What We Eat - United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

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What We Eat - United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

SUMMER 2012 / 5772 VOL. 5 NO. 4


J

CTABLE OF CONTENTS SUMMER 2012 / 5772 VOLUME 5 NUMBER 4

This magazine is a joint project of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, and FJMC

6 LETTERS

8 Women’s League’s SARRAE G. CRANE

offers some Reflections on the Kiddush

Ladies

9 FJMC’s RABBI CHARLES SIMON has

some suggestions For Fathers of Adult

Children

10 RICHARD SKOLNIK introduces

Tomorrow’s Visionary Leaders from Nativ,

United Synagogue’s program for post-high

school students in Israel

11 RABBI NEIL GILLMAN discusses books

on Jewish life In the Bookshelf

12 WHAT WE EAT

Looking at Kashrut

Through a Conservative Lens

For RABBI EDWARD FELD, kashrut must interweave

ritual rules and regulations

with modern challenges

14 CJ REVIEWS

NEW KOSHER

COOKBOOKS

FRAN GINSBURG finds value

beyond the recipes in cookbooks

– and also shares some recipes

JEWISH TRAVEL

19

WHAT’S JEWISH ABOUT CAMPING?

Even though MAXINE SEGAL HANDELMAN did not

grow up camping, she now spends a Shabbat each

summer with 60 friends and family in one of

Wisconsin’s beautiful state parks

21

A JEWISH MUSUEM IN SAINT JOHN?

SHIRLEY MOSKOWinvites you to enjoy the Jewish sites

in Canada’s oldest city

23

ON A MISSION TO ISRAEL

On a recent trip to Israel, RABBI ROBERT SLOSBERG

was exhilarated by the thriving Masorti movement but

discouraged by some of its challenges

26

ISRAEL FOR KIDS

There is a lot to do in Israel for children of all ages,

from petting zoos to scavenger hunts in Jerusalem,

according to AVITAL COHEN

28

FACTS YOU MIGHT

NOT KNOW ABOUT MASORTI

There is a great deal to know about our movement in

Israel, according to RABBI ALAN SILVERSTEIN

29

A PERSONAL MIRACLE

THE FIRST MASORTI

RABBI IN UKRAINE

RABBI TZVI GRAETZ

introduces a young man

whose journey is inspiring

30

JEWS IN GEORGIA

A photo essay

34

WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT CAMEL

AROUND YOUR NECK ...

There are many ways to introduce the weekly

Torah reading. JOANNE PALMER describes one of

them

35

...AND WHAT’S THAT ON YOUR HEAD?

His collection of kippot reflects BERT STRATTON’S

23 years playing clarinet at weddings and bar

mitzvah parties

36

YAY FOR JEWISH SUMMER CAMPS

Camp doctor SHARON SILVERMAN POLLOCK can’t

JEWISH SUMMER CAMPS

rave enough about the benefits of sending kids to a

Jewish summer camp

37

IN MEMORY OF A FRIEND

His experiences at Camp Ramah help

ADIN YEHOSHUA MEIR mourn the death

of his closest friend

38

CAMP FOSTERS

COMMUNITY

REBECCA KAHN asks

what we can do to

get more

Conservative kids

to Jewish camps

40

RAMAH FOSTERS COMMUNITY

National Ramah Director RABBI MITCHELL COHEN

is proud that Ramah accomplishes so much

without sacrificing Jewish content

42

MAKING IT MATTER

After USY, Ramah, and Koach, our committed

young Jews often look elsewhere for meaning in

their lives, worries RICHARD S. MOLINE

44

A RUACH FAMILY SERVICE

Sensing a void in her synagogue’s programming,

PAMELA KIRSCHNER WEINFELD and friends created a

service for school-aged children and their parents

46

TRANSFORMING TEFILLAH

BONNIE RIVA RAS describes how congregations

offer new ways to experience Shabbat

48

SKYPING

THE MINYAN

A friend saying kaddish

in the Hague joins RABBI

DAVID LERNER’S minyan

in Massachusetts

50

WOMEN SPEAK

BAT MITZVAH: TAKE TWO

Describing one bat mitzvah with two celebrations

50 years apart, LISA KOGEN illustrates the

trajectory of this now common coming of age ritual

52

WORDS OF THE WEEK

It’s easy to grow your Hebrew vocabulary using a

new program devised by FJMC and DAVID P. SINGER

56 UNITED SYNAGOGUE’S NEW BYLAWS

JOANNE PALMER reviews the changes that will make

United Synagogue more agile and responsive to

the needs of its member kehillot

57

HEARING MEN’S VOICES

A SIGNATURE PROGRAM OF FJMC

ART SPAR edits a discussion among some FJMC

mentschen

ABOUT THE COVER

The Hesed House Social Club, in Rustavi,

Georgia. Photo by Amir Halevy, who

participated in the Jdocu journey to

photograph Jewish communities worldwide.

See more photographs beginning on page 30.

Cover design: Josef Tocker

CJ — SUMMER 2012 5


EDITORS

Rhonda Jacobs Kahn

Joanne Palmer

ADVERTISING DIRECTOR

Bonnie Riva Ras

DESIGNER

Josef Tocker

PUBLISHING CONSULTANT

Doug Steinberg

EDITORIAL BOARD

Dr. Robert Braitman, Chair

Bernice Balter

Michael Brassloff

Renée Brezniak Glazier

Shelly Goldin

Rosalind Judd

Dr. Bruce Littman

Rachel Pomerance

Elizabeth Pressman

Evan Rumack

Marjorie Shuman Saulson

Allan M. Wegman

ADVISORS

Dr. Stephen Garfinkel

Jewish Theological Seminary

Rabbi Cheryl Peretz

Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

CJ: Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism

is a joint project of

FEDERATION OF JEWISH MEN’S CLUBS

Michael Mills, President

Rabbi Charles E. Simon, Executive Director

UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF

CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM

Richard Skolnik, President

Rabbi Steven C. Wernick, Executive Vice President

WOMEN’S LEAGUE FOR

CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM

Rita Wertlieb, President

Sarrae G. Crane, Executive Director

The opinions expressed in this magazine are

those of the authors and do not necessarily

represent the views of the publishing organizations.

Advertising in CJ does not imply editorial

endorsement, nor does the magazine

guarantee the kashrut of advertised products.

Members of FJMC affiliates, United Synagogue

of Conservative Judaism congregations,

and Women’s League for Conservative

Judaism affiliates receive this magazine as a

benefit of membership. Subscriptions per

year: $20.

Please direct all correspondence or changes

of address to CJ: VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/

MASORTI JUDAISM at Rapaport House, 820

Second Ave., 10th Floor, New York, NY 10017-

4504. 917-668-6809. Email: palmer@uscj.org

or rkahn@wlcj.org. To advertise, email

ras@uscj.org or call 917-668-6809.

CJ: VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI

JUDAISM is published quarterly by United

Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, 820 Second

Ave., 10th Floor, New York, NY 10017-4504.

Canadian Copies: Return Canadian undeliverables

to 2835 Kew Dr., Windsor, ON N8T 3B7

PM 41706013.

6 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

Letters

CHANGING CULTURES

I have just finished reading Michael Mill’s

article, “Cultures Can Be

Changed” (Spring 2012).

I endorse every word about

men being part of the whole

rather than loners. What

puzzles and intrigues me,

however, is what I don’t read.

Unless my eyeglasses need

changing, the word

“woman” doesn’t appear

once in the entire text. As

a result, the article sounds

exactly like what appeared n the monthly

newsletter put out by the Conservative synagogue

my family attended in Chicago 75 to

80 years ago.

Yes, my father was active in the men’s club,

but my mother predated him by almost half

a decade with her membership in the sisterhood.

In those prehistoric times, women

were virtually shut out for membership on

the board of directors. Incidentally, I don’t

find the word sisterhood – a term often

denigrated in the 21st century as a relic of

bygone eons – anywhere in the article. Am

I missing something?

What fractures me most of all is the Grand

Canyon-size chasm between the article and

the cover of the same issue of CJ, an overt

plug for women’s participation in synagogue

hierarchy. Shouldn’t you be functioning on

the same wavelength?

DAVID R. MOSS

Los Angeles, California

WOMEN RABBIS

In D. Korenstein's letter to the editor in

the Spring 2012 issue, the

author writes the his synagogue

“hired a senior

woman rabbi. Within a few

years a significant portion

of the membership was

gone.” I object to the automatic

assumption that the

cause of the declining membership

was attributable to

the hiring of a woman rabbi.

Many synagogues are experiencing

shrinking membership numbers.

The causes are demographic, philosophical,

financial, religious, etc. Many are con-

(continued on page 53)

ADD YOUR VOICE!

Conservative Judaism is made up of a plethora

of voices. Our movement is wide-ranging. Members

of our kehillot, sisterhoods, and men’s clubs

share core beliefs and practices and at the same

time have singular or even unique takes on our

philosophy, theology, and customs.

CJ runs stories that illustrate both our similarities

and our differences. Often we run more

than one take on the same subject.

We want to hear more of those voices. We

want to hear from you – your reactions to our stories,

and your suggestions for stories developing

in your communities. And if you speak better

through the lens of a camera, please send us photographs

that focus on the issues we discuss:

Jewish life here and abroad, Israel, halachah,

and Jewish traditions and learning.


THERE IT WAS AMONG

the weekly Shabbat

announcements: Kiddush

is provided by the sisterhood.

If it happened to be

sponsored by a bar mitzvah

family, it was assumed that the sisterhood

ladies had set it up. The kiddush ladies were

the members of the sisterhood. And for most

people that was the basic equation. Sisterhoods

had meetings and then their members

set up kiddush and the ongei Shabbat. They

also might have helped decorate the sukkah,

adding their touches to those of the children

of the religious school.

But a look around any synagogue should

have revealed much more. Who ran the

Judaica shop? The sisterhood ladies. Who

was in charge of ordering the kippot for the

b’nai and b’not mitzvah? The sisterhood

ladies. Who made shalach manot baskets

for Purim? Who sponsored the flowers for

Shavuot? Who promoted the gift honey for

Rosh Hashanah? Who sent Chanukah care

packages to the congregation’s college students?

Who were the key participants in the

PTA and the Youth Commission? Again,

the sisterhood ladies. Which arm of the congregation

could always be counted on for

a significant contribution? Of course, sisterhood.

The sisterhood ladies were far more than

a coffee klatch enabling Shabbat attendees

to enjoy a little wine and sponge cake. They

were – and continue to be – at the core of

any synagogue’s life. Without the dedication

of kiddush ladies our congregations

8 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

REFLECTIONS ON

THE KIDDUSH LADIES

BY SARRAE G. CRANE

would be a shadow of themselves. They did

what women do so well, creating a warm,

welcoming community by making people

feel at home. They studied and learned more

about Judaism, created Jewish homes, incorporated

Jewish values personally and into

their families’ lives. The bonds that were created

in the sisterhood strengthened Judaism

for many generations.

If we turn the clock back nearly a century,

to the early years of Women’s League,

the organization of Conservative sisterhoods,

we discover that Women’s League

and sisterhoods had a much larger agenda

than worrying about what to put out for

kiddush. One of Women’s League’s earliest

projects was the creation of an offcampus

space for Jewish students in the

vicinity of Columbia University, Barnard

College, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

That concern continued to be

expressed through its Torah Fund campaign,

which saw the need and underwrote

the creation of the Mathilde Schechter

dormitory at the seminary. It was renewed

last year when Women’s League adopted

the Koach kallah, a Shabbat retreat for college

students across North America, as a

project. (We are delighted that through

our efforts and support, Koach almost doubled

the number of attendees from last

year!) We are committed to the perpetuation

of Conservative/Masorti Judaism

and are proud that our board has voted

to continue our support of the Koach

kallah.

But Women’s League has not only looked

outward. We have looked inward as well.

For decades Women’s League has produced

publications to enrich the lives of Jewish

women, running from The Jewish Home

Beautiful in 1941, to our most recent

Women’s League Hiddur Mitzvah Project. We

have fashioned material and developed training

programs that enable our women to

deepen their knowledge of Judaism and

intensify their liturgical skills.

In recent years more of us have entered

the work force, many in time-consuming

professional positions. Those of us working

nine to five plus often have neither the time

nor the energy left to fulfill the traditional

roles of the sisterhood ladies. Yet we still

expect kiddush to be there on Shabbat morning.

And we still are women who actively

identify as Jews, seek to enrich our Jewish

education and observance, and want to be

part of a network of women who share the

values of Conservative Judaism. The mission

of Women’s League is as relevant today

as it was when we were created by Mathilde

Schechter in 1918. To expand that network,

we have embarked on a systemic and strategic

look at our future.

And for future reflection . . . . On the

recent Conference of Presidents Mission

to Israel, we journeyed to Amman for a day.

In addition to meeting with King Abdullah,

we were hosted for lunch by Israel’s

ambassador to Jordan, Danny Naveh, who

had cooked for us and was in the kitchen

preparing fabulous desserts. It is clear that

the kitchen is no longer only the province

of women. Perhaps in the future it can

be the kiddush men and women who provide

this essential element of synagogue

life as we re-imagine the ways both men

and women contribute to our congregations.

We are proud to be the next generation

of kiddush ladies and so much more. We

know that it is the day-to-day things that

we do that secure the structures that enrich

our lives as Jews.

Sarrae Crane is executive director of Women’s

League for Conservative Judaism. CJ


FOR FATHERS OF

ADULT CHILDREN

BY RABBI CHARLES SIMON

EVERY PARENT STRUG-

GLES to balance making

decisions for our children

with empowering them to

be independent. It’s rarely

easy. As our children become

adults all too many of us believe that our

ability to influence their decisions is inversely

related to their level of independence. Fathers

who feel their influence lessening are often

conflicted. We are proud of our children and

their emerging independence,

but we still

have to live with the

decisions that these

young adults make.

We acknowledge the

possibility of failure

and feel somewhat

frustrated because we can’t assure success.

Indeed, we know that even if we could “fix

it” that could hinder the maturation of our

sons and daughters.

Unfortunately, too many parents, and

specifically fathers, fail to understand that

even after our children have made decisions

with which we are not comfortable

we still retain the ability to influence their

decisions. I can’t tell you how many times

fathers have approached me and expressed

their pain and upset because one of their

children has chosen to marry or partner

with someone who was not Jewish. “But

what could I do?” they ask. “What can

I do?”

We are beginning to

understand more about a

father’s ability to influence

his children.

In the past my responses have always

been “Don’t obsess with what you could

have done. There is so much that you can

do!” My responses to fathers have become

even stronger as a result of what I have been

learning about fathers.

We know a great deal about mothers and

how they influence their children. We know

that in a majority of situations the decision-maker

regarding a family’s religious

commitment and practice is almost always

the woman. It doesn’t

matter if she is Jewish

or not. If she decides

the family will be Jewish,

the children will be

Jewish. In addition

many sociologists

believe on the basis of

the data collected over the past 30 years

that her children will identify as Jews and

seek to live, in some manner, Jewish lives.

We are beginning to understand more

about a father’s ability to influence his children,

even adult children who are no longer

living at home. Last year, at an FJMC weekend

retreat, I piloted a lesson plan to fathers

whose adult children no longer live with

them. I asked the group how many of them

texted or emailed or called (I know that

sounds archaic) their children regularly

to wish them a Shabbat shalom. The

response was mostly negative: “I never did

it before.” “They will wonder why I’m

doing it.” “My children are in their late

30s.”

I encouraged it and was pleased the following

morning to see a group of men with

smiles on their faces because their children

had texted them back. They were begin-

Rabbi Charles Simon is the director of FJMC

and author of Building a Successful Volunteer

Culture: Finding Meaning in Service

in the Jewish Community, Jewish Lights ning to realize their actions could still

Publishing: Woodstock, Vermont. (continued on page 25)

CJ — SUMMER 2012 9


HAVING RECENTLY

celebrated the festival

of Shavuot, which

commemorates matan

Torah – the giving of

the Torah to the Jewish

people – I know that it is a gift to be handed

inspiration that extends the afterglow of

this beautiful festival.

For me, inspiration arrived in the form

of feedback about the stellar achievements

of our Nativ program in Israel

(www.nativ.org), which has been creating a

cadre of college leaders for the past 31 years.

This program, which has trained more than

1,000 remarkable young people, garnered

the highest ratings from a recent independent

Jewish Agency-sponsored evaluation

aimed at examining all long-term

Masa-funded study/volunteer programs

in Israel. (Masa is an organization that connects

young Jews with programs in Israel.)

Nativ’s impressive graduates provide our

movement with the human resources necessary

for charting a bold new course for the

new millennium.

The latest crop of Bogrei Nativ – Nativ

graduates – have hit the ground running,

charged with the formidable challenge of

reinvigorating our kehillot in North America

and reinventing the Conservative movement

for a new generation. Visionary and

cutting edge, their influence is critical to the

vitality of our movement.

Meet some of our recent Bogrei Nativ.

TOMORROW’S VISIONARY

LEADERS FROM NATIV

BY RICHARD SKOLNIK

Richard Skolnik is the international president

of the United Synagogue of Conservative

Rabbi David Goldberg Russo, Nativ 23

David, from

Hamilton, Ontario,

was an active member

of ECRUSY,

and in 2003 he was

USY’s international

president.

Ordained at JTS

this spring, David has taken a position as

rabbi at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago.

He met his wife, Rebecca Russo, when they

both were international USY officers, and

she also was on Nativ 23. Rebecca is the

director of engagement at Hillel of Northwestern

University.

“Nativ provided me with the unique opportunity

to explore Israel, study at an incredibly

high level, develop critical leadership skills,

all in the context of a fun, social experience.

Many of the relationships that I developed

on Nativ are still ones that I rely on today, both

personally and professionally. My experiences

studying in the Conservative Yeshiva and

the opportunities that I had to explore my Jewish

identity certainly helped me on my path

toward becoming a rabbi.”

Aliza Sebert, Nativ 27 Aliza is from New

York City, where

her father is the

rabbi of the Town

and Village Synagogue

in lower

Manhattan. In her

last year at Brandeis

University, she is

president of Hillel’s theater group and executive

musical director of Ba’note, the Jewish

women’s a cappella group. For the last

two summers she has been a division head

at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires.

“Nativ was an experience that I will never

forget. It is an amazing program that allowed

me to grow, learn about myself, and gain independence

before going off to college. It gave me

a greater level of appreciation and love for

the land of Israel, and allowed me to create

friendships that have already strengthened and

will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Maya Dolgin, Nativ 25 Maya, from Huntington,

New York,

was a student at

Solomon Schechter

High School of

Long Island. After

Nativ, she graduated

from Wellesley

College, where she

was president of Hillel. She has worked at

Camp Ramah in Nyack for the last seven

summers, and this summer she will be division

head and coordinator of the Israeli staff.

Maya was on the staff for the Nativ 30

kibbutz group. Last year she made aliyah,

and now lives in Jerusalem, where she is

Nativ’s assistant director.

“My year on Nativ 25 set me on a path that

has been immensely fulfilling. It helped to

strengthen the skills and values that I learned

during my years studying at Solomon Schechter

and working at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack.

