again, we mean it."
Rabbinical Assembly
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Cantors Assembly
Jewish Educators Assembly
The Jewish Theological Seminary
Jewish Youth Directors Association
Masorti Olami
Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano
The North American Association of Synagogue Executives
Letters FROM My Palestinian Neighbor

This week's Tablet Magazine features a video essay marking the publication in paperback of Yossi Klein Halevi's  Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, which broke important ground when first published last year.  At that time Klein Halevi practically begged for a Palestinian to engage him in dialogue, distributing the book for free in Arabic.

Much to his delight, many letters came in, and an extensive selection of them is printed in the book's recently released paperback edition.  As the Tablet article points out, one letter in particular stood out: Its author was Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, an Al-Quds university professor and former hardliner who, five years ago, took a delegation of Palestinian students to visit Auschwitz. To capture their exchange, author and producer Peter Savodnik put together a three-part mini-series. No matter where you stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that such a conversation is even possible ought to make you pause and reconsider.

Neighbors: Yossi Klein Halevi's Palestinian Neighbor Writes Back, Episode 1
Neighbors: Yossi Klein Halevi's Palestinian Neighbor Writes Back, Episode 1
Neighbors: Yossi Klein Halevi's Palestinian Neighbor Writes Back, Episode 2
Neighbors: Yossi Klein Halevi's Palestinian Neighbor Writes Back, Episode 2

Neighbors: Yossi Klein Halevi's Palestinian Neighbor Writes Back, Episode 3
Neighbors: Yossi Klein Halevi's Palestinian Neighbor Writes Back, Episode 3

More Mensch-Marks

I'll be discussing my book Mensch-Marks next week at Atria on 3rd St.  Contact Atria for more information. Meanwhile, I've been getting some interesting feedback from readers too (though nothing as interesting as Yossi Klein Halevi's).  The JCC of Suffolk County sent me a chart, "The Alef Bet of Being a Mensch," filled with menschy quotes for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  And a reader in Westchester came up with his own Mensch Matrix, based on the Periodic Table for Being a Mensch found in the book.

These are the prime qualities of being a mensch and how they interact. Click here for an enlarged, clearer version of the chart and here for more details.  And thanks to Jonathan Gellman for putting this together.

Have a wonderful summer and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Shabbat-O-Gram for June 21



Shabbat Shalom!

Suddenly summer is upon us.  But before we all load up the car and head to the beach, it's great to look back at what has been a fantastic spring.  See our End of Year photo album, and our Cantor's Concert album, along with Liav Vadel's Bar Mitzvah commentary on Naso from last Shabbat.  Special thanks to Aviva Maller Photography for all the concert photos and many others from the past few months.

Please join us for Pride Shabbat on Friday at 7:30.  Katie Kaplan will be our cantorial soloist and Chris Coogan our guest musician. We will spend Shabbat enjoying rich music and conversation about the Blessing of Difference in celebration of Pride 2019!  There will be a short talk and Q&A with Sontaia P. Briggs, Executive Board Member, of Parity, an organization that celebrates the spirituality, faith, and religious expression of LGBTQ people.  She will address the challenges Parity faces in dealing with religious groups that have bias against LGBTQ and consider it sinful. 

Along those lines, I recommend a recent article in the Washington Post asking how Americans' views flipped so quickly on the topic of LGBTQ rights, especially in light of how other prejudices - like anti-Semitism - have stubbornly resisted such change.  The gay rights movement has managed to change people's minds faster than any other civil rights movement in memory.  Still, this rapid change has not eliminated homophobia.  Far from it - as we have seen in the Administration's efforts to roll back a number of transgender rights.  So the battle begun a half century ago is not finished.  But the progress has been remarkable and something for people of all backgrounds to celebrate.  

We'll do that on Friday night!

And of course, join us on Shabbat morning as well, when I'll be looking at the portion of Beha'alotcha and discussing how to take your Judaism "on the road" as you head out in your travels. See the Parsha Packet: "Jewifying" Your Summer Vacation, which includes a selection from my book Mensch-Marks (chapter 19, "The Power Grid.") along with tips on how to bring Jewish values into the Wilderness.

"There are Stars whose radiance..."

"There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. ... They light the way for humankind."

Those immortal words were penned by Hannah Senesh, the great poet and hero who died trying to rescue Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.  

Mina Roth-Dornfeld, a member of TBE, has a grandson, Daniel Bogaev, who is a noted photographer.  You can see his website here.  Mina is presenting TBE with a framed photo that was part of a recent exhibition of Daniel's.  See a facsimile below.


For those who joined our TBE Jewish Heritage Tour of Europe in 2017, perhaps this photo taken at the same site will jog your memory.


It was taken at the secret synagogue in Terezin, which Jews defiantly decorated and utilized for prayer right under the noses of the SS.  Somehow they were able to envision a better future as they looked up at those painted stars, despite knowing that their own fates were almost certainly sealed, knowing that they would become extinct soon - but that maybe there would be a brighter future for humanity and the Jewish people.  Having this photo in our building enable those who have been to Terezin to explain to others just how sacred that synagogue is - and enable the rest of us to dream of reaching out to the heroic victims, and, in their name, reaching for the stars.  We are the stars that they envisioned.

