What We Eat - United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

What We Eat - United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

What We Eat - United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism


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SUMMER 2012 / 5772 VOL. 5 NO. 4

J<br />


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

6 LETTERS<br />

8 Women’s League’s SARRAE G. CRANE<br />

<strong>of</strong>fers some Reflections on the Kiddush<br />

Ladies<br />


some suggestions For Fathers <strong>of</strong> Adult<br />

Children<br />

10 RICHARD SKOLNIK introduces<br />

Tomorrow’s Visionary Leaders from Nativ,<br />

<strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>’s program for post-high<br />

school students in Israel<br />

11 RABBI NEIL GILLMAN discusses books<br />

on Jewish life In the Bookshelf<br />

12 WHAT WE EAT<br />

Looking at Kashrut<br />

Through a <strong>Conservative</strong> Lens<br />

For RABBI EDWARD FELD, kashrut must interweave<br />

ritual rules and regulations<br />

with modern challenges<br />

14 CJ REVIEWS<br />



FRAN GINSBURG finds value<br />

beyond the recipes in cookbooks<br />

– and also shares some recipes<br />


19<br />


Even though MAXINE SEGAL HANDELMAN did not<br />

grow up camping, she now spends a Shabbat each<br />

summer with 60 friends and family in one <strong>of</strong><br />

Wisconsin’s beautiful state parks<br />

21<br />


SHIRLEY MOSKOWinvites you to enjoy the Jewish sites<br />

in Canada’s oldest city<br />

23<br />


On a recent trip to Israel, RABBI ROBERT SLOSBERG<br />

was exhilarated by the thriving Masorti movement but<br />

discouraged by some <strong>of</strong> its challenges<br />

26<br />


There is a lot to do in Israel for children <strong>of</strong> all ages,<br />

from petting zoos to scavenger hunts in Jerusalem,<br />

according to AVITAL COHEN<br />

28<br />



There is a great deal to know about our movement in<br />

Israel, according to RABBI ALAN SILVERSTEIN<br />

29<br />





introduces a young man<br />

whose journey is inspiring<br />

30<br />


A photo essay<br />

34<br />



There are many ways to introduce the weekly<br />

Torah reading. JOANNE PALMER describes one <strong>of</strong><br />

them<br />

35<br />


His collection <strong>of</strong> kippot reflects BERT STRATTON’S<br />

23 years playing clarinet at weddings and bar<br />

mitzvah parties<br />

36<br />


Camp doctor SHARON SILVERMAN POLLOCK can’t<br />


rave enough about the benefits <strong>of</strong> sending kids to a<br />

Jewish summer camp<br />

37<br />


His experiences at Camp Ramah help<br />

ADIN YEHOSHUA MEIR mourn the death<br />

<strong>of</strong> his closest friend<br />

38<br />



REBECCA KAHN asks<br />

what we can do to<br />

get more<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> kids<br />

to Jewish camps<br />

40<br />


National Ramah Director RABBI MITCHELL COHEN<br />

is proud that Ramah accomplishes so much<br />

without sacrificing Jewish content<br />

42<br />


After USY, Ramah, and Koach, our committed<br />

young Jews <strong>of</strong>ten look elsewhere for meaning in<br />

their lives, worries RICHARD S. MOLINE<br />

44<br />


Sensing a void in her synagogue’s programming,<br />

PAMELA KIRSCHNER WEINFELD and friends created a<br />

service for school-aged children and their parents<br />

46<br />


BONNIE RIVA RAS describes how congregations<br />

<strong>of</strong>fer new ways to experience Shabbat<br />

48<br />



A friend saying kaddish<br />

in the Hague joins RABBI<br />

DAVID LERNER’S minyan<br />

in Massachusetts<br />

50<br />



Describing one bat mitzvah with two celebrations<br />

50 years apart, LISA KOGEN illustrates the<br />

trajectory <strong>of</strong> this now common coming <strong>of</strong> age ritual<br />

52<br />


It’s easy to grow your Hebrew vocabulary using a<br />

new program devised by FJMC and DAVID P. SINGER<br />


JOANNE PALMER reviews the changes that will make<br />

<strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong> more agile and responsive to<br />

the needs <strong>of</strong> its member kehillot<br />

57<br />



ART SPAR edits a discussion among some FJMC<br />

mentschen<br />


The Hesed House Social Club, in Rustavi,<br />

Georgia. Photo by Amir Halevy, who<br />

participated in the Jdocu journey to<br />

photograph Jewish communities worldwide.<br />

See more photographs beginning on page 30.<br />

Cover design: Josef Tocker<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 5


Rhonda Jacobs Kahn<br />

Joanne Palmer<br />


Bonnie Riva Ras<br />


Josef Tocker<br />


Doug Steinberg<br />


Dr. Robert Braitman, Chair<br />

Bernice Balter<br />

Michael Brassl<strong>of</strong>f<br />

Renée Brezniak Glazier<br />

Shelly Goldin<br />

Rosalind Judd<br />

Dr. Bruce Littman<br />

Rachel Pomerance<br />

Elizabeth Pressman<br />

Evan Rumack<br />

Marjorie Shuman Saulson<br />

Allan M. <strong>We</strong>gman<br />


Dr. Stephen Garfinkel<br />

Jewish Theological Seminary<br />

Rabbi Cheryl Peretz<br />

Ziegler School <strong>of</strong> Rabbinic Studies<br />

CJ: Voices <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong>/Masorti <strong>Judaism</strong><br />

is a joint project <strong>of</strong><br />


Michael Mills, President<br />

Rabbi Charles E. Simon, Executive Director<br />



Richard Skolnik, President<br />

Rabbi Steven C. <strong>We</strong>rnick, Executive Vice President<br />



Rita <strong>We</strong>rtlieb, President<br />

Sarrae G. Crane, Executive Director<br />

The opinions expressed in this magazine are<br />

those <strong>of</strong> the authors and do not necessarily<br />

represent the views <strong>of</strong> the publishing organizations.<br />

Advertising in CJ does not imply editorial<br />

endorsement, nor does the magazine<br />

guarantee the kashrut <strong>of</strong> advertised products.<br />

Members <strong>of</strong> FJMC affiliates, <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong><br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> congregations,<br />

and Women’s League for <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong> affiliates receive this magazine as a<br />

benefit <strong>of</strong> membership. Subscriptions per<br />

year: $20.<br />

Please direct all correspondence or changes<br />

<strong>of</strong> address to CJ: VOICES OF CONSERVATIVE/<br />

MASORTI JUDAISM at Rapaport House, 820<br />

Second Ave., 10th Floor, New York, NY 10017-<br />

4504. 917-668-6809. Email: palmer@uscj.org<br />

or rkahn@wlcj.org. To advertise, email<br />

ras@uscj.org or call 917-668-6809.<br />


JUDAISM is published quarterly by <strong>United</strong><br />

<strong>Synagogue</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>, 820 Second<br />

Ave., 10th Floor, New York, NY 10017-4504.<br />

Canadian Copies: Return Canadian undeliverables<br />

to 2835 Kew Dr., Windsor, ON N8T 3B7<br />

PM 41706013.<br />


Letters<br />


I have just finished reading Michael Mill’s<br />

article, “Cultures Can Be<br />

Changed” (Spring 2012).<br />

I endorse every word about<br />

men being part <strong>of</strong> the whole<br />

rather than loners. <strong>What</strong><br />

puzzles and intrigues me,<br />

however, is what I don’t read.<br />

Unless my eyeglasses need<br />

changing, the word<br />

“woman” doesn’t appear<br />

once in the entire text. As<br />

a result, the article sounds<br />

exactly like what appeared n the monthly<br />

newsletter put out by the <strong>Conservative</strong> synagogue<br />

my family attended in Chicago 75 to<br />

80 years ago.<br />

Yes, my father was active in the men’s club,<br />

but my mother predated him by almost half<br />

a decade with her membership in the sisterhood.<br />

In those prehistoric times, women<br />

were virtually shut out for membership on<br />

the board <strong>of</strong> directors. Incidentally, I don’t<br />

find the word sisterhood – a term <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

denigrated in the 21st century as a relic <strong>of</strong><br />

bygone eons – anywhere in the article. Am<br />

I missing something?<br />

<strong>What</strong> fractures me most <strong>of</strong> all is the Grand<br />

Canyon-size chasm between the article and<br />

the cover <strong>of</strong> the same issue <strong>of</strong> CJ, an overt<br />

plug for women’s participation in synagogue<br />

hierarchy. Shouldn’t you be functioning on<br />

the same wavelength?<br />


Los Angeles, California<br />


In D. Korenstein's letter to the editor in<br />

the Spring 2012 issue, the<br />

author writes the his synagogue<br />

“hired a senior<br />

woman rabbi. Within a few<br />

years a significant portion<br />

<strong>of</strong> the membership was<br />

gone.” I object to the automatic<br />

assumption that the<br />

cause <strong>of</strong> the declining membership<br />

was attributable to<br />

the hiring <strong>of</strong> a woman rabbi.<br />

Many synagogues are experiencing<br />

shrinking membership numbers.<br />

The causes are demographic, philosophical,<br />

financial, religious, etc. Many are con-<br />

(continued on page 53)<br />


<strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> is made up <strong>of</strong> a plethora<br />

<strong>of</strong> voices. Our movement is wide-ranging. Members<br />

<strong>of</strong> our kehillot, sisterhoods, and men’s clubs<br />

share core beliefs and practices and at the same<br />

time have singular or even unique takes on our<br />

philosophy, theology, and customs.<br />

CJ runs stories that illustrate both our similarities<br />

and our differences. Often we run more<br />

than one take on the same subject.<br />

<strong>We</strong> want to hear more <strong>of</strong> those voices. <strong>We</strong><br />

want to hear from you – your reactions to our stories,<br />

and your suggestions for stories developing<br />

in your communities. And if you speak better<br />

through the lens <strong>of</strong> a camera, please send us photographs<br />

that focus on the issues we discuss:<br />

Jewish life here and abroad, Israel, halachah,<br />

and Jewish traditions and learning.


the weekly Shabbat<br />

announcements: Kiddush<br />

is provided by the sisterhood.<br />

If it happened to be<br />

sponsored by a bar mitzvah<br />

family, it was assumed that the sisterhood<br />

ladies had set it up. The kiddush ladies were<br />

the members <strong>of</strong> the sisterhood. And for most<br />

people that was the basic equation. Sisterhoods<br />

had meetings and then their members<br />

set up kiddush and the ongei Shabbat. They<br />

also might have helped decorate the sukkah,<br />

adding their touches to those <strong>of</strong> the children<br />

<strong>of</strong> the religious school.<br />

But a look around any synagogue should<br />

have revealed much more. Who ran the<br />

Judaica shop? The sisterhood ladies. Who<br />

was in charge <strong>of</strong> ordering the kippot for the<br />

b’nai and b’not mitzvah? The sisterhood<br />

ladies. Who made shalach manot baskets<br />

for Purim? Who sponsored the flowers for<br />

Shavuot? Who promoted the gift honey for<br />

Rosh Hashanah? Who sent Chanukah care<br />

packages to the congregation’s college students?<br />

Who were the key participants in the<br />

PTA and the Youth Commission? Again,<br />

the sisterhood ladies. Which arm <strong>of</strong> the congregation<br />

could always be counted on for<br />

a significant contribution? Of course, sisterhood.<br />

The sisterhood ladies were far more than<br />

a c<strong>of</strong>fee klatch enabling Shabbat attendees<br />

to enjoy a little wine and sponge cake. They<br />

were – and continue to be – at the core <strong>of</strong><br />

any synagogue’s life. Without the dedication<br />

<strong>of</strong> kiddush ladies our congregations<br />





would be a shadow <strong>of</strong> themselves. They did<br />

what women do so well, creating a warm,<br />

welcoming community by making people<br />

feel at home. They studied and learned more<br />

about <strong>Judaism</strong>, created Jewish homes, incorporated<br />

Jewish values personally and into<br />

their families’ lives. The bonds that were created<br />

in the sisterhood strengthened <strong>Judaism</strong><br />

for many generations.<br />

If we turn the clock back nearly a century,<br />

to the early years <strong>of</strong> Women’s League,<br />

the organization <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> sisterhoods,<br />

we discover that Women’s League<br />

and sisterhoods had a much larger agenda<br />

than worrying about what to put out for<br />

kiddush. One <strong>of</strong> Women’s League’s earliest<br />

projects was the creation <strong>of</strong> an <strong>of</strong>fcampus<br />

space for Jewish students in the<br />

vicinity <strong>of</strong> Columbia University, Barnard<br />

College, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.<br />

That concern continued to be<br />

expressed through its Torah Fund campaign,<br />

which saw the need and underwrote<br />

the creation <strong>of</strong> the Mathilde Schechter<br />

dormitory at the seminary. It was renewed<br />

last year when Women’s League adopted<br />

the Koach kallah, a Shabbat retreat for college<br />

students across North America, as a<br />

project. (<strong>We</strong> are delighted that through<br />

our efforts and support, Koach almost doubled<br />

the number <strong>of</strong> attendees from last<br />

year!) <strong>We</strong> are committed to the perpetuation<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong>/Masorti <strong>Judaism</strong><br />

and are proud that our board has voted<br />

to continue our support <strong>of</strong> the Koach<br />

kallah.<br />

But Women’s League has not only looked<br />

outward. <strong>We</strong> have looked inward as well.<br />

For decades Women’s League has produced<br />

publications to enrich the lives <strong>of</strong> Jewish<br />

women, running from The Jewish Home<br />

Beautiful in 1941, to our most recent<br />

Women’s League Hiddur Mitzvah Project. <strong>We</strong><br />

have fashioned material and developed training<br />

programs that enable our women to<br />

deepen their knowledge <strong>of</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> and<br />

intensify their liturgical skills.<br />

In recent years more <strong>of</strong> us have entered<br />

the work force, many in time-consuming<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>essional positions. Those <strong>of</strong> us working<br />

nine to five plus <strong>of</strong>ten have neither the time<br />

nor the energy left to fulfill the traditional<br />

roles <strong>of</strong> the sisterhood ladies. Yet we still<br />

expect kiddush to be there on Shabbat morning.<br />

And we still are women who actively<br />

identify as Jews, seek to enrich our Jewish<br />

education and observance, and want to be<br />

part <strong>of</strong> a network <strong>of</strong> women who share the<br />

values <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>. The mission<br />

<strong>of</strong> Women’s League is as relevant today<br />

as it was when we were created by Mathilde<br />

Schechter in 1918. To expand that network,<br />

we have embarked on a systemic and strategic<br />

look at our future.<br />

And for future reflection . . . . On the<br />

recent Conference <strong>of</strong> Presidents Mission<br />

to Israel, we journeyed to Amman for a day.<br />

In addition to meeting with King Abdullah,<br />

we were hosted for lunch by Israel’s<br />

ambassador to Jordan, Danny Naveh, who<br />

had cooked for us and was in the kitchen<br />

preparing fabulous desserts. It is clear that<br />

the kitchen is no longer only the province<br />

<strong>of</strong> women. Perhaps in the future it can<br />

be the kiddush men and women who provide<br />

this essential element <strong>of</strong> synagogue<br />

life as we re-imagine the ways both men<br />

and women contribute to our congregations.<br />

<strong>We</strong> are proud to be the next generation<br />

<strong>of</strong> kiddush ladies and so much more. <strong>We</strong><br />

know that it is the day-to-day things that<br />

we do that secure the structures that enrich<br />

our lives as Jews.<br />

Sarrae Crane is executive director <strong>of</strong> Women’s<br />

League for <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>. CJ





GLES to balance making<br />

decisions for our children<br />

with empowering them to<br />

be independent. It’s rarely<br />

easy. As our children become<br />

adults all too many <strong>of</strong> us believe that our<br />

ability to influence their decisions is inversely<br />

related to their level <strong>of</strong> independence. Fathers<br />

who feel their influence lessening are <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

conflicted. <strong>We</strong> are proud <strong>of</strong> our children and<br />

their emerging independence,<br />

but we still<br />

have to live with the<br />

decisions that these<br />

young adults make.<br />

<strong>We</strong> acknowledge the<br />

possibility <strong>of</strong> failure<br />

and feel somewhat<br />

frustrated because we can’t assure success.<br />

Indeed, we know that even if we could “fix<br />

it” that could hinder the maturation <strong>of</strong> our<br />

sons and daughters.<br />

Unfortunately, too many parents, and<br />

specifically fathers, fail to understand that<br />

even after our children have made decisions<br />

with which we are not comfortable<br />

we still retain the ability to influence their<br />

decisions. I can’t tell you how many times<br />

fathers have approached me and expressed<br />

their pain and upset because one <strong>of</strong> their<br />

children has chosen to marry or partner<br />

with someone who was not Jewish. “But<br />

what could I do?” they ask. “<strong>What</strong> can<br />

I do?”<br />

<strong>We</strong> are beginning to<br />

understand more about a<br />

father’s ability to influence<br />

his children.<br />

In the past my responses have always<br />

been “Don’t obsess with what you could<br />

have done. There is so much that you can<br />

do!” My responses to fathers have become<br />

even stronger as a result <strong>of</strong> what I have been<br />

learning about fathers.<br />

<strong>We</strong> know a great deal about mothers and<br />

how they influence their children. <strong>We</strong> know<br />

that in a majority <strong>of</strong> situations the decision-maker<br />

regarding a family’s religious<br />

commitment and practice is almost always<br />

the woman. It doesn’t<br />

matter if she is Jewish<br />

or not. If she decides<br />

the family will be Jewish,<br />

the children will be<br />

Jewish. In addition<br />

many sociologists<br />

believe on the basis <strong>of</strong><br />

the data collected over the past 30 years<br />

that her children will identify as Jews and<br />

seek to live, in some manner, Jewish lives.<br />

<strong>We</strong> are beginning to understand more<br />

about a father’s ability to influence his children,<br />

even adult children who are no longer<br />

living at home. Last year, at an FJMC weekend<br />

retreat, I piloted a lesson plan to fathers<br />

whose adult children no longer live with<br />

them. I asked the group how many <strong>of</strong> them<br />

texted or emailed or called (I know that<br />

sounds archaic) their children regularly<br />

to wish them a Shabbat shalom. The<br />

response was mostly negative: “I never did<br />

it before.” “They will wonder why I’m<br />

doing it.” “My children are in their late<br />

30s.”<br />

I encouraged it and was pleased the following<br />

morning to see a group <strong>of</strong> men with<br />

smiles on their faces because their children<br />

had texted them back. They were begin-<br />

Rabbi Charles Simon is the director <strong>of</strong> FJMC<br />

and author <strong>of</strong> Building a Successful Volunteer<br />

Culture: Finding Meaning in Service<br />

in the Jewish Community, Jewish Lights ning to realize their actions could still<br />

Publishing: Woodstock, Vermont. (continued on page 25)<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 9


celebrated the festival<br />

<strong>of</strong> Shavuot, which<br />

commemorates matan<br />

Torah – the giving <strong>of</strong><br />

the Torah to the Jewish<br />

people – I know that it is a gift to be handed<br />

inspiration that extends the afterglow <strong>of</strong><br />

this beautiful festival.<br />

For me, inspiration arrived in the form<br />

<strong>of</strong> feedback about the stellar achievements<br />

<strong>of</strong> our Nativ program in Israel<br />

(www.nativ.org), which has been creating a<br />

cadre <strong>of</strong> college leaders for the past 31 years.<br />

This program, which has trained more than<br />

1,000 remarkable young people, garnered<br />

the highest ratings from a recent independent<br />

Jewish Agency-sponsored evaluation<br />

aimed at examining all long-term<br />

Masa-funded study/volunteer programs<br />

in Israel. (Masa is an organization that connects<br />

young Jews with programs in Israel.)<br />

Nativ’s impressive graduates provide our<br />

movement with the human resources necessary<br />

for charting a bold new course for the<br />

new millennium.<br />

The latest crop <strong>of</strong> Bogrei Nativ – Nativ<br />

graduates – have hit the ground running,<br />

charged with the formidable challenge <strong>of</strong><br />

reinvigorating our kehillot in North America<br />

and reinventing the <strong>Conservative</strong> movement<br />

for a new generation. Visionary and<br />

cutting edge, their influence is critical to the<br />

vitality <strong>of</strong> our movement.<br />

Meet some <strong>of</strong> our recent Bogrei Nativ.<br />




Richard Skolnik is the international president<br />

<strong>of</strong> the <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

Rabbi David Goldberg Russo, Nativ 23<br />

David, from<br />

Hamilton, Ontario,<br />

was an active member<br />

<strong>of</strong> ECRUSY,<br />

and in 2003 he was<br />

USY’s international<br />

president.<br />

Ordained at JTS<br />

this spring, David has taken a position as<br />

rabbi at Anshe Emet <strong>Synagogue</strong> in Chicago.<br />

He met his wife, Rebecca Russo, when they<br />

both were international USY <strong>of</strong>ficers, and<br />

she also was on Nativ 23. Rebecca is the<br />

director <strong>of</strong> engagement at Hillel <strong>of</strong> Northwestern<br />

University.<br />

“Nativ provided me with the unique opportunity<br />

to explore Israel, study at an incredibly<br />

high level, develop critical leadership skills,<br />

all in the context <strong>of</strong> a fun, social experience.<br />

Many <strong>of</strong> the relationships that I developed<br />

on Nativ are still ones that I rely on today, both<br />

personally and pr<strong>of</strong>essionally. My experiences<br />

studying in the <strong>Conservative</strong> Yeshiva and<br />

the opportunities that I had to explore my Jewish<br />

identity certainly helped me on my path<br />

toward becoming a rabbi.”<br />

Aliza Sebert, Nativ 27 Aliza is from New<br />

York City, where<br />

her father is the<br />

rabbi <strong>of</strong> the Town<br />

and Village <strong>Synagogue</strong><br />

in lower<br />

Manhattan. In her<br />

last year at Brandeis<br />

University, she is<br />

president <strong>of</strong> Hillel’s theater group and executive<br />

musical director <strong>of</strong> Ba’note, the Jewish<br />

women’s a cappella group. For the last<br />

two summers she has been a division head<br />

at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires.<br />

“Nativ was an experience that I will never<br />

forget. It is an amazing program that allowed<br />

me to grow, learn about myself, and gain independence<br />

before going <strong>of</strong>f to college. It gave me<br />

a greater level <strong>of</strong> appreciation and love for<br />

the land <strong>of</strong> Israel, and allowed me to create<br />

friendships that have already strengthened and<br />

will stay with me for the rest <strong>of</strong> my life.”<br />

Maya Dolgin, Nativ 25 Maya, from Huntington,<br />

New York,<br />

was a student at<br />

Solomon Schechter<br />

High School <strong>of</strong><br />

Long Island. After<br />

Nativ, she graduated<br />

from <strong>We</strong>llesley<br />

College, where she<br />

was president <strong>of</strong> Hillel. She has worked at<br />

Camp Ramah in Nyack for the last seven<br />

summers, and this summer she will be division<br />

head and coordinator <strong>of</strong> the Israeli staff.<br />

Maya was on the staff for the Nativ 30<br />

kibbutz group. Last year she made aliyah,<br />

and now lives in Jerusalem, where she is<br />

Nativ’s assistant director.<br />

“My year on Nativ 25 set me on a path that<br />

has been immensely fulfilling. It helped to<br />

strengthen the skills and values that I learned<br />

during my years studying at Solomon Schechter<br />

and working at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack.<br />

On Nativ I strengthened my love for Israel and<br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>, and learned how to translate this<br />

passion into something accessible to others,<br />

which led me to return to Israel in 2010 as<br />

a madricha – counselor – for Nativ 30. My<br />

year <strong>of</strong> staffing Nativ allowed me to gain yet<br />

another perspective on Israel. I was able to<br />

see the country through the eyes <strong>of</strong> a group<br />

<strong>of</strong> young Jewish leaders who were living in<br />

Israel for the first time and wrestling with<br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>. (continued on page 33)<br />