On Nativ I strengthened my love for Israel and

Judaism, and learned how to translate this

passion into something accessible to others,

which led me to return to Israel in 2010 as

a madricha – counselor – for Nativ 30. My

year of staffing Nativ allowed me to gain yet

another perspective on Israel. I was able to

see the country through the eyes of a group

of young Jewish leaders who were living in

Israel for the first time and wrestling with

Judaism. (continued on page 33)

10 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM


BY RABBI NEIL GILLMAN

Democratizing Judaism by Jack J. Cohen,

Academic Studies Press, 2010

Rabbi Cohen, longtime spokesperson for the

Reconstructionist movement, has served,

among other positions, as Hillel director at

the Hebrew University and member of the

faculty at both the Jewish Theological Seminary

and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical

School. This volume is a summary of his more

than 70-year association with Reconstructionism,

his personal relationship with the

movement’s founder, Mordecai M. Kaplan,

and the wide-ranging moral and religious

issues that he has encountered in his decadeslong

work in Israel and that have engaged him

in a very personal way. Cohen is endlessly

engaging. His biographical notes on Kaplan’s

life and teaching, his detailed and largely evenhanded

discussion of the many criticisms leveled

against his teacher, and his attempt to

apply his personal thinking to the issues that

rage within the state of Israel today are compelling.

The snippets from Kaplan’s personal

diary that illuminate his feelings and thinking

are particularly fascinating.

The Bible and American Culture: A Sourcebook

by Claudia Setzer and David A. Shefferman.

Routledge, 2011

This is indeed a sourcebook, as the editors

claim. (Setzer is professor and Shefferman is

assistant professor of religious studies, both

at Manhattan College.) It should be used

as a sourcebook rather than read cover-tocover,

but – and this is barely an exaggeration

– it should be shared with all Americans,

of all ages, who are involved in searching for

particular biblical references, Jewish and

Christian, that appear in American life and

Rabbi Neil Gillman is the Aaron Rabinowitz

and Simon H. Rifkind emeritus professor of

Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological

Seminary.

culture. Topics include the uses of biblical

texts in the debates on slavery. Homosexuality,

feminism and civil rights, and biblical

sources that appear in art, fiction, music

and poetry are all here. Lincoln’s biblical references

in his second inaugural, Martin

Luther King Jr.’s last speech before his assassination,

and a poem by Emily Dickenson

are included as well. A rich index facilitates

the volume’s use. It belongs on the bookshelves

of all knowledgeable Americans.

Today I Am a Woman: Stories of Bat Mitzvah

Around the World, edited by Barbara

Vinick and Shulamit Reinharz. Indiana University

Press, 2012

The editors, both affiliated with the Hadassah-Brandeis

Institute, where Reinharz is the

director as well as a professor of sociology,

have assembled a substantial anthology of

personal testimonies about how young

women from around the world reflect on

their bat mitzvah experiences. The testimonies

come from Africa, Asia, the

Caribbean, the former Soviet Union, and

Latin America, as well as from more familiar

places, just around the corner from where

we North American Jews live. The narratives

may center around the bat mitzvah itself, but

in the process we learn about Jewish life in

widely different Jewish communities around

the world, about what it means to become

an adult woman, and most important, about

the power of a ritual that far too many American

Jewish families understand as simply an

opportunity to have a party. The photos scattered

throughout are endearing.

The Sabbath Soul: Mystical Reflections on the

Transformative Power of Holy Time by Eitan

Fishbane. Jewish Lights, 2012

The core of this book is a series of texts drawn

from the writings of chasidic masters on

the various dimensions of the Sabbath expe-

rience. The selection, translation, and commentary

on each text are by Fishbane, who

teaches Jewish philosophy, mysticism, and

chasidism at JTS. Readers who are familiar

with Abraham Joshua Heschel’s classic work

on the Sabbath should benefit from Fishbane’s

anthology. He has selected texts from

throughout chasidic literature, his commentaries

generally clarify texts that frequently

are elusive, and his notes suggest further readings.

But what is important is that these texts

are not designed for study, or only for study.

Rather they are in the form of meditations

that should be absorbed slowly and with care

and be allowed to permeate our own awareness

as we too experience the Sabbath day.

(continued on page 28)

CJ — SUMMER 2012 11


WHAT WE EAT

Looking at Kashrut

Through a Conservative Lens

BY RABBI EDWARD FELD

WHAT IS THE CONSERVATIVE

movement’s approach to kashrut?

It is the observance of traditional

food laws as seen through the lens

of a set of values that is central to

our contemporary understanding

of Judaism.

The hallmark of Conservative Judaism is

its appreciation of both tradition and modernity.

It is a Judaism that lives within contemporary

society and culture. In North

America, it embraces the promise of the new

world, the blessings of freedom, democracy,

and equal opportunity. At the same time,

its commitment to Jewish religious life

creates community, develops Jews whose

values include a sense of responsibility to

others, upholds the sacredness of life, and

informs a personal spiritual practice that

allows an ongoing relationship with God.

To navigate the Jewish heritage within

this North American matrix, Conservative

Judaism turns to the tradition in all

its fullness – to the minority opinion as well

as the majority, to roads taken and not taken.

Talmudic texts, medieval philosophic formulations,

mystical understandings, folk

stories, and more all are grist for this mill.

Conservative Judaism has an approach to

religious practice that is deeply informed by

history, the knowledge of change, and the

multiplicity of opinions and perspectives,

Rabbi Edward Feld is the senior editor of

the new Conservative machzor, Lev Shalem,

and is now at work on a siddur for Shabbat

and holidays.

12 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

along with a sense of purpose

derived from our contemporary

situation.

This formula ought to be played out

in our observance of kashrut. We need an

American Jewish approach to our traditional

food laws that also takes into account the

circumstances of Jews in an open democratic

society. We engage with society at large over

drinks, at dinner, at parties, in restaurants,

and at home. We Conservative Jews need

not separate ourselves from life by eating

only in establishments under rabbinic supervision.

Rather, we can participate in the larger

culture while maintaining our distinctive

Jewish consciousness. Thus, entering a restaurant

and checking which items conform

to kashrut – what we may order within a

broad reading of the law – is a way of integrating

into society while maintaining our

particular religious consciousness.

It is not accidental that the Talmud

includes many of its food laws in the tractate

Avodah Zorah, the volume dealing with

relations with the surrounding pagan culture.

Food laws in the Talmud are a way

of constructing a barrier between Jews and

the larger society. Roman and Persian cultures

were perceived as threatening. Restricting

diet minimized the contact between Jews

and non-Jews.

We now live with a different relationship

to the society around us, so the regulations

governing what and how we may eat

must be adjusted to reflect that reality. This

is not a matter of changing our relation to

the mitzvot spelled out in the Torah but

of recognizing that many rabbinic laws are

responsive

to specific

social conditions.

Many

rabbinic rules

are meant to

regulate a person’s relationship to society, so

it is reasonable to assume that as conditions

change these regulations must change to

reflect the new reality.

In the tractate Hulin, which deals directly

with laws of kashrut, the Talmud adopts

a more liberal position than the one enunciated

in Avodah Zorah. There, a taste test

is set as the standard of kashrut: Food cooked

in a pot that had been used to cook nonkosher

meat is considered to be kosher if no

taste of the non-kosher food remains. This

standard can be applied easily to eating in

a restaurant that uses the same pots and pans

to cook non-kosher meat and vegetarian

offerings. It demands care and still permits

openness.

But the way Conservative Jews keep

kosher is not simply a matter of finding

leniencies. There is no “Conservative

kashrut.” Kashrut is kashrut, at least as it

relates to shechita – ritual slaughter. But

for Conservative Jews, it is also much more.

One of the hallmarks of the Conservative

approach to Jewish law is its sensitivity to

ethical issues. The recent creation of Magen

Tzedek, a certification that kosher meat has


een processed in a way that is both halachic

and not abusive to the labor force, is an

important example. Judaism’s strong opposition

to cruelty to animals underlays many

aspects of kashrut. The Rabbinical Assembly

has passed resolutions condemning hoisting

and shackling animals as a means of

kosher slaughter, so it should be relatively

easy for Conservative synagogues to insist

that their caterers not use meat slaughtered

in this way. Indeed, if Conservative

synagogues brought the full weight of their

collective purchasing power to bear they

could effect a major change in the industry.

On the same ethical grounds, we can

insure that the proper treatment of animals

becomes a standard for personal practice.

Families should buy eggs laid by free-range

chickens. We should oppose farming practices

that turn chickens into factories, housing

them in tight cages, with fluorescent

lights shining on them 24 hours a day, so

that they will produce the maximum number

of eggs with the smallest possible amount

of human labor. Similarly, as much as we

can we should buy the meat of free-range

chickens. It is one thing to feel that eating

meat is necessary, but quite another

to deprive animals of their natural life. We

need not consume food produced through

cruelty. Interestingly, Empire Kosher, the

largest commercial producer of kosher chickens,

proudly announces that its chickens are

all free roaming.

For the same reasons, we should buy grassfed

beef. American cattle growers often

use feed that cows never would eat in nature.

Sometimes the feed contains ground up

blood and animal products, though cows

are vegetarian by nature.

A congregant of mine who had thought

about keeping kosher, but worried about

how difficult his life would become were he

to try, once saw my wife and me eating in

a Chinese restaurant. It inspired him. “I

didn’t realize that it was so easy to keep

kosher,” he said, and went on to adopt

kashrut as a standard for his own life.

For Conservative Jews, keeping kosher is

both easy and demanding. It is an exciting

and responsible way to live in the modern

world Jewishly and to live a life that

is holy. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 13


NEW KOSHER

COOKBOOKS

BY FRAN GINSBURG

ANY COOKBOOK OF

value today is more than just

a compendium of recipes or

instructions. It has an overriding

message or theme.

Recipes are easy to come by.

How often have I gone to the internet because

I want to use a particular ingredient or have

decided to make lamb stew? Click. Dozens

of recipes are at my fingertips. Looking for

the technique to make homemade ricotta?

There’s an app for that.

Each of these new kosher cookbooks

has a message beyond measures and ingredients

lists. Each provides a context for your

cooking, and like kashrut itself, each gives

meaning to our foods beyond flavor or

sustenance.

I liked all these books, but my favorite

is June Hersh’s The Kosher Carnivore, published

by St. Martin’s Press. June burst onto

the kosher cooking scene with her brilliantly

presented anthology/cookbook Recipes

Remembered. She writes with an enthusiasm

that makes me want to rush into the kitchen

and cook. Her style is personal and warm,

generously sharing knowledge and advice

as if with a younger sister. No doubt, to June

food is a celebration. Cooking is fun. And

Fran Ginsburg presents cheese classes and tasting

events through her company, The Dairy

Man’s Daughter. She is also a development

consultant for Jewish communal organizations

and a member of Congregation Beth

Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey.

14 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

with humor and wit, she graciously invites

us all to participate.

Most of the well-composed recipes are

approachable even by a novice cook. With

helpful hints and technique descriptions

peppered liberally throughout, nothing

seems too daunting. The different cuts of

meat are explained and creative uses for leftovers

are provided. While the focus is

squarely on meats and poultry, a well-edited

repertoire of vegetables, starches, and soups

compliment any meal.

While she provides recipes for some classics,

this book is not at all the same-old sameold.

The Kosher Carnivore reaches liberally

into the cuisines of different cultures to make

the book fresh, creative, and enticing.

Throughout, June encourages cooks to

speak with the butcher to get the best and

special cuts, something most of us don’t

bother to do. With June’s encouragement

we can reverse a trend toward uniformity,

CJReviews

Any cookbook of value

today is more than just a

compendium of recipes or

instructions. It has an

overriding message or theme.

connect with our past, provide meaningful

work for kosher butchers, and serve delicious

variety to our families.

For all who enjoy meat and poultry this

book is a winning addition to your cookbook

collection.

The Kosher Revolution by Geila Hocherman

and Arthur Boehm, published by Kyle

Books, is a beautifully illustrated volume

that will be enjoyed particularly by those

itching to try flavors and combinations that

have been forbidden until now. The authors

take full advantage of the expanded availability

of kosher foods, using nut milks as

thickening agents, Asian condiments, and

the like. Kosher cooking always has reflected

the cuisine, culture, and ingredients of the

lands in which we live. Jews have been adapting

recipes and substituting ingredients to

comply with the requirements of kashrut

for as long as we have been cooking. The

real revolution is in the availability of new

certified kosher products. The Kosher Revolution

uses these ingredients and displays

a world of new possibilities, introducing the

kosher cook to prosciutto made from cured

duck breast or crab cakes made from surimi

and Old Bay seasoning.


Each of the recipes indicates whether it

is dairy, meat, or parve, with helpful substitutions

offered to change things up.

Recipes are written clearly, often with a personal

and helpful introduction. Once your

pantry is complete most of these recipes are

quite manageable, though a few might be

more complicated than an everyday cook

might enjoy. The book includes a generous

list of meatless mains (potentially making

those nine days in summer a culinary

highlight), sides, and sweets. The book

includes a helpful list of websites where you

can buy some of the harder-to-find ingredients

and a useful ingredient exchange,

so that the adventurous cook can create new

recipes with confidence.

Keeping kosher requires thoughtfulness

and contemplation. It does not limit us

to a particular cuisine, method, or set of flavors.

Borrowing from a range of cuisines,

this book helps us feel that we can have it

all! Bored with your repertoire? This book

is for you.

Taking a more scholarly approach, Gil

Marks, in Olive Trees and Honey, from Wiley

Publishing, presents a comprehensive selection

of vegetarian recipes from Jewish communities

around the world. Well known

to those curious about Jewish culinary history

or trends, Marks understands Jewish

life through the context of food. Vegetarians

(and all cooks) looking for inspiration

will find it in this expertly researched and

well-written volume.

This hefty textbook includes a brief history

of Jewish food traditions from all corners

of the globe, a descriptive section on

seasonings and spices, and lists of holiday

foods from communities as far away as Calcutta

and as familiar as Italy. Ever a teacher,

Rabbi Marks liberally includes biblical references,

information about the ancient spice

routes, and maps illustrating the differences

in omelets and dumplings around the world.

Each of the sections, on soups, grains, pastries,

and so on, is preceded by abundant

information about cultural norms, food

availability, history, and migratory patterns.

Recognized by the James Beard Foundation

with its prestigious award, the hundreds

of recipes are clearly written, and when

similarities exist among several cuisines,

they are noted as variations. Rather than

discourage a cook looking for a recipe,

the skillfully organized index and glossary

make the book useful and important

on many levels. Can there really be so many

variations of Sabbath stews? Or so many

uses for chickpeas? Have you ever pined for

a new way to cook eggplant? You need look

no further.

Olive Trees and Honey is more than a cookbook.

It gives us a means to hold on to

elements of our culture that otherwise might

be forgotten as Jews continue to leave the

lands of their parents, and as we all move

toward more universal, simple, uniform, or

factory-made preparations.

I can’t wait to read Gil Marks’ new Encyclopedia

of Jewish Food. I trust that like this

book, it will go far beyond just recipes that

are delicious and exciting to include social

and cultural history and help each of us

become a participant in the timeline of Jewish

life.

CJ — SUMMER 2012 15


SIMPLER BEER-BASTED CHICKEN

From The Kosher Carnivore

Basting is a great way to ensure a juicy

chicken, but every time you open the oven you

let precious heat escape. A better method is

to baste the chicken from the inside out. There’s

no delicate way to explain this process. Take

a can of beer, be sure to pop the top, and

then push the can into the cavity of the chicken

so that the bird is perched upright with the can

of beer in its tush. The beer infuses the cavity

with constant moisture, and the metal can

helps conduct the heat consistently from the

inside out. The result is an incredibly moist

chicken that roasts very quickly. If your chicken

is on the wagon, try filling the can with chicken

stock, herbs, and freshly squeezed lemon juice

or any flavorful liquid such as cola or ginger

ale.

1 (3 1/2 - to 4-pound) chicken

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black

pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary

leaves or 1/3 teaspoon chopped dried

rosemary

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 open can of beer

2 bay leaves and fresh herbs, optional

1 large onion, quartered

6 unpeeled garlic cloves, optional

1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Pat the chicken dry inside and out, and

remove any packaging hidden in the cavity.

If time allows, place the chicken on a paper

towel-lined plate and let it hang out in the

fridge for an hour. When ready to roast, preheat

the oven to 450 degrees and lower your

oven rack to its lowest position. Take the

chicken out of the fridge.

Combine the seasonings in a small bowl

(this helps prevent cross-contaminating your

seasonings while working with the chicken).

Take a pinch of seasoning and rub it inside

the cavity. Drizzle the oil over the entire bird

and then sprinkle the outside with the seasonings.

Pop the top of the beer can (toss in

some fresh herbs or bays leaves if you like

for added flavor) and carefully place the

chicken upright on the can. Jiggle the legs

in position so the chicken appears to be

16 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

sitting and does not topple over. Place the

bird, upright, in a shallow roasting pan and

scatter the bay leaves, onions, and garlic,

if using, and add 1/2 cup of the stock. Place

in oven. Lower the oven temperature to 425

degrees. After 30 minutes, add 1/2 cup more

stock and continue roasting, until an instantread

thermometer registers 160 to 165

degrees when it is inserted in the thigh, about

30 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to

a carving board and cover with a piece of

aluminum foil; the internal temperature will

rise 5 to 10 degrees while the chicken rests

and the juices will redistribute throughout

the bird. Do not handle the can – it will

be very hot!

Place the roasting pan directly on the

stove, skim off some of the fat, and add more

stock if necessary to create the gravy. If

you roasted the garlic cloves, squeeze them

to extract the roasted garlic and mash it into

the sauce. Discard the skins. Let the gravy

simmer until heated through. If you prefer

a thicker gravy, make a slurry by mixing

1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 2

teaspoons of cold water, stir back into the

pan, bring to a boil, and repeat if necessary.

When ready to carve, use an oven mitt

carefully to remove the beer can from the

chicken. Carve the chicken and serve with

the gravy drizzled on top.

Serves 4

SEPHARDIC CHEESE-STUFFED

EGGPLANT (Berengena Rellenas de

Queso)

From Olive Trees and Honey

The first time I made stuffed eggplant,

following a different recipe from this one, I

was enormously disappointed in the results, as

the vegetable tasted insipid and too firm, even

after baking for an extended period. Then, an

informative Sephardic grandmother advised

to parboil the eggplant to give it a creamy texture.

Other cooks panfry the eggplant rather

than parboiling it, but I find the frying requires

more effort and adds extra calories. There

are numerous versions of stuffed eggplant,

adapted to whatever ingredients are available

in the pantry. This cheese-filled version makes

a savory entrée for a light meal or a delicious

side dish.

2 eggplants (about 1 pound each), halved

lengthwise

4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or 1

teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon

dried basil

About 1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon

kosher salt

Ground black pepper to taste

1 cup (5 ounces) crumbled feta, 1 cup

(4 ounces) shredded Cheddar or Nuenster

cheese, or 1 cup (8 ounces) ricotta

cheese

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, 1/4 cup coarsely

chopped capers, 1/2 cup chopped pitted

black olives, or any combination

(optional)

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling

Scoop out the cores of the eggplant (a

melon baller or grapefruit knife works well)

leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell and reserving

the pulp. In a large pot of salted boiling

water, cook the shells until tender, but not

soft, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Coarsely chop the reserved eggplant pulp.

