Pride Shabbat, June 11, 2021

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“It is not up to you to finish the task but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirke Avot)

Dear Friends,

In recent days I’ve been thinking about the genius of our nation’s founders. When describing this nation, a nation whose imperfections and inequities were clear from the very beginning, they used the term “more perfect union.” They had high aspirations for their nation but were aware of its many flaws. In this way they were, at one and the same time, both realistic and aspirational.

Almost 250 years later America is still an imperfect union.

Almost 250 years later, there is still a great deal of work to do if we are to overcome systemic racism, gender inequity, bias against the LGBTQIA+ community, islamophobia and of course, anti-Semitism. Recognizing that these social inequities still exist is painful, but it does not lessen my love or appreciation for …

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Shabbat Shalom June 4, 2021

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I was speaking to a dear friend of mine some time ago when she suddenly told me she had to get off the phone and run the .30 odd .30 rifle down to her husband Kevin.

Now I suspect that for many of you that might seem rather strange. It actually wasn’t. You see, my friends Judie and Kevin are ranchers in Texas. They have all kinds of wildlife that appears on the ranch from time to time including the huge rattlesnake that took up residence on their front porch at one point. On this occasion the culprit was a 400 pound feral hog that was posing a threat to both their livestock and themselves. As someone born and raised in suburban New Jersey I’m not an expert on feral hogs but I hear they are pretty nasty.
A short time later, Judie came back, told me that they had …

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Shabbat Shalom August 7, 2020

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Dear Friends,

One of the ways Jewish tradition was shared in ancient times was through a process known as She’elot u-Teshuvot (Hebrew: שאלות ותשובות “questions and answers”). This process began when a question would be brought to the rabbi. If the rabbi was not able to answer the question he (in those days only men were rabbis) would write down the question and have a messenger carry it to HIS teacher. If the second rabbi was unable to answer the question the process would be repeated and the message sent to HIS teacher. Once the question was answered the response would be returned to the original questioner along the same route. Moreover, the question and the answer would be read by the members of each community along the journey home. In this way, Jewish legal questions and answers spread across Europe. This allowed our dispersed community to be far more …

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My Shabbat Message for August 4th, 2017

Dear Friends, 

Last night I had the privilege of speaking during the special "South Orange Transgender Flag Raising." While specifically in response to the announcement last week that transgender persons will no longer be permitted to serve in the US Military in any capacity, the event was also an opportunity to see and celebrate the incredible diversity in our two towns. 

Here is what I shared last night: 

I am honored to be here this evening representing the South Orange-Maplewood Clergy Association. Now, more than ever, it is important for us to stand together and make our voices heard. 

We are here this evening to state unequivocally that we, the residents of South Orange and Maplewood, reject the politics of exclusion. We denounce the hateful rhetoric coming from too many in our nation. And we will not tolerate anyone using our nation's laws to undermine the advances we have made

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Central Conference of American Rabbis: Supreme Court Decision One Step Toward Recognizing We Are All Made in God’s Image

  

CCAR calls decision affording marriage rights to same-sex couples a significant moral step towards a more equal country

New York, N.Y. – June 26 2015 – The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the official rabbinic leadership organization of the Reform Judaism movement, applauds the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which determined that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license marriages between two individuals of the same sex. CCAR signed an amicus brief in support of marriage equality in the case, alongside many other religious organizations and faith leaders.

“As Jews, we believe we are all formed in God’s image,” said CCAR Chief Executive Steve Fox. “This compels us to extend and recognize the same rights to everyone in our community, including individuals who identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or transgender. For many years, Reform Judaism rabbis have called for equal rights for all members of our …

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Please Join Me AThis Afternoon… Along With Clergy Of All Faiths…

  

Please join me at the South Orange train station on Sloan Street today at 5:30 PM. We will gather with menbers of our local commujity for a vigil of solidarity led by members of the South Orange/Maplewood Clergy Association in the aftermath of the violence in South Carolina earlier this week.

The murder of nine worshippers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina was a brutal act of hatred and racism. It must be denounced and opposed by people of good faith from every corner of our community and with every fiber of our being. There is power when we band together. There is hope when we share our vision for creating a world of equality and kindness.

Let us come together before Shabbat begins to express outrage, to pray that goodness and tolerance prevail in our country and to recommit ourselves to doing all we …

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Central Conference of American Rabbis Condemns Attack on South Carolina Church

 

CCAR Condemns Attack on South Carolina Church Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) is shocked and horrified to learn of the tragic murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. As clergy whose job it is to gather people in the study of sacred scripture, we are appalled that the desecration of nine human lives could occur in such a holy setting. Our sympathies extend to all the victims, and especially to our partner in clergy, Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney.

Earlier in same day that this hate crime was perpetrated, our leadership had gathered for a board meeting during which we passed our resolution affirming our commitment to work for Racial Equality. In the aftermath of the events in Charleston–and on top of the injustices in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, Baltimore, and beyond– we are even more fully dedicated to the …

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TSTI Students Learn About Inclusion, Diversity with Artist Julie Wohl- from VillageGreenNJ.com

 

Religious school students at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange have just completed an art project based on the Jewish concept of b’tzelem elohim – “in the image of God.” The project was spearheaded by Mindy Schreff, director of the Reform synagogue’s Linda and Rudy Slucker Religious School, and artist-in-residence Julie Wohl, who led students age 5 through 13 on a creative journey that combined art with Jewish text.

Schreff worked with Wohl to envision an art piece that would represent b’tzelem elohim, a concept that is closely aligned with the school’s curriculum as well as that of TSTI’s Iris Family Center for Early Childhood Education, which fosters inclusion and diversity. TSTI is known in the wider community for its barrier-free building and commitment to serving students with special needs.

“We wanted to find a way for the students to express the idea of b’tzelem elohim visually,” said Schreff.

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Ten Minutes of Torah – Celebrating Jewish Arts and Culture

  

So proud Debbie Halpern, author of this article, is a member of TSTI. 

I understand why Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last month. It is a beautiful, captivating and moving story. Set in World War II, possibly the most written-about period in history, it manages to cover original ground. The main characters are tragically drawn, rich, and full. Novels as well-written are few and far between and deserving of honors.

It is only upon reflection, and in context, that I find it part of a larger, disturbing trend of well-written, popular novels that cast the Nazi soldier as victim. Like the “must-read” contemporary World War II novel The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, Doerr’s novel paints a sympathetic portrait of the Nazi soldier – the “everyman” German as the victim of a larger evil force.

What made The Book

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Sending Aid to Nepal

  
Dear Friends,

The news coming out of Nepal is more and more tragic with each updated reports. It is no surprise that Israel immediately set out to get relief workers on-site as has been the case with so many tragedies of this magnitude. The Jewish State is quick to offer assistance and, when such assistance is accepted, (which isn’t always the case), quick to follow through on the offer. It is also no surprise that Jewish organizations throughout America are putting together efforts to raise funds. Click here for a list provided by the Reform Movement.

One of the hallmarks of the Jewish community is that we look out for our own AND for those we may never meet. This is one such time. Any support we can give as a community will be truly impactful.

The Times of Israel offers some insight into Israel’s mission. Click here

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