Democratizing <strong>Judaism</strong> by Jack J. Cohen,<br />

Academic Studies Press, 2010<br />

Rabbi Cohen, longtime spokesperson for the<br />

Reconstructionist movement, has served,<br />

among other positions, as Hillel director at<br />

the Hebrew University and member <strong>of</strong> the<br />

faculty at both the Jewish Theological Seminary<br />

and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical<br />

School. This volume is a summary <strong>of</strong> his more<br />

than 70-year association with Reconstructionism,<br />

his personal relationship with the<br />

movement’s founder, Mordecai M. Kaplan,<br />

and the wide-ranging moral and religious<br />

issues that he has encountered in his decadeslong<br />

work in Israel and that have engaged him<br />

in a very personal way. Cohen is endlessly<br />

engaging. His biographical notes on Kaplan’s<br />

life and teaching, his detailed and largely evenhanded<br />

discussion <strong>of</strong> the many criticisms leveled<br />

against his teacher, and his attempt to<br />

apply his personal thinking to the issues that<br />

rage within the state <strong>of</strong> Israel today are compelling.<br />

The snippets from Kaplan’s personal<br />

diary that illuminate his feelings and thinking<br />

are particularly fascinating.<br />

The Bible and American Culture: A Sourcebook<br />

by Claudia Setzer and David A. Shefferman.<br />

Routledge, 2011<br />

This is indeed a sourcebook, as the editors<br />

claim. (Setzer is pr<strong>of</strong>essor and Shefferman is<br />

assistant pr<strong>of</strong>essor <strong>of</strong> religious studies, both<br />

at Manhattan College.) It should be used<br />

as a sourcebook rather than read cover-tocover,<br />

but – and this is barely an exaggeration<br />

– it should be shared with all Americans,<br />

<strong>of</strong> all ages, who are involved in searching for<br />

particular biblical references, Jewish and<br />

Christian, that appear in American life and<br />

Rabbi Neil Gillman is the Aaron Rabinowitz<br />

and Simon H. Rifkind emeritus pr<strong>of</strong>essor <strong>of</strong><br />

Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological<br />

Seminary.<br />

culture. Topics include the uses <strong>of</strong> biblical<br />

texts in the debates on slavery. Homosexuality,<br />

feminism and civil rights, and biblical<br />

sources that appear in art, fiction, music<br />

and poetry are all here. Lincoln’s biblical references<br />

in his second inaugural, Martin<br />

Luther King Jr.’s last speech before his assassination,<br />

and a poem by Emily Dickenson<br />

are included as well. A rich index facilitates<br />

the volume’s use. It belongs on the bookshelves<br />

<strong>of</strong> all knowledgeable Americans.<br />

Today I Am a Woman: Stories <strong>of</strong> Bat Mitzvah<br />

Around the World, edited by Barbara<br />

Vinick and Shulamit Reinharz. Indiana University<br />

Press, 2012<br />

The editors, both affiliated with the Hadassah-Brandeis<br />

Institute, where Reinharz is the<br />

director as well as a pr<strong>of</strong>essor <strong>of</strong> sociology,<br />

have assembled a substantial anthology <strong>of</strong><br />

personal testimonies about how young<br />

women from around the world reflect on<br />

their bat mitzvah experiences. The testimonies<br />

come from Africa, Asia, the<br />

Caribbean, the former Soviet Union, and<br />

Latin America, as well as from more familiar<br />

places, just around the corner from where<br />

we North American Jews live. The narratives<br />

may center around the bat mitzvah itself, but<br />

in the process we learn about Jewish life in<br />

widely different Jewish communities around<br />

the world, about what it means to become<br />

an adult woman, and most important, about<br />

the power <strong>of</strong> a ritual that far too many American<br />

Jewish families understand as simply an<br />

opportunity to have a party. The photos scattered<br />

throughout are endearing.<br />

The Sabbath Soul: Mystical Reflections on the<br />

Transformative Power <strong>of</strong> Holy Time by Eitan<br />

Fishbane. Jewish Lights, 2012<br />

The core <strong>of</strong> this book is a series <strong>of</strong> texts drawn<br />

from the writings <strong>of</strong> chasidic masters on<br />

the various dimensions <strong>of</strong> the Sabbath expe-<br />

rience. The selection, translation, and commentary<br />

on each text are by Fishbane, who<br />

teaches Jewish philosophy, mysticism, and<br />

chasidism at JTS. Readers who are familiar<br />

with Abraham Joshua Heschel’s classic work<br />

on the Sabbath should benefit from Fishbane’s<br />

anthology. He has selected texts from<br />

throughout chasidic literature, his commentaries<br />

generally clarify texts that frequently<br />

are elusive, and his notes suggest further readings.<br />

But what is important is that these texts<br />

are not designed for study, or only for study.<br />

Rather they are in the form <strong>of</strong> meditations<br />

that should be absorbed slowly and with care<br />

and be allowed to permeate our own awareness<br />

as we too experience the Sabbath day.<br />

(continued on page 28)<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 11


Looking at Kashrut<br />

Through a <strong>Conservative</strong> Lens<br />



movement’s approach to kashrut?<br />

It is the observance <strong>of</strong> traditional<br />

food laws as seen through the lens<br />

<strong>of</strong> a set <strong>of</strong> values that is central to<br />

our contemporary understanding<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>.<br />

The hallmark <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> is<br />

its appreciation <strong>of</strong> both tradition and modernity.<br />

It is a <strong>Judaism</strong> that lives within contemporary<br />

society and culture. In North<br />

America, it embraces the promise <strong>of</strong> the new<br />

world, the blessings <strong>of</strong> freedom, democracy,<br />

and equal opportunity. At the same time,<br />

its commitment to Jewish religious life<br />

creates community, develops Jews whose<br />

values include a sense <strong>of</strong> responsibility to<br />

others, upholds the sacredness <strong>of</strong> life, and<br />

informs a personal spiritual practice that<br />

allows an ongoing relationship with God.<br />

To navigate the Jewish heritage within<br />

this North American matrix, <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong> turns to the tradition in all<br />

its fullness – to the minority opinion as well<br />

as the majority, to roads taken and not taken.<br />

Talmudic texts, medieval philosophic formulations,<br />

mystical understandings, folk<br />

stories, and more all are grist for this mill.<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> has an approach to<br />

religious practice that is deeply informed by<br />

history, the knowledge <strong>of</strong> change, and the<br />

multiplicity <strong>of</strong> opinions and perspectives,<br />

Rabbi Edward Feld is the senior editor <strong>of</strong><br />

the new <strong>Conservative</strong> machzor, Lev Shalem,<br />

and is now at work on a siddur for Shabbat<br />

and holidays.<br />


along with a sense <strong>of</strong> purpose<br />

derived from our contemporary<br />

situation.<br />

This formula ought to be played out<br />

in our observance <strong>of</strong> kashrut. <strong>We</strong> need an<br />

American Jewish approach to our traditional<br />

food laws that also takes into account the<br />

circumstances <strong>of</strong> Jews in an open democratic<br />

society. <strong>We</strong> engage with society at large over<br />

drinks, at dinner, at parties, in restaurants,<br />

and at home. <strong>We</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> Jews need<br />

not separate ourselves from life by eating<br />

only in establishments under rabbinic supervision.<br />

Rather, we can participate in the larger<br />

culture while maintaining our distinctive<br />

Jewish consciousness. Thus, entering a restaurant<br />

and checking which items conform<br />

to kashrut – what we may order within a<br />

broad reading <strong>of</strong> the law – is a way <strong>of</strong> integrating<br />

into society while maintaining our<br />

particular religious consciousness.<br />

It is not accidental that the Talmud<br />

includes many <strong>of</strong> its food laws in the tractate<br />

Avodah Zorah, the volume dealing with<br />

relations with the surrounding pagan culture.<br />

Food laws in the Talmud are a way<br />

<strong>of</strong> constructing a barrier between Jews and<br />

the larger society. Roman and Persian cultures<br />

were perceived as threatening. Restricting<br />

diet minimized the contact between Jews<br />

and non-Jews.<br />

<strong>We</strong> now live with a different relationship<br />

to the society around us, so the regulations<br />

governing what and how we may eat<br />

must be adjusted to reflect that reality. This<br />

is not a matter <strong>of</strong> changing our relation to<br />

the mitzvot spelled out in the Torah but<br />

<strong>of</strong> recognizing that many rabbinic laws are<br />

responsive<br />

to specific<br />

social conditions.<br />

Many<br />

rabbinic rules<br />

are meant to<br />

regulate a person’s relationship to society, so<br />

it is reasonable to assume that as conditions<br />

change these regulations must change to<br />

reflect the new reality.<br />

In the tractate Hulin, which deals directly<br />

with laws <strong>of</strong> kashrut, the Talmud adopts<br />

a more liberal position than the one enunciated<br />

in Avodah Zorah. There, a taste test<br />

is set as the standard <strong>of</strong> kashrut: Food cooked<br />

in a pot that had been used to cook nonkosher<br />

meat is considered to be kosher if no<br />

taste <strong>of</strong> the non-kosher food remains. This<br />

standard can be applied easily to eating in<br />

a restaurant that uses the same pots and pans<br />

to cook non-kosher meat and vegetarian<br />

<strong>of</strong>ferings. It demands care and still permits<br />

openness.<br />

But the way <strong>Conservative</strong> Jews keep<br />

kosher is not simply a matter <strong>of</strong> finding<br />

leniencies. There is no “<strong>Conservative</strong><br />

kashrut.” Kashrut is kashrut, at least as it<br />

relates to shechita – ritual slaughter. But<br />

for <strong>Conservative</strong> Jews, it is also much more.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> the hallmarks <strong>of</strong> the <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

approach to Jewish law is its sensitivity to<br />

ethical issues. The recent creation <strong>of</strong> Magen<br />

Tzedek, a certification that kosher meat has

een processed in a way that is both halachic<br />

and not abusive to the labor force, is an<br />

important example. <strong>Judaism</strong>’s strong opposition<br />

to cruelty to animals underlays many<br />

aspects <strong>of</strong> kashrut. The Rabbinical Assembly<br />

has passed resolutions condemning hoisting<br />

and shackling animals as a means <strong>of</strong><br />

kosher slaughter, so it should be relatively<br />

easy for <strong>Conservative</strong> synagogues to insist<br />

that their caterers not use meat slaughtered<br />

in this way. Indeed, if <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

synagogues brought the full weight <strong>of</strong> their<br />

collective purchasing power to bear they<br />

could effect a major change in the industry.<br />

On the same ethical grounds, we can<br />

insure that the proper treatment <strong>of</strong> animals<br />

becomes a standard for personal practice.<br />

Families should buy eggs laid by free-range<br />

chickens. <strong>We</strong> should oppose farming practices<br />

that turn chickens into factories, housing<br />

them in tight cages, with fluorescent<br />

lights shining on them 24 hours a day, so<br />

that they will produce the maximum number<br />

<strong>of</strong> eggs with the smallest possible amount<br />

<strong>of</strong> human labor. Similarly, as much as we<br />

can we should buy the meat <strong>of</strong> free-range<br />

chickens. It is one thing to feel that eating<br />

meat is necessary, but quite another<br />

to deprive animals <strong>of</strong> their natural life. <strong>We</strong><br />

need not consume food produced through<br />

cruelty. Interestingly, Empire Kosher, the<br />

largest commercial producer <strong>of</strong> kosher chickens,<br />

proudly announces that its chickens are<br />

all free roaming.<br />

For the same reasons, we should buy grassfed<br />

beef. American cattle growers <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

use feed that cows never would eat in nature.<br />

Sometimes the feed contains ground up<br />

blood and animal products, though cows<br />

are vegetarian by nature.<br />

A congregant <strong>of</strong> mine who had thought<br />

about keeping kosher, but worried about<br />

how difficult his life would become were he<br />

to try, once saw my wife and me eating in<br />

a Chinese restaurant. It inspired him. “I<br />

didn’t realize that it was so easy to keep<br />

kosher,” he said, and went on to adopt<br />

kashrut as a standard for his own life.<br />

For <strong>Conservative</strong> Jews, keeping kosher is<br />

both easy and demanding. It is an exciting<br />

and responsible way to live in the modern<br />

world Jewishly and to live a life that<br />

is holy. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 13





value today is more than just<br />

a compendium <strong>of</strong> recipes or<br />

instructions. It has an overriding<br />

message or theme.<br />

Recipes are easy to come by.<br />

How <strong>of</strong>ten have I gone to the internet because<br />

I want to use a particular ingredient or have<br />

decided to make lamb stew? Click. Dozens<br />

<strong>of</strong> recipes are at my fingertips. Looking for<br />

the technique to make homemade ricotta?<br />

There’s an app for that.<br />

Each <strong>of</strong> these new kosher cookbooks<br />

has a message beyond measures and ingredients<br />

lists. Each provides a context for your<br />

cooking, and like kashrut itself, each gives<br />

meaning to our foods beyond flavor or<br />

sustenance.<br />

I liked all these books, but my favorite<br />

is June Hersh’s The Kosher Carnivore, published<br />

by St. Martin’s Press. June burst onto<br />

the kosher cooking scene with her brilliantly<br />

presented anthology/cookbook Recipes<br />

Remembered. She writes with an enthusiasm<br />

that makes me want to rush into the kitchen<br />

and cook. Her style is personal and warm,<br />

generously sharing knowledge and advice<br />

as if with a younger sister. No doubt, to June<br />

food is a celebration. Cooking is fun. And<br />

Fran Ginsburg presents cheese classes and tasting<br />

events through her company, The Dairy<br />

Man’s Daughter. She is also a development<br />

consultant for Jewish communal organizations<br />

and a member <strong>of</strong> Congregation Beth<br />

Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey.<br />


with humor and wit, she graciously invites<br />

us all to participate.<br />

Most <strong>of</strong> the well-composed recipes are<br />

approachable even by a novice cook. With<br />

helpful hints and technique descriptions<br />

peppered liberally throughout, nothing<br />

seems too daunting. The different cuts <strong>of</strong><br />

meat are explained and creative uses for leftovers<br />

are provided. While the focus is<br />

squarely on meats and poultry, a well-edited<br />

repertoire <strong>of</strong> vegetables, starches, and soups<br />

compliment any meal.<br />

While she provides recipes for some classics,<br />

this book is not at all the same-old sameold.<br />

The Kosher Carnivore reaches liberally<br />

into the cuisines <strong>of</strong> different cultures to make<br />

the book fresh, creative, and enticing.<br />

Throughout, June encourages cooks to<br />

speak with the butcher to get the best and<br />

special cuts, something most <strong>of</strong> us don’t<br />

bother to do. With June’s encouragement<br />

we can reverse a trend toward uniformity,<br />

CJReviews<br />

Any cookbook <strong>of</strong> value<br />

today is more than just a<br />

compendium <strong>of</strong> recipes or<br />

instructions. It has an<br />

overriding message or theme.<br />

connect with our past, provide meaningful<br />

work for kosher butchers, and serve delicious<br />

variety to our families.<br />

For all who enjoy meat and poultry this<br />

book is a winning addition to your cookbook<br />

collection.<br />

The Kosher Revolution by Geila Hocherman<br />

and Arthur Boehm, published by Kyle<br />

Books, is a beautifully illustrated volume<br />

that will be enjoyed particularly by those<br />

itching to try flavors and combinations that<br />

have been forbidden until now. The authors<br />

take full advantage <strong>of</strong> the expanded availability<br />

<strong>of</strong> kosher foods, using nut milks as<br />

thickening agents, Asian condiments, and<br />

the like. Kosher cooking always has reflected<br />

the cuisine, culture, and ingredients <strong>of</strong> the<br />

lands in which we live. Jews have been adapting<br />

recipes and substituting ingredients to<br />

comply with the requirements <strong>of</strong> kashrut<br />

for as long as we have been cooking. The<br />

real revolution is in the availability <strong>of</strong> new<br />

certified kosher products. The Kosher Revolution<br />

uses these ingredients and displays<br />

a world <strong>of</strong> new possibilities, introducing the<br />

kosher cook to prosciutto made from cured<br />

duck breast or crab cakes made from surimi<br />

and Old Bay seasoning.

Each <strong>of</strong> the recipes indicates whether it<br />

is dairy, meat, or parve, with helpful substitutions<br />

<strong>of</strong>fered to change things up.<br />

Recipes are written clearly, <strong>of</strong>ten with a personal<br />

and helpful introduction. Once your<br />

pantry is complete most <strong>of</strong> these recipes are<br />

quite manageable, though a few might be<br />

more complicated than an everyday cook<br />

might enjoy. The book includes a generous<br />

list <strong>of</strong> meatless mains (potentially making<br />

those nine days in summer a culinary<br />

highlight), sides, and sweets. The book<br />

includes a helpful list <strong>of</strong> websites where you<br />

can buy some <strong>of</strong> the harder-to-find ingredients<br />

and a useful ingredient exchange,<br />

so that the adventurous cook can create new<br />

recipes with confidence.<br />

Keeping kosher requires thoughtfulness<br />

and contemplation. It does not limit us<br />

to a particular cuisine, method, or set <strong>of</strong> flavors.<br />

Borrowing from a range <strong>of</strong> cuisines,<br />

this book helps us feel that we can have it<br />

all! Bored with your repertoire? This book<br />

is for you.<br />

Taking a more scholarly approach, Gil<br />

Marks, in Olive Trees and Honey, from Wiley<br />

Publishing, presents a comprehensive selection<br />

<strong>of</strong> vegetarian recipes from Jewish communities<br />

around the world. <strong>We</strong>ll known<br />

to those curious about Jewish culinary history<br />

or trends, Marks understands Jewish<br />

life through the context <strong>of</strong> food. Vegetarians<br />

(and all cooks) looking for inspiration<br />

will find it in this expertly researched and<br />

well-written volume.<br />

This hefty textbook includes a brief history<br />

<strong>of</strong> Jewish food traditions from all corners<br />

<strong>of</strong> the globe, a descriptive section on<br />

seasonings and spices, and lists <strong>of</strong> holiday<br />

foods from communities as far away as Calcutta<br />

and as familiar as Italy. Ever a teacher,<br />

Rabbi Marks liberally includes biblical references,<br />

information about the ancient spice<br />

routes, and maps illustrating the differences<br />

in omelets and dumplings around the world.<br />

Each <strong>of</strong> the sections, on soups, grains, pastries,<br />

and so on, is preceded by abundant<br />

information about cultural norms, food<br />

availability, history, and migratory patterns.<br />

Recognized by the James Beard Foundation<br />

with its prestigious award, the hundreds<br />

<strong>of</strong> recipes are clearly written, and when<br />

similarities exist among several cuisines,<br />

they are noted as variations. Rather than<br />

discourage a cook looking for a recipe,<br />

the skillfully organized index and glossary<br />

make the book useful and important<br />

on many levels. Can there really be so many<br />

variations <strong>of</strong> Sabbath stews? Or so many<br />

uses for chickpeas? Have you ever pined for<br />

a new way to cook eggplant? You need look<br />

no further.<br />

Olive Trees and Honey is more than a cookbook.<br />

It gives us a means to hold on to<br />

elements <strong>of</strong> our culture that otherwise might<br />

be forgotten as Jews continue to leave the<br />

lands <strong>of</strong> their parents, and as we all move<br />

toward more universal, simple, uniform, or<br />

factory-made preparations.<br />

I can’t wait to read Gil Marks’ new Encyclopedia<br />

<strong>of</strong> Jewish Food. I trust that like this<br />

book, it will go far beyond just recipes that<br />

are delicious and exciting to include social<br />

and cultural history and help each <strong>of</strong> us<br />

become a participant in the timeline <strong>of</strong> Jewish<br />

life.<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 15


From The Kosher Carnivore<br />

Basting is a great way to ensure a juicy<br />

chicken, but every time you open the oven you<br />

let precious heat escape. A better method is<br />

to baste the chicken from the inside out. There’s<br />

no delicate way to explain this process. Take<br />

a can <strong>of</strong> beer, be sure to pop the top, and<br />

then push the can into the cavity <strong>of</strong> the chicken<br />

so that the bird is perched upright with the can<br />

<strong>of</strong> beer in its tush. The beer infuses the cavity<br />

with constant moisture, and the metal can<br />

helps conduct the heat consistently from the<br />

inside out. The result is an incredibly moist<br />

chicken that roasts very quickly. If your chicken<br />

is on the wagon, try filling the can with chicken<br />

stock, herbs, and freshly squeezed lemon juice<br />

or any flavorful liquid such as cola or ginger<br />

ale.<br />

1 (3 1/2 - to 4-pound) chicken<br />

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt<br />

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black<br />

pepper<br />

1 teaspoon garlic powder<br />

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika<br />

1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary<br />

leaves or 1/3 teaspoon chopped dried<br />

rosemary<br />

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil<br />

1 open can <strong>of</strong> beer<br />

2 bay leaves and fresh herbs, optional<br />

1 large onion, quartered<br />

6 unpeeled garlic cloves, optional<br />

1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock<br />

Pat the chicken dry inside and out, and<br />

remove any packaging hidden in the cavity.<br />

If time allows, place the chicken on a paper<br />

towel-lined plate and let it hang out in the<br />

fridge for an hour. When ready to roast, preheat<br />

the oven to 450 degrees and lower your<br />

oven rack to its lowest position. Take the<br />

chicken out <strong>of</strong> the fridge.<br />

Combine the seasonings in a small bowl<br />

(this helps prevent cross-contaminating your<br />

seasonings while working with the chicken).<br />

Take a pinch <strong>of</strong> seasoning and rub it inside<br />

the cavity. Drizzle the oil over the entire bird<br />

and then sprinkle the outside with the seasonings.<br />

Pop the top <strong>of</strong> the beer can (toss in<br />

some fresh herbs or bays leaves if you like<br />

for added flavor) and carefully place the<br />

chicken upright on the can. Jiggle the legs<br />

in position so the chicken appears to be<br />


sitting and does not topple over. Place the<br />

bird, upright, in a shallow roasting pan and<br />

scatter the bay leaves, onions, and garlic,<br />

if using, and add 1/2 cup <strong>of</strong> the stock. Place<br />

in oven. Lower the oven temperature to 425<br />

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

stock and continue roasting, until an instantread<br />

thermometer registers 160 to 165<br />

degrees when it is inserted in the thigh, about<br />

30 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to<br />

a carving board and cover with a piece <strong>of</strong><br />

aluminum foil; the internal temperature will<br />

rise 5 to 10 degrees while the chicken rests<br />

and the juices will redistribute throughout<br />

the bird. Do not handle the can – it will<br />

be very hot!<br />

Place the roasting pan directly on the<br />

stove, skim <strong>of</strong>f some <strong>of</strong> the fat, and add more<br />