(It might appear like a lot, but it will cook

down.) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons

of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion

and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent,

about 5 minutes. Add the remaining

2 tablespoons oil, then the eggplant pulp

and parsley and sauté until softened, about

10 minutes. Remove from the heat and

stir in the bread crumbs, chives, salt, and

pepper. Add the cheese, egg, and, if using,

the pine nuts.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a

large baking pan.

Lightly salt the insides of the eggplant

shells and stuff with the pulp mixture.

Arrange in the baking pan and drizzle with

a little oil. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.

Uncover and bake until golden, about 10

minutes.

Serve warm.

Serves 4


PIGNOLI COOKIES

From Kosher Revolution

Years ago I had a date with a boy who

brought me a box of pignoli cookies from

Little Italy. The cookies were an instant hit

(alas, he wasn’t) and became a great favorite

of mine. They’re simple to make, pareve, and

perfect for Passover. The nuts give the cookies

a buttery richness even though they’re nondairy.

Just what you want from a pareve cookie

as addictive as these.

8 ounces almond paste

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg white

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line

2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and

set aside.

In a food processor, combine the almond

paste and sugars and process until the mixture

reaches the consistency of sand. Transfer

to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted

with the paddle attachment, or a medium

bowl, and add the egg white, vanilla and

almond extracts. Beat on medium speed

or by hand for 4 minutes.

Place the pine nuts in a small bowl. Next

to it place a small bowl of water for wetting

your hands. Wet your hands and form

1 1/2- to 2-inch balls with the paste mixture,

making 5 at a time. Drop them into

the bowl of nuts and press down gently so

the nuts adhere to the bottom of the dough.

Transfer to a cookie sheet nut side up.

Repeat, filling each prepared cookie sheet

with about 15 balls. Bake until puffed and

beginning to color, 15 to 18 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and cool on the

parchment paper on a countertop. When

completely cool, peel the cookies off the

paper and serve.

30 cookies CJ

Since its earliest days, sisterhoods throughout

the Women’s League network have

been publishing cookbooks as fundraisers

as well as simply to share their members’

favorite and most delicious recipes. To find

out more, go to www.wlcj.org/shopping and

resource center.

CJ — SUMMER 2012 17


18 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM


WHAT’S JEWISH

ABOUT CAMPING?

BY MAXINE SEGAL HANDELMAN

IDIDN’T GROW UP CAMP-

ING, but my husband did. 0000

Every summer his family would

spend several weeks at Devil’s Lake

State Park in Wisconsin. After college

he decided to go up to Devil’s

Lake with some friends. It started with maybe

a dozen single twentysomething friends, for

a long summer weekend. They hiked, canoed,

swam, and celebrated Shabbat. Each year they

returned to Devil’s Lake, even as the group

grew.

The journey from single to married to families

never slowed us down. In 2001 four pregnant

women were part of the tent-building

crew. I sat at the fire with one hand on my

swollen belly, the other hand on my friend

Ann’s even larger belly, and as both babies

kicked in utero, I rejoiced in our children’s

first playdate. In 2002 four babies, ranging

from 6 weeks to 11 months old, crawled about

the campsite. Our standards for clean babies

went out the window. It took a really long

time to break down camp that year.

Everyone took part in a meal crew, making

one meal and relaxing for the rest, a system

that serves us well now that the group

exceeds 60 people, with kids ranging from

toddlers to teenagers. We are a Jewishly

diverse group, ranging from modern Orthodox

to non-observant. The food is kosher

and nut-free, with gluten-free and vegetarian

options at every meal. We take care

of the earth as we strive to live off it. (Well,

not entirely. This is car camping, after all.)

Maxine Segal Handelman is United Synagogue's

early childhood education consultant.

She has been camping her entire married

life, and her daughters each went on her first

camping trip in utero.

Scenes from Devil’s Lake

Most families have acquired a set of camping

dishes to use at every meal. Some families

have two sets of camping dishes, to

be washed in the meat or milk three-bin

washing systems (soapy water, plain water,

and bleach water for disinfecting).

Every year we have to promise the park

rangers that the fishing wire we are stringing

through the trees around our entire

campsite will be gone by the time we leave

on Sunday. We don’t even try to explain

to them why we need this eruv to make carrying

items around our campsite permissible

on Shabbat.

Shabbat at Devil’s Lake is a palace in time.

(Except of course for the one year that it

started raining as we made kiddush Friday

night and didn’t stop until Saturday

night as the sun set, but we try not to think

about that year.) We set up picnic tables

in a big circle around the fire, built up so

it will last long into Shabbat. One of the several

rabbis leads the group in Kabbalat Shabbat,

paced to hold the interest of all the kids

and the adults, peppered with singing and

a good story or two. Tea lights are lit on

the tables, grape juice and wine passed

around, homemade challah blessed and

shared. Dinner is a feast – sometimes tincan

stew (made in 10 gallon cans collected

for weeks before the trip) or chicken fajitas

– and the singing around the fire pit can

go late into the night. Stars shine brightly

at Devil’s Lake, especially compared to the

city streets of Chicago where I usually do

my gazing. Friday night is the perfect time

CJ — SUMMER 2012 19


20 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

to bring a blanket to a nearby field and watch

for shooting stars.

Hiking and swimming are all within walking

distance of our camp site. Shabbat is

a day to explore nature or kick back with

a good book (or both – Shabbat is long in

the summer). At first, we new parents

climbed the bluffs with children riding in

backpacks. When she was 2, our younger

daughter made the climb by herself to the

top of the bluff, about half a mile up, and

then she climbed into a backpack and slept

the rest of the hike.

Now, having grown up at Devil’s Lake,

the children are master hikers, taking on

more challenging boulder fields every year,

helping their friends along. Kids of all ages

run in packs, watching out for each other

and creating their own experience.

One year, we grown-ups were treated to

a variety show with skits and dance numbers

performed by all the kids. Another year,

among the cords of wood we bought for the

fire were some odd bits left over from some

building project. That year, the boys spent

hours creating cities and superhero worlds

with those wood pieces.

Havdalah at the campsite is a sublime

moment. As a new fire grows in the fire

pit, we gather around, 60 or more of us,

singing and swaying, smelling spices often

created from plants and flowers collected

near the site. And as the last notes of

“shavuah tov” fade away, the kids scramble

to pop marshmallows onto the sticks

they have foraged and do what they have

been waiting for all of Shabbat – make

s’mores! The guitars come out, and the songbooks,

and we sing folksongs and Indigo

Girls late into the night.

I didn’t grow up camping. But my kids

will. They can put up a tent and break one

down. They can shlep water without too

much kvetching, pick up a daddy longlegs

spider by the leg to get it out of the tent (oh,

wait, that’s me, they still don’t do that), row

a canoe, pee in the woods, and take pleasure

climbing a boulder field with their

friends. They thrive in this camping community

that now includes friends from all

over the Midwest. I just hope they let me

come back and join them when they start

a camping group of their own. CJ


A JEWISH

MUSEUM

IN SAINT JOHN?

BY SHIRLEY MOSKOW

WHATEVER WERE

they thinking when

they named the only

Jewish museum in

Atlantic Canada the

Saint John Jewish

Historical Museum?

Yes, it is located in Saint John, New

Brunswick, Canada’s oldest city, but to give

a Jewish institution the name of a Catholic

saint is unusual. Since the museum is unique

in the province, it could have been called

the New Brunswick Jewish Historical

Museum, or simply the Jewish Historical

Museum. The name gives a hint that this

is no ordinary museum and that Saint John

is no ordinary city.

Founded in 1986, Saint John Jewish Historical

Museum was created and is maintained

by the dwindling congregation of

Shaarei Zedek Synagogue as a loving tribute

to the heritage of the Jewish community

and to the city that befriended it.

The museum occupies an impressive stone

building at 91 Leinster Street. When it

was built in 1897 by a ship owner as a

wedding gift for his bride, it was reputed

to be the best home in the city. It is prominently

featured on the self-guided Victorian

Stroll, which includes such noteworthy edi-

Shirley Moskow, a former newspaper editor,

is a Boston-based freelance writer with specialties

in the arts and travel. She has published

two books and contributes to such

magazines as AmericanStyle, Caribbean Travel

& Life, and Antiques and Fine Art.

fices as the elaborate Second Empire house

at 167 King Street East and the massive Italianate

row houses on Orange Street.

In the heart of the city, the museum is

popular with travelers from all over the

world, especially passengers on the cruise

ships that dock at Market Square. It is many

people’s first contact with Jewish culture,

and the high school student guides answer

questions about Jewish ritual and the lifecycle

events portrayed in the galleries – a

EUROPE

Explore Venice, Florence, and Rome or

learn about the rich Jewish history in

Toledo, Granada or Prague. Discover Berlin

or Vilna. Tour Cracow, Warsaw and Lublin

and visit the concentration camps in

Poland. Learn about the past, present, and

future of these unique Jewish communities

on a one-of-a-kind kosher tour with

meaningful Shabbat experiences.

table set for the Passover seder, a video of

a woman making bagels, a marriage ketubah.

Visitors often are curious about the theater

seats in the sanctuary. Hollywood producer

Louis B. Mayer, who was born in

the Ukraine, grew up in Saint John and celebrated

his bar mitzvah at the synagogue.

His mother, Sarah, was known as the first

lady of Shaarei Zedek. After Mayer established

himself in the movie business, he

shared his good fortune with friends. Con-

ISRAEL

Tour from North to South with an itinerary

to meet your synagogue’s needs. You will

explore our people’s rich history while

learning and experiencing the modern State

of Israel and our dreams for the future.

The staff at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center has more than 35 years experience

planning trips for Conservative groups to Europe and Israel. Contact us so we

can plan your synagogue’s next meaningful excursion overseas together.

Website: www.uscj.org.il E-mail: david@uscj.org

CJ — SUMMER 2012 21


gregants became film distributors and owners

of theater chains. One donated the sanctuary

seats.

The Jewish community contributed to

Saint John’s cultural life in many ways. A

poster in the corridor commemorates life at

Millie and Ben Guss’ home, which was a

hub for music lovers. Everyone in the family

sang and played an instrument. During

the many years that Ben was president

of the community concert series, guest artists

often practiced in their living room. Daughter

Faith recalled that “when Glenn Gould

practiced on our piano we sat on the steps

to the second floor landing … like quiet little

mice with huge ears.” Son Jonathan

remembered that “Yitzchak Pearlman spent

the afternoon at the house before a concert.

He played chess with me at the dining room

table…. He was very good.” These are the

intimate memories that the heimisch

museum aims to preserve.

Brushing aside old memories, 90-yearold

Isadore Davis, who celebrated his bar

mitzvah in the synagogue, proudly declared

that today Shaarei Zedek is “Conservative

22 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

and egalitarian.” But the first Jews in the

port city were Orthodox. Solomon and Alice

Hart, who emigrated from England and

came to Saint John in 1858 by way of New

York, are considered the first permanent

Jewish settlers there. The Harts prospered

from Solomon’s tobacco business, and as

more British Jews followed, the city became

a cigar manufacturing center. For a while,

the Harts held religious services in their

home. When they lost a young daughter

in 1873, they dedicated land for a Jewish

cemetery.

In 1881, there were 15 Jewish families

in Saint John. Using contributions from

people of all faiths, they built the city’s

first synagogue, aptly named Ahavith Achim

(brotherly love). Alice opened a nursery and

taught in the Hebrew school. The following

year, she organized Daughters of Israel

“to help the needy and nurture the sick.” In

1882, their daughter Elizabeth married her

English cousin Louis Green in Saint John’s

first Jewish wedding.

By 1891, there were 43 Jewish families in

the city. A decade later, the census shows

nearly 300. The influx of Ashkenazim, fleeing

Eastern Europe and the pogroms of

the Russian empire, introduced an exotic

flavor to the city. They practiced customs

the locals did not understand. They spoke

little or no English, only Yiddish. The men,

who were mostly peddlers, dressed in black

and had long beards; the women covered

their heads with kerchiefs and dressed in the

peasant clothes of the shtetl. Nevertheless,

they found a comfortable home in Saint

John, and in 1906 they founded the Hazen

Avenue Synagogue. Although both congregations

were Orthodox, they had little

to do with one another. They reflected different

cultures; their customs were different;

there were class differences; they spoke

different languages. Their services were different

and each had its own rabbi.

Both congregations thrived and outgrew

their buildings. When the city’s handsome

neo-Gothic Presbyterian church became

available in 1919, they managed to set aside

their differences to merge, launching a

golden era. The combined congregation,

comprised of about 200 male members,

chose the new name Shaarei Zedek.

Jews participated in the vibrant life of

Saint John. They founded successful businesses.

In 1977, the city elected Samuel

Davis as its first Jewish mayor. (His father,

Harry, a cabinetmaker, crafted the ark and

reading table in the museum.) Benjamin R.

Guss became the first Jewish judge and

Erminie Cohen the first Jewish senator.

In the 1950s, however, younger people

began drifting away. To be more modern,

Shaarei Zedek affiliated with the Conservative

movement. But the pull of opportunity

in the big cities was strong.

Membership declined to about 40. There

has been no rabbi since 1982. In 2008,

the congregation sold the church building,

its home for almost 100 years.

Shaarei Zedeck has functioned for years

under the able administration of Dan Elman,

a lay reader, who organizes services, sends

out yahrzeit reminders, leads classes to teach

adults how to conduct services, and fills

in as the Hebrew school teacher.

The museum’s success has ushered in a

new optimism. Marcia Koven, a descendant

(continued on page 33)


Masorti Leadership Mission participants in the Knesset synagogue where they held an historic egalitarian minyan.United States Ambassador Dan Shapiro

and Emily Levy-Shochat, chair of Masorti in Israel, are in the photo at right.

ON A MISSION TO ISRAEL

BY RABBI ROBERT SLOSBERG

THE WHIRLWIND

four-day Masorti leadership

mission to Israel

in January 2012 was a

real eye-opener. I was one

of a group of 21 Conservative

rabbis and lay leaders from around

North America who had come expecting to

see recent developments in our nearly 65

Masorti kehillot. But we also were there to

express solidarity with Israelis committed

to pluralism and to challenge government

officials over policies that favor minority

Orthodox extremists over the majority’s democratic

values.

On the one hand, the mission was exactly

what I had anticipated. Still, I was unprepared

for just how overwhelmed I would be

by everything we encountered. I was particularly

moved by young Israelis’ excitement

over the Masorti movement, and their

embrace of the democratic, pluralistic, open

practice of Judaism that we offer. Israelis are

connecting to Masorti through the educational,

religious, and social programs and

community service opportunities available

in our kehillot; through the Noam

youth movement and the network of Marom

chapters for college-age and young adults;

Rabbi Robert Slosberg is the spiritual leader

of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Louisville,

Kentucky.

and through the political activism the movement

organizes to protest discrimination

against women and against non-Orthodox

streams in Israel.

The personal stories of Masorti congregants

deeply moved me. For many, the

Masorti kehilla is their first exposure to a

way of Jewish life that encourages the equal

participation of the entire family. My Israeli

rabbinic colleagues, who despite financial

sacrifices serve our movement with distinction,

are dynamic teachers and spiritual

leaders. It isn’t easy to impress a roomful

of Conservative rabbis, but we were dazzled

by text study with several rising young stars.

Nathalie Lastreger, the new spiritual leader

of Kehillat Sinai in Tel Aviv, who will be

ordained soon, mesmerized us with the tale

of her personal journey, from marriage to

an ultra-Orthodox rabbi to the impassioned

Masorti professional and human rights

activist she is today.

Rabbi Hanna Klebansky, an olah from the

former Soviet Union, is defying the unequal

treatment of women in Israel in a most

unorthodox way. Late into the night, after

putting her five children to bed, Rabbi Klebansky

sits at her desk in a tiny corner of her

living room writing a Torah scroll. It was

a thrill to hold and pass around one of the

64 panels she will eventually complete.

We heard from Masorti rabbis, kehilla

leaders, and local officials about the posi-

Rabbi Robert Slosberg

tive impact Masorti is having on life everywhere,

from large cities to small towns and

villages, from relatively affluent communities

to those facing significant poverty and

other disadvantages.

The gan (kindergarten) at Kehillat Eshel

Avraham in Beersheva, one of Masorti’s larger

communities, has a waiting list nearly as large

as its enrollment of 230 youngsters. At the

large plot of land that the city is interested

in providing the kehilla for a second gan, we

learned about the congregation’s long-range

vision for an elementary school as well.

Elsewhere in the Negev, at Kehillat Netzach

Yisrael in Ashkelon, we lunched with

Rabbi Gustavo Surzski, lay leaders, and graduates

of Masorti’s Noam youth movement.

These young Israelis, undoubtedly the next

generation of Masorti leadership, are living

CJ — SUMMER 2012 23


24 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

and working at an absorption center for

Ethiopian olim as part of Noam’s Shin-Shin

community service program in the year before

army enlistment. Listening to the director of

the absorption center praise these bright

young men and women, I realized that the

future of our movement is in great hands.

We heard from enthusiastic leaders of several

new kehillot in Tzur Yitzchak, Petach

Tikvah, Holon, and Pardes Hanna about

how they are building their communities.

Rabbi Hanna Klebansky showed the group the

megilla scroll she inscribed.

In Karmiel, Rabbi Mijael Even David and kehilla leaders showed off the new addition

to their building and shared their plans

for continued growth.

In Kfar Vradim, just south of the Lebanese

border, we were moved by the persistence

of Mayor Sivan Yechieli in helping the kehilla

realize its dream for a new home. For nearly

10 years that dream was on hold, as government

ministries under the control of

ultra-Orthodox parties blocked efforts to

construct a facility. Even though Sivan is

not observant, he could see the importance

of the Masorti kehilla to the Kfar

Vradim community, and he was determined

to make the building happen.

Pluralism has made its way onto the radar

of many of Israel’s leading political figures.

At our opening dinner, Tzipi Livni,

who then was the head of the Kadima party,

offered some very forceful words in support

of democratic values. Her appearance, given

the timing in a critical primary season, was

testament to her view of Masorti’s growing

stature. We met, too, with Meir Dagan,

the former head of Mossad, and with Rabbi

Uri Regev, the head of Hiddush, a Jerusalembased

organization promoting religious freedom

and diversity. And one of my proudest

moments was meeting U.S. Ambassador

Dan Shapiro at the American embassy. He

and his family are regular and active members

of our Masorti kehilla in Kfar Saba.

Finally, during our visit to the Knesset we

held the first egalitarian prayer service to be

held in the synagogue there since the building’s

dedication in 1966. The service was

lead by Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, a Conservative

rabbi. It followed a morning of

meetings with government ministers and

Knesset members, where we made the point

that religious pluralism and democracy are

matters of major concern to diaspora Jewry,


and that Israel’s political landscape must

change if Israel is to redefine the increasingly

anti-democratic relationship between

religion and the state.