I'm delighted to announce that, at the request of a number of congregants, we will be doing another trip to Poland, Budapest, Prague and Berlin a year from now, in the summer of 2020.

More information will be forthcoming over the next couple of weeks (and yes, the Cuba trip set for next March is still good to go). Let me know if you are interested.  This trip is for all ages (except for young children), and the Holocaust Memorial Committee is offering significant scholarship assistance for those teens and college students who join their parents on this journey, in tribute to Dr. Hesh Romanowitz, of blessed memory. We feel it is a very important trip for all Jews to take.

"We, a community, we, a spirit"

Photo by the Stamford Advocate

Sam Essenfeld, President of the Senior Class at Westhill and TBE teen, had this to say to his fellow graduates at the Westhill graduation this week. Mazal tov to Sam and to all our graduates!

Goooood morning Westhi- sorry force of habit. Gooooood Evening Class of 2019! Welcome graduates, parents, families, friends, board of education representatives, Mayor Martin, Dr. Hill, and Westhill teachers, staff, administrators, and alumni (hi dad).

Since freshman year, we have defined ourselves as role models, showing the rest of the school that we are capable of doing big things, as emphasized on our senior t-shirt, and have always supported each other along the way. Anyone can be a role model - so who are we? If our class had a motto that could really encompass us, what would it be? Some might say, "Westhill and Proud". How about "Nos, civitas, nos, spiritus" meaning We, a community, we, a spirit, or "Bonum Mane, Patria Maris Borealis", meaning good Morning Viking Country! Let's focus on the former.

I say "we, a community, we, a spirit" because whenever I think about us - the class of 2019 - I see everyone as friends and peers. Whether we see each other at the beginning of the day or walking the halls, I can only think of the warm welcomes and passing "hellos" with a smile. This is what I consider to be our Viking spirit. This spirit is not just what we bring to the Purple Pack in the form of chants and cheers. It is a presence that surrounds us each and every day. Its presence is felt at every painting and Viking emblem in the school. It guards our gates and grows on the trees in the courtyard. Our spirit radiates from each and every one of us in the classroom, as we travel through the Finch and Raynor buildings, onto the fields, and throughout every corner of the campus. Now, being graduating seniors, we have accumulated a true spirit that binds us together as a community.

We, the class of 2019 who have gotten up every morning for the past four years to be here today know that simply stating the word "community" doesn't quite embody this experience of graduating Westhill and Proud with our best friends, enthusiastic teachers, and nurturing mentors around us. Would we have the sentimental feelings of reflection that most of you are probably feeling right now if we were not wholeheartedly invested in our academic and extracurricular journey these past four years? I don't think so. That is community.

Principal Rinaldi's sunrise posts from the front steps of the school every morning, rain or shine, inspire us to carry on his Viking spirit and join together as a community. The more we say, "Good Morning Viking Country", the more we feel united. Who here hasn't felt energized after speaking that mantra? Together, day by day, we have built the motto "Nos civitas, nos spiritus", "We, a community, we, a spirit".

Together, we, the class of 2019, have become artists, actors, activists, and athletes who have received accolades. We, the class of 2019, have become entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and engaged thinkers who know that excellence is the point. We, the class of 2019, are creative writers, coworkers, captains and class clowns, culminating this chapter currently in our caps and gowns. We help each other develop our unique skills and encourage each other to keep our hands stretched out, reaching for the goal. Our community of determined spirits is an essential part of who we are. We care for ourselves, as well as others around us. We give, but we don't give up.

When was the last time you said "remember when I..." Isn't it almost always "remember when we...": "remember when we did that activity in our world language class sophomore year?", or "remember when we decorated the halls for the lip dub?" That speaks volumes about who we are as classmates, but more importantly, as a Viking Country.

When you think about your experiences at Westhill, where do you see yourself? In a particular class? At lunch with your friends? Seeking advice from your guidance counselor? This thought has come to you for a reason. These images in your mind and feelings in your heart have influenced your high school experience. In essence, this is your Viking spirit.....

Had to have high high hopes for a living... sorry its still stuck in my head ...

I have full confidence that we, the class of 2019, are going to use our civitas and spiritusto achieve our goals. We all have a path to walk down, that is, after receiving our diplomas. It's been an honor to serve as your class president.

I would like to extend our sincerest thank you to all of the administrators, teachers, staff, families and friends for helping us get here, to this moment sitting out here on the football field. Thank you, mom, dad, and Ethan, for all of your enthusiasm. Thank you, Mr. Rinaldi, for bringing your spirit every day and being an outstanding leader. Thank you, Mr. Wax for being an amazing class administrator who continually provides us with tremendous support. And thank you, Ms. Miraballes and Mrs. Grant, for being awesome class advisors and the driving force behind our class' success. Have a marvelous Monday Westhill!
Best wishes for a relaxing summer.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

And mark your calendars for next week's...