stock if necessary to create the gravy. If<br />

you roasted the garlic cloves, squeeze them<br />

to extract the roasted garlic and mash it into<br />

the sauce. Discard the skins. Let the gravy<br />

simmer until heated through. If you prefer<br />

a thicker gravy, make a slurry by mixing<br />

1 teaspoon <strong>of</strong> cornstarch with 2<br />

teaspoons <strong>of</strong> cold water, stir back into the<br />

pan, bring to a boil, and repeat if necessary.<br />

When ready to carve, use an oven mitt<br />

carefully to remove the beer can from the<br />

chicken. Carve the chicken and serve with<br />

the gravy drizzled on top.<br />

Serves 4<br />


EGGPLANT (Berengena Rellenas de<br />

Queso)<br />

From Olive Trees and Honey<br />

The first time I made stuffed eggplant,<br />

following a different recipe from this one, I<br />

was enormously disappointed in the results, as<br />

the vegetable tasted insipid and too firm, even<br />

after baking for an extended period. Then, an<br />

informative Sephardic grandmother advised<br />

to parboil the eggplant to give it a creamy texture.<br />

Other cooks panfry the eggplant rather<br />

than parboiling it, but I find the frying requires<br />

more effort and adds extra calories. There<br />

are numerous versions <strong>of</strong> stuffed eggplant,<br />

adapted to whatever ingredients are available<br />

in the pantry. This cheese-filled version makes<br />

a savory entrée for a light meal or a delicious<br />

side dish.<br />

2 eggplants (about 1 pound each), halved<br />

lengthwise<br />

4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil<br />

1 onion, chopped<br />

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced<br />

2 tablespoons fresh parsley<br />

1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs<br />

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or 1<br />

teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon<br />

dried basil<br />

About 1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon<br />

kosher salt<br />

Ground black pepper to taste<br />

1 cup (5 ounces) crumbled feta, 1 cup<br />

(4 ounces) shredded Cheddar or Nuenster<br />

cheese, or 1 cup (8 ounces) ricotta<br />

cheese<br />

1 large egg, lightly beaten<br />

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, 1/4 cup coarsely<br />

chopped capers, 1/2 cup chopped pitted<br />

black olives, or any combination<br />

(optional)<br />

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling<br />

Scoop out the cores <strong>of</strong> the eggplant (a<br />

melon baller or grapefruit knife works well)<br />

leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell and reserving<br />

the pulp. In a large pot <strong>of</strong> salted boiling<br />

water, cook the shells until tender, but not<br />

s<strong>of</strong>t, about 3 minutes. Drain.<br />

Coarsely chop the reserved eggplant pulp.<br />

(It might appear like a lot, but it will cook<br />

down.) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons<br />

<strong>of</strong> the oil over medium heat. Add the onion<br />

and garlic and sauté until s<strong>of</strong>t and translucent,<br />

about 5 minutes. Add the remaining<br />

2 tablespoons oil, then the eggplant pulp<br />

and parsley and sauté until s<strong>of</strong>tened, about<br />

10 minutes. Remove from the heat and<br />

stir in the bread crumbs, chives, salt, and<br />

pepper. Add the cheese, egg, and, if using,<br />

the pine nuts.<br />

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a<br />

large baking pan.<br />

Lightly salt the insides <strong>of</strong> the eggplant<br />

shells and stuff with the pulp mixture.<br />

Arrange in the baking pan and drizzle with<br />

a little oil. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.<br />

Uncover and bake until golden, about 10<br />

minutes.<br />

Serve warm.<br />

Serves 4


From Kosher Revolution<br />

Years ago I had a date with a boy who<br />

brought me a box <strong>of</strong> pignoli cookies from<br />

Little Italy. The cookies were an instant hit<br />

(alas, he wasn’t) and became a great favorite<br />

<strong>of</strong> mine. They’re simple to make, pareve, and<br />

perfect for Passover. The nuts give the cookies<br />

a buttery richness even though they’re nondairy.<br />

Just what you want from a pareve cookie<br />

as addictive as these.<br />

8 ounces almond paste<br />

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar<br />

1/2 cup sugar<br />

1 large egg white<br />

1 teaspoon almond extract<br />

1 teaspoon vanilla extract<br />

1 cup pine nuts<br />

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line<br />

2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and<br />

set aside.<br />

In a food processor, combine the almond<br />

paste and sugars and process until the mixture<br />

reaches the consistency <strong>of</strong> sand. Transfer<br />

to the bowl <strong>of</strong> a standing mixer fitted<br />

with the paddle attachment, or a medium<br />

bowl, and add the egg white, vanilla and<br />

almond extracts. Beat on medium speed<br />

or by hand for 4 minutes.<br />

Place the pine nuts in a small bowl. Next<br />

to it place a small bowl <strong>of</strong> water for wetting<br />

your hands. <strong>We</strong>t your hands and form<br />

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

making 5 at a time. Drop them into<br />

the bowl <strong>of</strong> nuts and press down gently so<br />

the nuts adhere to the bottom <strong>of</strong> the dough.<br />

Transfer to a cookie sheet nut side up.<br />

Repeat, filling each prepared cookie sheet<br />

with about 15 balls. Bake until puffed and<br />

beginning to color, 15 to 18 minutes.<br />

Remove from the oven, and cool on the<br />

parchment paper on a countertop. When<br />

completely cool, peel the cookies <strong>of</strong>f the<br />

paper and serve.<br />

30 cookies CJ<br />

Since its earliest days, sisterhoods throughout<br />

the Women’s League network have<br />

been publishing cookbooks as fundraisers<br />

as well as simply to share their members’<br />

favorite and most delicious recipes. To find<br />

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

resource center.<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 17






ING, but my husband did. 0000<br />

Every summer his family would<br />

spend several weeks at Devil’s Lake<br />

State Park in Wisconsin. After college<br />

he decided to go up to Devil’s<br />

Lake with some friends. It started with maybe<br />

a dozen single twentysomething friends, for<br />

a long summer weekend. They hiked, canoed,<br />

swam, and celebrated Shabbat. Each year they<br />

returned to Devil’s Lake, even as the group<br />

grew.<br />

The journey from single to married to families<br />

never slowed us down. In 2001 four pregnant<br />

women were part <strong>of</strong> the tent-building<br />

crew. I sat at the fire with one hand on my<br />

swollen belly, the other hand on my friend<br />

Ann’s even larger belly, and as both babies<br />

kicked in utero, I rejoiced in our children’s<br />

first playdate. In 2002 four babies, ranging<br />

from 6 weeks to 11 months old, crawled about<br />

the campsite. Our standards for clean babies<br />

went out the window. It took a really long<br />

time to break down camp that year.<br />

Everyone took part in a meal crew, making<br />

one meal and relaxing for the rest, a system<br />

that serves us well now that the group<br />

exceeds 60 people, with kids ranging from<br />

toddlers to teenagers. <strong>We</strong> are a Jewishly<br />

diverse group, ranging from modern Orthodox<br />

to non-observant. The food is kosher<br />

and nut-free, with gluten-free and vegetarian<br />

options at every meal. <strong>We</strong> take care<br />

<strong>of</strong> the earth as we strive to live <strong>of</strong>f it. (<strong>We</strong>ll,<br />

not entirely. This is car camping, after all.)<br />

Maxine Segal Handelman is <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>'s<br />

early childhood education consultant.<br />

She has been camping her entire married<br />

life, and her daughters each went on her first<br />

camping trip in utero.<br />

Scenes from Devil’s Lake<br />

Most families have acquired a set <strong>of</strong> camping<br />

dishes to use at every meal. Some families<br />

have two sets <strong>of</strong> camping dishes, to<br />

be washed in the meat or milk three-bin<br />

washing systems (soapy water, plain water,<br />

and bleach water for disinfecting).<br />

Every year we have to promise the park<br />

rangers that the fishing wire we are stringing<br />

through the trees around our entire<br />

campsite will be gone by the time we leave<br />

on Sunday. <strong>We</strong> don’t even try to explain<br />

to them why we need this eruv to make carrying<br />

items around our campsite permissible<br />

on Shabbat.<br />

Shabbat at Devil’s Lake is a palace in time.<br />

(Except <strong>of</strong> course for the one year that it<br />

started raining as we made kiddush Friday<br />

night and didn’t stop until Saturday<br />

night as the sun set, but we try not to think<br />

about that year.) <strong>We</strong> set up picnic tables<br />

in a big circle around the fire, built up so<br />

it will last long into Shabbat. One <strong>of</strong> the several<br />

rabbis leads the group in Kabbalat Shabbat,<br />

paced to hold the interest <strong>of</strong> all the kids<br />

and the adults, peppered with singing and<br />

a good story or two. Tea lights are lit on<br />

the tables, grape juice and wine passed<br />

around, homemade challah blessed and<br />

shared. Dinner is a feast – sometimes tincan<br />

stew (made in 10 gallon cans collected<br />

for weeks before the trip) or chicken fajitas<br />

– and the singing around the fire pit can<br />

go late into the night. Stars shine brightly<br />

at Devil’s Lake, especially compared to the<br />

city streets <strong>of</strong> Chicago where I usually do<br />

my gazing. Friday night is the perfect time<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 19


to bring a blanket to a nearby field and watch<br />

for shooting stars.<br />

Hiking and swimming are all within walking<br />

distance <strong>of</strong> our camp site. Shabbat is<br />

a day to explore nature or kick back with<br />

a good book (or both – Shabbat is long in<br />

the summer). At first, we new parents<br />

climbed the bluffs with children riding in<br />

backpacks. When she was 2, our younger<br />

daughter made the climb by herself to the<br />

top <strong>of</strong> the bluff, about half a mile up, and<br />

then she climbed into a backpack and slept<br />

the rest <strong>of</strong> the hike.<br />

Now, having grown up at Devil’s Lake,<br />

the children are master hikers, taking on<br />

more challenging boulder fields every year,<br />

helping their friends along. Kids <strong>of</strong> all ages<br />

run in packs, watching out for each other<br />

and creating their own experience.<br />

One year, we grown-ups were treated to<br />

a variety show with skits and dance numbers<br />

performed by all the kids. Another year,<br />

among the cords <strong>of</strong> wood we bought for the<br />

fire were some odd bits left over from some<br />

building project. That year, the boys spent<br />

hours creating cities and superhero worlds<br />

with those wood pieces.<br />

Havdalah at the campsite is a sublime<br />

moment. As a new fire grows in the fire<br />

pit, we gather around, 60 or more <strong>of</strong> us,<br />

singing and swaying, smelling spices <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

created from plants and flowers collected<br />

near the site. And as the last notes <strong>of</strong><br />

“shavuah tov” fade away, the kids scramble<br />

to pop marshmallows onto the sticks<br />

they have foraged and do what they have<br />

been waiting for all <strong>of</strong> Shabbat – make<br />

s’mores! The guitars come out, and the songbooks,<br />

and we sing folksongs and Indigo<br />

Girls late into the night.<br />

I didn’t grow up camping. But my kids<br />

will. They can put up a tent and break one<br />

down. They can shlep water without too<br />

much kvetching, pick up a daddy longlegs<br />

spider by the leg to get it out <strong>of</strong> the tent (oh,<br />

wait, that’s me, they still don’t do that), row<br />

a canoe, pee in the woods, and take pleasure<br />

climbing a boulder field with their<br />

friends. They thrive in this camping community<br />

that now includes friends from all<br />

over the Midwest. I just hope they let me<br />

come back and join them when they start<br />

a camping group <strong>of</strong> their own. CJ

A JEWISH<br />

MUSEUM<br />




they thinking when<br />

they named the only<br />

Jewish museum in<br />

Atlantic Canada the<br />

Saint John Jewish<br />

Historical Museum?<br />

Yes, it is located in Saint John, New<br />

Brunswick, Canada’s oldest city, but to give<br />

a Jewish institution the name <strong>of</strong> a Catholic<br />

saint is unusual. Since the museum is unique<br />

in the province, it could have been called<br />

the New Brunswick Jewish Historical<br />

Museum, or simply the Jewish Historical<br />

Museum. The name gives a hint that this<br />

is no ordinary museum and that Saint John<br />

is no ordinary city.<br />

Founded in 1986, Saint John Jewish Historical<br />

Museum was created and is maintained<br />

by the dwindling congregation <strong>of</strong><br />

Shaarei Zedek <strong>Synagogue</strong> as a loving tribute<br />

to the heritage <strong>of</strong> the Jewish community<br />

and to the city that befriended it.<br />

The museum occupies an impressive stone<br />

building at 91 Leinster Street. When it<br />

was built in 1897 by a ship owner as a<br />

wedding gift for his bride, it was reputed<br />

to be the best home in the city. It is prominently<br />

featured on the self-guided Victorian<br />

Stroll, which includes such noteworthy edi-<br />

Shirley Moskow, a former newspaper editor,<br />

is a Boston-based freelance writer with specialties<br />

in the arts and travel. She has published<br />

two books and contributes to such<br />

magazines as AmericanStyle, Caribbean Travel<br />

& Life, and Antiques and Fine Art.<br />

fices as the elaborate Second Empire house<br />

at 167 King Street East and the massive Italianate<br />

row houses on Orange Street.<br />

In the heart <strong>of</strong> the city, the museum is<br />

popular with travelers from all over the<br />

world, especially passengers on the cruise<br />

ships that dock at Market Square. It is many<br />

people’s first contact with Jewish culture,<br />

and the high school student guides answer<br />

questions about Jewish ritual and the lifecycle<br />

events portrayed in the galleries – a<br />

EUROPE<br />

Explore Venice, Florence, and Rome or<br />

learn about the rich Jewish history in<br />

Toledo, Granada or Prague. Discover Berlin<br />

or Vilna. Tour Cracow, Warsaw and Lublin<br />

and visit the concentration camps in<br />

Poland. Learn about the past, present, and<br />

future <strong>of</strong> these unique Jewish communities<br />

on a one-<strong>of</strong>-a-kind kosher tour with<br />

meaningful Shabbat experiences.<br />

table set for the Passover seder, a video <strong>of</strong><br />

a woman making bagels, a marriage ketubah.<br />

Visitors <strong>of</strong>ten are curious about the theater<br />

seats in the sanctuary. Hollywood producer<br />

Louis B. Mayer, who was born in<br />

the Ukraine, grew up in Saint John and celebrated<br />

his bar mitzvah at the synagogue.<br />

His mother, Sarah, was known as the first<br />

lady <strong>of</strong> Shaarei Zedek. After Mayer established<br />

himself in the movie business, he<br />

shared his good fortune with friends. Con-<br />

ISRAEL<br />

Tour from North to South with an itinerary<br />

to meet your synagogue’s needs. You will<br />

explore our people’s rich history while<br />

learning and experiencing the modern State<br />

<strong>of</strong> Israel and our dreams for the future.<br />

The staff at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center has more than 35 years experience<br />

planning trips for <strong>Conservative</strong> groups to Europe and Israel. Contact us so we<br />

can plan your synagogue’s next meaningful excursion overseas together.<br />

<strong>We</strong>bsite: www.uscj.org.il E-mail: david@uscj.org<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 21

gregants became film distributors and owners<br />

<strong>of</strong> theater chains. One donated the sanctuary<br />

seats.<br />

The Jewish community contributed to<br />

Saint John’s cultural life in many ways. A<br />

poster in the corridor commemorates life at<br />

Millie and Ben Guss’ home, which was a<br />

hub for music lovers. Everyone in the family<br />

sang and played an instrument. During<br />

the many years that Ben was president<br />

<strong>of</strong> the community concert series, guest artists<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten practiced in their living room. Daughter<br />

Faith recalled that “when Glenn Gould<br />

practiced on our piano we sat on the steps<br />

to the second floor landing … like quiet little<br />

mice with huge ears.” Son Jonathan<br />

remembered that “Yitzchak Pearlman spent<br />

the afternoon at the house before a concert.<br />

He played chess with me at the dining room<br />

table…. He was very good.” These are the<br />

intimate memories that the heimisch<br />

museum aims to preserve.<br />

Brushing aside old memories, 90-yearold<br />

Isadore Davis, who celebrated his bar<br />

mitzvah in the synagogue, proudly declared<br />

that today Shaarei Zedek is “<strong>Conservative</strong><br />


and egalitarian.” But the first Jews in the<br />

port city were Orthodox. Solomon and Alice<br />

Hart, who emigrated from England and<br />

came to Saint John in 1858 by way <strong>of</strong> New<br />

York, are considered the first permanent<br />

Jewish settlers there. The Harts prospered<br />

from Solomon’s tobacco business, and as<br />

more British Jews followed, the city became<br />

a cigar manufacturing center. For a while,<br />

the Harts held religious services in their<br />

home. When they lost a young daughter<br />

in 1873, they dedicated land for a Jewish<br />

cemetery.<br />

In 1881, there were 15 Jewish families<br />

in Saint John. Using contributions from<br />

people <strong>of</strong> all faiths, they built the city’s<br />

first synagogue, aptly named Ahavith Achim<br />

(brotherly love). Alice opened a nursery and<br />

taught in the Hebrew school. The following<br />

year, she organized Daughters <strong>of</strong> Israel<br />

“to help the needy and nurture the sick.” In<br />

1882, their daughter Elizabeth married her<br />

English cousin Louis Green in Saint John’s<br />

first Jewish wedding.<br />

By 1891, there were 43 Jewish families in<br />

the city. A decade later, the census shows<br />

nearly 300. The influx <strong>of</strong> Ashkenazim, fleeing<br />

Eastern Europe and the pogroms <strong>of</strong><br />

the Russian empire, introduced an exotic<br />

flavor to the city. They practiced customs<br />

the locals did not understand. They spoke<br />

little or no English, only Yiddish. The men,<br />

who were mostly peddlers, dressed in black<br />

and had long beards; the women covered<br />

their heads with kerchiefs and dressed in the<br />

peasant clothes <strong>of</strong> the shtetl. Nevertheless,<br />

they found a comfortable home in Saint<br />

John, and in 1906 they founded the Hazen<br />

Avenue <strong>Synagogue</strong>. Although both congregations<br />

were Orthodox, they had little<br />

to do with one another. They reflected different<br />

cultures; their customs were different;<br />

there were class differences; they spoke<br />

different languages. Their services were different<br />

and each had its own rabbi.<br />

Both congregations thrived and outgrew<br />

their buildings. When the city’s handsome<br />

neo-Gothic Presbyterian church became<br />

available in 1919, they managed to set aside<br />

their differences to merge, launching a<br />

golden era. The combined congregation,<br />

comprised <strong>of</strong> about 200 male members,<br />

chose the new name Shaarei Zedek.<br />

Jews participated in the vibrant life <strong>of</strong><br />

Saint John. They founded successful businesses.<br />

In 1977, the city elected Samuel<br />

Davis as its first Jewish mayor. (His father,<br />

Harry, a cabinetmaker, crafted the ark and<br />

reading table in the museum.) Benjamin R.<br />

Guss became the first Jewish judge and<br />

Erminie Cohen the first Jewish senator.<br />

In the 1950s, however, younger people<br />

began drifting away. To be more modern,<br />

Shaarei Zedek affiliated with the <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

movement. But the pull <strong>of</strong> opportunity<br />

in the big cities was strong.<br />

Membership declined to about 40. There<br />

has been no rabbi since 1982. In 2008,<br />

the congregation sold the church building,<br />

its home for almost 100 years.<br />

Shaarei Zedeck has functioned for years<br />

under the able administration <strong>of</strong> Dan Elman,<br />

a lay reader, who organizes services, sends<br />

out yahrzeit reminders, leads classes to teach<br />

adults how to conduct services, and fills<br />

in as the Hebrew school teacher.<br />

The museum’s success has ushered in a<br />

new optimism. Marcia Koven, a descendant<br />

(continued on page 33)

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

and Emily Levy-Shochat, chair <strong>of</strong> Masorti in Israel, are in the photo at right.<br />




four-day Masorti leadership<br />

mission to Israel<br />

in January 2012 was a<br />

real eye-opener. I was one<br />

<strong>of</strong> a group <strong>of</strong> 21 <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

rabbis and lay leaders from around<br />

North America who had come expecting to<br />

see recent developments in our nearly 65<br />

Masorti kehillot. But we also were there to<br />

express solidarity with Israelis committed<br />

to pluralism and to challenge government<br />

<strong>of</strong>ficials over policies that favor minority<br />

Orthodox extremists over the majority’s democratic<br />

values.<br />

On the one hand, the mission was exactly<br />

what I had anticipated. Still, I was unprepared<br />

for just how overwhelmed I would be<br />

by everything we encountered. I was particularly<br />

moved by young Israelis’ excitement<br />

over the Masorti movement, and their<br />

embrace <strong>of</strong> the democratic, pluralistic, open<br />

practice <strong>of</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> that we <strong>of</strong>fer. Israelis are<br />

connecting to Masorti through the educational,<br />

religious, and social programs and<br />

community service opportunities available<br />

in our kehillot; through the Noam<br />

youth movement and the network <strong>of</strong> Marom<br />

chapters for college-age and young adults;<br />

Rabbi Robert Slosberg is the spiritual leader<br />

<strong>of</strong> Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Louisville,<br />

Kentucky.<br />

and through the political activism the movement<br />

organizes to protest discrimination<br />

against women and against non-Orthodox<br />

streams in Israel.<br />

The personal stories <strong>of</strong> Masorti congregants<br />

deeply moved me. For many, the<br />

Masorti kehilla is their first exposure to a<br />

way <strong>of</strong> Jewish life that encourages the equal<br />

participation <strong>of</strong> the entire family. My Israeli<br />

rabbinic colleagues, who despite financial<br />

sacrifices serve our movement with distinction,<br />

are dynamic teachers and spiritual<br />

leaders. It isn’t easy to impress a roomful<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> rabbis, but we were dazzled<br />

by text study with several rising young stars.<br />

Nathalie Lastreger, the new spiritual leader<br />

<strong>of</strong> Kehillat Sinai in Tel Aviv, who will be<br />

ordained soon, mesmerized us with the tale<br />

<strong>of</strong> her personal journey, from marriage to<br />

an ultra-Orthodox rabbi to the impassioned<br />

Masorti pr<strong>of</strong>essional and human rights<br />

activist she is today.<br />

Rabbi Hanna Klebansky, an olah from the<br />

former Soviet Union, is defying the unequal<br />

treatment <strong>of</strong> women in Israel in a most<br />

unorthodox way. Late into the night, after<br />

putting her five children to bed, Rabbi Klebansky<br />

sits at her desk in a tiny corner <strong>of</strong> her<br />

living room writing a Torah scroll. It was<br />

a thrill to hold and pass around one <strong>of</strong> the<br />

64 panels she will eventually complete.<br />

<strong>We</strong> heard from Masorti rabbis, kehilla<br />

leaders, and local <strong>of</strong>ficials about the posi-<br />

Rabbi Robert Slosberg<br />

tive impact Masorti is having on life everywhere,<br />

from large cities to small towns and<br />

villages, from relatively affluent communities<br />

to those facing significant poverty and<br />

other disadvantages.<br />

The gan (kindergarten) at Kehillat Eshel<br />

Avraham in Beersheva, one <strong>of</strong> Masorti’s larger<br />

communities, has a waiting list nearly as large<br />

as its enrollment <strong>of</strong> 230 youngsters. At the<br />

large plot <strong>of</strong> land that the city is interested<br />

in providing the kehilla for a second gan, we<br />

learned about the congregation’s long-range<br />

vision for an elementary school as well.<br />

Elsewhere in the Negev, at Kehillat Netzach<br />

Yisrael in Ashkelon, we lunched with<br />

Rabbi Gustavo Surzski, lay leaders, and graduates<br />

<strong>of</strong> Masorti’s Noam youth movement.<br />

These young Israelis, undoubtedly the next<br />

generation <strong>of</strong> Masorti leadership, are living<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 23


and working at an absorption center for<br />

Ethiopian olim as part <strong>of</strong> Noam’s Shin-Shin<br />

community service program in the year before<br />

army enlistment. Listening to the director <strong>of</strong><br />

the absorption center praise these bright<br />

young men and women, I realized that the<br />

future <strong>of</strong> our movement is in great hands.<br />

<strong>We</strong> heard from enthusiastic leaders <strong>of</strong> several<br />

new kehillot in Tzur Yitzchak, Petach<br />

Tikvah, Holon, and Pardes Hanna about<br />

how they are building their communities.<br />

Rabbi Hanna Klebansky showed the group the<br />

megilla scroll she inscribed.<br />

In Karmiel, Rabbi Mijael Even David and kehilla leaders showed <strong>of</strong>f the new addition<br />

to their building and shared their plans<br />

for continued growth.<br />

In Kfar Vradim, just south <strong>of</strong> the Lebanese<br />

border, we were moved by the persistence<br />

<strong>of</strong> Mayor Sivan Yechieli in helping the kehilla<br />

realize its dream for a new home. For nearly<br />

10 years that dream was on hold, as government<br />

ministries under the control <strong>of</strong><br />

ultra-Orthodox parties blocked efforts to<br />

construct a facility. Even though Sivan is<br />

not observant, he could see the importance<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Masorti kehilla to the Kfar<br />

Vradim community, and he was determined<br />

to make the building happen.<br />

Pluralism has made its way onto the radar<br />

<strong>of</strong> many <strong>of</strong> Israel’s leading political figures.<br />