We talked to Dan Meridor of Likud, who

is deputy prime minister and also minister

of intelligence and atomic energy, and to Uzi

Landau of Israel Beiteinu, minister of energy

and water. We also talked to MKs Yohanan

Plesner and Orit Zuaretz of Kadima and

Isaac Herzog of Labor. We were delighted to

discover that they, too, were familiar with

Masorti’s contributions to Israeli life.

I flew home awed and inspired by the

growth and depth of Masorti in Israel, yet

frustrated knowing that the movement’s

amazing work is being accomplished on a

shoestring budget. For a number of kehillot,

the biggest challenge is finding funding to

hire a rabbi or rabbinic intern. The government

provides less than $50,000 to all Masorti

programs and services, compared to the more

than $450 million it provides to Orthodox

institutions. It pays the salaries of about 3,000

Orthodox rabbis and not one Masorti rabbi.

In truth, the budget of the entire Masorti

movement is less than that of some individual

congregations in North America.

And as I flew home I also considered

this appalling fact: Conservative/Masorti

converts to Judaism meet the traditional

requirements of Jewish law, but because their

conversions are not accepted by Israel’s official

rabbis they cannot get married in the

Jewish state. The hoops that even those of

my congregants who were born to Jewish

parents must jump through if they wish

to marry in Israel are daunting. It is hard for

me to fathom that I have fewer religious

rights in my Jewish homeland than I do

in the Commonwealth of Kentucky! The

continuing lack of pluralism in Israel and

discrimination against non-ultra-Orthodox

Jewry is simply unacceptable. It is critical

that we support Masorti in Israel and express

the need for change.

So I flew home from Israel feeling exhilarated,

depressed, and determined. Exhilarated

by the possibilities of Jewish life there,

depressed by the challenges other Jews put

in our way, and determined to be part of the

solution that will make Israel the home it

should be for all Jews. CJ

Charles Simon

(continued from page 9)

influence their children. Late afternoon

we met as a group and I asked how they were

going to respond to their adult children

when they were asked why, all of a sudden,

they wished them a Shabbat shalom.

“Because it is important to me,” they decided

to reply. Six months later, they are still doing

it. Hopefully, it will be passed on to their

grandchildren.

A world of information is becoming available

to help men learn to become more effective

fathers. It’s one piece of FJMC’s Hearing

Men’s Voices Initiative. Hearing Men's

Voices provides the venue for men to talk

about the issues that affect their daily lives,

including their roles as fathers. As they

engage in these conversations they both

mentor and learn from others at the same

time. Many of these issues are also explored

on Mentschen.org, the online address for

conversation for Jewish men. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 25


VISITING ISRAEL WITH

your kids is fun, exciting,

and educational. It is an

adventure that you and your

children will remember forever.

There’s so much to do

and see that it’s important to plan ahead to

make the most of your trip.

If you’re wondering about how you’ll manage

with language issues and safety, don’t

worry. There are many activities geared

toward English speakers. Most Israeli guides

are fluent in English. Israel’s safety regulations

are on par with those in other developed

countries, so all you need to think

about is how much fun you and your kids

will have.

Here is just a sampling of ideas to inspire

you. Your little ones can enjoy fun gyms,

petting zoos, arts and crafts, puppet plays,

donkey rides, or bee farms (yes, bee farms!).

For slightly older kids with lots of energy,

think Action Park, ATV/jeep rides, kayaking,

rock climbing, and horseback riding.

There are plenty of educational experiences

available as well: museums, tours of

factories, learning the art of ancient spices,

silk, and honey, and scavenger hunts exploring

the various neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Avital Cohen, MSW, is the founder of Israel

Kids, a new website for activities, local events,

and services in Israel, for kids and families.

26 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

Young bee keepers pet some

of the animals at Devorat

Hatavor.

For fun in the sun don’t miss out on glassbottom

boat rides, the dolphin reef, and

Israel’s national parks.

For direct access to these sites, go to

www.uscj.org, scroll to the bottom, and click

on the cover of this magazine. From there,

you can click on this article. You also can go

to Israelkids.co.il.

Central

• Pe’alton Gymboree has locations

throughout Israel (Toddlers) http://www.

pealton.co.il

• Beedvash in Kfar Chabad is a petting

zoo (Ages 3+) http://beedvash.co.il

ISRAEL

FOR

KIDS

BY AVITAL COHEN

Outside the Diaspora Museum, Beit Hatfutzot in Tel Aviv.

• Diaspora Museum, Beit Hatfutzot, on

the Tel Aviv University campus, to learn

about the ongoing story of the Jewish people

(Age 6+) http://www.bh.org.il

• Tnuva factory visitor center in Rehovot

demonstrates how milk gets from the cow

to your fridge (Ages 6+) http://www.visittnuva.co.il

• Tel Aviv’s Sportek Climbing Wall

offers rock-climbing lessons (Ages 9+)

http://israelkids.co.il

Jerusalem

• Train Theatre offers puppet plays,

story telling and more. (Ages 2+) http://


www.traintheater.co.il/english

• Bowling Center is a great way to

spend a rainy day (Ages 6+) http://

israelkids.co.il

• Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt (Ages 9+)

http://www.jerusalemscavengerhunts.com

• Ammunition Hill Museum to learn

about the liberation and reunification of

Jerusalem (Ages 9+) http://israelkids.co.il

• Keyad Hadimyon, outside Modiin, not

far from Jerusalem, for arts and crafts (Ages

3+) http://www.hadimyon.co.il

South

• Philip Farm in the northern Negev

for donkey rides and other fun activities (All

ages) http://www.philipfarm.co.il

• Eilat’s Yisrael-Yam (glass bottom boat

ride) for a relaxing ride along the Red Sea

(All ages) http://israelkids.co.il

• Dolphin Reef (Eilat) to watch dolphins

in their natural habitat (All ages)

http://www.dolphinreef.co.il

• Kiryat Gat’s Action Park offers thrilling

rides, games and more (Ages 6+) http://

www.action-park.co.il

• Eilat’s Camel Ranch for adventurous

horseback riding (Ages 6+) http://

www.camel-ranch.co.il

North

• Devorat Hatavor in Moshav Shadmot

Devora, for a bee farm and petting zoo (Ages

3+) http://www.dvorat-hatavor.co.il

• 101 Kilometer, south of Paran, home

to the largest reptile farm in the Middle East,

for ATV/jeep rides (All ages) http://

israelkids.co.il

• The Galilee’s Etz Habakbukim (Bottle

Tree) to learn to make ancient spices (Ages

6+) http://www.ein-tzurim.org.il

• Achziv Beach National Park, north of

Nahariya, has stunning views and natural

and artificial seawater pools (All ages)

http://www.parks.org.il

• Hagosherim kayaks, in Hagoshrim,

offers an adventurous kayak ride down the

Jordan River (Ages 3+)http://www.kayak.

co.il

Go to Israelkids.co.il to get a full list of

fun activities for children as well as discount

coupons for many of these attractions. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 27


FACTS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT MASORTI

BY RABBI ALAN SILVERSTEIN

• Masorti is the name of the Conservative movement in Israel.

It stands for religious pluralism and democratic values in an egalitarian

Judaism.

• Masorti is dominated at its grassroots by sabras as well as

by olim – immigrants – from Latin America, the former Soviet

Union, and Muslim lands, unified via the Hebrew language.

• Masorti of 2012 is young and getting younger all the time.

Its kehillot abound with kindergartens and nurseries filled

to capacity, with 600 bnai mitzvah ceremonies annually,

with almost 2,000 members of Noam, the nationwide youth

movement, and with 500 summer campers at Ramah/Noam.

• Over the last few years, Masorti has grown from less

than 50 to 63 kehillot, springing to life in such towns as

Tzur Yitzhak, Holon, and Petach Tikvah.

• Israelis are becoming increasingly aware of Masorti. An

Avi Chai/Guttman Institute survey released in January shows

that 30 percent of Israelis have attended services at a Conservative

or Reform congregation. Yizhar Hess, the movement’s

chief executive, frequently is invited to write op-eds in the

Israeli press and is interviewed on radio and television. The

movement and its leaders are gaining influence within the

Knesset, as well.

• The rabbis in Masorti communities are dynamos. Veterans

such as Mauricio Balter and Roberto Arbib have been

joined by a new generation of young and passionate colleagues

including Elisha Wolfin, Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, Chaya Rowen

Baker, Gustavo Surazki, Yoav Ende, Dubi Hayun, and Jeff

Cymet.

• Once you leave Jerusalem, openness to Masorti increases

dramatically. For example, in Kfar Vradim, a new building

for our Masorti kehilla came into being because of strong

support from the secular mayor and his colleagues. In Beer-

Rabbi Alan Silverstein, PhD, is the chair of the board of the Masorti

Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel and the spiritual

leader of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, New Jersey.

The Bookshelf

(continued from page 11)

Mortality and Morality: A Search for the God

after Auschwitz by Hans Jonas, edited by

Lawrence Vogel. Northwestern University

Press, 1996

This generous selection of papers by one

of the most influential Jewish thinkers of

28 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

the 20th century deals with moral, religious,

and ethical issues in the wake of the Holocaust.

Jonas, a German Jew who studied

with and was a friend of philosophers Martin

Heidegger, Rudolph Bultmann, and

Hanah Arendt, was himself exiled by the

Nazis, fought in World War II and the Israeli

War of Independence, and ended up on the

sheva, the municipality has designated land for a second Masorti

kindergarten in a developing part of the city.

• Masorti’s kehillot include thousands of dues-paying members.

Under rabbinic guidance, the members of these kehillot

reach out to the community at large through nurseries and

kindergartens, Noam, life-cycle ceremonies, absorption of olim,

assistance to those below the poverty line, advocacy of ecological

concerns, outreach to Israeli Arab communities, and the provision

of special needs bar/bat mitzvah training and ceremonies.

Masorti touches more than 75,000 Israelis annually. Impressively,

the Avi Chai/Guttman Institute survey reveals that nearly

500,000 Israelis self-identify as Masorti or Reform.

• Vaani T’fillati, the Masorti Shabbat and weekday siddur,

which is published by Israel’s largest publishing house, has

been a best-seller. A Masorti machzor is being prepared. These

egalitarian liturgical reflections of Israeli life offer prayers for

Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Yom HaZikaron, entering the IDF, and other

life-cycle events.

• Masorti is central to the spectrum of Israeli Judaism, offering

the only regular egalitarian Shabbat morning minyanim.

Masorti also offers a halachic approach that is both flexible and

traditional, addressing issues such as the religious permissibility

of visiting the Temple Mount, of trading land for peace,

of women serving in the IDF, and so on.

• The Israeli public is ever more receptive to our message.

In the most recent poll, 63 percent support official recognition

for both Masorti and Reform. A growing number of secular

Israelis indicate that they are “open to” encountering aspects of

the Jewish tradition within their lives in a “noncoercive” manner.

These are code words for Masorti, Reform, and the liberal

elements of modern Orthodoxy.

As the evaluators of the Avi Chai/Guttman Institute poll

conclude: “The results of the survey are evidence that Israeli Jews

are committed to two significant values: preserving Jewish tradition

on the one hand, and upholding individual freedom of

choice on the other.” In sum, the fact is that Masorti Judaism

is emerging as part of a broad Israeli-Jewish consensus.

faculty of the New School for Social Research

in New York. The essays are suffused with

his major concerns: the moral impulse,

the meaning of a human life, and the possibility

of faith in God after the Holocaust.

These essays do not make for easy reading,

but they are all rewarding and they open

new vistas of thinking. CJ


A PERSONAL MIRACLE

The First Masorti Rabbi in Ukraine

BY RABBI TZVI GRAETZ

JEWISH LIFE IN UKRAINE

has changed and grown tremendously

since the end of the Soviet

era. One of the biggest changes was

inaugurated in March 2012, when

the first Conservative/Masorti

rabbi took up a permanent post in Kiev.

The story of Rabbi Reuven Stamov (his

first name originally was Roma) and his long

journey back to Ukraine is nothing short of

miraculous. Reuven was born in Simferopol

in Crimea – a region of Ukraine – in 1974.

His family was Jewish but entirely secular.

He was teased at school for being a

Jew, but during his childhood he never really

had the opportunity to explore what that

meant. As the Soviet period came to an end,

many Ukrainian Jewish families left, relocating

to Israel or other places. The Stamovs

decided to stay in Ukraine, however, and at

18 Reuven became involved for the first time

in Jewish educational activities. He began

to understand the purpose and rituals of the

festivals, gained a rudimentary understanding

of Hebrew, and developed a passion

for Masorti Judaism.

Throughout the 1990s, Reuven’s commitment

to Judaism, the Jewish community,

and Jewish and Zionist education grew

as he became involved in the Ramah summer

camp in Ukraine operated by Midreshet

Yerushalayim. A division of the Schechter

Institute for Jewish Studies, Midreshet

Yerushalayim focuses on Russian-speaking

Jews in Israel and parts of the former

Soviet Union. Camp Ramah-Yachad gave

Rabbi Tzvi Graetz is a graduate of the

Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem

and the executive director of Masorti Olami

and Mercaz Olami.

Reuven a religious home, a place where

he could grow as a Jewish communal leader,

teaching campers about Masorti Judaism

and developing his own knowledge and practice

at the same time.

Reuven says that he began to want a more

spiritual, meaningful, and observant Jewish

life from his very first Camp Ramah experience.

This eventually led him to move

to Israel in 2003, and shortly afterward he

came to the logical conclusion that his destiny

was to become a Masorti rabbi. That

would allow him to share with others his

love and understanding of a Judaism that

was traditional and modern, spiritual and

intellectual, and committed to both Israel

Email info@margaretmorsetours.com

and the diaspora.

Reuven studied at the Schechter Rabbinical

Seminary in Jerusalem for nearly

seven years, receiving support from Masorti

Olami, the worldwide Masorti movement,

via the Schorsch Fellowship, which supports

rabbinical students committed to working

in developing Masorti communities

in Europe. During his studies he continued

to work with Midreshet Yerushalayim in

partnership with Masorti Olami. He traveled

to Ukraine several times each year to

run seminars, summer camp, and a successful

conversion program, as well as many

other projects that created the foundation

(continued on page 53)

CJ — SUMMER 2012 29


Jews in

Georgia

JDocu is a group of amateur photographers,

friends who know each other from Israel’s

thriving high-tech world. They have set

themselves the task of documenting Jewish

communities around the world. These

pictures are from the photographers’ journey

to Georgia, in the former Soviet Union,

to document what is left of the Jewish community

there after the exodus of Jews from

the region that began in the 1970s.

The photographs were first exhibited at

Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish

People, in Tel Aviv, in March 2012, with

support from the American Jewish Joint

Distribution Committee and the Jewish

Funders Network.

See more of the group’s art at jdocu.com.

An empty container for a Torah Scroll

stands in the old synagogue in Oni.

Tali Idan

30 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

Just before Shavuot, girls in Rustavi get ready for a festive portrait. Yossi Beinart

A bagel stand on the main road from Tbilisi. Atalla Katz


Dr. Shalva Buziashvilli, the last

Jewish doctor in Rustavi, and his wife.

Tali Idan

Books are illuminated by light from the window

in a deserted synagogue in Kutaisi. Eli Atias

A tzedakah box in a closed synagogue. Tali Idan

The abandoned synagogue in Kutaisi.

Amir Halevy

CJ — SUMMER 2012 31


32 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

A women in the Jewish club in

Rustavi. Yossi Beinart

A scene from the synagogue

that no one visits anymore.

Yossi Beinart


Richard Skolnik

(continued from page 10)

the same issues that face Israelis and diaspora

Jews on a regular basis. I hope that I continued

facilitating this growth in others this

year as the Nativ assistant director. I will forever

be grateful for all that I have learned over

the years of my involvement with Nativ, most

importantly the understanding that all

Jewish journeys are intertwined and neverending.”

Aaron Sherman,

Nativ 26 Aaron is

from Santa Rosa,

California. While

he was on Nativ he

was in the Hebrew

University –

Yerucham track,

and afterward he

went to the University of California at Davis.

There, Aaron was involved with the Israel

student group, and he spent a semester

interning for Secretary of Defense Robert

Gates in Washington, DC. Aaron has spent

every summer since Nativ staffing USY Eastern

Europe/Israel Pilgrimage, first as a counselor

and then as a group leader. After

graduating from UC-Davis, he staffed Nativ

30’s Yerucham group, and now he is the

communications/speechwriting intern at

Obama for America’s headquarters in

Chicago.

“Nativ not only gave me experiences of a

lifetime, but it taught me how to live my

life. From what I love about davening to my

thankfulness for Shabbat each week, almost

everything about how I live a Jewish life I

either learned, built upon, or discovered while

on Nativ. Without Nativ, I wouldn’t be the

educated, passionate, committed Jewish young

adult I am today.”

A wholehearted yashir koach goes to

Nativ’s director, Yossi Garr, and his incredible

staff, who work tirelessly throughout

the year to educate our students in such

an outstanding manner. Nativ graduates are

our bridge to the future, our inspiration,

and our most precious resource. CJ

Saint John

(continued from page 22)

of an early 20th century immigrant, established

the museum and was its first curator.

She began by hiring Katherine Biggs-Craft,

a college classmate who is not Jewish and

by her own admission “knew virtually nothing

about Judaism.” It was a fortuitous choice

nonetheless, and when Koven retired, Biggs-

Craft became curator. The museum archives

now attract scholars from all over the world.

The American Association for State and

Local Libraries, the Church and Synagogue

Library Association, and the province of

New Brunswick all have honored it with

awards. CJ

TO ADVERTISE CALL

917-668-6809

CJ — SUMMER 2012 33


WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT

CAMEL AROUND YOUR NECK?

BY JOANNE PALMER

SO WEARING THE TIE

that’s an overall matzah print

on Pesach makes perfect

sense.

The tie with the big whale

for the afternoon of Yom Kippur,

when the haftarah is the story of Jonah,

yeah, that’s pretty obvious too, once you think

about it. (Rosh Hashanah morning and Kol

Nidrei, on the other hand, call for a simple

white tie to match the kittel.)

These ties are a very basic introduction

to the very many ties of Frederic S. Goldstein,

gabbai and third-generation face of

Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on New York

City’s Upper West Side, familiarly referred

to as BJ.

The one with hearts on it? That’s for

Parashat Va-era, when Pharoah’s heart was

hardened. (Va-era often is read in February,

but no, it’s not for Valentine’s Day.)

The game quickly gets harder. What about

the tie with the Cat in the Hat? There are

no cats mentioned in the Torah, and certainly

there is nothing about top hats. It’s

because the Cat in the Hat is a creation of

Dr. Seuss, and in Parashat Beshallach, when

the people sing the Song of the Sea, we

are told that they are celebrating God’s having

hurled horse and driver into the sea.

Horse and driver? Suess vrachvo. Oh! Got it!

Freddy, who is an Excel guru in civilian

life, started teaching about computers at

Baruch College in 1970, back when computers

and he both were young, and he

teaches there still. He is the grandson of the

Reverend Jacob Schwartz, who was BJ’s cantor

from 1914 to 1953. (BJ was a founding

member of United Synagogue, which

was chartered in 1913, just a year earlier.)

