My Shabbat Message for February 24, 2018

This week’s Torah Portion, Mishpatim, offers a series of detailed laws which were to guide the Israelites as they sought to build a covenanted community. Many of these laws are outdated and, thankfully, no longer relevant. These include the laws regarding the treatment of slaves and the social standing of women. There are other laws, however, that seem more relevant than ever. Chief among them is this:
And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Eִgypt. You shall not oppress any widow or orphan.
The Torah is clear. A community is responsible for welcoming the stranger, is prohibited from taking advantage of guests, visitors and “strangers” and is required to protect the most vulnerable in society. The rabbis of the Talmud went even further. They extended this level of care and respect to all people teaching,”Great is human …

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My February 17 Shabbat Message

Dear Friends, 
In this week’s Shabbat Message I offer an invitation and share some Torah.

An Invitation- As I wrote a number of weeks ago, Reform Judaism’s commitment to social justice gave rise to the Religious Action Center in Washington DC. Drawing on the moral teachings and commitments of Judaism, the RAC educates, advocates and lobbies on a variety of issues. This past weekend eleven of our TSTI teens spent a long weekend at the RAC along with Rabbi Klein and Erica Shulman. While there they studied, debated, shared and, on the last day, went to Capital Hill to lobby our members of Congress. At this evening’s service (which is at 6pm because it is a holiday weekend) three of the participants- Amy Nadel, Ian Lowenthal and Sarah Wish- will be speaking about their experience and sharing some of what they learned. Please join us to welcome Shabbat and …

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My March Bulletin Article…

“Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure. What is a dispute for the sake of Heaven?” Pirke Avot Chapter 5, Mishna 20 

In one of his many books, psychologist M. Scott Peck comments that there are only two reasons for marriage, one being the emotional friction between partners. It is, he wrote, through the process of two individuals navigating a life together, negotiating their differences, learning to listen to one another when they disagree and finding a need to compromise, that each partner in a marriage pushes the other partner to grow.

Two thousand years ago the rabbis of the Talmud already understood this lesson. That is why discussions and debates in the Talmud are recorded in detail. That is why we find pairings of opposing teachers such as Shammai and …

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In the News- NJJN “Second refugee family adopted by South Orange synagogues”

by Johanna Ginsberg-

NJJN Staff Writer February 15, 2017
Rabbi Dan Cohen of Sharey Tefilo-Israel said he was proud his community was able to welcome a family of refugees with only three days to prepare for their arrival… 

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Liba Beyer said her committee received a call asking if they could help settle an Iraqi family of six, with four children ranging in age from six to 23. The family would arrive on Friday. 

Beyer is part of a committee comprised of members from three South Orange synagogues partnering with the World Church Service to adopt refugee families and help them adjust to their new lives. 

The mad rush was necessary as this was the family’s second attempt to come to the United States. 

The family had already been approved by U.S. government agencies and were preparing to depart from Istanbul — where they fled when …

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In the News- NJJN “When politics came to synagogue”

by Johanna Ginsberg-
February 15, 2017
Anat Cohen of Livingston and her family dropped their membership this year at the Conservative-affiliated Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell. Her increasing discomfort as a Trump supporter in a liberal environment was one of several factors that went into her family’s decision.

“It was annoying that there was not another voice,” said Cohen, who asked that her real name not be used to protect her family’s privacy. While she said the rabbi and cantor were “very careful” in their rhetoric, nonetheless, “The message got across that we are terrible Jews if we do not open our border to refugees. The social action aspects of Judaism just take precedence over Judaism.”

Not too far away, West Orange resident Matt Greenwood, an avowed socialist and member of the Orthodox Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David (AABJ&D), quipped that he and the …

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Why I Demonstrated… One TSTI Member’s Perspective

Sunday, I marched to voice my opposition to the recent executive order regarding immigration from several, but not all, predominately Muslim countries. I ran into Rabbi Cohen there and he asked me to write about why I came. Why had I decided that it was time to become openly politically active?  

Marching was almost instinctive. For me there was instant clarity that this is a time when it is imperative to stand up and fight for what is right. It is my moral duty as a citizen not only of America but of the world to fight for myself, my loved ones, and most importantly for those who do not have the voice. America was not designed to be a place to discriminate against people of different religions. A clear separation of church and state is stated in the Constitution, the very document that defines us as a nation. …

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