At our opening dinner, Tzipi Livni,<br />

who then was the head <strong>of</strong> the Kadima party,<br />

<strong>of</strong>fered some very forceful words in support<br />

<strong>of</strong> democratic values. Her appearance, given<br />

the timing in a critical primary season, was<br />

testament to her view <strong>of</strong> Masorti’s growing<br />

stature. <strong>We</strong> met, too, with Meir Dagan,<br />

the former head <strong>of</strong> Mossad, and with Rabbi<br />

Uri Regev, the head <strong>of</strong> Hiddush, a Jerusalembased<br />

organization promoting religious freedom<br />

and diversity. And one <strong>of</strong> my proudest<br />

moments was meeting U.S. Ambassador<br />

Dan Shapiro at the American embassy. He<br />

and his family are regular and active members<br />

<strong>of</strong> our Masorti kehilla in Kfar Saba.<br />

Finally, during our visit to the Knesset we<br />

held the first egalitarian prayer service to be<br />

held in the synagogue there since the building’s<br />

dedication in 1966. The service was<br />

lead by Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, a <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

rabbi. It followed a morning <strong>of</strong><br />

meetings with government ministers and<br />

Knesset members, where we made the point<br />

that religious pluralism and democracy are<br />

matters <strong>of</strong> major concern to diaspora Jewry,

and that Israel’s political landscape must<br />

change if Israel is to redefine the increasingly<br />

anti-democratic relationship between<br />

religion and the state.<br />

<strong>We</strong> talked to Dan Meridor <strong>of</strong> Likud, who<br />

is deputy prime minister and also minister<br />

<strong>of</strong> intelligence and atomic energy, and to Uzi<br />

Landau <strong>of</strong> Israel Beiteinu, minister <strong>of</strong> energy<br />

and water. <strong>We</strong> also talked to MKs Yohanan<br />

Plesner and Orit Zuaretz <strong>of</strong> Kadima and<br />

Isaac Herzog <strong>of</strong> Labor. <strong>We</strong> were delighted to<br />

discover that they, too, were familiar with<br />

Masorti’s contributions to Israeli life.<br />

I flew home awed and inspired by the<br />

growth and depth <strong>of</strong> Masorti in Israel, yet<br />

frustrated knowing that the movement’s<br />

amazing work is being accomplished on a<br />

shoestring budget. For a number <strong>of</strong> kehillot,<br />

the biggest challenge is finding funding to<br />

hire a rabbi or rabbinic intern. The government<br />

provides less than $50,000 to all Masorti<br />

programs and services, compared to the more<br />

than $450 million it provides to Orthodox<br />

institutions. It pays the salaries <strong>of</strong> about 3,000<br />

Orthodox rabbis and not one Masorti rabbi.<br />

In truth, the budget <strong>of</strong> the entire Masorti<br />

movement is less than that <strong>of</strong> some individual<br />

congregations in North America.<br />

And as I flew home I also considered<br />

this appalling fact: <strong>Conservative</strong>/Masorti<br />

converts to <strong>Judaism</strong> meet the traditional<br />

requirements <strong>of</strong> Jewish law, but because their<br />

conversions are not accepted by Israel’s <strong>of</strong>ficial<br />

rabbis they cannot get married in the<br />

Jewish state. The hoops that even those <strong>of</strong><br />

my congregants who were born to Jewish<br />

parents must jump through if they wish<br />

to marry in Israel are daunting. It is hard for<br />

me to fathom that I have fewer religious<br />

rights in my Jewish homeland than I do<br />

in the Commonwealth <strong>of</strong> Kentucky! The<br />

continuing lack <strong>of</strong> pluralism in Israel and<br />

discrimination against non-ultra-Orthodox<br />

Jewry is simply unacceptable. It is critical<br />

that we support Masorti in Israel and express<br />

the need for change.<br />

So I flew home from Israel feeling exhilarated,<br />

depressed, and determined. Exhilarated<br />

by the possibilities <strong>of</strong> Jewish life there,<br />

depressed by the challenges other Jews put<br />

in our way, and determined to be part <strong>of</strong> the<br />

solution that will make Israel the home it<br />

should be for all Jews. CJ<br />

Charles Simon<br />

(continued from page 9)<br />

influence their children. Late afternoon<br />

we met as a group and I asked how they were<br />

going to respond to their adult children<br />

when they were asked why, all <strong>of</strong> a sudden,<br />

they wished them a Shabbat shalom.<br />

“Because it is important to me,” they decided<br />

to reply. Six months later, they are still doing<br />

it. Hopefully, it will be passed on to their<br />

grandchildren.<br />

A world <strong>of</strong> information is becoming available<br />

to help men learn to become more effective<br />

fathers. It’s one piece <strong>of</strong> FJMC’s Hearing<br />

Men’s Voices Initiative. Hearing Men's<br />

Voices provides the venue for men to talk<br />

about the issues that affect their daily lives,<br />

including their roles as fathers. As they<br />

engage in these conversations they both<br />

mentor and learn from others at the same<br />

time. Many <strong>of</strong> these issues are also explored<br />

on Mentschen.org, the online address for<br />

conversation for Jewish men. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 25


your kids is fun, exciting,<br />

and educational. It is an<br />

adventure that you and your<br />

children will remember forever.<br />

There’s so much to do<br />

and see that it’s important to plan ahead to<br />

make the most <strong>of</strong> your trip.<br />

If you’re wondering about how you’ll manage<br />

with language issues and safety, don’t<br />

worry. There are many activities geared<br />

toward English speakers. Most Israeli guides<br />

are fluent in English. Israel’s safety regulations<br />

are on par with those in other developed<br />

countries, so all you need to think<br />

about is how much fun you and your kids<br />

will have.<br />

Here is just a sampling <strong>of</strong> ideas to inspire<br />

you. Your little ones can enjoy fun gyms,<br />

petting zoos, arts and crafts, puppet plays,<br />

donkey rides, or bee farms (yes, bee farms!).<br />

For slightly older kids with lots <strong>of</strong> energy,<br />

think Action Park, ATV/jeep rides, kayaking,<br />

rock climbing, and horseback riding.<br />

There are plenty <strong>of</strong> educational experiences<br />

available as well: museums, tours <strong>of</strong><br />

factories, learning the art <strong>of</strong> ancient spices,<br />

silk, and honey, and scavenger hunts exploring<br />

the various neighborhoods <strong>of</strong> Jerusalem.<br />

Avital Cohen, MSW, is the founder <strong>of</strong> Israel<br />

Kids, a new website for activities, local events,<br />

and services in Israel, for kids and families.<br />


Young bee keepers pet some<br />

<strong>of</strong> the animals at Devorat<br />

Hatavor.<br />

For fun in the sun don’t miss out on glassbottom<br />

boat rides, the dolphin reef, and<br />

Israel’s national parks.<br />

For direct access to these sites, go to<br />

www.uscj.org, scroll to the bottom, and click<br />

on the cover <strong>of</strong> this magazine. From there,<br />

you can click on this article. You also can go<br />

to Israelkids.co.il.<br />

Central<br />

• Pe’alton Gymboree has locations<br />

throughout Israel (Toddlers) http://www.<br />

pealton.co.il<br />

• Beedvash in Kfar Chabad is a petting<br />

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

ISRAEL<br />

FOR<br />

KIDS<br />


Outside the Diaspora Museum, Beit Hatfutzot in Tel Aviv.<br />

• Diaspora Museum, Beit Hatfutzot, on<br />

the Tel Aviv University campus, to learn<br />

about the ongoing story <strong>of</strong> the Jewish people<br />

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

• Tnuva factory visitor center in Rehovot<br />

demonstrates how milk gets from the cow<br />

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

• Tel Aviv’s Sportek Climbing Wall<br />

<strong>of</strong>fers rock-climbing lessons (Ages 9+)<br />

http://israelkids.co.il<br />

Jerusalem<br />

• Train Theatre <strong>of</strong>fers puppet plays,<br />

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

www.traintheater.co.il/english<br />

• Bowling Center is a great way to<br />

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

israelkids.co.il<br />

• Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt (Ages 9+)<br />

http://www.jerusalemscavengerhunts.com<br />

• Ammunition Hill Museum to learn<br />

about the liberation and reunification <strong>of</strong><br />

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

• Keyad Hadimyon, outside Modiin, not<br />

far from Jerusalem, for arts and crafts (Ages<br />

3+) http://www.hadimyon.co.il<br />

South<br />

• Philip Farm in the northern Negev<br />

for donkey rides and other fun activities (All<br />

ages) http://www.philipfarm.co.il<br />

• Eilat’s Yisrael-Yam (glass bottom boat<br />

ride) for a relaxing ride along the Red Sea<br />

(All ages) http://israelkids.co.il<br />

• Dolphin Reef (Eilat) to watch dolphins<br />

in their natural habitat (All ages)<br />

http://www.dolphinreef.co.il<br />

• Kiryat Gat’s Action Park <strong>of</strong>fers thrilling<br />

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

www.action-park.co.il<br />

• Eilat’s Camel Ranch for adventurous<br />

horseback riding (Ages 6+) http://<br />

www.camel-ranch.co.il<br />

North<br />

• Devorat Hatavor in Moshav Shadmot<br />

Devora, for a bee farm and petting zoo (Ages<br />

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

• 101 Kilometer, south <strong>of</strong> Paran, home<br />

to the largest reptile farm in the Middle East,<br />

for ATV/jeep rides (All ages) http://<br />

israelkids.co.il<br />

• The Galilee’s Etz Habakbukim (Bottle<br />

Tree) to learn to make ancient spices (Ages<br />

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

• Achziv Beach National Park, north <strong>of</strong><br />

Nahariya, has stunning views and natural<br />

and artificial seawater pools (All ages)<br />

http://www.parks.org.il<br />

• Hagosherim kayaks, in Hagoshrim,<br />

<strong>of</strong>fers an adventurous kayak ride down the<br />

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

co.il<br />

Go to Israelkids.co.il to get a full list <strong>of</strong><br />

fun activities for children as well as discount<br />

coupons for many <strong>of</strong> these attractions. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 27



• Masorti is the name <strong>of</strong> the <strong>Conservative</strong> movement in Israel.<br />

It stands for religious pluralism and democratic values in an egalitarian<br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>.<br />

• Masorti is dominated at its grassroots by sabras as well as<br />

by olim – immigrants – from Latin America, the former Soviet<br />

Union, and Muslim lands, unified via the Hebrew language.<br />

• Masorti <strong>of</strong> 2012 is young and getting younger all the time.<br />

Its kehillot abound with kindergartens and nurseries filled<br />

to capacity, with 600 bnai mitzvah ceremonies annually,<br />

with almost 2,000 members <strong>of</strong> Noam, the nationwide youth<br />

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

• Over the last few years, Masorti has grown from less<br />

than 50 to 63 kehillot, springing to life in such towns as<br />

Tzur Yitzhak, Holon, and Petach Tikvah.<br />

• Israelis are becoming increasingly aware <strong>of</strong> Masorti. An<br />

Avi Chai/Guttman Institute survey released in January shows<br />

that 30 percent <strong>of</strong> Israelis have attended services at a <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

or Reform congregation. Yizhar Hess, the movement’s<br />

chief executive, frequently is invited to write op-eds in the<br />

Israeli press and is interviewed on radio and television. The<br />

movement and its leaders are gaining influence within the<br />

Knesset, as well.<br />

• The rabbis in Masorti communities are dynamos. Veterans<br />

such as Mauricio Balter and Roberto Arbib have been<br />

joined by a new generation <strong>of</strong> young and passionate colleagues<br />

including Elisha Wolfin, Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, Chaya Rowen<br />

Baker, Gustavo Surazki, Yoav Ende, Dubi Hayun, and Jeff<br />

Cymet.<br />

• Once you leave Jerusalem, openness to Masorti increases<br />

dramatically. For example, in Kfar Vradim, a new building<br />

for our Masorti kehilla came into being because <strong>of</strong> strong<br />

support from the secular mayor and his colleagues. In Beer-<br />

Rabbi Alan Silverstein, PhD, is the chair <strong>of</strong> the board <strong>of</strong> the Masorti<br />

Foundation for <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> in Israel and the spiritual<br />

leader <strong>of</strong> Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, New Jersey.<br />

The Bookshelf<br />

(continued from page 11)<br />

Mortality and Morality: A Search for the God<br />

after Auschwitz by Hans Jonas, edited by<br />

Lawrence Vogel. Northwestern University<br />

Press, 1996<br />

This generous selection <strong>of</strong> papers by one<br />

<strong>of</strong> the most influential Jewish thinkers <strong>of</strong><br />


the 20th century deals with moral, religious,<br />

and ethical issues in the wake <strong>of</strong> the Holocaust.<br />

Jonas, a German Jew who studied<br />

with and was a friend <strong>of</strong> philosophers Martin<br />

Heidegger, Rudolph Bultmann, and<br />

Hanah Arendt, was himself exiled by the<br />

Nazis, fought in World War II and the Israeli<br />

War <strong>of</strong> Independence, and ended up on the<br />

sheva, the municipality has designated land for a second Masorti<br />

kindergarten in a developing part <strong>of</strong> the city.<br />

• Masorti’s kehillot include thousands <strong>of</strong> dues-paying members.<br />

Under rabbinic guidance, the members <strong>of</strong> these kehillot<br />

reach out to the community at large through nurseries and<br />

kindergartens, Noam, life-cycle ceremonies, absorption <strong>of</strong> olim,<br />

assistance to those below the poverty line, advocacy <strong>of</strong> ecological<br />

concerns, outreach to Israeli Arab communities, and the provision<br />

<strong>of</strong> special needs bar/bat mitzvah training and ceremonies.<br />

Masorti touches more than 75,000 Israelis annually. Impressively,<br />

the Avi Chai/Guttman Institute survey reveals that nearly<br />

500,000 Israelis self-identify as Masorti or Reform.<br />

• Vaani T’fillati, the Masorti Shabbat and weekday siddur,<br />

which is published by Israel’s largest publishing house, has<br />

been a best-seller. A Masorti machzor is being prepared. These<br />

egalitarian liturgical reflections <strong>of</strong> Israeli life <strong>of</strong>fer prayers for<br />

Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Yom HaZikaron, entering the IDF, and other<br />

life-cycle events.<br />

• Masorti is central to the spectrum <strong>of</strong> Israeli <strong>Judaism</strong>, <strong>of</strong>fering<br />

the only regular egalitarian Shabbat morning minyanim.<br />

Masorti also <strong>of</strong>fers a halachic approach that is both flexible and<br />

traditional, addressing issues such as the religious permissibility<br />

<strong>of</strong> visiting the Temple Mount, <strong>of</strong> trading land for peace,<br />

<strong>of</strong> women serving in the IDF, and so on.<br />

• The Israeli public is ever more receptive to our message.<br />

In the most recent poll, 63 percent support <strong>of</strong>ficial recognition<br />

for both Masorti and Reform. A growing number <strong>of</strong> secular<br />

Israelis indicate that they are “open to” encountering aspects <strong>of</strong><br />

the Jewish tradition within their lives in a “noncoercive” manner.<br />

These are code words for Masorti, Reform, and the liberal<br />

elements <strong>of</strong> modern Orthodoxy.<br />

As the evaluators <strong>of</strong> the Avi Chai/Guttman Institute poll<br />

conclude: “The results <strong>of</strong> the survey are evidence that Israeli Jews<br />

are committed to two significant values: preserving Jewish tradition<br />

on the one hand, and upholding individual freedom <strong>of</strong><br />

choice on the other.” In sum, the fact is that Masorti <strong>Judaism</strong><br />

is emerging as part <strong>of</strong> a broad Israeli-Jewish consensus.<br />

faculty <strong>of</strong> the New School for Social Research<br />

in New York. The essays are suffused with<br />

his major concerns: the moral impulse,<br />

the meaning <strong>of</strong> a human life, and the possibility<br />

<strong>of</strong> faith in God after the Holocaust.<br />

These essays do not make for easy reading,<br />

but they are all rewarding and they open<br />

new vistas <strong>of</strong> thinking. CJ


The First Masorti Rabbi in Ukraine<br />



has changed and grown tremendously<br />

since the end <strong>of</strong> the Soviet<br />

era. One <strong>of</strong> the biggest changes was<br />

inaugurated in March 2012, when<br />

the first <strong>Conservative</strong>/Masorti<br />

rabbi took up a permanent post in Kiev.<br />

The story <strong>of</strong> Rabbi Reuven Stamov (his<br />

first name originally was Roma) and his long<br />

journey back to Ukraine is nothing short <strong>of</strong><br />

miraculous. Reuven was born in Simferopol<br />

in Crimea – a region <strong>of</strong> Ukraine – in 1974.<br />

His family was Jewish but entirely secular.<br />

He was teased at school for being a<br />

Jew, but during his childhood he never really<br />

had the opportunity to explore what that<br />

meant. As the Soviet period came to an end,<br />

many Ukrainian Jewish families left, relocating<br />

to Israel or other places. The Stamovs<br />

decided to stay in Ukraine, however, and at<br />

18 Reuven became involved for the first time<br />

in Jewish educational activities. He began<br />

to understand the purpose and rituals <strong>of</strong> the<br />

festivals, gained a rudimentary understanding<br />

<strong>of</strong> Hebrew, and developed a passion<br />

for Masorti <strong>Judaism</strong>.<br />

Throughout the 1990s, Reuven’s commitment<br />

to <strong>Judaism</strong>, the Jewish community,<br />

and Jewish and Zionist education grew<br />

as he became involved in the Ramah summer<br />

camp in Ukraine operated by Midreshet<br />

Yerushalayim. A division <strong>of</strong> the Schechter<br />

Institute for Jewish Studies, Midreshet<br />

Yerushalayim focuses on Russian-speaking<br />

Jews in Israel and parts <strong>of</strong> the former<br />

Soviet Union. Camp Ramah-Yachad gave<br />

Rabbi Tzvi Graetz is a graduate <strong>of</strong> the<br />

Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem<br />

and the executive director <strong>of</strong> Masorti Olami<br />

and Mercaz Olami.<br />

Reuven a religious home, a place where<br />

he could grow as a Jewish communal leader,<br />

teaching campers about Masorti <strong>Judaism</strong><br />

and developing his own knowledge and practice<br />

at the same time.<br />

Reuven says that he began to want a more<br />

spiritual, meaningful, and observant Jewish<br />

life from his very first Camp Ramah experience.<br />

This eventually led him to move<br />

to Israel in 2003, and shortly afterward he<br />

came to the logical conclusion that his destiny<br />

was to become a Masorti rabbi. That<br />

would allow him to share with others his<br />

love and understanding <strong>of</strong> a <strong>Judaism</strong> that<br />

was traditional and modern, spiritual and<br />

intellectual, and committed to both Israel<br />

Email info@margaretmorsetours.com<br />

and the diaspora.<br />

Reuven studied at the Schechter Rabbinical<br />

Seminary in Jerusalem for nearly<br />

seven years, receiving support from Masorti<br />

Olami, the worldwide Masorti movement,<br />

via the Schorsch Fellowship, which supports<br />

rabbinical students committed to working<br />

in developing Masorti communities<br />

in Europe. During his studies he continued<br />

to work with Midreshet Yerushalayim in<br />

partnership with Masorti Olami. He traveled<br />

to Ukraine several times each year to<br />

run seminars, summer camp, and a successful<br />

conversion program, as well as many<br />

other projects that created the foundation<br />

(continued on page 53)<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 29

Jews in<br />

Georgia<br />

JDocu is a group <strong>of</strong> amateur photographers,<br />

friends who know each other from Israel’s<br />

thriving high-tech world. They have set<br />

themselves the task <strong>of</strong> documenting Jewish<br />

communities around the world. These<br />

pictures are from the photographers’ journey<br />

to Georgia, in the former Soviet Union,<br />

to document what is left <strong>of</strong> the Jewish community<br />

there after the exodus <strong>of</strong> Jews from<br />

the region that began in the 1970s.<br />

The photographs were first exhibited at<br />

Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum <strong>of</strong> the Jewish<br />

People, in Tel Aviv, in March 2012, with<br />

support from the American Jewish Joint<br />

Distribution Committee and the Jewish<br />

Funders Network.<br />

See more <strong>of</strong> the group’s art at jdocu.com.<br />

An empty container for a Torah Scroll<br />

stands in the old synagogue in Oni.<br />

Tali Idan<br />


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

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

Dr. Shalva Buziashvilli, the last<br />

Jewish doctor in Rustavi, and his wife.<br />

Tali Idan<br />

Books are illuminated by light from the window<br />

in a deserted synagogue in Kutaisi. Eli Atias<br />

A tzedakah box in a closed synagogue. Tali Idan<br />

The abandoned synagogue in Kutaisi.<br />

Amir Halevy<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 31


A women in the Jewish club in<br />

Rustavi. Yossi Beinart<br />

A scene from the synagogue<br />

that no one visits anymore.<br />

Yossi Beinart

Richard Skolnik<br />

(continued from page 10)<br />

the same issues that face Israelis and diaspora<br />

Jews on a regular basis. I hope that I continued<br />

facilitating this growth in others this<br />

year as the Nativ assistant director. I will forever<br />

be grateful for all that I have learned over<br />

the years <strong>of</strong> my involvement with Nativ, most<br />

importantly the understanding that all<br />

Jewish journeys are intertwined and neverending.”<br />

Aaron Sherman,<br />

Nativ 26 Aaron is<br />

from Santa Rosa,<br />

California. While<br />

he was on Nativ he<br />

was in the Hebrew<br />

University –<br />

Yerucham track,<br />

and afterward he<br />

went to the University <strong>of</strong> California at Davis.<br />

There, Aaron was involved with the Israel<br />

student group, and he spent a semester<br />

interning for Secretary <strong>of</strong> Defense Robert<br />

Gates in Washington, DC. Aaron has spent<br />

every summer since Nativ staffing USY Eastern<br />

Europe/Israel Pilgrimage, first as a counselor<br />

and then as a group leader. After<br />

graduating from UC-Davis, he staffed Nativ<br />

30’s Yerucham group, and now he is the<br />

communications/speechwriting intern at<br />

Obama for America’s headquarters in<br />

Chicago.<br />

“Nativ not only gave me experiences <strong>of</strong> a<br />

lifetime, but it taught me how to live my<br />

life. From what I love about davening to my<br />

thankfulness for Shabbat each week, almost<br />

everything about how I live a Jewish life I<br />

either learned, built upon, or discovered while<br />

on Nativ. Without Nativ, I wouldn’t be the<br />

educated, passionate, committed Jewish young<br />

adult I am today.”<br />

A wholehearted yashir koach goes to<br />

Nativ’s director, Yossi Garr, and his incredible<br />

staff, who work tirelessly throughout<br />

the year to educate our students in such<br />

an outstanding manner. Nativ graduates are<br />

our bridge to the future, our inspiration,<br />

and our most precious resource. CJ<br />

Saint John<br />

(continued from page 22)<br />

<strong>of</strong> an early 20th century immigrant, established<br />

the museum and was its first curator.<br />

She began by hiring Katherine Biggs-Craft,<br />

a college classmate who is not Jewish and<br />

by her own admission “knew virtually nothing<br />

about <strong>Judaism</strong>.” It was a fortuitous choice<br />

nonetheless, and when Koven retired, Biggs-<br />

Craft became curator. The museum archives<br />

now attract scholars from all over the world.<br />

The American Association for State and<br />

Local Libraries, the Church and <strong>Synagogue</strong><br />

Library Association, and the province <strong>of</strong><br />

New Brunswick all have honored it with<br />

awards. CJ<br />


917-668-6809<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 33





that’s an overall matzah print<br />

on Pesach makes perfect<br />

sense.<br />

The tie with the big whale<br />

for the afternoon <strong>of</strong> Yom Kippur,<br />

when the haftarah is the story <strong>of</strong> Jonah,<br />

yeah, that’s pretty obvious too, once you think<br />

about it. (Rosh Hashanah morning and Kol<br />

Nidrei, on the other hand, call for a simple<br />

white tie to match the kittel.)<br />

These ties are a very basic introduction<br />

to the very many ties <strong>of</strong> Frederic S. Goldstein,<br />

gabbai and third-generation face <strong>of</strong><br />

Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on New York<br />

City’s Upper <strong>We</strong>st Side, familiarly referred<br />

to as BJ.<br />

The one with hearts on it? That’s for<br />

Parashat Va-era, when Pharoah’s heart was<br />

hardened. (Va-era <strong>of</strong>ten is read in February,<br />

but no, it’s not for Valentine’s Day.)<br />

The game quickly gets harder. <strong>What</strong> about<br />

the tie with the Cat in the Hat? There are<br />

no cats mentioned in the Torah, and certainly<br />

there is nothing about top hats. It’s<br />

because the Cat in the Hat is a creation <strong>of</strong><br />

Dr. Seuss, and in Parashat Beshallach, when<br />

the people sing the Song <strong>of</strong> the Sea, we<br />

are told that they are celebrating God’s having<br />

hurled horse and driver into the sea.<br />

Horse and driver? Suess vrachvo. Oh! Got it!<br />

Freddy, who is an Excel guru in civilian<br />

life, started teaching about computers at<br />

Baruch College in 1970, back when computers<br />

and he both were young, and he<br />

teaches there still. He is the grandson <strong>of</strong> the<br />

Reverend Jacob Schwartz, who was BJ’s cantor<br />

from 1914 to 1953. (BJ was a founding<br />

member <strong>of</strong> <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>, which<br />

was chartered in 1913, just a year earlier.)<br />

He traces his interest in parashah neckwear<br />

to his grandfather.<br />


Photos by Andrew Sherman<br />

“My mom” – Bobbye S. Goldstein –<br />

“would dress me in a suit when I was a little<br />

boy when we’d go to shul,” he said. “It<br />

was a time when everyone was dressed more<br />

formally. I would sit up in the balcony.<br />

My grandfather would sit on the bimah and<br />

look up at me and he’d rub his tie, and I<br />

would rub my tie. I would be sitting in<br />

the middle <strong>of</strong> 1,000 people, but it was as<br />

if I could hear him saying ‘Hello, Freddy,”<br />

and I was yelling back to him ‘Hello,<br />

Grandpa Jack.’ I like to believe that’s how<br />

my tie thing started.”<br />

Freddy has always worn a tie, even when<br />

he was an undergraduate in the 1960s, when<br />

they were not at all in vogue.<br />

“I can’t remember when I first started with<br />

the parashah themes, but among the first<br />

idiosyncratic ties I had was one with watermelons,”<br />

he recalled. It’s from Parashat<br />

Beha’lotekha, where the Israelites, who for<br />

a change are complaining, say that they used<br />

to have melons back in Egypt. The word for<br />

melons in biblical Hebrew, avatichem, is the<br />

word modern Israelis use for watermelons.<br />

Et voila!<br />

Some <strong>of</strong> Freddy’s ties are literal – animals<br />

for Parashat Pinchas, which describes sacrifices<br />

in what might be too much detail. At<br />

least one day <strong>of</strong> Sukkot calls for a tie with<br />

a citron on it, and Shemini Atzeret – the<br />

eighth and last day <strong>of</strong> the festival – demands<br />

a tie with pool balls, one <strong>of</strong> them sporting<br />

a great big number 8. He has a rainbow<br />

tie for Parashat Noach, and one with<br />

stars for Lech Lecha, where God promises<br />

Abram that he will have as many descendants<br />

as there are stars in the sky.<br />

Sometimes Freddy gets ties as gifts – like<br />

the one showing Moshe coming down<br />

Mount Sinai with the tablets in his hand,<br />

which clearly appeals to a very niche market.<br />

Others he buys himself. He went to the<br />

M&M store in Times Square for its iconic<br />

M&M tie. He wears it when two parshiyot,<br />

Mattot and Massei, are read in the same<br />

week. The habit might get expensive, but<br />

there are ways to cope. “You can buy a regular<br />

tie starting at $30 and going way up,<br />

and you can get tourist ties for a few dollars,”<br />

he said. The tourist ties, needless to<br />

say, tend toward the garish.