He traces his interest in parashah neckwear

to his grandfather.

34 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

Photos by Andrew Sherman

“My mom” – Bobbye S. Goldstein –

“would dress me in a suit when I was a little

boy when we’d go to shul,” he said. “It

was a time when everyone was dressed more

formally. I would sit up in the balcony.

My grandfather would sit on the bimah and

look up at me and he’d rub his tie, and I

would rub my tie. I would be sitting in

the middle of 1,000 people, but it was as

if I could hear him saying ‘Hello, Freddy,”

and I was yelling back to him ‘Hello,

Grandpa Jack.’ I like to believe that’s how

my tie thing started.”

Freddy has always worn a tie, even when

he was an undergraduate in the 1960s, when

they were not at all in vogue.

“I can’t remember when I first started with

the parashah themes, but among the first

idiosyncratic ties I had was one with watermelons,”

he recalled. It’s from Parashat

Beha’lotekha, where the Israelites, who for

a change are complaining, say that they used

to have melons back in Egypt. The word for

melons in biblical Hebrew, avatichem, is the

word modern Israelis use for watermelons.

Et voila!

Some of Freddy’s ties are literal – animals

for Parashat Pinchas, which describes sacrifices

in what might be too much detail. At

least one day of Sukkot calls for a tie with

a citron on it, and Shemini Atzeret – the

eighth and last day of the festival – demands

a tie with pool balls, one of them sporting

a great big number 8. He has a rainbow

tie for Parashat Noach, and one with

stars for Lech Lecha, where God promises

Abram that he will have as many descendants

as there are stars in the sky.

Sometimes Freddy gets ties as gifts – like

the one showing Moshe coming down

Mount Sinai with the tablets in his hand,

which clearly appeals to a very niche market.

Others he buys himself. He went to the

M&M store in Times Square for its iconic

M&M tie. He wears it when two parshiyot,

Mattot and Massei, are read in the same

week. The habit might get expensive, but

there are ways to cope. “You can buy a regular

tie starting at $30 and going way up,

and you can get tourist ties for a few dollars,”

he said. The tourist ties, needless to

say, tend toward the garish.


AND WHAT’S THAT

ON YOUR HEAD?

BY BERT STRATTON

MAYBE A COLLAGE

artist could do something

with my assortment

of yarmulkes,

which I’ve collected

during the 23 years

I’ve spent playing klezmer clarinet at weddings

and bar mitzvahs in Cleveland.

My Guatemalan yarmulkes – crocheted

by Mayan Indians – come from hipster weddings.

These multi-colored Mayan kippot

are especially big hits with female rabbi

brides. That’s a niche.

My most heimisch lids are bubbie-knit.

For one party, a grandma knit 150

yarmulkes. I took about five leftovers.

Skull cap. Those are harsh words. I have

some blue suede yarmulkes, distributed

by A1 Skull Cap Co. out of Brooklyn. The

yarmulkes don’t breathe. I like a yarmulke

that breathes, crocheted or knitted.

Camouflage kippot. I have a few. My band

Bert Stratton plays clarinet in the klezmer

band Yiddishe Cup and is the author of the

blog Klezmer Guy: Real Music & Real Estate.

He is a member of Park Synagogue in

Cleveland. www.klezmerguy.com.

Occasionally his ties have a more personal

meaning. His father,Gabriel F. Goldstein,

was a chemist, a pioneer in plastics,

and Freddy honors him at his yarzheit by

wearing a tie with some of the signs of his

discipline, chemical symbols or a balance

scale.

Freddy points out that as much fun as

his hobby is, and as creative as it allows

him to be, at its core it is serious. His life

played a bar mitzvah where

the theme was Zahal (that’s the

Israel Defense Forces). The bar

mitzvah boy’s father wore combat

boots and a full Israeli army uniform. The

band wore IDF T-shirts, except our trombone

player, who is a pacifist.

Sports-themed lids happen too. One time

we had to wear basketball jerseys and kippot

at a bar mitzvah party. There even was

a cheerleader squad. The girls did gymnastics

formations while cheering “Mazal

tov, let’s shout hurray. It’s Jeremy and Sam’s

bar mitzvah day.” Another cheer was “I

say ‘oy,’ you say ‘vey,’ Jeremy and Sam are

men today.”

My band’s keyboard player often starts

gigs by asking, “Is this a yarmulke gig or

not?” He’s a gentile. I have explained that

some are half-and-half: yarmulke for the

ceremony, no yarmulke for the party.

My Conservative rabbi wears a “throwaway”

yarmulke, the black satin number

used by funeral homes and synagogues. My

rabbi doesn’t want to look different from his

congregants, I guess. I don’t have the guts

to ask him why.

My white satin yarmulke from December

9, 2007 is imprinted with the groom’s

has connected him to the rhythms and

assumptions of the Jewish world in profound

ways. Not only was his grandfather a cantor,

for many decades his grandmother, Lottie

G. Schwartz, was the president of the sisterhood

(yes, B’nai Jeshurun also had an early

connection to Women’s League for Conservative

Judaism). Freddy’s other grandfather,

Herbert S. Goldstein, was the rabbi

of the West Side Institutional Synagogue,

name, Ananth Uggirala. His parents, from

India, were Anjaneyulu and Manorama

Uggirala. I had to announce them. Memorable.

You need the right kind of yarmulke clips

if you’re a musician because you move

around a lot. Bobby pins are the worst. They

take your hair out. Duck bill clips – also

bad. The best are the little surfboard barrettes.

If you don’t have good clips, you’re in

trouble, particularly at outdoor gigs.

I remember one Israeli guy marching

with the chuppah outdoors, while smoking

and balancing a drink. His yarmulke

blew off. He scooped it up, put it back

on, and took a drink. Secular Israelis, they’re

funny.

I wore a yarmulke for a week when I hitchhiked

out west. This was decades ago. I

had just seen a photo of Bob Dylan wearing

a yarmulke at the Kotel. None of the

drivers who picked me up commented. My

hat was just a hat – to them. To me, it was

a religion. CJ

and his other grandmother, Rebecca Fischel

Goldstein, was the president of that kehilla’s

sisterhood. “I’ve been in shuls all my life,”

Freddy said. So the game is a logical one

for him. To do it properly it is necessary

to study the parashah thoroughly. The idea

of such study, week after week, comes naturally.

Putting the tie together with the

parashah is a puzzle, far more art than

(continued on page 52)

CJ — SUMMER 2012 35


YAY FOR

JEWISH SUMMER CAMPS!

BY DR. SHARON

SILVERMAN POLLOCK

AS A PEDIATRICIAN AND

specialist in adolescent behavior

and emotional development,

I want to encourage

parents to send their kids to

Jewish summer camps. I can’t

rave enough about the invaluable meaning,

depth of connection, and enduring worth

that immersion in a Jewish summer camp

experience offers.

Not only is camp a great place to form lifelong

friendships, I believe that it is an inoculation

against teenage angst and deleterious

risk taking and a remedy for teen disillusion.

Twenty-first century teens need a place where

they can learn to tolerate inactivity and distress

safely, and to experience social life as real

human interactions, not screen facsimiles.

Camp is that place.

My office is in the San Fernando Valley.

Beyond earthquake fault lines, there is much

more trouble rumbling through my community.

In the past few months there have

been three teen suicides, one heroin death,

three alcohol poisoning deaths, and many

lucky survivors of extreme party nights. Why?

Some were related to grades and perfectionism,

others to intolerance of breakups

and emotional despair, and some were just

experimentation gone wrong. Many of the

victims were Jewish. While parents who read

about Wendy Mogel’s blessings of wounded

knees and bad grades and Amy Chua’s battle

hymn of tiger moms who are worried

about how their kids will get into the right

colleges, too many teenagers are looking

Sharon Silverman Pollock, M.D., is a pediatrician

with a practice in psychopharmacology.

She is a doctor at Camp Ramah in Ojai,

36 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

to check out in some way.

According to Monitoring the Future, a

yearly survey of teens across the country, 6.6

percent of high school seniors – that’s 1

in 15 – use marijuana daily. How can we

prevent that? Jewish summer camp. According

to adolescent specialist Ken Ginsberg,

M.D., social growth and connections provide

the attributes that will help kids develop

the resilience they need as they become

teenagers. Those resilience attributes are

competence through experience, confidence

rooted in competence, fostering close connections,

building character, feeling a significant

contribution to a community, and

learning both coping and control. If we can

help kids find social success and forestall the

more distressing benchmarks of teen risk

taking, they will gain more experience at

establishing their personalities in the larger

world.

Kids do risky things for many reasons.

One is that somehow it makes them feel

good despite all the harm it creates. Kids

can quote you line and verse about the negative

consequences of substance abuse. But

they still use alcohol and drugs and cut themselves.

They are depressed, and they commit

suicide. We need to create places and

opportunities where kids can benefit from

positive experiences.

If we empower young people and still

allow them to take risks, they will grow

strong in their concept of themselves. The

risk taking built into summer camp includes

leaving the safety and comfort of home and

interacting socially with more kids. Summer

camp experiences are designed to create

resilient adolescents. Camp helps develop

self-confidence and social competence by

growing interpersonal and core mindfulness

skills, as well as some mastery in regulating

emotion and tolerating distress.

I won’t say that it’s something only Jewish

summer camp does. The Jewish community

offers it in kehilla and community

affiliations, USY and Kadima, and schools

that instill values of tzedakah and community

service. Parents should be invested

in connecting their kids to these communities.

Kids are taught morality and the difference

between right and wrong in

environments that are centered in Jewish

values. Camp does this through educational

programs, music, sports, drama, daily routines,

arts, and food. Parents also should

model these behaviors.

At camp, everyone is understood to be

created betzelem elohim, in God’s image.

Still, the same painful parts of puberty are

packed into campers’ duffle bags – girl stuff,

boy struggles, fitting in, and body image

struggles. At camp, though, campers learn

to meet distress and to cope.

Yay Jewish summer camp! That is why

I am a camp doctor and my kids have been

raised in camps and have become great mensches.

That is why I train the counselors

in adolescent behavior and how to include

different kids, recognizing behavior as issues

of self-expression. I love and support the

Jewish camping movement.

California. CJ

All photos courtesy of the National Ramah Commission.


AM A FORMER RAMAH

I

camper and staff member stricken

with grief at the sudden death of

my lifelong friend and fellow

Ramah camper and staff member,

Eric Steinthal, z”l. In the wake of

his death, I feel compelled to tell the story

of how Camp Ramah in the Berkshires has

transformed and shaped my life, and the lives

of our group of friends.

I first met Eric as a 10-year-old at Ramah

in the Berkshires. We were in the same bunk

– A-16 – and have been close friends ever

since. Over the next few years, our group of

camp friends grew to 10. We didn’t just hang

out together in camp; sleepovers and shuttling

between each other’s houses were the

norm all year. Our backgrounds were varied,

and represented all facets of Conservative

Judaism, from kids like me who

attended day schools and were immersed in

Jewish learning and culture, to kids who did

not observe kashrut or Shabbat. Yet when

we gathered in Ramah every summer we

were all equal. We all observed Shabbat. We

all kept kosher. We all went to tefillot every

day, and wore a tallit and tefillin every morning.

We all said the motzi before we ate, and

we benched after every meal. And Shabbat...

Shabbat in camp is magical. The day-to-day

Adin Yehoshua Meir, an energy engineer, lives

in Hoboken, New Jersey, with his wife, Jordana.

IN MEMORY

OF A FRIEND

BY ADIN YEHOSHUA MEIR

Adin and Eric

The 10 friends

routine is replaced by something more spiritual,

more kadosh, more holy. Even as young

kids we understood that Shabbat is very different

from any other day of the week, and

it was camp that taught us that lesson.

For us, camp did not end with the summer.

Kids who did not eat kosher at home

told their parents that they wanted to start

keeping kosher, observing Shabbat, and even

leave public school for Jewish day school,

as Eric did.

Our group grew tighter as the years passed,

and many of us attended Solomon Schechter

high schools, deepening our bonds. As we

entered college, many of us continued to

work in camp, but eventually we had to enter

the real world and get jobs. But we still held

onto our friendships, which culminated

every year with the Ramah Berkshires Labor

Day alumni weekend reunion. This was the

most important weekend of the year. I

refused to schedule my wedding over Labor

Day because I did not want to miss it! Many

of us met our wives and significant others

during that weekend, and indeed it is where

I met my wife, Jordana, almost six years ago.

My Ramah friendships shaped and

defined my life. It is easy to take for granted

that nine other people will be there for

you whenever you need them, but I can

never take that for granted again.

Our friend, Eric Jay Steinthal, who died

suddenly on Saturday, March 17, was the

center of our circle. It was Eric and his

fiancée Jodi Siskind who hosted all of our

poker games and get-togethers. Their apartment

was our home base. Eric embodied

the concept of menschlichkeit, and his quiet

and unassuming demeanor and self-confidence

made him extremely popular

throughout the Ramah community. He was

even the commissioner of the Ramah

Alumni Basketball Association, and a member

of the Berkshires Alumni Hanhallah

– its board.

After hearing the terrible news, four of

Eric’s friends, all from Ramah, rushed to the

hospital to try to give his family support and

comfort. The next day, more than 15 of

us gathered at my parents’ house. We spent

the day and night telling funny stories,

trying to get through the nightmare. Eric’s

funeral was the hardest day of my life. It was

filled with memories, love, and most of

all, Camp Ramah. Eric’s life revolved around

camp, and to a certain respect the camp

alumni community revolved around Eric.

We are all trying to make sense of a tragedy

that no parents, no siblings, no partners,

and no friends should ever have to endure.

But we have comfort. We have our bonds,

forged together at Camp Ramah. They

can never be broken. I cannot imagine having

to endure this terrible pain without them.

Even in the face of overwhelming tragedy,

we find support, love, and hope that will

enable us to continue without our friend.

For all of us, that is what Camp Ramah

stands for.

May Eric’s memory be for a blessing. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 37


Camp

Fosters

Community

BY REBECCA KAHN

Rebecca Kahn graduated from Tufts University

in 2003 and has an M.A. in public

administration and nonprofit management

from the NYU Robert F. Wagner School of

Public Service.

38 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

OVER THE PAST FEW

months, it seems that every

time I open my inbox I see an

announcement from the

National Ramah Commission

about a new grant it has

received.

This is no accident. For more than 60

years, the Ramah camps have been leaders

in Jewish camping. They have pushed

the field to bring the best in Jewish education

into camp, in both professional development

and programming. The eight

Ramah camps have set the standard for

ongoing leadership development of its staff

and campers. This year, the Ramah camps

have been awarded two important grants.

One of them is a $1.8 million grant from

the Avi Chai Foundation and the Maimonides

Foundation that will fund an

alumni program called Reshet Ramah.

Another grant from Avi Chai, this time of

$144,000, is to fund training opportunities

for camp specialists at Ramah camps as well

as the camps run by the Union for Reform

Judaism.


I went to Camp Ramah in the Berkshires

for nine summers, and I credit my experience

as a camper, staff member, and executive

leader on the alumni association board

to my being where I am today, both personally

and professionally. My commitment

and involvement in Jewish life and the Conservative

movement is

a direct byproduct of

Ramah, Solomon

Schechter day school,

and my family. I have

spent the past eight

years as a Jewish professional,

working to

engage children and young adults in Jewish

life through Israel programs and Jewish summer

camp.

This March my extended camp family,

and I had to grapple with the sudden death

of our friend, Eric Steinthal. I looked around

the room at his funeral and was struck by

the power of my Ramah community – we

grieved together, celebrated his life together,

and I hope provided some comfort to his

family, his fiancée, and his inner circle of

Ramah friends. It was strange and comforting

to be surrounded by this amazing

extended camp family grieving and crying

instead of laughing and dancing, which

we do each year at Camp Ramah’s Labor

Day Alumni Weekend.

According to the National Ramah Commission,

fewer than 10 percent of eligible

Conservative movement-affiliated children

go to a Ramah camp. If camp creates community,

then we all should rise to the challenge

of helping create more community for

more of our children. We know that when

children go to camps whose values and philosophy

are deeply rooted in Jewish life, the

odds that those children will become adults

who participate in the Jewish world and

identify with it are greatly increased. That

is why we need to grow the number of

children enrolling in this transformative

experience.

Ramah is an extraordinary place. It nurtures

leaders for the Conservative movement.

We also know that not every family can

imagine or will want its children to grow up

to become rabbis, teachers, or Jewish com-

We all should rise to the

challenge of helping create

more community for more

of our children.

munal professionals. I think Ramah is the

best but it is not for everyone. It might sound

heretical, but not all Conservative Jews want

their children praying daily, engaging in

Jewish text-based study, or being immersed

in a religious setting during summer vacation.

And whether we agree or disagree, isn’t

it our collective responsibility

to make sure that

these families find an

appropriate Jewish community

for their children

over the summer?

As a community we

have to grow Ramah

participation – but we also can’t give up

on the other children of our movement.

Is it possible to develop summer experiences

that meet Conservative Jews where

they are in their observance, not where we

think they ought to be? A place where they

can explore their Judaism? Is there room for

a different brand of Conservative camps that

would reach more of our constituents? There

are plenty of excellent Jewish mission-driven

camps that meet the standards of the Conservative

movement’s membership; do we

have an obligation to promote these camps

to our families alongside Ramah to make

sure that every child has a rich Jewish summer

experience?

By neglecting to engage in a larger conversation

about Jewish overnight camps and

other Jewish summer opportunities, are we

simply giving up on the majority of families

who send their children to secular

overnight camps (which generally tend to

attract lots of Jewish kids) and missing an

important opportunity to engage these families

in a meaningful way? To ensure the

future of this vitally important movement,

to which I am proud to belong, we need

more than 10 percent of our children going

to Jewish camps each summer, whether those

camps are Ramah, another Conservative

movement camp, or other Jewish missiondriven

camps.

We need more opportunities to engage

all Jewish children in Jewish camping. Every

family should have a strong community

so they too can celebrate joy and share loss

together. Jewish summer camp is a great way

to develop our community.

CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 39


RAMAH FOSTERS COMMUNITY

BY RABBI MITCHELL COHEN

RREBECCA KAHN’S

article on the need for all

of us to encourage more

children of Conservativeaffiliated

families to attend

Camp Ramah and other

Jewish summer camps is to be applauded.

Indeed, Rebecca echoes the sentiments of

so many who praise our growth in recent

decades and advocate for even more aggressive

expansion.

We are proud of the last 20 years, when,

in the face of declining demographics in

the Conservative movement, Ramah has

attracted and retained 30 percent more

campers, so that we now host more than

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen is director of the

National Ramah Commission of the Jewish

Theological Seminary.

40 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

9,000 children, teens, and young adults

each summer. We have built new overnight

camps (Ramah Darom in Georgia in 1997

and Ramah Outdoor Adventure in Colorado

in 2010), opened new day camps (in

Philadelphia and Chicago), and added

capacity to our existing camps to make room

for more children who come from a wide

variety of educational and religious backgrounds.

What makes us most proud, however,

is that we have accomplished all this without

compromising our commitment to the

highest standards of intensive Jewish experiential

education. This, I believe, is the

source of the cohesive lifelong friendships

and Jewish commitment that thousands

of alumni cite as the legacy of Ramah, credited

by so many as the source of the most

positive and joyful Jewish experiences of

their lives.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president

of the Rabbinical Assembly, recently

wrote: “As Conservative leaders, it is hard

to remember how to dream because our Jewish

religious vision symbolizes something

that the community knows is necessary but

fears is unachievable. Miraculously, advocates

and skeptics agree about Ramah. Let’s

take yes for an answer. If we get behind

an effort to dramatically grow the Ramah

system, we will be surprised by who comes

along with us.”

So my response is yes! Let’s all work

together to radically increase the number of

Conservative families attending Ramah and

other camps that have strong programs of

Jewish identity-building. And yes, let us

continue to develop new and cutting-edge

methods of teaching Jewish content, with

the understanding that our families represent

the broadest spectrum of Jewish prac-


tice and various levels of education.

But we can accomplish all this without

sacrificing Jewish content. Ramah has shown

that with the proper guidance from young

role models, constant innovation, and

tremendous care and sensitivity, we can

indeed attract children from all levels of family

observance and bring them, on their own

path, to greater commitment to Judaism.

The Conservative movement does not

need any more attempts to attract more

adherents by lowering expectations. Ramah

is one of the movement’s success stories

because we stand for something. We must

be open to change, and our camps are centers

of experimentation and innovation. The

real challenge is to continue to grow and

innovate, and to bring the Ramah experience

to a wider percentage of North American

Jewish families. Our professional and

lay leaders strive to accomplish this every

day. But we cannot do this alone. We call

upon all our Conservative partners to heed

Rebecca’s call for growth, but within a

Ramah system that has proven itself over 65

years, is willing to answer the call for modernization

and innovation, has attracted the

support of the top foundations of Jewish

life, and has maintained, not compromised,

Jewish standards.

In his keynote speech at the 60th anniversary

celebration of the Ramah camping

movement in 2007, JTS Chancellor Arnold

Eisen said: “We need more Ramah, more

camps, more campers, more leaders, more

mitzvot, and more prayer that’s enlivened

by the wholeness of self that comes about

only in a camp setting.... I want to have more

and more human beings at Ramah who

understand the gift that they have been

given, the ability to develop answers for

themselves to the eternal questions of why

the Jews, why Judaism, how to live Torah,

how to partner with God. And to do all

of this inside of the Jewish time and space,

of wholeness and of joy that are not easily

available elsewhere.”

Ramah looks forward to decades of

growth, to bringing into our camps more

families with an even wider spectrum of

practice, and to our alumni continuing to

strengthen our synagogues and schools,

to help build a stronger Conservative movement

and a brighter Jewish future. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 41


MAKING IT MATTER

BY RICHARD S. MOLINE

42 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

IN FEBRUARY I HAD THE

privilege of teaching at the Koach

Kallah, the annual gathering of college

students sponsored by United

Synagogue’s college outreach department,

under the superb direction

of Rabbi Elyse Winick. The weekend, which

included tremendously spirited singing and

davening, serious study, and wonderful social

activities, brought together some 150 students

from more than 55 colleges and universities

across North America. The kallah was held at

Boston University and made possible primarily

by the generous support of Women’s League

for Conservative Judaism.

That’s the commercial (and a good one it

is). Now to the tachlis – the real content.

It’s no secret that our movement is under

siege, whether it’s from the press, some of

our affiliates, or any number of other outside

sources. Yet if you were to have walked

into the room during any part of the weekend,

you would wonder what the problem

might be, or even if there was one.

Granted, 150 college students is hardly a

major sample, but the fervor and commitment

they show for Conservative Judaism

are nothing short of inspirational. So if things

are so good, why are they so bad?

I taught a session Friday night called

What Makes Us Conservative Jews and

Does It Really Matter?” We talked about

ideology, relevance, and the facts on the

ground. The session was packed, and while

I hope it was instructive for the students,

I know it was incredibly valuable to me.

We do a great job providing our young

people with topnotch experiential Jewish

education, whether in Kadima or USY,

Camp Ramah, or other Jewish youth groups

or camps. Many of our teens carry these

experiences with them to the college campus,

primarily at Hillel but also through

informal gatherings with friends. Deeply

moved by what they’ve experienced, they

Richard S. Moline is United Synagogue’s chief

outreach officer.


are primed to lead full Jewish lives.

And then they come home.

In fairness, it is difficult to replicate intense

peer experiences outside camp, a youth

group, or a college campus. On the other

hand, when you have been part of a strong

Shabbat community and suddenly find

yourself in a place where no such community

exists, especially on a peer level, it is

extraordinarily frustrating. It can send a

wrong message, which no one means to send.

It can tell young people that the Shabbat

that they have valued, the Shabbat experiences

they have treasured throughout their

time in USY, Ramah or on campus – forget

it. The meaning they’ve been encouraged to

give Shabbat – let it go. You’re out in the real

world, we tell them, and the real world does

not have time for Shabbat.

The result of this mixed message often

is that people who have come to value a

Shabbat community do find one, no matter

what its ideology. The power and support

of community often trump belief and

practice (and such communities are not limited

to right, center, or left).

I know people in their 20s who grew up

in the Conservative movement but now

go to modern Orthodox synagogues. I

recently asked one of them why. Her answer

was not a surprise. “It’s simple,” she said.

“I went to the local Conservative synagogue

twice. Both times, there were a lot of people

in the sanctuary. Nobody took the time

to talk to me and I left as I came – anonymously.

The first time I went to the local

Orthodox synagogue, I had an invitation to

Shabbat lunch before we even got to Musaf.”

Quite a few of the students at the Koach

kallah spoke about the disconnect between

clergy and laity, between ideology and practice.

“In my experience,” one student told

me, “the rabbi is the only person who seems

to care about what we stand for. Everybody

else picks and chooses.”

What struck me most about these comments

is that so many of these students

feel a desperate need for validation. They

want to be part of the movement, and I

am convinced they are not alone. They are

seeking a traditional egalitarian Judaism,

where people are fully engaged in all aspects

of Jewish life. Many find it in the scores

of independent minyanim or chavurot that

have emerged in recent years. Others create

their own opportunities in neighborhoods

across North America. Some of these enterprises

are quite informal; they have no clergy

and meet perhaps once a month on a Friday

night. Others meet every Shabbat morning

and include study and social service

projects during the week.

Some people look at these enterprises

as threats. One colleague has suggested that

the proliferation of independent groups

could mean the decline of the synagogue.

Rather than view these creative and vibrant

groups negatively, I would suggest we

embrace them. Even though many of them

don’t want to be labeled in this way, they

represent one of the greatest successes of the

Conservative movement in modern times.

Our support does not mean that we diminish

our existing kehillot; rather, it is the natural

extension of Solomon Schechter’s notion

of klal Yisrael, the community of Israel.

Of course, we have to work on making

our own communities more welcoming

(many do a wonderful job already), but we

also must be realistic. Many kehillot simply

don’t have the critical mass (do we say

critical minyan?) to nurture and sustain a

peer community for people in their 20s. But

when we encourage the kehillot that do incubate

young communities, we are laying the

groundwork for revitalization, creativity, and

spiritual growth. In doing so, we must understand

that many of these groups will not want

to carry a denominational label of any type.

That, too, can be viewed as an opportunity;

to see it as a threat is myopic at best.

The role and definition of the synagogue

are changing. We must identify and support

the communities of caring, committed, and

passionate young Jews who will redefine our

purpose and develop a traditional egalitarian

Judaism that will bring meaning to

their lives and the lives of the generations

that will follow.

The college students who gathered in

Boston for the Koach kallah, thanks to

Women’s League, sent us a strong message.

They are committed to our future, but they

are not sure whether we are committed to

them. We have to listen to them carefully

or we will be left behind in the dust. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 43


A Ruach

Family Service

BY DR. PAMELA KIRSCHNER WEINFELD

IN MAY 2010, RABBI MICHELLE

Robinson held a meeting at Temple

Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts,

to find out why so few

school-aged children showed up at

Shabbat morning youth services.

Although there was a thriving pre-school service,

there never seemed to be more than a

handful of school-aged kids at the service for

them. Was the town’s amazing Saturday morning

soccer program an insurmountable obstacle

to a successful youth service?

The outcome of that meeting – a monthly

lay-led family service – rejuvenated the youth

services, brought the parents closer together,

and strengthened their connection to Temple

Emanuel. We even added to the synagogue’s

membership roster! We hope our story

will inspire you to imagine what might be

possible at your own synagogue.

The idea for the Ruach Family Service

took shape at that May meeting. A few parents,

beginning with the understanding that

working parents are away from their kids all

week, said that they would like a family service

so they could be together on Shabbat

morning. Advocates of the family service

described their vision – the room would

have to be full. People had to know they

would see their friends there. The service

should be real. There would have to be a

true a sense of kavannah – intention. It

Dr. Pamela Kirschner Weinfeld, a dermatologist,

lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with

her husband, Dr. Mark Weinfeld, and their

children, second- and third-generation members

of Temple Emanuel. You can reach her

at pweinfeld@gmail.com.

44 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

should be monthly and the families should

participate. It would have to be special. If it

were, families would make an effort to

attend.

I had shown up at the meeting desperate

for a service that my 8-year-old son could

relate to. He did not like singing with the

guitar in the youth service. The excitement

in the room about a family service was

palpable, and we knew we had to build on

the momentum. I volunteered to lead the

first family service and insisted that we have

it right away – in July! Because there were

no other kids’ services offered in the summer,

it seemed simple enough to try it.

Given the emphasis placed on the importance

of a full room, my main focus was

to assign as many parts leading prayers as

possible, so that families would commit

to showing up. To make leading prayers

exciting, we made illustrated laminated cards

for each prayer – we call

them honor cards. We

added leadership cards,

which the kids fill with

star stickers for each

prayer they lead. To

entice the kids to attend,

we advertised heavily,

focusing on the makeyour-own

ice cream sundaes with fun toppings

that we’d have at the kiddush after the

service. I also planned a question and answer

session about the parashah, with candy for

anyone who tried to answer a question.

We sent out a lot of emails and sent up a

lot of prayers.

We picked a small classroom because our

expectations were low, but 30 people came

and the room overflowed. The kids did a

great job leading the prayers (with a little

assistance) and they liked the questions (and

the candy!). David Goldstone, one of the

original proponents of the service, offered

an important suggestion: “You need something

for the parents. You need a d’var

Torah,” and he agreed to give it himself each

month. He also agreed to co-chair the family

service and helped recruit more families

for the next one. David mailed me

highlighted copies of sections from Rabbi

Elie Kaunfer’s book, Empowered Judaism,

stressing constant innovation as key to a successful

community endeavor.

Because the classroom had been so full

for that first service, we moved our next service

to a social hall. “Shock and awe” is a perfect

description of how we

felt when 80 people showed

up – in mid August! That’s

when we knew the July service

really had been a hit.

David gave an engaging

parashah summary and

d’var Torah, and then I led

a lively Q & A session and

gave out Twizzlers. Both parents and kids

loved it. During the prayer portion of the

service, I handed out the honor cards while

helping the kids lead the service, but soon

we learned that leading and organizing the

service at the same time was just too hectic.

We needed more help.

Fortunately, more parents volunteered.

Increasing parental involvement turned out

to be key to our continued success. Par-


ents who became

more involved in

organizing the service

became committed

to attending,

growing the service

while also preventing

burn-out on the

part of the original

organizers. The many roles allowed people

with various skills to participate in different

ways.

David continued to give his Torah summaries

and divrai Torah each month, and

I kept my role as chazzanit and leader of the

Q & A. Anthony Lehv sent out humorous

(and serious) email announcements.

Jenny McKee-Heinstein and Nicole Gann

recruited kids to lead the kids’ parts. Julie

Chivo premade name tags from lists of members

and their school-aged children and

greeted all who attended with a warm smile,

so that everyone felt welcome. Michael

Robinson read Torah so we could add a short

Torah reading. Ana Volpi ushered the service

– that is, she lined the kids up to minimize

the time we spent waiting for each

child to lead the next prayer. Marc Stober

coordinated Torah readers, and Cheryl Stober

created a Facebook page. Once we had

more volunteers, we avoided duplication of

efforts using a shared Google document, so

that the organizers could enter each assigned

part and everyone else could see it.

We innovated constantly. We chose a new

room with a carpeted floor to limit the

distracting noise of the wooden floor in the

social hall. In addition to nametags, we

started having each family introduce itself

before Adon Olam to make sure that the

service stayed warm and inviting. The synagogue

staff and leadership were extremely

supportive, not only of the service but also

of the changes and new ideas.

The biggest stumbling block proved to

be finding the right siddur. It was important

to us to have a genuine service, with

prayers in Hebrew and no musical instruments,

which we felt made kids’ services too

concert-like. When two parents separately

confessed that they were struggling with the

prayers, we realized that we needed a simpler

siddur with a full transliteration. Rabbi

Robinson suggested that we make our own.

Marc Stober volunteered to be editor-inchief.

To create artwork, we organized an

art brunch on a Sunday morning at the synagogue.

We provided paper, markers, and

stencils. The parents ate bagels and chatted

while the kids made magic.

The kids love seeing their own artwork

in the siddur! In addition to making sure

that there was a full transliteration and translation

for every spoken prayer, Marc added

such features as bold type for the parts the

congregation sings together. Thanks to our

siddur, the parents who needed transliter-

ations have become regular attendees, and

we have attracted many families with different

levels of knowledge. In fact, one

parent later confided to me that the reason

she feels so comfortable with our all-

Hebrew service is that because the kids are

learning, she is not embarrassed that she

is learning, too.

We are amazed to see how much everyone

has learned. It truly has been incredible

to see the kids, even the shy ones, coming

forward to lead a prayer, with the whole

room rooting for them, and to see their faces

(continued on page 47)

CJ — SUMMER 2012 45


TRANSFORMING TEFILLAH

BY BONNIE RIVA RAS

ONE SIZE DOESN’T

always fit all, particularly

when you are talking

about people’s

spiritual needs. The traditional

Conservative

prayer service doesn’t always work for everyone.

Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, California, is a

kehilla that is looking for creative ways to

experience tefillah in a new way. “We are

experimenting with multiple minyanim,”

Rabbi David Booth, one of the three rabbis

at Kol Emeth, said. Choices for its Saturday

morning program, which is called Kol Shabbat,

include a study group using the Mitzvah

Initiative curriculum from the Jewish

Theological Seminary, a coffee and schmoozing

room for parents of children in a Shabbat

school program, and a new Hebrew class

that is a gateway into the service. The programs

are of varying lengths; when they

are over participants often go into the sanctuary

and join the service there. A community

Shabbat lunch follows services every

week.

When Kol Shabbat is in session, it generally

draws about 200 adults and 100 children

from its 613 family members. “Shabbat

attendance has gone up,” Booth said. “We

are appealing to parents who want to be

in the synagogue but may not want to come

into the main sanctuary. We want families

to be here together for a whole Shabbat

experience.”

Around 2005, Shabbat synagogue attendance

was declining at Temple Emunah,

a 535-member kehilla in Lexington, Massachusetts,

so a committee was formed to

grapple with ways to turn it around. The

46 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

next year, the committee decided to adopt

the Synaplex model for Shabbat because

“people experience Shabbat and tefillah in

different ways,” Rabbi David Lerner said.

Lerner is the head rabbi of Temple Emunah.

Synaplex, which ran from 2003 to 2010,

was part of STAR (Synagogues, Transformation

and Renewal). “The model allowed

congregations to rethink the way they did

Shabbat and to find multiple entry ways

into the synagogue,” its founder, Rabbi

Hayim Herring, said. “The model gave congregations

a way to invite people into the

synagogue to be part of a Shabbat community.”

Participating kehillot made their own

choices and found the things that worked

best for them. About 90 Conservative

kehillot took part in Synaplex officially but

many more have adopted a similar style

of multiple minyanim. The program is over

but the number of kehillot using its framework

is growing.

Temple Emunah began a more-or-less

monthly program called Choose Your Own

Shabbat Adventure, which begins with

breakfast and then offers several options,

including meditation, yoga, or a traditional

Pesukei D’Zimra. It began in 2006 and still

is going strong today. The Torah service

selections include a traditional Torah reading,

text study, and bibliodrama. There

are up to 20 different options but the congregation

always ends up together as one

community. Shabbat morning attendance

went up from 100 people to around 450 on

those special Shabbatot.

Friday evenings are just as innovative. “We

wanted to bring in people who celebrate

Shabbat in different ways and combine it

with something social,” Lerner said. This

includes three summer Friday evenings,

when the proceedings begin with a barbeque,

outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat with musical

instruments, candle lighting, Maariv (held

outdoors whenever possible), and a community

Shabbat dinner, ending with traditional

singing. Scattered throughout the

year there are also creative Minchah, Maariv,

and Havdalah services that end with social

events.

Some kehillot hold multiple minyanim

every week. Shirat HaYam of the North

Shore in Swampscott, Massachusetts, is one

of them. It offers roughly 10 different

options for adults on Shabbat morning,

beginning with breakfast and including alternative

tefillot with Rabbi Baruch HaLevi in

the chapel and a traditional Shacharit led

by the cantors in the sanctuary. There is also

Limmud School (sort of a hybrid

Synaplex/Hebrew school) for children on

Shabbat mornings. And there is a Shabbat

café where people can nosh and

schmooze. The minyanim join in the sanctuary

for a healing service and a d’var Torah,

text study, or bibliodrama, and the children

come into the sanctuary for a spirited and

musical ruach rally. Then there is Shabbat

kiddush lunch for the community. “My

philosophy is that there is no one way to

speak to God,” HaLevi said. He estimates

that around 250 to 300 people attend. This

is up from around 40 on a pre-Synaplex

Shabbat.

Smaller kehillot can create innovative worship

experiences too. “We have different

themes during the year to provide different

types of tefillah experiences in the main


service on either Friday or Saturday,” Rabbi

Daniel Schweber said. He is rabbi of Shaare

Tikvah, a 175-family kehillah in Scarsdale,

New York. “The congregation offers

early morning yoga or a slower, more musical

Pesukei D’Zimra, aptly called Stop and

Smell the Psalms,” he said. On some Shabbat

mornings the service will focus on Torah,

and bibliodrama is added after the main

service. Creative Shabbat services are held

once a month.

A few times a year, Shaare Tikvah holds

a themed Friday evening service that includes

a dinner. During daylight savings time, when

Shabbat starts late, the kehilla holds a musical

service with instruments. Service attendance

goes up on the Fridays when there

is a special service and dinner.

Themed services do not have to be limited

to Shabbat. The leaders of daily

minyanim also use innovative planning to

attract more participants. “Temple Emunah

is the only shul in the area that still holds

a daily minyan, and we are always looking

Ruach Family Service

(continued from page 45)

(and their parents’ faces) afterward, shining

with delight. The kids have all become more

confident with experience, and we now have

several who can belt out multiple prayers.