artist could do something<br />

with my assortment<br />

<strong>of</strong> yarmulkes,<br />

which I’ve collected<br />

during the 23 years<br />

I’ve spent playing klezmer clarinet at weddings<br />

and bar mitzvahs in Cleveland.<br />

My Guatemalan yarmulkes – crocheted<br />

by Mayan Indians – come from hipster weddings.<br />

These multi-colored Mayan kippot<br />

are especially big hits with female rabbi<br />

brides. That’s a niche.<br />

My most heimisch lids are bubbie-knit.<br />

For one party, a grandma knit 150<br />

yarmulkes. I took about five leftovers.<br />

Skull cap. Those are harsh words. I have<br />

some blue suede yarmulkes, distributed<br />

by A1 Skull Cap Co. out <strong>of</strong> Brooklyn. The<br />

yarmulkes don’t breathe. I like a yarmulke<br />

that breathes, crocheted or knitted.<br />

Camouflage kippot. I have a few. My band<br />

Bert Stratton plays clarinet in the klezmer<br />

band Yiddishe Cup and is the author <strong>of</strong> the<br />

blog Klezmer Guy: Real Music & Real Estate.<br />

He is a member <strong>of</strong> Park <strong>Synagogue</strong> in<br />

Cleveland. www.klezmerguy.com.<br />

Occasionally his ties have a more personal<br />

meaning. His father,Gabriel F. Goldstein,<br />

was a chemist, a pioneer in plastics,<br />

and Freddy honors him at his yarzheit by<br />

wearing a tie with some <strong>of</strong> the signs <strong>of</strong> his<br />

discipline, chemical symbols or a balance<br />

scale.<br />

Freddy points out that as much fun as<br />

his hobby is, and as creative as it allows<br />

him to be, at its core it is serious. His life<br />

played a bar mitzvah where<br />

the theme was Zahal (that’s the<br />

Israel Defense Forces). The bar<br />

mitzvah boy’s father wore combat<br />

boots and a full Israeli army uniform. The<br />

band wore IDF T-shirts, except our trombone<br />

player, who is a pacifist.<br />

Sports-themed lids happen too. One time<br />

we had to wear basketball jerseys and kippot<br />

at a bar mitzvah party. There even was<br />

a cheerleader squad. The girls did gymnastics<br />

formations while cheering “Mazal<br />

tov, let’s shout hurray. It’s Jeremy and Sam’s<br />

bar mitzvah day.” Another cheer was “I<br />

say ‘oy,’ you say ‘vey,’ Jeremy and Sam are<br />

men today.”<br />

My band’s keyboard player <strong>of</strong>ten starts<br />

gigs by asking, “Is this a yarmulke gig or<br />

not?” He’s a gentile. I have explained that<br />

some are half-and-half: yarmulke for the<br />

ceremony, no yarmulke for the party.<br />

My <strong>Conservative</strong> rabbi wears a “throwaway”<br />

yarmulke, the black satin number<br />

used by funeral homes and synagogues. My<br />

rabbi doesn’t want to look different from his<br />

congregants, I guess. I don’t have the guts<br />

to ask him why.<br />

My white satin yarmulke from December<br />

9, 2007 is imprinted with the groom’s<br />

has connected him to the rhythms and<br />

assumptions <strong>of</strong> the Jewish world in pr<strong>of</strong>ound<br />

ways. Not only was his grandfather a cantor,<br />

for many decades his grandmother, Lottie<br />

G. Schwartz, was the president <strong>of</strong> the sisterhood<br />

(yes, B’nai Jeshurun also had an early<br />

connection to Women’s League for <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>). Freddy’s other grandfather,<br />

Herbert S. Goldstein, was the rabbi<br />

<strong>of</strong> the <strong>We</strong>st Side Institutional <strong>Synagogue</strong>,<br />

name, Ananth Uggirala. His parents, from<br />

India, were Anjaneyulu and Manorama<br />

Uggirala. I had to announce them. Memorable.<br />

You need the right kind <strong>of</strong> yarmulke clips<br />

if you’re a musician because you move<br />

around a lot. Bobby pins are the worst. They<br />

take your hair out. Duck bill clips – also<br />

bad. The best are the little surfboard barrettes.<br />

If you don’t have good clips, you’re in<br />

trouble, particularly at outdoor gigs.<br />

I remember one Israeli guy marching<br />

with the chuppah outdoors, while smoking<br />

and balancing a drink. His yarmulke<br />

blew <strong>of</strong>f. He scooped it up, put it back<br />

on, and took a drink. Secular Israelis, they’re<br />

funny.<br />

I wore a yarmulke for a week when I hitchhiked<br />

out west. This was decades ago. I<br />

had just seen a photo <strong>of</strong> Bob Dylan wearing<br />

a yarmulke at the Kotel. None <strong>of</strong> the<br />

drivers who picked me up commented. My<br />

hat was just a hat – to them. To me, it was<br />

a religion. CJ<br />

and his other grandmother, Rebecca Fischel<br />

Goldstein, was the president <strong>of</strong> that kehilla’s<br />

sisterhood. “I’ve been in shuls all my life,”<br />

Freddy said. So the game is a logical one<br />

for him. To do it properly it is necessary<br />

to study the parashah thoroughly. The idea<br />

<strong>of</strong> such study, week after week, comes naturally.<br />

Putting the tie together with the<br />

parashah is a puzzle, far more art than<br />

(continued on page 52)<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 35

YAY FOR<br />





specialist in adolescent behavior<br />

and emotional development,<br />

I want to encourage<br />

parents to send their kids to<br />

Jewish summer camps. I can’t<br />

rave enough about the invaluable meaning,<br />

depth <strong>of</strong> connection, and enduring worth<br />

that immersion in a Jewish summer camp<br />

experience <strong>of</strong>fers.<br />

Not only is camp a great place to form lifelong<br />

friendships, I believe that it is an inoculation<br />

against teenage angst and deleterious<br />

risk taking and a remedy for teen disillusion.<br />

Twenty-first century teens need a place where<br />

they can learn to tolerate inactivity and distress<br />

safely, and to experience social life as real<br />

human interactions, not screen facsimiles.<br />

Camp is that place.<br />

My <strong>of</strong>fice is in the San Fernando Valley.<br />

Beyond earthquake fault lines, there is much<br />

more trouble rumbling through my community.<br />

In the past few months there have<br />

been three teen suicides, one heroin death,<br />

three alcohol poisoning deaths, and many<br />

lucky survivors <strong>of</strong> extreme party nights. Why?<br />

Some were related to grades and perfectionism,<br />

others to intolerance <strong>of</strong> breakups<br />

and emotional despair, and some were just<br />

experimentation gone wrong. Many <strong>of</strong> the<br />

victims were Jewish. While parents who read<br />

about <strong>We</strong>ndy Mogel’s blessings <strong>of</strong> wounded<br />

knees and bad grades and Amy Chua’s battle<br />

hymn <strong>of</strong> tiger moms who are worried<br />

about how their kids will get into the right<br />

colleges, too many teenagers are looking<br />

Sharon Silverman Pollock, M.D., is a pediatrician<br />

with a practice in psychopharmacology.<br />

She is a doctor at Camp Ramah in Ojai,<br />


to check out in some way.<br />

According to Monitoring the Future, a<br />

yearly survey <strong>of</strong> teens across the country, 6.6<br />

percent <strong>of</strong> high school seniors – that’s 1<br />

in 15 – use marijuana daily. How can we<br />

prevent that? Jewish summer camp. According<br />

to adolescent specialist Ken Ginsberg,<br />

M.D., social growth and connections provide<br />

the attributes that will help kids develop<br />

the resilience they need as they become<br />

teenagers. Those resilience attributes are<br />

competence through experience, confidence<br />

rooted in competence, fostering close connections,<br />

building character, feeling a significant<br />

contribution to a community, and<br />

learning both coping and control. If we can<br />

help kids find social success and forestall the<br />

more distressing benchmarks <strong>of</strong> teen risk<br />

taking, they will gain more experience at<br />

establishing their personalities in the larger<br />

world.<br />

Kids do risky things for many reasons.<br />

One is that somehow it makes them feel<br />

good despite all the harm it creates. Kids<br />

can quote you line and verse about the negative<br />

consequences <strong>of</strong> substance abuse. But<br />

they still use alcohol and drugs and cut themselves.<br />

They are depressed, and they commit<br />

suicide. <strong>We</strong> need to create places and<br />

opportunities where kids can benefit from<br />

positive experiences.<br />

If we empower young people and still<br />

allow them to take risks, they will grow<br />

strong in their concept <strong>of</strong> themselves. The<br />

risk taking built into summer camp includes<br />

leaving the safety and comfort <strong>of</strong> home and<br />

interacting socially with more kids. Summer<br />

camp experiences are designed to create<br />

resilient adolescents. Camp helps develop<br />

self-confidence and social competence by<br />

growing interpersonal and core mindfulness<br />

skills, as well as some mastery in regulating<br />

emotion and tolerating distress.<br />

I won’t say that it’s something only Jewish<br />

summer camp does. The Jewish community<br />

<strong>of</strong>fers it in kehilla and community<br />

affiliations, USY and Kadima, and schools<br />

that instill values <strong>of</strong> tzedakah and community<br />

service. Parents should be invested<br />

in connecting their kids to these communities.<br />

Kids are taught morality and the difference<br />

between right and wrong in<br />

environments that are centered in Jewish<br />

values. Camp does this through educational<br />

programs, music, sports, drama, daily routines,<br />

arts, and food. Parents also should<br />

model these behaviors.<br />

At camp, everyone is understood to be<br />

created betzelem elohim, in God’s image.<br />

Still, the same painful parts <strong>of</strong> puberty are<br />

packed into campers’ duffle bags – girl stuff,<br />

boy struggles, fitting in, and body image<br />

struggles. At camp, though, campers learn<br />

to meet distress and to cope.<br />

Yay Jewish summer camp! That is why<br />

I am a camp doctor and my kids have been<br />

raised in camps and have become great mensches.<br />

That is why I train the counselors<br />

in adolescent behavior and how to include<br />

different kids, recognizing behavior as issues<br />

<strong>of</strong> self-expression. I love and support the<br />

Jewish camping movement.<br />

California. CJ<br />

All photos courtesy <strong>of</strong> the National Ramah Commission.


I<br />

camper and staff member stricken<br />

with grief at the sudden death <strong>of</strong><br />

my lifelong friend and fellow<br />

Ramah camper and staff member,<br />

Eric Steinthal, z”l. In the wake <strong>of</strong><br />

his death, I feel compelled to tell the story<br />

<strong>of</strong> how Camp Ramah in the Berkshires has<br />

transformed and shaped my life, and the lives<br />

<strong>of</strong> our group <strong>of</strong> friends.<br />

I first met Eric as a 10-year-old at Ramah<br />

in the Berkshires. <strong>We</strong> were in the same bunk<br />

– A-16 – and have been close friends ever<br />

since. Over the next few years, our group <strong>of</strong><br />

camp friends grew to 10. <strong>We</strong> didn’t just hang<br />

out together in camp; sleepovers and shuttling<br />

between each other’s houses were the<br />

norm all year. Our backgrounds were varied,<br />

and represented all facets <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>, from kids like me who<br />

attended day schools and were immersed in<br />

Jewish learning and culture, to kids who did<br />

not observe kashrut or Shabbat. Yet when<br />

we gathered in Ramah every summer we<br />

were all equal. <strong>We</strong> all observed Shabbat. <strong>We</strong><br />

all kept kosher. <strong>We</strong> all went to tefillot every<br />

day, and wore a tallit and tefillin every morning.<br />

<strong>We</strong> all said the motzi before we ate, and<br />

we benched after every meal. And Shabbat...<br />

Shabbat in camp is magical. The day-to-day<br />

Adin Yehoshua Meir, an energy engineer, lives<br />

in Hoboken, New Jersey, with his wife, Jordana.<br />




Adin and Eric<br />

The 10 friends<br />

routine is replaced by something more spiritual,<br />

more kadosh, more holy. Even as young<br />

kids we understood that Shabbat is very different<br />

from any other day <strong>of</strong> the week, and<br />

it was camp that taught us that lesson.<br />

For us, camp did not end with the summer.<br />

Kids who did not eat kosher at home<br />

told their parents that they wanted to start<br />

keeping kosher, observing Shabbat, and even<br />

leave public school for Jewish day school,<br />

as Eric did.<br />

Our group grew tighter as the years passed,<br />

and many <strong>of</strong> us attended Solomon Schechter<br />

high schools, deepening our bonds. As we<br />

entered college, many <strong>of</strong> us continued to<br />

work in camp, but eventually we had to enter<br />

the real world and get jobs. But we still held<br />

onto our friendships, which culminated<br />

every year with the Ramah Berkshires Labor<br />

Day alumni weekend reunion. This was the<br />

most important weekend <strong>of</strong> the year. I<br />

refused to schedule my wedding over Labor<br />

Day because I did not want to miss it! Many<br />

<strong>of</strong> us met our wives and significant others<br />

during that weekend, and indeed it is where<br />

I met my wife, Jordana, almost six years ago.<br />

My Ramah friendships shaped and<br />

defined my life. It is easy to take for granted<br />

that nine other people will be there for<br />

you whenever you need them, but I can<br />

never take that for granted again.<br />

Our friend, Eric Jay Steinthal, who died<br />

suddenly on Saturday, March 17, was the<br />

center <strong>of</strong> our circle. It was Eric and his<br />

fiancée Jodi Siskind who hosted all <strong>of</strong> our<br />

poker games and get-togethers. Their apartment<br />

was our home base. Eric embodied<br />

the concept <strong>of</strong> menschlichkeit, and his quiet<br />

and unassuming demeanor and self-confidence<br />

made him extremely popular<br />

throughout the Ramah community. He was<br />

even the commissioner <strong>of</strong> the Ramah<br />

Alumni Basketball Association, and a member<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Berkshires Alumni Hanhallah<br />

– its board.<br />

After hearing the terrible news, four <strong>of</strong><br />

Eric’s friends, all from Ramah, rushed to the<br />

hospital to try to give his family support and<br />

comfort. The next day, more than 15 <strong>of</strong><br />

us gathered at my parents’ house. <strong>We</strong> spent<br />

the day and night telling funny stories,<br />

trying to get through the nightmare. Eric’s<br />

funeral was the hardest day <strong>of</strong> my life. It was<br />

filled with memories, love, and most <strong>of</strong><br />

all, Camp Ramah. Eric’s life revolved around<br />

camp, and to a certain respect the camp<br />

alumni community revolved around Eric.<br />

<strong>We</strong> are all trying to make sense <strong>of</strong> a tragedy<br />

that no parents, no siblings, no partners,<br />

and no friends should ever have to endure.<br />

But we have comfort. <strong>We</strong> have our bonds,<br />

forged together at Camp Ramah. They<br />

can never be broken. I cannot imagine having<br />

to endure this terrible pain without them.<br />

Even in the face <strong>of</strong> overwhelming tragedy,<br />

we find support, love, and hope that will<br />

enable us to continue without our friend.<br />

For all <strong>of</strong> us, that is what Camp Ramah<br />

stands for.<br />

May Eric’s memory be for a blessing. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 37

Camp<br />

Fosters<br />

Community<br />


Rebecca Kahn graduated from Tufts University<br />

in 2003 and has an M.A. in public<br />

administration and nonpr<strong>of</strong>it management<br />

from the NYU Robert F. Wagner School <strong>of</strong><br />

Public Service.<br />



months, it seems that every<br />

time I open my inbox I see an<br />

announcement from the<br />

National Ramah Commission<br />

about a new grant it has<br />

received.<br />

This is no accident. For more than 60<br />

years, the Ramah camps have been leaders<br />

in Jewish camping. They have pushed<br />

the field to bring the best in Jewish education<br />

into camp, in both pr<strong>of</strong>essional development<br />

and programming. The eight<br />

Ramah camps have set the standard for<br />

ongoing leadership development <strong>of</strong> its staff<br />

and campers. This year, the Ramah camps<br />

have been awarded two important grants.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> them is a $1.8 million grant from<br />

the Avi Chai Foundation and the Maimonides<br />

Foundation that will fund an<br />

alumni program called Reshet Ramah.<br />

Another grant from Avi Chai, this time <strong>of</strong><br />

$144,000, is to fund training opportunities<br />

for camp specialists at Ramah camps as well<br />

as the camps run by the Union for Reform<br />


I went to Camp Ramah in the Berkshires<br />

for nine summers, and I credit my experience<br />

as a camper, staff member, and executive<br />

leader on the alumni association board<br />

to my being where I am today, both personally<br />

and pr<strong>of</strong>essionally. My commitment<br />

and involvement in Jewish life and the <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

movement is<br />

a direct byproduct <strong>of</strong><br />

Ramah, Solomon<br />

Schechter day school,<br />

and my family. I have<br />

spent the past eight<br />

years as a Jewish pr<strong>of</strong>essional,<br />

working to<br />

engage children and young adults in Jewish<br />

life through Israel programs and Jewish summer<br />

camp.<br />

This March my extended camp family,<br />

and I had to grapple with the sudden death<br />

<strong>of</strong> our friend, Eric Steinthal. I looked around<br />

the room at his funeral and was struck by<br />

the power <strong>of</strong> my Ramah community – we<br />

grieved together, celebrated his life together,<br />

and I hope provided some comfort to his<br />

family, his fiancée, and his inner circle <strong>of</strong><br />

Ramah friends. It was strange and comforting<br />

to be surrounded by this amazing<br />

extended camp family grieving and crying<br />

instead <strong>of</strong> laughing and dancing, which<br />

we do each year at Camp Ramah’s Labor<br />

Day Alumni <strong>We</strong>ekend.<br />

According to the National Ramah Commission,<br />

fewer than 10 percent <strong>of</strong> eligible<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> movement-affiliated children<br />

go to a Ramah camp. If camp creates community,<br />

then we all should rise to the challenge<br />

<strong>of</strong> helping create more community for<br />

more <strong>of</strong> our children. <strong>We</strong> know that when<br />

children go to camps whose values and philosophy<br />

are deeply rooted in Jewish life, the<br />

odds that those children will become adults<br />

who participate in the Jewish world and<br />

identify with it are greatly increased. That<br />

is why we need to grow the number <strong>of</strong><br />

children enrolling in this transformative<br />

experience.<br />

Ramah is an extraordinary place. It nurtures<br />

leaders for the <strong>Conservative</strong> movement.<br />

<strong>We</strong> also know that not every family can<br />

imagine or will want its children to grow up<br />

to become rabbis, teachers, or Jewish com-<br />

<strong>We</strong> all should rise to the<br />

challenge <strong>of</strong> helping create<br />

more community for more<br />

<strong>of</strong> our children.<br />

munal pr<strong>of</strong>essionals. I think Ramah is the<br />

best but it is not for everyone. It might sound<br />

heretical, but not all <strong>Conservative</strong> Jews want<br />

their children praying daily, engaging in<br />

Jewish text-based study, or being immersed<br />

in a religious setting during summer vacation.<br />

And whether we agree or disagree, isn’t<br />

it our collective responsibility<br />

to make sure that<br />

these families find an<br />

appropriate Jewish community<br />

for their children<br />

over the summer?<br />

As a community we<br />

have to grow Ramah<br />

participation – but we also can’t give up<br />

on the other children <strong>of</strong> our movement.<br />

Is it possible to develop summer experiences<br />

that meet <strong>Conservative</strong> Jews where<br />

they are in their observance, not where we<br />

think they ought to be? A place where they<br />

can explore their <strong>Judaism</strong>? Is there room for<br />

a different brand <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> camps that<br />

would reach more <strong>of</strong> our constituents? There<br />

are plenty <strong>of</strong> excellent Jewish mission-driven<br />

camps that meet the standards <strong>of</strong> the <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

movement’s membership; do we<br />

have an obligation to promote these camps<br />

to our families alongside Ramah to make<br />

sure that every child has a rich Jewish summer<br />

experience?<br />

By neglecting to engage in a larger conversation<br />

about Jewish overnight camps and<br />

other Jewish summer opportunities, are we<br />

simply giving up on the majority <strong>of</strong> families<br />

who send their children to secular<br />

overnight camps (which generally tend to<br />

attract lots <strong>of</strong> Jewish kids) and missing an<br />

important opportunity to engage these families<br />

in a meaningful way? To ensure the<br />

future <strong>of</strong> this vitally important movement,<br />

to which I am proud to belong, we need<br />

more than 10 percent <strong>of</strong> our children going<br />

to Jewish camps each summer, whether those<br />

camps are Ramah, another <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

movement camp, or other Jewish missiondriven<br />

camps.<br />

<strong>We</strong> need more opportunities to engage<br />

all Jewish children in Jewish camping. Every<br />

family should have a strong community<br />

so they too can celebrate joy and share loss<br />

together. Jewish summer camp is a great way<br />

to develop our community.<br />

CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 39




article on the need for all<br />

<strong>of</strong> us to encourage more<br />

children <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong>affiliated<br />

families to attend<br />

Camp Ramah and other<br />

Jewish summer camps is to be applauded.<br />

Indeed, Rebecca echoes the sentiments <strong>of</strong><br />

so many who praise our growth in recent<br />

decades and advocate for even more aggressive<br />

expansion.<br />

<strong>We</strong> are proud <strong>of</strong> the last 20 years, when,<br />

in the face <strong>of</strong> declining demographics in<br />

the <strong>Conservative</strong> movement, Ramah has<br />

attracted and retained 30 percent more<br />

campers, so that we now host more than<br />

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen is director <strong>of</strong> the<br />

National Ramah Commission <strong>of</strong> the Jewish<br />

Theological Seminary.<br />


9,000 children, teens, and young adults<br />

each summer. <strong>We</strong> have built new overnight<br />

camps (Ramah Darom in Georgia in 1997<br />

and Ramah Outdoor Adventure in Colorado<br />

in 2010), opened new day camps (in<br />

Philadelphia and Chicago), and added<br />

capacity to our existing camps to make room<br />

for more children who come from a wide<br />

variety <strong>of</strong> educational and religious backgrounds.<br />

<strong>What</strong> makes us most proud, however,<br />

is that we have accomplished all this without<br />

compromising our commitment to the<br />

highest standards <strong>of</strong> intensive Jewish experiential<br />

education. This, I believe, is the<br />

source <strong>of</strong> the cohesive lifelong friendships<br />

and Jewish commitment that thousands<br />

<strong>of</strong> alumni cite as the legacy <strong>of</strong> Ramah, credited<br />

by so many as the source <strong>of</strong> the most<br />

positive and joyful Jewish experiences <strong>of</strong><br />

their lives.<br />

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Rabbinical Assembly, recently<br />

wrote: “As <strong>Conservative</strong> leaders, it is hard<br />

to remember how to dream because our Jewish<br />

religious vision symbolizes something<br />

that the community knows is necessary but<br />

fears is unachievable. Miraculously, advocates<br />

and skeptics agree about Ramah. Let’s<br />

take yes for an answer. If we get behind<br />

an effort to dramatically grow the Ramah<br />

system, we will be surprised by who comes<br />

along with us.”<br />

So my response is yes! Let’s all work<br />

together to radically increase the number <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> families attending Ramah and<br />

other camps that have strong programs <strong>of</strong><br />

Jewish identity-building. And yes, let us<br />

continue to develop new and cutting-edge<br />

methods <strong>of</strong> teaching Jewish content, with<br />

the understanding that our families represent<br />

the broadest spectrum <strong>of</strong> Jewish prac-

tice and various levels <strong>of</strong> education.<br />

But we can accomplish all this without<br />

sacrificing Jewish content. Ramah has shown<br />

that with the proper guidance from young<br />

role models, constant innovation, and<br />

tremendous care and sensitivity, we can<br />

indeed attract children from all levels <strong>of</strong> family<br />

observance and bring them, on their own<br />

path, to greater commitment to <strong>Judaism</strong>.<br />

The <strong>Conservative</strong> movement does not<br />

need any more attempts to attract more<br />

adherents by lowering expectations. Ramah<br />

is one <strong>of</strong> the movement’s success stories<br />

because we stand for something. <strong>We</strong> must<br />

be open to change, and our camps are centers<br />

<strong>of</strong> experimentation and innovation. The<br />

real challenge is to continue to grow and<br />

innovate, and to bring the Ramah experience<br />

to a wider percentage <strong>of</strong> North American<br />

Jewish families. Our pr<strong>of</strong>essional and<br />

lay leaders strive to accomplish this every<br />

day. But we cannot do this alone. <strong>We</strong> call<br />

upon all our <strong>Conservative</strong> partners to heed<br />

Rebecca’s call for growth, but within a<br />

Ramah system that has proven itself over 65<br />

years, is willing to answer the call for modernization<br />

and innovation, has attracted the<br />

support <strong>of</strong> the top foundations <strong>of</strong> Jewish<br />

life, and has maintained, not compromised,<br />

Jewish standards.<br />

In his keynote speech at the 60th anniversary<br />

celebration <strong>of</strong> the Ramah camping<br />

movement in 2007, JTS Chancellor Arnold<br />

Eisen said: “<strong>We</strong> need more Ramah, more<br />

camps, more campers, more leaders, more<br />

mitzvot, and more prayer that’s enlivened<br />

by the wholeness <strong>of</strong> self that comes about<br />

only in a camp setting.... I want to have more<br />

and more human beings at Ramah who<br />

understand the gift that they have been<br />

given, the ability to develop answers for<br />

themselves to the eternal questions <strong>of</strong> why<br />

the Jews, why <strong>Judaism</strong>, how to live Torah,<br />

how to partner with God. And to do all<br />

<strong>of</strong> this inside <strong>of</strong> the Jewish time and space,<br />

<strong>of</strong> wholeness and <strong>of</strong> joy that are not easily<br />

available elsewhere.”<br />

Ramah looks forward to decades <strong>of</strong><br />

growth, to bringing into our camps more<br />

families with an even wider spectrum <strong>of</strong><br />

practice, and to our alumni continuing to<br />

strengthen our synagogues and schools,<br />

to help build a stronger <strong>Conservative</strong> movement<br />

and a brighter Jewish future. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 41





privilege <strong>of</strong> teaching at the Koach<br />

Kallah, the annual gathering <strong>of</strong> college<br />

students sponsored by <strong>United</strong><br />

<strong>Synagogue</strong>’s college outreach department,<br />

under the superb direction<br />

<strong>of</strong> Rabbi Elyse Winick. The weekend, which<br />

included tremendously spirited singing and<br />

davening, serious study, and wonderful social<br />

activities, brought together some 150 students<br />

from more than 55 colleges and universities<br />

across North America. The kallah was held at<br />

Boston University and made possible primarily<br />

by the generous support <strong>of</strong> Women’s League<br />

for <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>.<br />

That’s the commercial (and a good one it<br />

is). Now to the tachlis – the real content.<br />

It’s no secret that our movement is under<br />

siege, whether it’s from the press, some <strong>of</strong><br />

our affiliates, or any number <strong>of</strong> other outside<br />

sources. Yet if you were to have walked<br />

into the room during any part <strong>of</strong> the weekend,<br />

you would wonder what the problem<br />

might be, or even if there was one.<br />

Granted, 150 college students is hardly a<br />

major sample, but the fervor and commitment<br />

they show for <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong><br />

are nothing short <strong>of</strong> inspirational. So if things<br />

are so good, why are they so bad?<br />

I taught a session Friday night called<br />

“<strong>What</strong> Makes Us <strong>Conservative</strong> Jews and<br />

Does It Really Matter?” <strong>We</strong> talked about<br />

ideology, relevance, and the facts on the<br />

ground. The session was packed, and while<br />

I hope it was instructive for the students,<br />

I know it was incredibly valuable to me.<br />

<strong>We</strong> do a great job providing our young<br />

people with topnotch experiential Jewish<br />

education, whether in Kadima or USY,<br />

Camp Ramah, or other Jewish youth groups<br />

or camps. Many <strong>of</strong> our teens carry these<br />

experiences with them to the college campus,<br />

primarily at Hillel but also through<br />

informal gatherings with friends. Deeply<br />

moved by what they’ve experienced, they<br />

Richard S. Moline is <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>’s chief<br />

outreach <strong>of</strong>ficer.

are primed to lead full Jewish lives.<br />

And then they come home.<br />

In fairness, it is difficult to replicate intense<br />

peer experiences outside camp, a youth<br />

group, or a college campus. On the other<br />

hand, when you have been part <strong>of</strong> a strong<br />

Shabbat community and suddenly find<br />

yourself in a place where no such community<br />

exists, especially on a peer level, it is<br />

extraordinarily frustrating. It can send a<br />

wrong message, which no one means to send.<br />

It can tell young people that the Shabbat<br />

that they have valued, the Shabbat experiences<br />

they have treasured throughout their<br />

time in USY, Ramah or on campus – forget<br />

it. The meaning they’ve been encouraged to<br />

give Shabbat – let it go. You’re out in the real<br />

world, we tell them, and the real world does<br />

not have time for Shabbat.<br />

The result <strong>of</strong> this mixed message <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

is that people who have come to value a<br />

Shabbat community do find one, no matter<br />

what its ideology. The power and support<br />

<strong>of</strong> community <strong>of</strong>ten trump belief and<br />

practice (and such communities are not limited<br />

to right, center, or left).<br />

I know people in their 20s who grew up<br />

in the <strong>Conservative</strong> movement but now<br />

go to modern Orthodox synagogues. I<br />

recently asked one <strong>of</strong> them why. Her answer<br />

was not a surprise. “It’s simple,” she said.<br />

“I went to the local <strong>Conservative</strong> synagogue<br />

twice. Both times, there were a lot <strong>of</strong> people<br />

in the sanctuary. Nobody took the time<br />

to talk to me and I left as I came – anonymously.<br />

The first time I went to the local<br />

Orthodox synagogue, I had an invitation to<br />

Shabbat lunch before we even got to Musaf.”<br />

Quite a few <strong>of</strong> the students at the Koach<br />

kallah spoke about the disconnect between<br />

clergy and laity, between ideology and practice.<br />

“In my experience,” one student told<br />

me, “the rabbi is the only person who seems<br />

to care about what we stand for. Everybody<br />

else picks and chooses.”<br />

<strong>What</strong> struck me most about these comments<br />

is that so many <strong>of</strong> these students<br />

feel a desperate need for validation. They<br />

want to be part <strong>of</strong> the movement, and I<br />

am convinced they are not alone. They are<br />

seeking a traditional egalitarian <strong>Judaism</strong>,<br />

where people are fully engaged in all aspects<br />

<strong>of</strong> Jewish life. Many find it in the scores<br />

<strong>of</strong> independent minyanim or chavurot that<br />

have emerged in recent years. Others create<br />

their own opportunities in neighborhoods<br />

across North America. Some <strong>of</strong> these enterprises<br />

are quite informal; they have no clergy<br />

and meet perhaps once a month on a Friday<br />

night. Others meet every Shabbat morning<br />

and include study and social service<br />

projects during the week.<br />

Some people look at these enterprises<br />

as threats. One colleague has suggested that<br />

the proliferation <strong>of</strong> independent groups<br />

could mean the decline <strong>of</strong> the synagogue.<br />

Rather than view these creative and vibrant<br />

groups negatively, I would suggest we<br />

embrace them. Even though many <strong>of</strong> them<br />

don’t want to be labeled in this way, they<br />

represent one <strong>of</strong> the greatest successes <strong>of</strong> the<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> movement in modern times.<br />

Our support does not mean that we diminish<br />

our existing kehillot; rather, it is the natural<br />

extension <strong>of</strong> Solomon Schechter’s notion<br />

<strong>of</strong> klal Yisrael, the community <strong>of</strong> Israel.<br />

Of course, we have to work on making<br />

our own communities more welcoming<br />

(many do a wonderful job already), but we<br />

also must be realistic. Many kehillot simply<br />

don’t have the critical mass (do we say<br />

critical minyan?) to nurture and sustain a<br />

peer community for people in their 20s. But<br />

when we encourage the kehillot that do incubate<br />

young communities, we are laying the<br />

groundwork for revitalization, creativity, and<br />

spiritual growth. In doing so, we must understand<br />

that many <strong>of</strong> these groups will not want<br />

to carry a denominational label <strong>of</strong> any type.<br />

That, too, can be viewed as an opportunity;<br />

to see it as a threat is myopic at best.<br />

The role and definition <strong>of</strong> the synagogue<br />

are changing. <strong>We</strong> must identify and support<br />

the communities <strong>of</strong> caring, committed, and<br />

passionate young Jews who will redefine our<br />

purpose and develop a traditional egalitarian<br />

<strong>Judaism</strong> that will bring meaning to<br />

their lives and the lives <strong>of</strong> the generations<br />

that will follow.<br />

The college students who gathered in<br />

Boston for the Koach kallah, thanks to<br />

Women’s League, sent us a strong message.<br />

They are committed to our future, but they<br />

are not sure whether we are committed to<br />

them. <strong>We</strong> have to listen to them carefully<br />

or we will be left behind in the dust. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 43

A Ruach<br />

Family Service<br />



Robinson held a meeting at Temple<br />

Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts,<br />

to find out why so few<br />

school-aged children showed up at<br />

Shabbat morning youth services.<br />

Although there was a thriving pre-school service,<br />

there never seemed to be more than a<br />

handful <strong>of</strong> school-aged kids at the service for<br />

them. Was the town’s amazing Saturday morning<br />

soccer program an insurmountable obstacle<br />

to a successful youth service?<br />

The outcome <strong>of</strong> that meeting – a monthly<br />

lay-led family service – rejuvenated the youth<br />

services, brought the parents closer together,<br />

and strengthened their connection to Temple<br />

Emanuel. <strong>We</strong> even added to the synagogue’s<br />

membership roster! <strong>We</strong> hope our story<br />

will inspire you to imagine what might be<br />

possible at your own synagogue.<br />

The idea for the Ruach Family Service<br />

took shape at that May meeting. A few parents,<br />

beginning with the understanding that<br />

working parents are away from their kids all<br />

week, said that they would like a family service<br />

so they could be together on Shabbat<br />

morning. Advocates <strong>of</strong> the family service<br />

described their vision – the room would<br />

have to be full. People had to know they<br />

would see their friends there. The service<br />

should be real. There would have to be a<br />

true a sense <strong>of</strong> kavannah – intention. It<br />

Dr. Pamela Kirschner <strong>We</strong>infeld, a dermatologist,<br />

lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with<br />

her husband, Dr. Mark <strong>We</strong>infeld, and their<br />

children, second- and third-generation members<br />

<strong>of</strong> Temple Emanuel. You can reach her<br />

at pweinfeld@gmail.com.<br />


should be monthly and the families should<br />

participate. It would have to be special. If it<br />

were, families would make an effort to<br />

attend.<br />

I had shown up at the meeting desperate<br />

for a service that my 8-year-old son could<br />

relate to. He did not like singing with the<br />

guitar in the youth service. The excitement<br />

in the room about a family service was<br />

palpable, and we knew we had to build on<br />

the momentum. I volunteered to lead the<br />

first family service and insisted that we have<br />

it right away – in July! Because there were<br />

no other kids’ services <strong>of</strong>fered in the summer,<br />

it seemed simple enough to try it.<br />

Given the emphasis placed on the importance<br />

<strong>of</strong> a full room, my main focus was<br />

to assign as many parts leading prayers as<br />

possible, so that families would commit<br />

to showing up. To make leading prayers<br />

exciting, we made illustrated laminated cards<br />

for each prayer – we call<br />

them honor cards. <strong>We</strong><br />

added leadership cards,<br />

which the kids fill with<br />

star stickers for each<br />

prayer they lead. To<br />

entice the kids to attend,<br />

we advertised heavily,<br />

focusing on the makeyour-own<br />

ice cream sundaes with fun toppings<br />

that we’d have at the kiddush after the<br />

service. I also planned a question and answer<br />

session about the parashah, with candy for<br />

anyone who tried to answer a question.<br />

<strong>We</strong> sent out a lot <strong>of</strong> emails and sent up a<br />

lot <strong>of</strong> prayers.<br />

<strong>We</strong> picked a small classroom because our<br />

expectations were low, but 30 people came<br />

and the room overflowed. The kids did a<br />

great job leading the prayers (with a little<br />

assistance) and they liked the questions (and<br />

the candy!). David Goldstone, one <strong>of</strong> the<br />

original proponents <strong>of</strong> the service, <strong>of</strong>fered<br />

an important suggestion: “You need something<br />

for the parents. You need a d’var<br />

Torah,” and he agreed to give it himself each<br />

month. He also agreed to co-chair the family<br />

service and helped recruit more families<br />

for the next one. David mailed me<br />

highlighted copies <strong>of</strong> sections from Rabbi<br />

Elie Kaunfer’s book, Empowered <strong>Judaism</strong>,<br />

stressing constant innovation as key to a successful<br />

community endeavor.<br />

Because the classroom had been so full<br />

for that first service, we moved our next service<br />

to a social hall. “Shock and awe” is a perfect<br />

description <strong>of</strong> how we<br />

felt when 80 people showed<br />

up – in mid August! That’s<br />

when we knew the July service<br />

really had been a hit.<br />

David gave an engaging<br />

parashah summary and<br />

d’var Torah, and then I led<br />

a lively Q & A session and<br />

gave out Twizzlers. Both parents and kids<br />

loved it. During the prayer portion <strong>of</strong> the<br />

service, I handed out the honor cards while<br />

helping the kids lead the service, but soon<br />

we learned that leading and organizing the<br />

service at the same time was just too hectic.<br />

<strong>We</strong> needed more help.<br />

Fortunately, more parents volunteered.<br />

Increasing parental involvement turned out<br />

to be key to our continued success. Par-

ents who became<br />

more involved in<br />

organizing the service<br />

became committed<br />

to attending,<br />

growing the service<br />

while also preventing<br />

burn-out on the<br />

part <strong>of</strong> the original<br />

organizers. The many roles allowed people<br />

with various skills to participate in different<br />

ways.<br />

David continued to give his Torah summaries<br />

and divrai Torah each month, and<br />

I kept my role as chazzanit and leader <strong>of</strong> the<br />

Q & A. Anthony Lehv sent out humorous<br />

(and serious) email announcements.<br />

Jenny McKee-Heinstein and Nicole Gann<br />

recruited kids to lead the kids’ parts. Julie<br />

Chivo premade name tags from lists <strong>of</strong> members<br />

and their school-aged children and<br />

greeted all who attended with a warm smile,<br />

so that everyone felt welcome. Michael<br />

Robinson read Torah so we could add a short<br />

Torah reading. Ana Volpi ushered the service<br />

– that is, she lined the kids up to minimize<br />

the time we spent waiting for each<br />

child to lead the next prayer. Marc Stober<br />

coordinated Torah readers, and Cheryl Stober<br />

created a Facebook page. Once we had<br />

more volunteers, we avoided duplication <strong>of</strong><br />

efforts using a shared Google document, so<br />

that the organizers could enter each assigned<br />

part and everyone else could see it.<br />

<strong>We</strong> innovated constantly. <strong>We</strong> chose a new<br />

room with a carpeted floor to limit the<br />

distracting noise <strong>of</strong> the wooden floor in the<br />

social hall. In addition to nametags, we<br />

started having each family introduce itself<br />

before Adon Olam to make sure that the<br />

service stayed warm and inviting. The synagogue<br />

staff and leadership were extremely<br />

supportive, not only <strong>of</strong> the service but also<br />

<strong>of</strong> the changes and new ideas.<br />

The biggest stumbling block proved to<br />

be finding the right siddur. It was important<br />

to us to have a genuine service, with<br />

prayers in Hebrew and no musical instruments,<br />

which we felt made kids’ services too<br />

concert-like. When two parents separately<br />

confessed that they were struggling with the<br />

prayers, we realized that we needed a simpler<br />

siddur with a full transliteration. Rabbi<br />

Robinson suggested that we make our own.<br />

Marc Stober volunteered to be editor-inchief.<br />

To create artwork, we organized an<br />

art brunch on a Sunday morning at the synagogue.<br />

<strong>We</strong> provided paper, markers, and<br />

stencils. The parents ate bagels and chatted<br />

while the kids made magic.<br />

The kids love seeing their own artwork<br />

in the siddur! In addition to making sure<br />

that there was a full transliteration and translation<br />

for every spoken prayer, Marc added<br />

such features as bold type for the parts the<br />

congregation sings together. Thanks to our<br />

siddur, the parents who needed transliter-<br />

ations have become regular attendees, and<br />

we have attracted many families with different<br />

levels <strong>of</strong> knowledge. In fact, one<br />

parent later confided to me that the reason<br />

she feels so comfortable with our all-<br />

Hebrew service is that because the kids are<br />

learning, she is not embarrassed that she<br />

is learning, too.<br />

<strong>We</strong> are amazed to see how much everyone<br />

has learned. It truly has been incredible<br />

to see the kids, even the shy ones, coming<br />

forward to lead a prayer, with the whole<br />

room rooting for them, and to see their faces<br />

(continued on page 47)<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 45




always fit all, particularly<br />

when you are talking<br />

about people’s<br />

spiritual needs. The traditional<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong><br />

prayer service doesn’t always work for everyone.<br />

Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, California, is a<br />

kehilla that is looking for creative ways to<br />

experience tefillah in a new way. “<strong>We</strong> are<br />

experimenting with multiple minyanim,”<br />

Rabbi David Booth, one <strong>of</strong> the three rabbis<br />

at Kol Emeth, said. Choices for its Saturday<br />

morning program, which is called Kol Shabbat,<br />

include a study group using the Mitzvah<br />

Initiative curriculum from the Jewish<br />

Theological Seminary, a c<strong>of</strong>fee and schmoozing<br />

room for parents <strong>of</strong> children in a Shabbat<br />

school program, and a new Hebrew class<br />

that is a gateway into the service. The programs<br />

are <strong>of</strong> varying lengths; when they<br />

are over participants <strong>of</strong>ten go into the sanctuary<br />

and join the service there. A community<br />

Shabbat lunch follows services every<br />

week.<br />

When Kol Shabbat is in session, it generally<br />

draws about 200 adults and 100 children<br />

from its 613 family members. “Shabbat<br />

attendance has gone up,” Booth said. “<strong>We</strong><br />

are appealing to parents who want to be<br />

in the synagogue but may not want to come<br />

into the main sanctuary. <strong>We</strong> want families<br />

to be here together for a whole Shabbat<br />

experience.”<br />

Around 2005, Shabbat synagogue attendance<br />

was declining at Temple Emunah,<br />

a 535-member kehilla in Lexington, Massachusetts,<br />

so a committee was formed to<br />

grapple with ways to turn it around. The<br />


next year, the committee decided to adopt<br />

the Synaplex model for Shabbat because<br />

“people experience Shabbat and tefillah in<br />

different ways,” Rabbi David Lerner said.<br />

Lerner is the head rabbi <strong>of</strong> Temple Emunah.<br />

Synaplex, which ran from 2003 to 2010,<br />

was part <strong>of</strong> STAR (<strong>Synagogue</strong>s, Transformation<br />