To celebrate these accomplishments and

the service’s first anniversary, we gave out

personalized trophies with Jewish stars to

all the kids. Now they have a concrete symbol

that their effort at services is just as

important as their effort on the soccer field.

They also have enduring memories of fun,

lively, beautiful Shabbat mornings spent

at synagogue with family and friends.

After a few months working together, my

husband and I invited the Goldstones over

for Shabbat dinner. We realized that evening

that creating our service also was about building

community. We started extending more

invitations, and the friendships that are

developing have strengthened everyone’s

ties to each other, to our service, and to Temple

Emanuel.

The year after the founding of our service,

the synagogue launched a monthly sixth-

for new ideas to strengthen them,” Lerner

said. Last year, two minyan leaders, past president

Fred Ezekiel and Cathy McDonald,

came up with a friends and peers model.

In that model, groups of people who work

together, are alumni of the same university,

or share interests or background in some

other way, are invited to the

Minchah/Maariv minyan, which also

includes a food and schmooze element.

Themed minyanim are held on evenings

when it can be difficult to gather a quorum.

Themes have included MIT alumni, CUNY

alumni, the men’s club softball team, cycling

enthusiasts, and Israel advocates. The list

keeps growing.

Each month, the synagogue bulletin carries

an article about the minyan. People who

are 10 for 10 – who attend ten minyanim

– are recognized in the bulletin. “The minyan

isn’t full but the themed minyans have

helped,” Lerner said. “This model can be

used by other communities to build and

strengthen minyanim.” CJ

grade-led Discovery Service inspired by it.

This new service is attracting 20 or 30 kids

each month, an attendance level that would

have been unthinkable two years ago. In

addition, several non-affiliated families who

heard about our service from friends and

started attending have gone on to join our

synagogue.

Founding the Temple Emanuel Ruach

Family Service has enriched our lives as Jews,

as families, and as a community and congregation.

Now it’s your turn! Use our story

as your blueprint. It’s an endeavor worth the

effort. All you need is a minimum of three

or four committed families, someone who

can help lead the service, and someone who

can talk about the Torah parashah. If you

have someone who can chant a brief Torah

excerpt, that’s a plus. Don’t forget the Twizzlers

and ice cream, of course. Go ahead and

try it.You are welcome to adapt our prayer

book!

You can read more about ruach Shabbat

family services and see the siddur at

Temple Emanuel’s website. Go to temple

emanuel.com/ruach-shabbat-family-services.

CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 47


HALACHAH IN THE MODERN WORLD

SKYPING THE MINYAN

BY RABBI DAVID LERNER

PEOPLE WERE GIVING

me strange looks.00000000

I guess it was to be expected

– I had come into the minyan

and opened up my laptop,

which now was making

strange noises. People were curious about why

the rabbi would be disturbing the sanctity of

the daily minyan by playing with his email.

At the end of services, the mourners

observing yahrzeit got up to recite the

Mourner’s Kaddish. At that point I turned

to the laptop and looked in, and a woman

on the screen stood up to recite the Kaddish

with them.

I explained to the minyannaires that we

had a new participant in the Temple Emunah

daily minyan. Her name is Maxine Marcus,

though everyone calls her Max. She lives

in Amsterdam and works in the Hague,

where she serves as a war crimes prosecutor

at the International Criminal Tribunal

for the former Yugoslavia.

The story behind the story: My wife,

Sharon Levin, and Max have been close

friends since they participated in USY’s

Poland Seminar/Israel Pilgrimage 25 years

ago. Theirs was among the first USY groups

to visit Poland to see the instruments of

the Nazi death camps. Both Max and Sharon

were profoundly moved and transformed

by that experience.

Max’s parents were survivors of the Holo-

48 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

caust. Her mother was deported from the

Hague in 1942 at age 12 and was imprisoned

in more than 10 concentration camps.

She spent her 14th birthday in Auschwitz

and endured unspeakable horrors, tortured

by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. Growing

up in the 1970s and ’80s, Max heard

these stories and internalized a profound

commitment to Judaism and a deep sense

of justice.

During her college years, Max spent her

summers volunteering at a Bosnian Muslim

refugee camp helping the victims of war

crimes, often Muslim women. My wife also

was a volunteer during the Yugoslavian war

in the early 1990s. After law school, Max

worked for human rights in Africa and eventually

wound up in the Hague.

In recent years, Max had been dealing

with her parents’ aging and the cancer that

Rabbi David Lerner is the spiritual leader

of Temple Emunah in Lexington, Massachusetts.

He is president of the New England

Rabbinical Assembly and co-chairs the

RA’s Commission on Keruv, Conversion and

Jewish Peoplehood. Max Marcus and her mother, Stella Marcus, z’l.

eventually took

her mother’s

life. She discovered

that it

is not easy to

say Kaddish in

Amsterdam. She and I realized that she could

participate in our daily minyan through the

free internet video calling service known

as Skype.

But would it be kosher? Interestingly

enough, 10 years ago Rabbi Avram Reisner

wrote a teshuvah, a religious responsum

for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards

of the Rabbinical Assembly, explaining

that should such technology arise (Skype

had not yet been created), it would be permissible

for someone to join in a minyan,

although not to count in the quorum of 10,

and to recite the Kaddish. While it also


would be allowed through the phone, it

is much better to have a real-time audiovisual

link.

After examining dozens of sources and

precedents from thousands of years of Jewish

history, Rabbi Reisner concluded that

a minyan may not be constituted over the

Internet, an audio- or video-conference,

or any other medium of long distance communication.

Only physical proximity, that

is being in the same room with the shaliah

tzibbur (the prayer leader), allows a quorum

to be constituted.

Once a quorum has been duly constituted,

however, anyone hearing the prayers

in that minyan may respond and fulfill his

or her obligations, even over long-distance

communications of any sort. A real-time

audio connection is required. Two-way connections

to the whole minyan are preferable,

though connection to the shaliach

tzibbur alone or a one-way connection linking

the minyan to the mourner is sufficient.

Email and chat rooms or other typewritten

connections do not suffice. Video connections

are not necessary, but video without

audio also would not suffice.

Rabbi Reisner defines a hierarchy of preference.

It is best to attend a minyan for the

full social and communal effect. A real-time

two-way audio-video connection, where the

mourner is able to converse with the members

of the minyan and see and be seen by

them, is less desirable. Only in exigent circumstances

should you fulfill your obligation

by attaching yourself to a minyan

through a one-way audio medium, which

essentially is just overhearing the service.

As long as someone who is physically

present in the minyan recites the Mourner’s

Kaddish, a participant at another location

may recite it as well; this is not considered

a superfluous blessing.

As you can see, Skyping into the minyan

is permissible according to Rabbi

Reisner’s teshuvah. It has been a powerful

experience, as members of the minyan got

to know Max, schmoozing with her for a

minute or two over Skype after minyan. This

has been a great blessing. It is a reminder

that our minyan is not just a gift to each participant

– allowing us to experience the

power of God, prayer, and community –

but it also reaches out to include all who

participate, even those on the other side

of the Atlantic Ocean.

Last summer, Max visited Temple Emunah

in person. For the first time, our members,

who had never been in the same room

with her but felt close to her through her

Skyped recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish,

were able to meet Max.

Today, we occasionally Skype in members

who are ill as well as members of other

shuls who have heard of our Skype minyan.

It is our hope that many shuls will add this

option to their daily minyans.

Kol Yisrael areivin zeh ba’zeh – all Israel

is responsible for one another – whether

in person or through the internet.

You can see the full text of Wired to the

Kadosh Barukh Hu: Minyan via Internet,

at rabbinicalassembly.org/teshuvot/docs/

19912000/reisner_internetminyan.pdf See

also the RA Spotlight http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/story/skyping-minyan?tp=

323. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 49


W Bat

ON THE EVENING OF

Friday, June 5, 1959, 13-yearold

Roberta Hirshfield celebrated

her bat mitzvah at the

Astoria Center of Israel in

Queens, New York.

A bat mitzvah still was a relatively rare

occurrence. Roberta, however, had attended

Hebrew school and weekly Shabbat services

for many years, so it seemed a logical progression.

For her bat mitzvah, she and another

girl in her Hebrew school class shared the

berakhot (blessings) for the haftarah and then

the haftarah itself. Roberta’s partner led

Aleinu and Roberta led Yigdal.

The families then went on to the social

hall, where the guests were treated to a catered

oneg Shabbat. The next morning, of course,

the members of the Astoria Center of Israel

heard a repeat of the haftarah that Roberta

chanted the night before – but this second

reading was the one that counted as the synagogue’s

official haftarah recitation.

Nevertheless young Roberta was thrilled

with this milestone. It did not occur to

her at the time to compare her own accomplishment

to that of her brother Stuart, who

was 4 1/2 years older. Stuart’s bar mitzvah

was marked by his aliyah to the Torah on

Shabbat morning and celebrated with a

splendid kiddush, and again that night with

an even more opulent party, complete with

a live band and a multicourse sit-down meal.

Also unlike Stuart’s religious rite of passage,

there was no hefty photo album, just

a few snapshots of a proud young girl in a

Lisa Kogen is education director of Women’s

League for Conservative Judaism.

50 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

omenSpeak

Mitzvah: Take Two

BY LISA KOGEN

fancy white dress. But most significant of all,

Roberta never again was called upon by

the Astoria Center of Israel to demonstrate

those skills that she so ardently had acquired

over more than 8 years of Hebrew school.

It was now 50 years later. Roberta Hirshfield

Schreiber – wife, mother, and grandmother

– had watched as several generations

of women participated in the no longer

exceptional bat mitzvah ceremony when

girls are called to the Torah by their Hebrew

names on Shabbat morning, wearing their

own tallitot. They recite the blessings, read

from the Torah, and lead services, full and

equal participants in the congregation’s

ritual life. It was time, Roberta decided, that

she too should become an active participant

rather than a mere spectator.

After consultation with Rabbi Gary Parras

of Temple Israel in Orlando, Florida,

where she has lived for many years, Roberta

again honed her Hebrew reading skills, this

time to include the Torah trope. On a Shabbat

morning in June, close to her original

bat mitzvah date, Roberta Schreiber was

called to the Torah by her Hebrew name,

Raza Tova bat Zev veChannah. She recited

the blessing, read from the Torah, and later

made kiddush with the kiddush cup that

was presented to her at her first bat mitzvah.

This time Roberta wore a tallit, beautifully

decorated with images of the

matriarchs. The following day she invited

her guests to a party, complete with a live

band and a multicourse sit-down meal.

But more significantly, Roberta subsequently

became a regular in the rotation of

the Yad Squad at Temple Israel, the synagogue’s

cadre of lay Torah and haftarah readers.

In her dvar Torah Roberta spoke about


Samson’s mother, the subject of her haftarah,

who had no identity of her own

beyond being Manoach’s wife and her son’s

mother. Roberta spoke about her own journey

from her first to her second bat mitzvah

as a spiritual quest, and as a reflection

of women’s progress.

Roberta’s two bat mitzvah celebrations

are more than just a human interest story.

Rather, they give a face to the trajectory

of modern Jewish feminism over the past

50 years.

This year, 2012, the bat mitzvah celebration

is the topic of much discussion.

This March marked the 90th anniversary

of Judith Kaplan’s bat mitzvah, the first one

celebrated in the United States. It was a

momentous event – extraordinary really –

and no doubt partially attributable to the

fact that Judith was the musically gifted

and Hebraically knowledgeable daughter

of Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist

Judaism. But despite Kaplan’s

progressive vision, which profoundly influenced

Conservative Judaism, bat mitzvah

celebrations remained relatively rare

until after the Second World War.

By the 1960s, the Friday night bat mitzvah

had become a regular rite of passage in

most Conservative synagogues. Like the

bar mitzvah, the bat mitzvah served as a

public coming of age. But like the 1959

bat mitzvah of Roberta Hirshfield, the ceremony

was a construct. Except for leading

a few permissible prayers, non-liturgical

readings often were picked because they

were about women (Deborah, Ruth and

Hannah were very popular) or were taken

from the week’s haftarah. Unfortunately, a

young girl’s bat mitzvah generally marked

the end of her inclusion in the religious life

of the synagogue, not the beginning.

Once the bat mitzvah became established,

other issues arose. What about the status

of a girl after celebrating her bat mitzvah?

Was this to be a one-time event, where she

acquired skills that would never be used

again? While formal approval to extend aliyot

to women came in 1955 in a minority opinion

from the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee

on Jewish Law and Standards, most

congregations followed the majority opinion,

which did not sanction the practice.

It was not until the early 1970s, with the

grassroots pressure from women for full

parity in religious ritual and then the 1973

CJLS takkanah (rabbinic enactment) allowing

women to be counted in the minyan,

that the pace of egalitarianism accelerated.

In short order the bat mitzvah was integrated

into the Shabbat morning service

and became the equivalent of the bar mitzvah.

The process, beginning with Judith

Kaplan in 1922, had reached its logical

manifestation by becoming commonplace.

But this change did not affect only young

women. As bnot mitzvah became equal

partners in the religious lives of their congregations,

their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers

began to seek entrée as well. With

egalitarianism the rule rather than the

exception, women – many of whom had

grown up with little or no Jewish education

– embarked upon ambitious programs

of acquiring Hebrew literacy and studying

classical Jewish texts. Women’s entry into

what was once the exclusive domain of men

led to the development of new Jewish

women’s rituals, including the adult bat

mitzvah.

Over the past several decades, hundreds

of synagogues across North America have

offered a wide variety of adult bat mitzvah

classes and learning opportunities for

women. The benefits accrue not only to

the women who derive personal satisfaction

from the acquisition of the skills

required to daven and read Torah, but to

congregational life as well. As more and

more congregations rely on laity to read

Torah and lead services, the inclusion of

women has increased the ranks of learned

and actively engaged communities.

For nearly a century, Women’s League

for Conservative Judaism has been devoted

to providing a wide variety of educational

initiatives to its members. Mirroring developments

in synagogues, thousands of

Women’s League members have participated

in adult bat mitzvah programs. The

phenomenon was so popular and the

demand so great that in 2002 Women’s

League commissioned a bat mitzvah curriculum,

Etz Hayim He, for Conservative

congregations. Educators have hailed the

two-year course of study, written by Dr.

Lisa Grant, who received her PhD from

the Jewish Theological Seminary, as a model

of adult learning. In addition, starting in

the early 1990s Women’s League created

Kolot Bik’dushah, a society of qualified Torah

readers and prayer leaders. To date, nearly

a thousand women and post-bat mitzvah

girls (Banot Bik’dushah) have been admitted

to the ranks of this elite society.

When a Jewish child is born, whether

male or female, the parents entreat the Creator

that they might raise him or her to

“a life of Torah, chuppah (marriage) and

ma’asim tovim (good behavior/good

deeds).” It wasn’t so long ago – barely a

generation – that the opportunity for

women to be raised to a life of Torah was

pragmatic and bound to domestic obligations

– keeping a kosher home, raising

Jewish children, and observing private

mitzvot. Today a woman’s life of Torah can

include all areas of Jewish living, both

private and public – and the bat mitzvah

has become, finally, a celebration of

beginning. CJ

CJ — SUMMER 2012 51


WORDS OF THE WEEK

BY DAVID P. SINGER

IN THE 1970S THE FEDERA-

TION of Jewish Men’s Clubs developed

the first broadly based adult

education Hebrew reading program

in the Conservative movement.

FJMC’s Hebrew literacy program was

based on the concept of laypeople teaching

one another using two traditional texts,

Shalom Aleichem and Ayn Keloheynu. More

than 200,000 people throughout North

America have learned to read Hebrew and to

participate more meaningfully in our prayer

services thanks to this program.

Last year, the Temple Israel Men’s Club

of Natick, Massachusetts, a member of

FJMC’s New England region, and I added

a new element to the program. Not long ago

I passed my 20-year mark at Temple Israel

and I realized that if I had learned an average

of just one Hebrew word a week during

Shabbat services, I’d now know more than

1,000 Hebrew words. Using the approach

that if we learn a little bit at a time we can

acquire a substantial vocabulary, FJMC and

I have created the Divrei HaShavua – Words

of the Week initiative. If we look at learning

Hebrew as a lifelong process rather than

a one-time class, the challenge of learning

a new language becomes surmountable.

Each week, the program’s website offers

five Hebrew words from the Torah portion

with their English translations and transliterations.

Synagogues insert the words into

their Shabbat flyers and weekly emails. The

words are selected by volunteers from Temple

Israel of Natick and by men’s club members

from California to Toronto to Florida

whom I met at the 2011 FJMC international

convention. A sample of the table of words

for parashat Noach is shown below:

David P. Singer, a founder of his men’s club,

is a vice president of FJMC’s New England

region.

52 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

To participate simply copy the weekly

table from the website into a Shabbat flyer.

My feeling is that no one should leave the

Shabbat morning service after reading the

story of Noah without knowing the Hebrew

word for flood (kucn) or the story of Joseph

without knowing the word for dream (oukj).

Divrei HaShavua has the potential to stimulate

interest in the parashah for everyone,

including those who often don’t feel

Camel Around

Your Neck

(continued from page 35)

science; the more you know about the

parashah’s details, the more nuanced the

connection between the tie and the reading

can be.

It’s educational for the rest of the kehilla

as well. People look at his tie and try to

figure the connection out. “In most shuls,

people ask what the rabbi said,” Freddy said.

“At BJ, they ask what the rabbi said, and

then they ask what tie the gabbai wore.”

Freddy still has one tie on his wish list.

He would like one with a big red letter C

– that’s Beshallach again, for the crossing.

a connection with the Torah service. This is

one small step to help make services more

accessible to current and potential synagogue

members. It might even inspire some

people to participate in the FJMC’s Hebrew

literacy program or in another Hebrew class.

For more information about Divrei

HaShavua, go to www.fjmc.org and click

on Activities and then Hebrew Literacy or

email words@nerfjmc.org. CJ

ch:verse Hebrew transliteration English

6:9 tsadik righteous

6:14 teva ark

7:6 mabul flood

9:12 berit covenant

10:8 gibor strong, mighty

Words provided by Marty Levine of Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom in Miami, FL

Camels, olives, pieces of silver, Mickey

Mouse – an entire world of Torah hangs

around one man’s neck. CJ


Letters

(continued from page 6)

solidating, closing, or otherwise changing.

My own is considering a wonderful rabbi

who happens to be female. The Reform temple

has doubled in membership during the

current term of their rabbi, a woman whom

everyone there loves.

Look at the true issues that drive membership,

especially the relevancy of the synagogue

in peoples’ lives. The argument that

it has much to do with gender is underresearched

at best.

HARRIS SHILAKOWSKY

Brockton, Massachusetts

LIGHT UNTO THE NATIONS

I heartily agree with Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser’s

proposal (“Acknowledging American Exceptionalism,”

Spring 2012). I have long felt that

the United States was given the mission to

be a light unto the nations. Despite its struggles

with various human failings, it has to

some extent already achieved that goal. There

is hope that as time passes, it will move

further in that direction. It would be well to

adopt the Harachaman prayer suggested by

A Personal Miracle

(continued from page 29)

for a vibrant Masorti movement in Ukraine.