and Renewal). “The model allowed<br />

congregations to rethink the way they did<br />

Shabbat and to find multiple entry ways<br />

into the synagogue,” its founder, Rabbi<br />

Hayim Herring, said. “The model gave congregations<br />

a way to invite people into the<br />

synagogue to be part <strong>of</strong> a Shabbat community.”<br />

Participating kehillot made their own<br />

choices and found the things that worked<br />

best for them. About 90 <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

kehillot took part in Synaplex <strong>of</strong>ficially but<br />

many more have adopted a similar style<br />

<strong>of</strong> multiple minyanim. The program is over<br />

but the number <strong>of</strong> kehillot using its framework<br />

is growing.<br />

Temple Emunah began a more-or-less<br />

monthly program called Choose Your Own<br />

Shabbat Adventure, which begins with<br />

breakfast and then <strong>of</strong>fers several options,<br />

including meditation, yoga, or a traditional<br />

Pesukei D’Zimra. It began in 2006 and still<br />

is going strong today. The Torah service<br />

selections include a traditional Torah reading,<br />

text study, and bibliodrama. There<br />

are up to 20 different options but the congregation<br />

always ends up together as one<br />

community. Shabbat morning attendance<br />

went up from 100 people to around 450 on<br />

those special Shabbatot.<br />

Friday evenings are just as innovative. “<strong>We</strong><br />

wanted to bring in people who celebrate<br />

Shabbat in different ways and combine it<br />

with something social,” Lerner said. This<br />

includes three summer Friday evenings,<br />

when the proceedings begin with a barbeque,<br />

outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat with musical<br />

instruments, candle lighting, Maariv (held<br />

outdoors whenever possible), and a community<br />

Shabbat dinner, ending with traditional<br />

singing. Scattered throughout the<br />

year there are also creative Minchah, Maariv,<br />

and Havdalah services that end with social<br />

events.<br />

Some kehillot hold multiple minyanim<br />

every week. Shirat HaYam <strong>of</strong> the North<br />

Shore in Swampscott, Massachusetts, is one<br />

<strong>of</strong> them. It <strong>of</strong>fers roughly 10 different<br />

options for adults on Shabbat morning,<br />

beginning with breakfast and including alternative<br />

tefillot with Rabbi Baruch HaLevi in<br />

the chapel and a traditional Shacharit led<br />

by the cantors in the sanctuary. There is also<br />

Limmud School (sort <strong>of</strong> a hybrid<br />

Synaplex/Hebrew school) for children on<br />

Shabbat mornings. And there is a Shabbat<br />

café where people can nosh and<br />

schmooze. The minyanim join in the sanctuary<br />

for a healing service and a d’var Torah,<br />

text study, or bibliodrama, and the children<br />

come into the sanctuary for a spirited and<br />

musical ruach rally. Then there is Shabbat<br />

kiddush lunch for the community. “My<br />

philosophy is that there is no one way to<br />

speak to God,” HaLevi said. He estimates<br />

that around 250 to 300 people attend. This<br />

is up from around 40 on a pre-Synaplex<br />

Shabbat.<br />

Smaller kehillot can create innovative worship<br />

experiences too. “<strong>We</strong> have different<br />

themes during the year to provide different<br />

types <strong>of</strong> tefillah experiences in the main

service on either Friday or Saturday,” Rabbi<br />

Daniel Schweber said. He is rabbi <strong>of</strong> Shaare<br />

Tikvah, a 175-family kehillah in Scarsdale,<br />

New York. “The congregation <strong>of</strong>fers<br />

early morning yoga or a slower, more musical<br />

Pesukei D’Zimra, aptly called Stop and<br />

Smell the Psalms,” he said. On some Shabbat<br />

mornings the service will focus on Torah,<br />

and bibliodrama is added after the main<br />

service. Creative Shabbat services are held<br />

once a month.<br />

A few times a year, Shaare Tikvah holds<br />

a themed Friday evening service that includes<br />

a dinner. During daylight savings time, when<br />

Shabbat starts late, the kehilla holds a musical<br />

service with instruments. Service attendance<br />

goes up on the Fridays when there<br />

is a special service and dinner.<br />

Themed services do not have to be limited<br />

to Shabbat. The leaders <strong>of</strong> daily<br />

minyanim also use innovative planning to<br />

attract more participants. “Temple Emunah<br />

is the only shul in the area that still holds<br />

a daily minyan, and we are always looking<br />

Ruach Family Service<br />

(continued from page 45)<br />

(and their parents’ faces) afterward, shining<br />

with delight. The kids have all become more<br />

confident with experience, and we now have<br />

several who can belt out multiple prayers.<br />

To celebrate these accomplishments and<br />

the service’s first anniversary, we gave out<br />

personalized trophies with Jewish stars to<br />

all the kids. Now they have a concrete symbol<br />

that their effort at services is just as<br />

important as their effort on the soccer field.<br />

They also have enduring memories <strong>of</strong> fun,<br />

lively, beautiful Shabbat mornings spent<br />

at synagogue with family and friends.<br />

After a few months working together, my<br />

husband and I invited the Goldstones over<br />

for Shabbat dinner. <strong>We</strong> realized that evening<br />

that creating our service also was about building<br />

community. <strong>We</strong> started extending more<br />

invitations, and the friendships that are<br />

developing have strengthened everyone’s<br />

ties to each other, to our service, and to Temple<br />

Emanuel.<br />

The year after the founding <strong>of</strong> our service,<br />

the synagogue launched a monthly sixth-<br />

for new ideas to strengthen them,” Lerner<br />

said. Last year, two minyan leaders, past president<br />

Fred Ezekiel and Cathy McDonald,<br />

came up with a friends and peers model.<br />

In that model, groups <strong>of</strong> people who work<br />

together, are alumni <strong>of</strong> the same university,<br />

or share interests or background in some<br />

other way, are invited to the<br />

Minchah/Maariv minyan, which also<br />

includes a food and schmooze element.<br />

Themed minyanim are held on evenings<br />

when it can be difficult to gather a quorum.<br />

Themes have included MIT alumni, CUNY<br />

alumni, the men’s club s<strong>of</strong>tball team, cycling<br />

enthusiasts, and Israel advocates. The list<br />

keeps growing.<br />

Each month, the synagogue bulletin carries<br />

an article about the minyan. People who<br />

are 10 for 10 – who attend ten minyanim<br />

– are recognized in the bulletin. “The minyan<br />

isn’t full but the themed minyans have<br />

helped,” Lerner said. “This model can be<br />

used by other communities to build and<br />

strengthen minyanim.” CJ<br />

grade-led Discovery Service inspired by it.<br />

This new service is attracting 20 or 30 kids<br />

each month, an attendance level that would<br />

have been unthinkable two years ago. In<br />

addition, several non-affiliated families who<br />

heard about our service from friends and<br />

started attending have gone on to join our<br />

synagogue.<br />

Founding the Temple Emanuel Ruach<br />

Family Service has enriched our lives as Jews,<br />

as families, and as a community and congregation.<br />

Now it’s your turn! Use our story<br />

as your blueprint. It’s an endeavor worth the<br />

effort. All you need is a minimum <strong>of</strong> three<br />

or four committed families, someone who<br />

can help lead the service, and someone who<br />

can talk about the Torah parashah. If you<br />

have someone who can chant a brief Torah<br />

excerpt, that’s a plus. Don’t forget the Twizzlers<br />

and ice cream, <strong>of</strong> course. Go ahead and<br />

try it.You are welcome to adapt our prayer<br />

book!<br />

You can read more about ruach Shabbat<br />

family services and see the siddur at<br />

Temple Emanuel’s website. Go to temple<br />

emanuel.com/ruach-shabbat-family-services.<br />

CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 47





me strange looks.00000000<br />

I guess it was to be expected<br />

– I had come into the minyan<br />

and opened up my laptop,<br />

which now was making<br />

strange noises. People were curious about why<br />

the rabbi would be disturbing the sanctity <strong>of</strong><br />

the daily minyan by playing with his email.<br />

At the end <strong>of</strong> services, the mourners<br />

observing yahrzeit got up to recite the<br />

Mourner’s Kaddish. At that point I turned<br />

to the laptop and looked in, and a woman<br />

on the screen stood up to recite the Kaddish<br />

with them.<br />

I explained to the minyannaires that we<br />

had a new participant in the Temple Emunah<br />

daily minyan. Her name is Maxine Marcus,<br />

though everyone calls her Max. She lives<br />

in Amsterdam and works in the Hague,<br />

where she serves as a war crimes prosecutor<br />

at the International Criminal Tribunal<br />

for the former Yugoslavia.<br />

The story behind the story: My wife,<br />

Sharon Levin, and Max have been close<br />

friends since they participated in USY’s<br />

Poland Seminar/Israel Pilgrimage 25 years<br />

ago. Theirs was among the first USY groups<br />

to visit Poland to see the instruments <strong>of</strong><br />

the Nazi death camps. Both Max and Sharon<br />

were pr<strong>of</strong>oundly moved and transformed<br />

by that experience.<br />

Max’s parents were survivors <strong>of</strong> the Holo-<br />


caust. Her mother was deported from the<br />

Hague in 1942 at age 12 and was imprisoned<br />

in more than 10 concentration camps.<br />

She spent her 14th birthday in Auschwitz<br />

and endured unspeakable horrors, tortured<br />

by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. Growing<br />

up in the 1970s and ’80s, Max heard<br />

these stories and internalized a pr<strong>of</strong>ound<br />

commitment to <strong>Judaism</strong> and a deep sense<br />

<strong>of</strong> justice.<br />

During her college years, Max spent her<br />

summers volunteering at a Bosnian Muslim<br />

refugee camp helping the victims <strong>of</strong> war<br />

crimes, <strong>of</strong>ten Muslim women. My wife also<br />

was a volunteer during the Yugoslavian war<br />

in the early 1990s. After law school, Max<br />

worked for human rights in Africa and eventually<br />

wound up in the Hague.<br />

In recent years, Max had been dealing<br />

with her parents’ aging and the cancer that<br />

Rabbi David Lerner is the spiritual leader<br />

<strong>of</strong> Temple Emunah in Lexington, Massachusetts.<br />

He is president <strong>of</strong> the New England<br />

Rabbinical Assembly and co-chairs the<br />

RA’s Commission on Keruv, Conversion and<br />

Jewish Peoplehood. Max Marcus and her mother, Stella Marcus, z’l.<br />

eventually took<br />

her mother’s<br />

life. She discovered<br />

that it<br />

is not easy to<br />

say Kaddish in<br />

Amsterdam. She and I realized that she could<br />

participate in our daily minyan through the<br />

free internet video calling service known<br />

as Skype.<br />

But would it be kosher? Interestingly<br />

enough, 10 years ago Rabbi Avram Reisner<br />

wrote a teshuvah, a religious responsum<br />

for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Rabbinical Assembly, explaining<br />

that should such technology arise (Skype<br />

had not yet been created), it would be permissible<br />

for someone to join in a minyan,<br />

although not to count in the quorum <strong>of</strong> 10,<br />

and to recite the Kaddish. While it also

would be allowed through the phone, it<br />

is much better to have a real-time audiovisual<br />

link.<br />

After examining dozens <strong>of</strong> sources and<br />

precedents from thousands <strong>of</strong> years <strong>of</strong> Jewish<br />

history, Rabbi Reisner concluded that<br />

a minyan may not be constituted over the<br />

Internet, an audio- or video-conference,<br />

or any other medium <strong>of</strong> long distance communication.<br />

Only physical proximity, that<br />

is being in the same room with the shaliah<br />

tzibbur (the prayer leader), allows a quorum<br />

to be constituted.<br />

Once a quorum has been duly constituted,<br />

however, anyone hearing the prayers<br />

in that minyan may respond and fulfill his<br />

or her obligations, even over long-distance<br />

communications <strong>of</strong> any sort. A real-time<br />

audio connection is required. Two-way connections<br />

to the whole minyan are preferable,<br />

though connection to the shaliach<br />

tzibbur alone or a one-way connection linking<br />

the minyan to the mourner is sufficient.<br />

Email and chat rooms or other typewritten<br />

connections do not suffice. Video connections<br />

are not necessary, but video without<br />

audio also would not suffice.<br />

Rabbi Reisner defines a hierarchy <strong>of</strong> preference.<br />

It is best to attend a minyan for the<br />

full social and communal effect. A real-time<br />

two-way audio-video connection, where the<br />

mourner is able to converse with the members<br />

<strong>of</strong> the minyan and see and be seen by<br />

them, is less desirable. Only in exigent circumstances<br />

should you fulfill your obligation<br />

by attaching yourself to a minyan<br />

through a one-way audio medium, which<br />

essentially is just overhearing the service.<br />

As long as someone who is physically<br />

present in the minyan recites the Mourner’s<br />

Kaddish, a participant at another location<br />

may recite it as well; this is not considered<br />

a superfluous blessing.<br />

As you can see, Skyping into the minyan<br />

is permissible according to Rabbi<br />

Reisner’s teshuvah. It has been a powerful<br />

experience, as members <strong>of</strong> the minyan got<br />

to know Max, schmoozing with her for a<br />

minute or two over Skype after minyan. This<br />

has been a great blessing. It is a reminder<br />

that our minyan is not just a gift to each participant<br />

– allowing us to experience the<br />

power <strong>of</strong> God, prayer, and community –<br />

but it also reaches out to include all who<br />

participate, even those on the other side<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Atlantic Ocean.<br />

Last summer, Max visited Temple Emunah<br />

in person. For the first time, our members,<br />

who had never been in the same room<br />

with her but felt close to her through her<br />

Skyped recitation <strong>of</strong> the Mourner’s Kaddish,<br />

were able to meet Max.<br />

Today, we occasionally Skype in members<br />

who are ill as well as members <strong>of</strong> other<br />

shuls who have heard <strong>of</strong> our Skype minyan.<br />

It is our hope that many shuls will add this<br />

option to their daily minyans.<br />

Kol Yisrael areivin zeh ba’zeh – all Israel<br />

is responsible for one another – whether<br />

in person or through the internet.<br />

You can see the full text <strong>of</strong> Wired to the<br />

Kadosh Barukh Hu: Minyan via Internet,<br />

at rabbinicalassembly.org/teshuvot/docs/<br />

19912000/reisner_internetminyan.pdf See<br />

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

323. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 49

W Bat<br />


Friday, June 5, 1959, 13-yearold<br />

Roberta Hirshfield celebrated<br />

her bat mitzvah at the<br />

Astoria Center <strong>of</strong> Israel in<br />

Queens, New York.<br />

A bat mitzvah still was a relatively rare<br />

occurrence. Roberta, however, had attended<br />

Hebrew school and weekly Shabbat services<br />

for many years, so it seemed a logical progression.<br />

For her bat mitzvah, she and another<br />

girl in her Hebrew school class shared the<br />

berakhot (blessings) for the haftarah and then<br />

the haftarah itself. Roberta’s partner led<br />

Aleinu and Roberta led Yigdal.<br />

The families then went on to the social<br />

hall, where the guests were treated to a catered<br />

oneg Shabbat. The next morning, <strong>of</strong> course,<br />

the members <strong>of</strong> the Astoria Center <strong>of</strong> Israel<br />

heard a repeat <strong>of</strong> the haftarah that Roberta<br />

chanted the night before – but this second<br />

reading was the one that counted as the synagogue’s<br />

<strong>of</strong>ficial haftarah recitation.<br />

Nevertheless young Roberta was thrilled<br />

with this milestone. It did not occur to<br />

her at the time to compare her own accomplishment<br />

to that <strong>of</strong> her brother Stuart, who<br />

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

was marked by his aliyah to the Torah on<br />

Shabbat morning and celebrated with a<br />

splendid kiddush, and again that night with<br />

an even more opulent party, complete with<br />

a live band and a multicourse sit-down meal.<br />

Also unlike Stuart’s religious rite <strong>of</strong> passage,<br />

there was no hefty photo album, just<br />

a few snapshots <strong>of</strong> a proud young girl in a<br />

Lisa Kogen is education director <strong>of</strong> Women’s<br />

League for <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>.<br />


omenSpeak<br />

Mitzvah: Take Two<br />


fancy white dress. But most significant <strong>of</strong> all,<br />

Roberta never again was called upon by<br />

the Astoria Center <strong>of</strong> Israel to demonstrate<br />

those skills that she so ardently had acquired<br />

over more than 8 years <strong>of</strong> Hebrew school.<br />

It was now 50 years later. Roberta Hirshfield<br />

Schreiber – wife, mother, and grandmother<br />

– had watched as several generations<br />

<strong>of</strong> women participated in the no longer<br />

exceptional bat mitzvah ceremony when<br />

girls are called to the Torah by their Hebrew<br />

names on Shabbat morning, wearing their<br />

own tallitot. They recite the blessings, read<br />

from the Torah, and lead services, full and<br />

equal participants in the congregation’s<br />

ritual life. It was time, Roberta decided, that<br />

she too should become an active participant<br />

rather than a mere spectator.<br />

After consultation with Rabbi Gary Parras<br />

<strong>of</strong> Temple Israel in Orlando, Florida,<br />

where she has lived for many years, Roberta<br />

again honed her Hebrew reading skills, this<br />

time to include the Torah trope. On a Shabbat<br />

morning in June, close to her original<br />

bat mitzvah date, Roberta Schreiber was<br />

called to the Torah by her Hebrew name,<br />

Raza Tova bat Zev veChannah. She recited<br />

the blessing, read from the Torah, and later<br />

made kiddush with the kiddush cup that<br />

was presented to her at her first bat mitzvah.<br />

This time Roberta wore a tallit, beautifully<br />

decorated with images <strong>of</strong> the<br />

matriarchs. The following day she invited<br />

her guests to a party, complete with a live<br />

band and a multicourse sit-down meal.<br />

But more significantly, Roberta subsequently<br />

became a regular in the rotation <strong>of</strong><br />

the Yad Squad at Temple Israel, the synagogue’s<br />

cadre <strong>of</strong> lay Torah and haftarah readers.<br />

In her dvar Torah Roberta spoke about

Samson’s mother, the subject <strong>of</strong> her haftarah,<br />

who had no identity <strong>of</strong> her own<br />

beyond being Manoach’s wife and her son’s<br />

mother. Roberta spoke about her own journey<br />

from her first to her second bat mitzvah<br />

as a spiritual quest, and as a reflection<br />

<strong>of</strong> women’s progress.<br />

Roberta’s two bat mitzvah celebrations<br />

are more than just a human interest story.<br />

Rather, they give a face to the trajectory<br />

<strong>of</strong> modern Jewish feminism over the past<br />

50 years.<br />

This year, 2012, the bat mitzvah celebration<br />

is the topic <strong>of</strong> much discussion.<br />

This March marked the 90th anniversary<br />

<strong>of</strong> Judith Kaplan’s bat mitzvah, the first one<br />

celebrated in the <strong>United</strong> States. It was a<br />

momentous event – extraordinary really –<br />

and no doubt partially attributable to the<br />

fact that Judith was the musically gifted<br />

and Hebraically knowledgeable daughter<br />

<strong>of</strong> Mordecai Kaplan, the founder <strong>of</strong> Reconstructionist<br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>. But despite Kaplan’s<br />

progressive vision, which pr<strong>of</strong>oundly influenced<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>, bat mitzvah<br />

celebrations remained relatively rare<br />

until after the Second World War.<br />

By the 1960s, the Friday night bat mitzvah<br />

had become a regular rite <strong>of</strong> passage in<br />

most <strong>Conservative</strong> synagogues. Like the<br />

bar mitzvah, the bat mitzvah served as a<br />

public coming <strong>of</strong> age. But like the 1959<br />

bat mitzvah <strong>of</strong> Roberta Hirshfield, the ceremony<br />

was a construct. Except for leading<br />

a few permissible prayers, non-liturgical<br />

readings <strong>of</strong>ten were picked because they<br />

were about women (Deborah, Ruth and<br />

Hannah were very popular) or were taken<br />

from the week’s haftarah. Unfortunately, a<br />

young girl’s bat mitzvah generally marked<br />

the end <strong>of</strong> her inclusion in the religious life<br />

<strong>of</strong> the synagogue, not the beginning.<br />

Once the bat mitzvah became established,<br />

other issues arose. <strong>What</strong> about the status<br />

<strong>of</strong> a girl after celebrating her bat mitzvah?<br />

Was this to be a one-time event, where she<br />

acquired skills that would never be used<br />

again? While formal approval to extend aliyot<br />

to women came in 1955 in a minority opinion<br />

from the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee<br />

on Jewish Law and Standards, most<br />

congregations followed the majority opinion,<br />

which did not sanction the practice.<br />

It was not until the early 1970s, with the<br />

grassroots pressure from women for full<br />

parity in religious ritual and then the 1973<br />

CJLS takkanah (rabbinic enactment) allowing<br />

women to be counted in the minyan,<br />

that the pace <strong>of</strong> egalitarianism accelerated.<br />

In short order the bat mitzvah was integrated<br />

into the Shabbat morning service<br />

and became the equivalent <strong>of</strong> the bar mitzvah.<br />

The process, beginning with Judith<br />

Kaplan in 1922, had reached its logical<br />

manifestation by becoming commonplace.<br />

But this change did not affect only young<br />

women. As bnot mitzvah became equal<br />

partners in the religious lives <strong>of</strong> their congregations,<br />

their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers<br />

began to seek entrée as well. With<br />

egalitarianism the rule rather than the<br />

exception, women – many <strong>of</strong> whom had<br />

grown up with little or no Jewish education<br />

– embarked upon ambitious programs<br />

<strong>of</strong> acquiring Hebrew literacy and studying<br />

classical Jewish texts. Women’s entry into<br />

what was once the exclusive domain <strong>of</strong> men<br />

led to the development <strong>of</strong> new Jewish<br />

women’s rituals, including the adult bat<br />

mitzvah.<br />

Over the past several decades, hundreds<br />

<strong>of</strong> synagogues across North America have<br />

<strong>of</strong>fered a wide variety <strong>of</strong> adult bat mitzvah<br />

classes and learning opportunities for<br />

women. The benefits accrue not only to<br />

the women who derive personal satisfaction<br />

from the acquisition <strong>of</strong> the skills<br />

required to daven and read Torah, but to<br />

congregational life as well. As more and<br />

more congregations rely on laity to read<br />

Torah and lead services, the inclusion <strong>of</strong><br />

women has increased the ranks <strong>of</strong> learned<br />

and actively engaged communities.<br />

For nearly a century, Women’s League<br />

for <strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> has been devoted<br />

to providing a wide variety <strong>of</strong> educational<br />

initiatives to its members. Mirroring developments<br />

in synagogues, thousands <strong>of</strong><br />

Women’s League members have participated<br />

in adult bat mitzvah programs. The<br />

phenomenon was so popular and the<br />

demand so great that in 2002 Women’s<br />

League commissioned a bat mitzvah curriculum,<br />

Etz Hayim He, for <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

congregations. Educators have hailed the<br />

two-year course <strong>of</strong> study, written by Dr.<br />

Lisa Grant, who received her PhD from<br />

the Jewish Theological Seminary, as a model<br />

<strong>of</strong> adult learning. In addition, starting in<br />

the early 1990s Women’s League created<br />

Kolot Bik’dushah, a society <strong>of</strong> qualified Torah<br />

readers and prayer leaders. To date, nearly<br />

a thousand women and post-bat mitzvah<br />

girls (Banot Bik’dushah) have been admitted<br />

to the ranks <strong>of</strong> this elite society.<br />

When a Jewish child is born, whether<br />

male or female, the parents entreat the Creator<br />

that they might raise him or her to<br />

“a life <strong>of</strong> Torah, chuppah (marriage) and<br />

ma’asim tovim (good behavior/good<br />

deeds).” It wasn’t so long ago – barely a<br />

generation – that the opportunity for<br />

women to be raised to a life <strong>of</strong> Torah was<br />

pragmatic and bound to domestic obligations<br />

– keeping a kosher home, raising<br />

Jewish children, and observing private<br />

mitzvot. Today a woman’s life <strong>of</strong> Torah can<br />

include all areas <strong>of</strong> Jewish living, both<br />

private and public – and the bat mitzvah<br />

has become, finally, a celebration <strong>of</strong><br />

beginning. CJ<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 51



IN THE 1970S THE FEDERA-<br />

TION <strong>of</strong> Jewish Men’s Clubs developed<br />

the first broadly based adult<br />

education Hebrew reading program<br />

in the <strong>Conservative</strong> movement.<br />

FJMC’s Hebrew literacy program was<br />

based on the concept <strong>of</strong> laypeople teaching<br />

one another using two traditional texts,<br />

Shalom Aleichem and Ayn Keloheynu. More<br />

than 200,000 people throughout North<br />

America have learned to read Hebrew and to<br />

participate more meaningfully in our prayer<br />

services thanks to this program.<br />

Last year, the Temple Israel Men’s Club<br />

<strong>of</strong> Natick, Massachusetts, a member <strong>of</strong><br />

FJMC’s New England region, and I added<br />

a new element to the program. Not long ago<br />

I passed my 20-year mark at Temple Israel<br />

and I realized that if I had learned an average<br />

<strong>of</strong> just one Hebrew word a week during<br />

Shabbat services, I’d now know more than<br />

1,000 Hebrew words. Using the approach<br />

that if we learn a little bit at a time we can<br />

acquire a substantial vocabulary, FJMC and<br />

I have created the Divrei HaShavua – Words<br />

<strong>of</strong> the <strong>We</strong>ek initiative. If we look at learning<br />

Hebrew as a lifelong process rather than<br />

a one-time class, the challenge <strong>of</strong> learning<br />

a new language becomes surmountable.<br />

Each week, the program’s website <strong>of</strong>fers<br />

five Hebrew words from the Torah portion<br />

with their English translations and transliterations.<br />

<strong>Synagogue</strong>s insert the words into<br />

their Shabbat flyers and weekly emails. The<br />

words are selected by volunteers from Temple<br />

Israel <strong>of</strong> Natick and by men’s club members<br />

from California to Toronto to Florida<br />

whom I met at the 2011 FJMC international<br />

convention. A sample <strong>of</strong> the table <strong>of</strong> words<br />

for parashat Noach is shown below:<br />

David P. Singer, a founder <strong>of</strong> his men’s club,<br />

is a vice president <strong>of</strong> FJMC’s New England<br />

region.<br />


To participate simply copy the weekly<br />

table from the website into a Shabbat flyer.<br />

My feeling is that no one should leave the<br />

Shabbat morning service after reading the<br />

story <strong>of</strong> Noah without knowing the Hebrew<br />

word for flood (kucn) or the story <strong>of</strong> Joseph<br />

without knowing the word for dream (oukj).<br />

Divrei HaShavua has the potential to stimulate<br />

interest in the parashah for everyone,<br />

including those who <strong>of</strong>ten don’t feel<br />

Camel Around<br />

Your Neck<br />

(continued from page 35)<br />

science; the more you know about the<br />

parashah’s details, the more nuanced the<br />

connection between the tie and the reading<br />

can be.<br />

It’s educational for the rest <strong>of</strong> the kehilla<br />

as well. People look at his tie and try to<br />

figure the connection out. “In most shuls,<br />

people ask what the rabbi said,” Freddy said.<br />

“At BJ, they ask what the rabbi said, and<br />

then they ask what tie the gabbai wore.”<br />

Freddy still has one tie on his wish list.<br />

He would like one with a big red letter C<br />

– that’s Beshallach again, for the crossing.<br />

a connection with the Torah service. This is<br />

one small step to help make services more<br />

accessible to current and potential synagogue<br />

members. It might even inspire some<br />

people to participate in the FJMC’s Hebrew<br />

literacy program or in another Hebrew class.<br />

For more information about Divrei<br />

HaShavua, go to www.fjmc.org and click<br />

on Activities and then Hebrew Literacy or<br />

email words@nerfjmc.org. CJ<br />

ch:verse Hebrew transliteration English<br />

6:9 tsadik righteous<br />

6:14 teva ark<br />

7:6 mabul flood<br />

9:12 berit covenant<br />

10:8 gibor strong, mighty<br />

Words provided by Marty Levine <strong>of</strong> Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom in Miami, FL<br />

Camels, olives, pieces <strong>of</strong> silver, Mickey<br />

Mouse – an entire world <strong>of</strong> Torah hangs<br />

around one man’s neck. CJ

Letters<br />

(continued from page 6)<br />

solidating, closing, or otherwise changing.<br />

My own is considering a wonderful rabbi<br />

who happens to be female. The Reform temple<br />

has doubled in membership during the<br />

current term <strong>of</strong> their rabbi, a woman whom<br />

everyone there loves.<br />

Look at the true issues that drive membership,<br />

especially the relevancy <strong>of</strong> the synagogue<br />

in peoples’ lives. The argument that<br />

it has much to do with gender is underresearched<br />

at best.<br />


Brockton, Massachusetts<br />


I heartily agree with Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser’s<br />

proposal (“Acknowledging American Exceptionalism,”<br />

Spring 2012). I have long felt that<br />

the <strong>United</strong> States was given the mission to<br />

be a light unto the nations. Despite its struggles<br />

with various human failings, it has to<br />

some extent already achieved that goal. There<br />

is hope that as time passes, it will move<br />

further in that direction. It would be well to<br />

adopt the Harachaman prayer suggested by<br />

A Personal Miracle<br />

(continued from page 29)<br />

for a vibrant Masorti movement in Ukraine.<br />

Reuven met his wife, Lena, in 2004 on<br />

one <strong>of</strong> those trips. The couple now has<br />

two daughters, Miriam and Alisia.<br />

Reuven’s path to the rabbinate was not an<br />

easy one. His studies were intensive,<br />

demanding, and all in Hebrew – most <strong>of</strong> his<br />

colleagues in rabbinical school were native<br />

Hebrew speakers. He combined the usual<br />

academic disciplines <strong>of</strong> Jewish history, Talmud,<br />

halachah, and Mishnah with his regular<br />

visits to Ukraine.<br />

Reuven feels that completing rabbinical<br />

school and achieving his goal <strong>of</strong> becoming<br />

the spiritual and community leader he<br />

dreamed <strong>of</strong> being is a personal miracle,<br />

driven by his own connection with God.<br />

Reuven is charismatic, approachable, and<br />

lovable. He is bright, warm, and charming,<br />

and clearly he understands the challenges<br />

Rabbi Prouser.<br />


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania<br />


I read with great interest the letters to the editor<br />

stemming from the cover photo <strong>of</strong> the<br />

Winter 2011/2012 issue. The photo<br />

prompted a fascinating colloquy between me<br />

and my rabbi, which served to uncover some<br />

false preconceptions (I presumed – wrongly<br />

– that it was a picture <strong>of</strong> two men holding<br />

hands) and led to some solid learning that<br />

touched on the custom and practice <strong>of</strong> wearing<br />

tefillin, current gender issues within the<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> rabbinate, and more. I suggest<br />

that the photo itself has enduring didactic<br />

value, one I would certainly like to put<br />

into play in my shul’s School <strong>of</strong> Jewish Studies.<br />

I think showing it to children within our<br />

movement and asking them what they see in<br />

it will lead to many fruitful conversations<br />

about important issues <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> Jewish<br />

thought and practice.<br />


Past President,<br />

Am Yisrael <strong>Conservative</strong> Congregation<br />

Northfield, Illinois<br />

<strong>of</strong> developing Jewish life in his home country.<br />

Throughout his studies he never forgot<br />

that his purpose was to share his passion<br />

for <strong>Judaism</strong> with other Ukrainian Jews.<br />

In a moving address at his ordination ceremony<br />

in February, Reuven told the assembled<br />

guests – faculty, staff, family, and friends<br />

– that the week’s Torah reading, Beshallach,<br />

recounted the miracle <strong>of</strong> the parting <strong>of</strong> the<br />