Reuven met his wife, Lena, in 2004 on

one of those trips. The couple now has

two daughters, Miriam and Alisia.

Reuven’s path to the rabbinate was not an

easy one. His studies were intensive,

demanding, and all in Hebrew – most of his

colleagues in rabbinical school were native

Hebrew speakers. He combined the usual

academic disciplines of Jewish history, Talmud,

halachah, and Mishnah with his regular

visits to Ukraine.

Reuven feels that completing rabbinical

school and achieving his goal of becoming

the spiritual and community leader he

dreamed of being is a personal miracle,

driven by his own connection with God.

Reuven is charismatic, approachable, and

lovable. He is bright, warm, and charming,

and clearly he understands the challenges

Rabbi Prouser.

DR. STANLEY SCHEINDLIN

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

MORE ABOUT THAT COVER

I read with great interest the letters to the editor

stemming from the cover photo of the

Winter 2011/2012 issue. The photo

prompted a fascinating colloquy between me

and my rabbi, which served to uncover some

false preconceptions (I presumed – wrongly

– that it was a picture of two men holding

hands) and led to some solid learning that

touched on the custom and practice of wearing

tefillin, current gender issues within the

Conservative rabbinate, and more. I suggest

that the photo itself has enduring didactic

value, one I would certainly like to put

into play in my shul’s School of Jewish Studies.

I think showing it to children within our

movement and asking them what they see in

it will lead to many fruitful conversations

about important issues of Conservative Jewish

thought and practice.

JOEL F. BROWN

Past President,

Am Yisrael Conservative Congregation

Northfield, Illinois

of developing Jewish life in his home country.

Throughout his studies he never forgot

that his purpose was to share his passion

for Judaism with other Ukrainian Jews.

In a moving address at his ordination ceremony

in February, Reuven told the assembled

guests – faculty, staff, family, and friends

– that the week’s Torah reading, Beshallach,

recounted the miracle of the parting of the

Red Sea. He drew a parallel between this

LOST SYNAGOGUES

Having been a member of the Laurelton Jewish

Center for more than 50 years, until its

closing several years ago, I resent that Ellen

Levitt (Spring 2012) made Bernie Madoff

seem to be its only claim to fame. There

was much more to our history than Madoff.

Rabbis Saul Teplitz and Howard Singer

were our religious leaders. Dr. Morton Siegel,

who became director of education at United

Synagogue, was principal of our huge Hebrew

school. Other former Laureltonians who have

contributed positively to our society should

have been cited, rather than that one disgrace

of a man. While there is not a Laurelton Jewish

Center any longer, just look around the

Jewish United States and Israel and you will

find former LJC students in leadership positions.

I am an example. Having been a vice

president at LJC I am now a vice president

at Congregation B’nai Sholom Beth David,

one of the most vibrant Conservative synagogues

in the New York area.

And by the way I still live in Laurelton.

ALICE PURUS

Laurelton, New York

miracle and the miracle in his own life. In

his view, both the Israelites crossing the Red

Sea and his developing an entirely new Jewish

identity required support and cooperation

from many people, a belief and

commitment to God, and of course God’s

involvement to complete the action. Reuven

is one of only a handful of Ukrainian Jews,

beginning with little or no understanding

(continued on page 58)

CJ — SUMMER 2012 53


54 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

JW MARRIOTT SPA & RESORT


Register online at www.wlcj.org

DELEGATE FEES (Rates for commuters and

hotel guests are the same. Hotel registration is separate.)

FULL-TIME DELEGATES (Includes meals

from Sunday dinner through Wednesday lunch)

Early Bird Special

(through September 28) $935

First Time Delegate Special

(through September 28) $835

After September 28 $1000

PART-TIME DELEGATES (Includes any 3

or 6 consecutive meals)

3 consecutive meals $340

6 consecutive meals $680

HOTEL REGISTRATION: Hotel registration is

not included in the convention registration fees and

must be done directly through the hotel. The special

rate for Women’s League delegates is $200 for all

three nights, double occupancy.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE CONVENTION

Every two years, members of Women’s League for

Conservative Judaism gather for four days of

outstanding speakers and leading scholars, inspiring

services, valuable workshops, in-depth training and

leadership development, region meetings and parties.

This year’s convention, in exciting Las Vegas,

promises to be better than ever! While what happens

in Vegas might stay in Vegas for some people, our

delegates will leave ready to greet the new dawn of

Women’s League with a focus on personal growth,

creating healthy sisterhoods, and celebrating

Conservative/Masorti Judaism.

Plans include:

• Being a Conservative Jew: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, by Rabbi Elliot Dorff

• An Evening of A & E: Fun (and some learning) celebrating the arts, both high and

popular

• A Night on the Town! Take advantage of the pleasures our host city has to offer

• The unveiling of the new Women’s League Strategic Plan that will usher the organization

into the 21st century as a vital, integral network for all Conservative Jewish

women

• Jewel in the Crown Awards to sisterhoods that demonstrate their commitment,

excellence and creativity in programming. Last year over 100 sisterhoods won. You

don’t want to be left out in 2012!

• Celebration of 70 years of Torah Fund

• Tribute to Honorary Convention Chair Blanche Meisel

• Tikkun olam project supporting veterans, with featured speaker Rabbi Bonnie Koppell

• Innovative workshops for personal fulfillment

• Specialized programming for sisterhood presidents

• Authors corner

• Installation of officers and board

• Great shopping in the exhibit hall for Judaica, toys, books, jewelry, and more

Enjoy discounts for first-time and early-bird registrants

FEATURED SPEAKERS

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector, Sol & Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Professor in

Philosophy at the American Jewish University

Dr. Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, Associate Rabbi of Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona, and

Command Chaplain of the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) in the U.S.

Army Reserve, where she holds the rank of colonel.

Rabbi Gail Labovitz, associate professor of Rabbinic Literature at the American

Jewish University

CJ — SUMMER 2012 55


UNITED SYNAGOGUE'S NEW BYLAWS

BY JOANNE PALMER

ON MARCH 18, THE

United Synagogue of Conservative

Judaism’s board of

trustees voted to accept new

bylaws. This was the second

reading for those bylaws, and

the second time they passed. Both times,

the vote in favor was overwhelming, much

higher than the already formidable-sounding

two-thirds majority that was required.

With that second vote the bylaws were

accepted, along with new standard operating

procedures to support them. United Synagogue

now will begin its second century

in 2013 as a revitalized, reshaped, and reenergized

organization.

The bylaws are a direct result of the strategic

plan that the board accepted last March.

It took courage for many of the board

members to vote yes, and that they did so

anyway was a testament to their commitment

to United Synagogue. One of the changes

the bylaws now mandate is that the board

will be smaller, and another is that board

members are expected to give United Synagogue

not only time and energy but also

to see it as a philanthropic opportunity, and

an opportunity, moreover, that they can share

with their friends. Many board members,

some of whom had been with us for years, or

even decades, had to vote themselves off

the board. That was pure self-sacrifice, and

we honor them for it.

The new bylaws will make United Synagogue’s

governance more agile and responsive,

not only by reducing the size of the board

and the number of committees the board

oversees, but also by redefining the partnership

between the executive committee,

the board, other lay leaders, and United Synagogue’s

staff. The committees will oversee

the areas that the strategic plan recognized as

core to the organization’s mission – kehilla

strengthening and transformation, education,

young adult engagement, and assisting

new and emerging kehillot. (A kehilla, or

56 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

sacred community, is the term the framers of

the strategic plan have chosen to describe the

various communities that make up United

Synagogue, feeling that the change in wording

reflects the change in orientation.) The

new bylaws will increase the organization’s

accountability to the member kehillot. That

accountability will be institutionalized in the

relationship between the General Asssembly,

which will be composed of a member from

each kehilla. There are many mechanisms

that will speed and oversee that process,

demand a new focus on priorities, measure

whether those priorities have been achieved,

and empower staff to implement the changes.

United Synagogue also will engage with

lay leaders who are not on the board in a

different way. We will recruit them to offer

their services as kehilla ambassadors or expert

volunteers, sharing their expertise, teaching,

and training.

Leadership training is one of the areas where

our member kehillot most want help. Leaders

would like help in making themselves

more effective at the positions to which

they have been elected. They would like to

be able to grow not only managerially but

spiritually, and they would like their kehillot

to become places where people come for spiritually

and emotionally transformative experiences,

to learn more about their people and

themselves. They also would like help in identifying

and training the next generation of

kehilla leaders. In response to that need,

we have expanded and reimagined Sulam.

That program used to train new and prospective

synagogue leaders; now, it has become

a three-part enterprise that includes Sulam

for Current Leaders, Sulam for Presidents,

and Sulam for Emerging Leaders. The goal

– we would call it a dream but it is achievable

– is to train 5,000 leaders in the next five

years. Think what that will do for Conservative

Judaism!

Another change that has resulted directly

from the strategic plan and the new bylaws

is the system of kehilla relationship managers.

Our KRMs are our grassroots support system.

United Synagogue and Conservative

Judaism represent and embody Jewish life as

the product of eternal truth, millennia of history

and tradition, and openness to the world

as it is now. It is the vital center of North

American Jewish life, the place where tensions

are negotiated and challenges are faced.

The new bylaws, with their new understanding

of the relationship between the central

organization and the kehillot, are a

necessary tool, a way to help us balance on

the high wire.

“I am very proud of the collaboration

between our professional staff and our lay

leadership in crafting these new bylaws,” international

president Richard Skolnik said. “The

endgame is to provide a refocused energy that

truly has an impact on the services that we

provide to our more than 600 kehillot.”

“The vote is a major achievement in United

Synagogue’s reorganization,” CEO Rabbi

Steven Wernick said. “It aligns new strategies

with governance, staff, and structures.

Our leaders affirmed the wisdom of our mission,

vision, and strategic plan, our commitment

to excellence, and the value we

add both to our affiliated kehillot and to

the larger Jewish world.

“‘The person who occupies himself with

the needs of the community – it is as though

he occupies himself with Torah,’ the Talmud

tells us. United Synagogue’s leaders listened

to the needs of its community of kehillot,

and it acted on them. This courageous vote

will lay the foundation for our next 100 years.”

The new bylaws are the next step in the

path that has taken us from the creation of

the coalition of Conservative leaders that

hammered out the strategic plan to now. We

look forward to the strengthening and revitalization

of United Synagogue and of Conservative

Judaism. We will achieve that work

together. CJ


HEARING MEN’S VOICES

A Signature Program of FJMC

EDITED BY ART SPAR

The 2011 Rosh Hashanah issue of CJ included

the article “A Mentsch is Born,” about FJMC’s

Hearing Men’s Voices program. Since that time

HMV programs have proliferated across the

continent. Eight mentschen gathered for a (virtual)

conversation in early December.

Moderator Paul Davidson (Temple Israel,

Sharon, Massachusetts): Each of us is a

Hearing Men’s Voices leader. Our goal

tonight is to share our best practices with

each other. Who’d like to begin?

Mark Givarz (Congregation B’nai

Amoona, St. Louis, Missouri): Our HMV

theme this year is spirituality. On Rosh

Hashanah we did a Hearing Men’s Voices

program as an alternative to the Musaf service

on the second day. (We modified the rules

to allow women to join in.) The topic was

seeking God. We formed two circles of about

14 people each to discuss the questions:

Do you ever seek God? If so, have you found

God? The groups talked for about 90 minutes,

and we could have gone on for hours.

The big discovery was that people can find

spirituality in alternative ways to prayer.

Neal Fineman (Temple Israel, Sharon,

Massachusetts): Our guys are passionate

about their participation. We average about

16 guys; there’s usually a lot of laughing; the

guys enjoy it. It’s really catching on. We don’t

have to make phone calls anymore. They

just come.

Bob Braitman (Temple Shaare Tefilah,

Norwood, Massachusetts): Men who come

to HMV aren’t necessarily involved in other

synagogue activities. I went to one program

and I didn’t recognize any of the faces. Since

I go to services regularly, I realized that

the HMV guys were completely different.

By introducing HMV into synagogue life,

we’ve created a completely new on-ramp to

the Jewish community. In his article in

this issue of CJ, Rabbi Charles Simon’ writes

about guys who aren’t turned on by traditional

prayer.

Mark Travis (Temple Beth Judea, Buffalo

Grove, Illinois): Our HMV group has been

attracting about 15 to 20 people per session.

How do we get people involved? We conducted

a survey among young guys in their

30s and 40s. They told us that they don’t

need any more formal religion. They get

enough from their wives and synagogue.

They wanted time with other men to socialize

and discuss issues men have in common.

The one topic all the men share is children.

How should we talk to our children?

Like Paul said, the most important recruitment

tool is being asked by another man

to participate. Our slogan is “I hear voices,

voices at home, at work, at play, voices in

the synagogue, from my family, but…who

hears my voice?”

Bruce Gordon (Congregation Olam Tikvah,

Fairfax, Virginia): I’m just getting

started, but HMV has perceptions that need

to be overcome. Should the leader be a

trained psychologist? Can we do this without

years of experience? I’m helping get

groups started in Fairfax, Rockville,

Potomac, Gaithersburg, and in the Tidewater

region. What advice can you offer me?

Bob: One of the greatest misconceptions

about HMV is directly related to Bruce’s concerns

about not being a health care professional.

He’s asking himself whether he’s

qualified to run a session. It’s my experi-

ence that lay people, not professionals, have

run the best sessions. The most important

criteria for group leadership are to be a good

listener, to be empathetic and show caring.

It’s about being heard. It’s not about a professional

providing wisdom. The leader should

come across as, “I’m a guy like you, let’s talk.”

Gary Smith (Adath Israel Congregation,

Cincinnati, Ohio): At our last HMV session,

we asked each of the participants to

discuss the most important lesson or statement

that their father or grandfather taught

them that most changed their life; in other

words, a life lesson. There were multiple

generations in the room, and the men were

blown away by the similarities and differences

shared by men of different ages. But

what was most effective was that we only

knew each other for years as a name and

a face. Who knew what they were like inside?

Now we know each other. We can interact

and have a more man-to-man conversation.

Now we don’t just say hello. We stop

and talk, ask questions, share something

about ourselves. We truly involved Jewish

men in Jewish life.

Bob: I’ve attended several gatherings where

men have been brought to tears. I was

shocked the first time. Have any of you had

that experience?

Neal: I was brought to tears a few times.

It happened to me in an HMV session at

the FJMC international convention. I was

among strangers. I was just thinking about

my relationship with my father and I lost it.

I didn’t know these people, and I didn’t know

how they would react because a lot of them

were new to HMV, but that’s what I needed

to do. But I was brought to tears, and it was

CJ — SUMMER 2012 57


a wonderful release. It was good for me, and

I wanted to share with them that you can

do this kind of thing.

Paul: I’ve been in numerous sessions hysterically

laughing and crying, and every place

in between. There are too few places where

men can speak in a safe manner. I’ve seen

guys linger after an HMV session not wanting

to part with each other because they’ve

formed bonds. Now I see guys hug when

they see each other in shul. Sometimes when

I see an HMV buddy, we give each other

a knowing glance because we’ve shared something

very deep.

Art Spar (New York, New York): HMV

doesn’t create emotion. The emotions are

already there. We’re creating an environment

to release them or experience them.

These emotions are residing there all the

time and we create something that allows

them to come to the surface.

My HMV experience in Manhattan has

been interesting. We’ve brought together an

eclectic mix of guys from rabbis to non-shulgoers.

We meet over dinner. Our first meeting

was in a kosher Indian restaurant. The

next time it was pizza and salad at my house

with a bottle of scotch and some wine on the

side. We’re not part of any synagogue or men’s

club but we use FJMC materials. We’ve gotten

to know each other, our roots and our

dreams; and we plan on continuing as long

as we enjoy it. We’re just a bunch of Jewish

men involving ourselves in Jewish life.

A Personal Miracle

(continued from page 53)

of Judaism, who have been inspired to educate

others about Judaism. In his ordination

address, he also explained that Beshallach

is in the book of Shemot, the book that we

call Exodus but whose name literally translates

to Names. The list of names of those

people who have helped him academically,

spiritually, and even financially is incredibly

long, but he could not have reached

his goal without each of them.

Reuven acknowledges that now that he

58 CJ — VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/MASORTI JUDAISM

Paul: Is it better to meet at a synagogue

or at home?

Art: I’ve been to both. The informality of

a home setting allows guys to connect in

ways that a synagogue does not.

Bob: Very few synagogues have comfortable

spaces. I remember a meeting in a library

sitting around a conference table. It was not

intimate in the way it would have been in

a living room. The big problem with the

synagogue is the formality of the setting. It’s

not the fact that there’s a Torah down the

hall, it’s actually the space itself. And temple

classrooms are worse with the little chairs!

It’s too bad but most synagogues are not

warm spaces.

Paul: Why are you so passionate about Hearing

Men’s Voices?

Bob: Many men today don’t know how to

form relationships. We get most of our relationships

through our wives as couples. We’ve

lost the art of conversation, and we’ve lost

the art of community. I want a place where

men can come together, in a forum that isn’t

threatening, to talk about things that are sitting

in our hearts and minds, in plain sight,

or that we’re completely unaware of. HMV

is an extraordinary resource – there’s no other

venue like it. The dividend is it will strengthen

our synagogues, our clubs, and our communities,

but the real value is that it makes

our lives richer.

has completed one challenge, another has

opened up as he tries to bring Masorti

Judaism to the estimated 100,000 Jews who

live in Ukraine. For the last 20 years,

Midreshet Yerushalayim and Masorti Olami

have worked to create a base of supporters

and a core of Masorti communities in

Kiev, Chernovitz, Donetsk, Kharkov, and

other cities around the country. The work

of developing committed, passionate, and

stable kehillot with ongoing Jewish lifecycle

and calendar programming still is to

come. We are sure that his determination,

along with a little help from God, will enable

Reuven to meet these challenges.

I remember running a session about the

high holy days. It forced me to think about

what the Days of Awe meant to me. I discovered

that it wasn’t only the religious aspect

of the day that draws my focus. It’s the memories

of being at my father’s side, holding

his hand, that opened a floodgate of feelings

that are always there but rarely experienced.

Paul: In the Jewish world, there’s nothing

else like Hearing Men’s Voices.

Art: There’s nothing more important than

human contact. We have lots of mixed sex

settings, but men are unique, our experiences

are different than women’s. There’s

something about a men-only session that

allows that uniqueness to shine, to flower.

The camaraderie is special. I enjoy it, I need

it.

Neal: It’s powerful. It’s a place to find your

passion. I’ve never been to a session I didn’t

value. You see your own life in the expression

of others. There’s common ground

we all share. Hearing it from others adds

a powerful perspective to our own lives.

Paul: It’s a non-competitive experience with

no performance expectations. You don’t have

to know Hebrew. There are no skills

required. CJ

Should you visit Kiev or other cities in

Ukraine, we invite you to spend Shabbat or

a festival with a Masorti community and see

just how well things are going. CJ

Advertise in CJ

FALL 2012

Ad Reservations due

June 18

TO ADVERTISE CALL 917-668-6809


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