Red Sea. He drew a parallel between this<br />


Having been a member <strong>of</strong> the Laurelton Jewish<br />

Center for more than 50 years, until its<br />

closing several years ago, I resent that Ellen<br />

Levitt (Spring 2012) made Bernie Mad<strong>of</strong>f<br />

seem to be its only claim to fame. There<br />

was much more to our history than Mad<strong>of</strong>f.<br />

Rabbis Saul Teplitz and Howard Singer<br />

were our religious leaders. Dr. Morton Siegel,<br />

who became director <strong>of</strong> education at <strong>United</strong><br />

<strong>Synagogue</strong>, was principal <strong>of</strong> our huge Hebrew<br />

school. Other former Laureltonians who have<br />

contributed positively to our society should<br />

have been cited, rather than that one disgrace<br />

<strong>of</strong> a man. While there is not a Laurelton Jewish<br />

Center any longer, just look around the<br />

Jewish <strong>United</strong> States and Israel and you will<br />

find former LJC students in leadership positions.<br />

I am an example. Having been a vice<br />

president at LJC I am now a vice president<br />

at Congregation B’nai Sholom Beth David,<br />

one <strong>of</strong> the most vibrant <strong>Conservative</strong> synagogues<br />

in the New York area.<br />

And by the way I still live in Laurelton.<br />


Laurelton, New York<br />

miracle and the miracle in his own life. In<br />

his view, both the Israelites crossing the Red<br />

Sea and his developing an entirely new Jewish<br />

identity required support and cooperation<br />

from many people, a belief and<br />

commitment to God, and <strong>of</strong> course God’s<br />

involvement to complete the action. Reuven<br />

is one <strong>of</strong> only a handful <strong>of</strong> Ukrainian Jews,<br />

beginning with little or no understanding<br />

(continued on page 58)<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 53



Register online at www.wlcj.org<br />

DELEGATE FEES (Rates for commuters and<br />

hotel guests are the same. Hotel registration is separate.)<br />

FULL-TIME DELEGATES (Includes meals<br />

from Sunday dinner through <strong>We</strong>dnesday lunch)<br />

Early Bird Special<br />

(through September 28) $935<br />

First Time Delegate Special<br />

(through September 28) $835<br />

After September 28 $1000<br />

PART-TIME DELEGATES (Includes any 3<br />

or 6 consecutive meals)<br />

3 consecutive meals $340<br />

6 consecutive meals $680<br />

HOTEL REGISTRATION: Hotel registration is<br />

not included in the convention registration fees and<br />

must be done directly through the hotel. The special<br />

rate for Women’s League delegates is $200 for all<br />

three nights, double occupancy.<br />


Every two years, members <strong>of</strong> Women’s League for<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong> gather for four days <strong>of</strong><br />

outstanding speakers and leading scholars, inspiring<br />

services, valuable workshops, in-depth training and<br />

leadership development, region meetings and parties.<br />

This year’s convention, in exciting Las Vegas,<br />

promises to be better than ever! While what happens<br />

in Vegas might stay in Vegas for some people, our<br />

delegates will leave ready to greet the new dawn <strong>of</strong><br />

Women’s League with a focus on personal growth,<br />

creating healthy sisterhoods, and celebrating<br />

<strong>Conservative</strong>/Masorti <strong>Judaism</strong>.<br />

Plans include:<br />

• Being a <strong>Conservative</strong> Jew: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, by Rabbi Elliot Dorff<br />

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

popular<br />

• A Night on the Town! Take advantage <strong>of</strong> the pleasures our host city has to <strong>of</strong>fer<br />

• The unveiling <strong>of</strong> the new Women’s League Strategic Plan that will usher the organization<br />

into the 21st century as a vital, integral network for all <strong>Conservative</strong> Jewish<br />

women<br />

• Jewel in the Crown Awards to sisterhoods that demonstrate their commitment,<br />

excellence and creativity in programming. Last year over 100 sisterhoods won. You<br />

don’t want to be left out in 2012!<br />

• Celebration <strong>of</strong> 70 years <strong>of</strong> Torah Fund<br />

• Tribute to Honorary Convention Chair Blanche Meisel<br />

• Tikkun olam project supporting veterans, with featured speaker Rabbi Bonnie Koppell<br />

• Innovative workshops for personal fulfillment<br />

• Specialized programming for sisterhood presidents<br />

• Authors corner<br />

• Installation <strong>of</strong> <strong>of</strong>ficers and board<br />

• Great shopping in the exhibit hall for Judaica, toys, books, jewelry, and more<br />

Enjoy discounts for first-time and early-bird registrants<br />


Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean <strong>of</strong> the Ziegler School <strong>of</strong> Rabbinic Studies<br />

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector, Sol & Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Pr<strong>of</strong>essor in<br />

Philosophy at the American Jewish University<br />

Dr. Arnold Eisen, chancellor <strong>of</strong> the Jewish Theological Seminary<br />

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, Associate Rabbi <strong>of</strong> Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona, and<br />

Command Chaplain <strong>of</strong> the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) in the U.S.<br />

Army Reserve, where she holds the rank <strong>of</strong> colonel.<br />

Rabbi Gail Labovitz, associate pr<strong>of</strong>essor <strong>of</strong> Rabbinic Literature at the American<br />

Jewish University<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 55



ON MARCH 18, THE<br />

<strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>’s board <strong>of</strong><br />

trustees voted to accept new<br />

bylaws. This was the second<br />

reading for those bylaws, and<br />

the second time they passed. Both times,<br />

the vote in favor was overwhelming, much<br />

higher than the already formidable-sounding<br />

two-thirds majority that was required.<br />

With that second vote the bylaws were<br />

accepted, along with new standard operating<br />

procedures to support them. <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong><br />

now will begin its second century<br />

in 2013 as a revitalized, reshaped, and reenergized<br />

organization.<br />

The bylaws are a direct result <strong>of</strong> the strategic<br />

plan that the board accepted last March.<br />

It took courage for many <strong>of</strong> the board<br />

members to vote yes, and that they did so<br />

anyway was a testament to their commitment<br />

to <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>. One <strong>of</strong> the changes<br />

the bylaws now mandate is that the board<br />

will be smaller, and another is that board<br />

members are expected to give <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong><br />

not only time and energy but also<br />

to see it as a philanthropic opportunity, and<br />

an opportunity, moreover, that they can share<br />

with their friends. Many board members,<br />

some <strong>of</strong> whom had been with us for years, or<br />

even decades, had to vote themselves <strong>of</strong>f<br />

the board. That was pure self-sacrifice, and<br />

we honor them for it.<br />

The new bylaws will make <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>’s<br />

governance more agile and responsive,<br />

not only by reducing the size <strong>of</strong> the board<br />

and the number <strong>of</strong> committees the board<br />

oversees, but also by redefining the partnership<br />

between the executive committee,<br />

the board, other lay leaders, and <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>’s<br />

staff. The committees will oversee<br />

the areas that the strategic plan recognized as<br />

core to the organization’s mission – kehilla<br />

strengthening and transformation, education,<br />

young adult engagement, and assisting<br />

new and emerging kehillot. (A kehilla, or<br />


sacred community, is the term the framers <strong>of</strong><br />

the strategic plan have chosen to describe the<br />

various communities that make up <strong>United</strong><br />

<strong>Synagogue</strong>, feeling that the change in wording<br />

reflects the change in orientation.) The<br />

new bylaws will increase the organization’s<br />

accountability to the member kehillot. That<br />

accountability will be institutionalized in the<br />

relationship between the General Asssembly,<br />

which will be composed <strong>of</strong> a member from<br />

each kehilla. There are many mechanisms<br />

that will speed and oversee that process,<br />

demand a new focus on priorities, measure<br />

whether those priorities have been achieved,<br />

and empower staff to implement the changes.<br />

<strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong> also will engage with<br />

lay leaders who are not on the board in a<br />

different way. <strong>We</strong> will recruit them to <strong>of</strong>fer<br />

their services as kehilla ambassadors or expert<br />

volunteers, sharing their expertise, teaching,<br />

and training.<br />

Leadership training is one <strong>of</strong> the areas where<br />

our member kehillot most want help. Leaders<br />

would like help in making themselves<br />

more effective at the positions to which<br />

they have been elected. They would like to<br />

be able to grow not only managerially but<br />

spiritually, and they would like their kehillot<br />

to become places where people come for spiritually<br />

and emotionally transformative experiences,<br />

to learn more about their people and<br />

themselves. They also would like help in identifying<br />

and training the next generation <strong>of</strong><br />

kehilla leaders. In response to that need,<br />

we have expanded and reimagined Sulam.<br />

That program used to train new and prospective<br />

synagogue leaders; now, it has become<br />

a three-part enterprise that includes Sulam<br />

for Current Leaders, Sulam for Presidents,<br />

and Sulam for Emerging Leaders. The goal<br />

– we would call it a dream but it is achievable<br />

– is to train 5,000 leaders in the next five<br />

years. Think what that will do for <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>!<br />

Another change that has resulted directly<br />

from the strategic plan and the new bylaws<br />

is the system <strong>of</strong> kehilla relationship managers.<br />

Our KRMs are our grassroots support system.<br />

<strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong> and <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong> represent and embody Jewish life as<br />

the product <strong>of</strong> eternal truth, millennia <strong>of</strong> history<br />

and tradition, and openness to the world<br />

as it is now. It is the vital center <strong>of</strong> North<br />

American Jewish life, the place where tensions<br />

are negotiated and challenges are faced.<br />

The new bylaws, with their new understanding<br />

<strong>of</strong> the relationship between the central<br />

organization and the kehillot, are a<br />

necessary tool, a way to help us balance on<br />

the high wire.<br />

“I am very proud <strong>of</strong> the collaboration<br />

between our pr<strong>of</strong>essional staff and our lay<br />

leadership in crafting these new bylaws,” international<br />

president Richard Skolnik said. “The<br />

endgame is to provide a refocused energy that<br />

truly has an impact on the services that we<br />

provide to our more than 600 kehillot.”<br />

“The vote is a major achievement in <strong>United</strong><br />

<strong>Synagogue</strong>’s reorganization,” CEO Rabbi<br />

Steven <strong>We</strong>rnick said. “It aligns new strategies<br />

with governance, staff, and structures.<br />

Our leaders affirmed the wisdom <strong>of</strong> our mission,<br />

vision, and strategic plan, our commitment<br />

to excellence, and the value we<br />

add both to our affiliated kehillot and to<br />

the larger Jewish world.<br />

“‘The person who occupies himself with<br />

the needs <strong>of</strong> the community – it is as though<br />

he occupies himself with Torah,’ the Talmud<br />

tells us. <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong>’s leaders listened<br />

to the needs <strong>of</strong> its community <strong>of</strong> kehillot,<br />

and it acted on them. This courageous vote<br />

will lay the foundation for our next 100 years.”<br />

The new bylaws are the next step in the<br />

path that has taken us from the creation <strong>of</strong><br />

the coalition <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong> leaders that<br />

hammered out the strategic plan to now. <strong>We</strong><br />

look forward to the strengthening and revitalization<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>United</strong> <strong>Synagogue</strong> and <strong>of</strong> <strong>Conservative</strong><br />

<strong>Judaism</strong>. <strong>We</strong> will achieve that work<br />

together. CJ


A Signature Program <strong>of</strong> FJMC<br />


The 2011 Rosh Hashanah issue <strong>of</strong> CJ included<br />

the article “A Mentsch is Born,” about FJMC’s<br />

Hearing Men’s Voices program. Since that time<br />

HMV programs have proliferated across the<br />

continent. Eight mentschen gathered for a (virtual)<br />

conversation in early December.<br />

Moderator Paul Davidson (Temple Israel,<br />

Sharon, Massachusetts): Each <strong>of</strong> us is a<br />

Hearing Men’s Voices leader. Our goal<br />

tonight is to share our best practices with<br />

each other. Who’d like to begin?<br />

Mark Givarz (Congregation B’nai<br />

Amoona, St. Louis, Missouri): Our HMV<br />

theme this year is spirituality. On Rosh<br />

Hashanah we did a Hearing Men’s Voices<br />

program as an alternative to the Musaf service<br />

on the second day. (<strong>We</strong> modified the rules<br />

to allow women to join in.) The topic was<br />

seeking God. <strong>We</strong> formed two circles <strong>of</strong> about<br />

14 people each to discuss the questions:<br />

Do you ever seek God? If so, have you found<br />

God? The groups talked for about 90 minutes,<br />

and we could have gone on for hours.<br />

The big discovery was that people can find<br />

spirituality in alternative ways to prayer.<br />

Neal Fineman (Temple Israel, Sharon,<br />

Massachusetts): Our guys are passionate<br />

about their participation. <strong>We</strong> average about<br />

16 guys; there’s usually a lot <strong>of</strong> laughing; the<br />

guys enjoy it. It’s really catching on. <strong>We</strong> don’t<br />

have to make phone calls anymore. They<br />

just come.<br />

Bob Braitman (Temple Shaare Tefilah,<br />

Norwood, Massachusetts): Men who come<br />

to HMV aren’t necessarily involved in other<br />

synagogue activities. I went to one program<br />

and I didn’t recognize any <strong>of</strong> the faces. Since<br />

I go to services regularly, I realized that<br />

the HMV guys were completely different.<br />

By introducing HMV into synagogue life,<br />

we’ve created a completely new on-ramp to<br />

the Jewish community. In his article in<br />

this issue <strong>of</strong> CJ, Rabbi Charles Simon’ writes<br />

about guys who aren’t turned on by traditional<br />

prayer.<br />

Mark Travis (Temple Beth Judea, Buffalo<br />

Grove, Illinois): Our HMV group has been<br />

attracting about 15 to 20 people per session.<br />

How do we get people involved? <strong>We</strong> conducted<br />

a survey among young guys in their<br />

30s and 40s. They told us that they don’t<br />

need any more formal religion. They get<br />

enough from their wives and synagogue.<br />

They wanted time with other men to socialize<br />

and discuss issues men have in common.<br />

The one topic all the men share is children.<br />

How should we talk to our children?<br />

Like Paul said, the most important recruitment<br />

tool is being asked by another man<br />

to participate. Our slogan is “I hear voices,<br />

voices at home, at work, at play, voices in<br />

the synagogue, from my family, but…who<br />

hears my voice?”<br />

Bruce Gordon (Congregation Olam Tikvah,<br />

Fairfax, Virginia): I’m just getting<br />

started, but HMV has perceptions that need<br />

to be overcome. Should the leader be a<br />

trained psychologist? Can we do this without<br />

years <strong>of</strong> experience? I’m helping get<br />

groups started in Fairfax, Rockville,<br />

Potomac, Gaithersburg, and in the Tidewater<br />

region. <strong>What</strong> advice can you <strong>of</strong>fer me?<br />

Bob: One <strong>of</strong> the greatest misconceptions<br />

about HMV is directly related to Bruce’s concerns<br />

about not being a health care pr<strong>of</strong>essional.<br />

He’s asking himself whether he’s<br />

qualified to run a session. It’s my experi-<br />

ence that lay people, not pr<strong>of</strong>essionals, have<br />

run the best sessions. The most important<br />

criteria for group leadership are to be a good<br />

listener, to be empathetic and show caring.<br />

It’s about being heard. It’s not about a pr<strong>of</strong>essional<br />

providing wisdom. The leader should<br />

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

Gary Smith (Adath Israel Congregation,<br />

Cincinnati, Ohio): At our last HMV session,<br />

we asked each <strong>of</strong> the participants to<br />

discuss the most important lesson or statement<br />

that their father or grandfather taught<br />

them that most changed their life; in other<br />

words, a life lesson. There were multiple<br />

generations in the room, and the men were<br />

blown away by the similarities and differences<br />

shared by men <strong>of</strong> different ages. But<br />

what was most effective was that we only<br />

knew each other for years as a name and<br />

a face. Who knew what they were like inside?<br />

Now we know each other. <strong>We</strong> can interact<br />

and have a more man-to-man conversation.<br />

Now we don’t just say hello. <strong>We</strong> stop<br />

and talk, ask questions, share something<br />

about ourselves. <strong>We</strong> truly involved Jewish<br />

men in Jewish life.<br />

Bob: I’ve attended several gatherings where<br />

men have been brought to tears. I was<br />

shocked the first time. Have any <strong>of</strong> you had<br />

that experience?<br />

Neal: I was brought to tears a few times.<br />

It happened to me in an HMV session at<br />

the FJMC international convention. I was<br />

among strangers. I was just thinking about<br />

my relationship with my father and I lost it.<br />

I didn’t know these people, and I didn’t know<br />

how they would react because a lot <strong>of</strong> them<br />

were new to HMV, but that’s what I needed<br />

to do. But I was brought to tears, and it was<br />

CJ — SUMMER 2012 57

a wonderful release. It was good for me, and<br />

I wanted to share with them that you can<br />

do this kind <strong>of</strong> thing.<br />

Paul: I’ve been in numerous sessions hysterically<br />

laughing and crying, and every place<br />

in between. There are too few places where<br />

men can speak in a safe manner. I’ve seen<br />

guys linger after an HMV session not wanting<br />

to part with each other because they’ve<br />

formed bonds. Now I see guys hug when<br />

they see each other in shul. Sometimes when<br />

I see an HMV buddy, we give each other<br />

a knowing glance because we’ve shared something<br />

very deep.<br />

Art Spar (New York, New York): HMV<br />

doesn’t create emotion. The emotions are<br />

already there. <strong>We</strong>’re creating an environment<br />

to release them or experience them.<br />

These emotions are residing there all the<br />

time and we create something that allows<br />

them to come to the surface.<br />

My HMV experience in Manhattan has<br />

been interesting. <strong>We</strong>’ve brought together an<br />

eclectic mix <strong>of</strong> guys from rabbis to non-shulgoers.<br />

<strong>We</strong> meet over dinner. Our first meeting<br />

was in a kosher Indian restaurant. The<br />

next time it was pizza and salad at my house<br />

with a bottle <strong>of</strong> scotch and some wine on the<br />

side. <strong>We</strong>’re not part <strong>of</strong> any synagogue or men’s<br />

club but we use FJMC materials. <strong>We</strong>’ve gotten<br />

to know each other, our roots and our<br />

dreams; and we plan on continuing as long<br />

as we enjoy it. <strong>We</strong>’re just a bunch <strong>of</strong> Jewish<br />

men involving ourselves in Jewish life.<br />

A Personal Miracle<br />

(continued from page 53)<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>Judaism</strong>, who have been inspired to educate<br />

others about <strong>Judaism</strong>. In his ordination<br />

address, he also explained that Beshallach<br />

is in the book <strong>of</strong> Shemot, the book that we<br />

call Exodus but whose name literally translates<br />

to Names. The list <strong>of</strong> names <strong>of</strong> those<br />

people who have helped him academically,<br />

spiritually, and even financially is incredibly<br />

long, but he could not have reached<br />

his goal without each <strong>of</strong> them.<br />

Reuven acknowledges that now that he<br />


Paul: Is it better to meet at a synagogue<br />

or at home?<br />

Art: I’ve been to both. The informality <strong>of</strong><br />

a home setting allows guys to connect in<br />

ways that a synagogue does not.<br />

Bob: Very few synagogues have comfortable<br />

spaces. I remember a meeting in a library<br />

sitting around a conference table. It was not<br />

intimate in the way it would have been in<br />

a living room. The big problem with the<br />

synagogue is the formality <strong>of</strong> the setting. It’s<br />

not the fact that there’s a Torah down the<br />

hall, it’s actually the space itself. And temple<br />

classrooms are worse with the little chairs!<br />

It’s too bad but most synagogues are not<br />

warm spaces.<br />

Paul: Why are you so passionate about Hearing<br />

Men’s Voices?<br />

Bob: Many men today don’t know how to<br />

form relationships. <strong>We</strong> get most <strong>of</strong> our relationships<br />

through our wives as couples. <strong>We</strong>’ve<br />

lost the art <strong>of</strong> conversation, and we’ve lost<br />

the art <strong>of</strong> community. I want a place where<br />

men can come together, in a forum that isn’t<br />

threatening, to talk about things that are sitting<br />

in our hearts and minds, in plain sight,<br />

or that we’re completely unaware <strong>of</strong>. HMV<br />

is an extraordinary resource – there’s no other<br />

venue like it. The dividend is it will strengthen<br />

our synagogues, our clubs, and our communities,<br />

but the real value is that it makes<br />

our lives richer.<br />

has completed one challenge, another has<br />

opened up as he tries to bring Masorti<br />

<strong>Judaism</strong> to the estimated 100,000 Jews who<br />

live in Ukraine. For the last 20 years,<br />

Midreshet Yerushalayim and Masorti Olami<br />

have worked to create a base <strong>of</strong> supporters<br />

and a core <strong>of</strong> Masorti communities in<br />

Kiev, Chernovitz, Donetsk, Kharkov, and<br />

other cities around the country. The work<br />

<strong>of</strong> developing committed, passionate, and<br />

stable kehillot with ongoing Jewish lifecycle<br />

and calendar programming still is to<br />

come. <strong>We</strong> are sure that his determination,<br />

along with a little help from God, will enable<br />

Reuven to meet these challenges.<br />

I remember running a session about the<br />

high holy days. It forced me to think about<br />

what the Days <strong>of</strong> Awe meant to me. I discovered<br />

that it wasn’t only the religious aspect<br />

<strong>of</strong> the day that draws my focus. It’s the memories<br />

<strong>of</strong> being at my father’s side, holding<br />

his hand, that opened a floodgate <strong>of</strong> feelings<br />

that are always there but rarely experienced.<br />

Paul: In the Jewish world, there’s nothing<br />

else like Hearing Men’s Voices.<br />

Art: There’s nothing more important than<br />

human contact. <strong>We</strong> have lots <strong>of</strong> mixed sex<br />

settings, but men are unique, our experiences<br />

are different than women’s. There’s<br />

something about a men-only session that<br />

allows that uniqueness to shine, to flower.<br />

The camaraderie is special. I enjoy it, I need<br />

it.<br />

Neal: It’s powerful. It’s a place to find your<br />

passion. I’ve never been to a session I didn’t<br />

value. You see your own life in the expression<br />

<strong>of</strong> others. There’s common ground<br />

we all share. Hearing it from others adds<br />

a powerful perspective to our own lives.<br />

Paul: It’s a non-competitive experience with<br />

no performance expectations. You don’t have<br />

to know Hebrew. There are no skills<br />

required. CJ<br />

Should you visit Kiev or other cities in<br />

Ukraine, we invite you to spend Shabbat or<br />

a festival with a Masorti community and see<br />

just how well things are going. CJ<br />

Advertise in CJ<br />

FALL 2012<br />

Ad Reservations due<br />

June 18<br />

TO ADVERTISE CALL 917-668-6809

C,ukue<br />


820 Second Avenue • 11th Floor • New York, NY 10017<br />


U.S. Postage<br />

PAID<br />

CJ Voices

C,ukue<br />



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