Monday, January 25, 2010

Not Sure Whether to Feel Happy or Sad After Reading This Article ...

In the Washington Post a couple days ago, there was an article about a rabbi who locates, purchases, restores, and re-sells Torah scrolls (usually from somewhere in eastern Europe/the FSU).

There is only one problem ... it appears that perhaps he is not telling the truth about where they come from when he is selling them to new owners.  Read the story here:

In the story, there are several references to buyers simply trusting the rabbi to tell the truth ... but what if he's not?  It makes all rabbis (and worse yet, all Jews) look bad ... this is not what we need.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Making Meaning When We Celebrate ...

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of being involved in our twice-annual "Shabbaton" for upcoming B'nai Mitzvah students and their families.  At this event, we spend time explaining the requirements for kids becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and introduce them to all the people they will be working with during the process.  This year, I was able to add a new component to the day, one focusing on making sure the "Bar Mitzvah" focused more on the "mitzvah" rather than the "bar" (OK, this joke doesn't work so well for the girls ... but people still laughed). 

This December, I attended a conference hosted by American Jewish World Service ( called the "Rabbinic Student Delegation Alumni Institute" (for the 150 rabbinical students who have now participated on their delegations all over the world for volunteer/study trips ... I went to El Salvador).  While at the Institute, a rabbi I traveled with, Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, introduced me to a fantastic organization called "Jewish United for Justice" ( and a publication they created called "Green and Just Celebrations:  A Purchasing Guide for Washington's Jewish Families." 

This wonderful booklet helps families preparing for celebrations (such as B'nai Mitzvah parties and wedding receptions) make thoughtful choices as they celebrate the blessing they are celebrating.  Not only does this booklet help make environmentally-conscious decisions, but it also focuses on honoring workers' rights, modesty, kindness to animals, and avoiding waste.  This is truly tzedakah ... righteous decision-making.

This amazing little booklet can be found in its entirety online (please consider whether you actually need to print it out or not) at:

Even taking one suggestion in the booklet will help make the world a little bit better.   : )

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Own Personal Civil Rights Hero ... as We Approach the MLK Day Holiday ...

As Martin Luther King, Jr., Day approaches each year, I remember how fortunate I was to work for one of the great African-American leaders in Nevada when I first graduated from law school, Judge Addeliar D. Guy, III. 

The first African-American judge in the state of Nevada, he was a pioneer in the Clark County District Attorney's office before deciding to run for judge.  I was fortunate to be his Judicial Law Clerk for a year before going into private practice because Judge Guy was one of the smartest men I ever knew, having what my dad called "both book smarts and street smarts."  Growing up in Chicago, he was already married and had children when he put himself through law school while driving a cab each night ... I can't imagine how he had time to actually study. 

Judge Guy was one of the hardest-working people I have ever met ... which meant I worked hard, too.  (In fact, I remember thinking that private practice was way easier than working for Judge Guy, because our working relationship was more like a fourth year of law school.)  I prepared every single case for him, he read it, and then he asked my opinion regarding what he should do.  After hearing my opinion, we discussed the differences between what he was planning to do (which sometimes did change if he received new information during the hearings) and, more importantly, why he was planning to do it.  If something did change, he took the time later to tell me what the new information was and why it changed his mind.  These conversations were held in the Socratic style ... yes, it was truly my fourth, and best, year of law school.

I once asked Judge Guy what he thought about a holiday being named after MLK (at the time, there was controversy because Arizona had not yet adopted it).  Judge Guy just smiled broadly at me, waited a few moments, and then laughed.  He said, "I think Martin Luther King would have said, 'if you have a job, go to work,'" ... and then he paused for a few moments before telling me about segregation in Las Vegas, and the places where he would not have been able to go that he could go now ... and that he would not have been able to be a judge. 

Judge Guy was already 70 years old when I worked for him in 1992.  He had lived through segregation and desegregation.  I lived through de facto segregation growing up in Georgia, but never had it forced upon me.  As a kid, I know there was no one of (any) color living in my neighborhood.  I have vague memories of seeing water fountains in downtown Atlanta marked "white," but they were merely relics from a time gone by since I was born in 1968.  As a little white girl from Georgia, I often think how much I would have missed out on if I had been born earlier ... and not been able to work for, and with, such a remarkable man.

Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I think about Judge Addeliar D. Guy, III ... may everyone have the experience to learn from someone who made history, like I did.

May his memory be for a blessing.  Kayn y'hi ratzon. 

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Do Rabbis Do at a "Rabbi Convention"?

Tomorrow morning, I leave for the Southwest Association of Reform Rabbis annual convention in New Orleans ... which might leave you wondering, what do rabbis do at a "rabbi convention"?

From the schedule I received, it looks like mostly learning and prayer ... which makes me happy.  I'll let you know how it goes.  : )

Imagine If This Happened in the US ...

Right now, I am saddened regarding the lack of religious equality in Israel.  Anat Hoffman, a leader of the "Women of the Wall" movement in Jerusalem was interrogated recently ... because she dared to wear a tallis under her coat at the Western Wall.  This story makes me rather sad ...

So, imagine if you can, a country based on freedom to practice the Jewish religion, but not the freedom to practice it the way we liberal Jews practice it.  I read that "the ultra-orthodox are attempting to turn the Western Wall into a synagogue" ... it already has a mechitzah (barrier dividing men and women).  Sadly, it is the ultra-orthodox women who complain about the Women of the Wall as much as the men.  The mechitzah moves further and further to the right, and gets longer and longer ... at this rate (and unless the ultra-orthodox are somehow removed from their place of power and minority Jewish rights are protected), someday, there won't be room for even the ultra-orthodox to pray.  Ugggggh.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just a Little Bit about Jews and Gonzales, Texas ...

This past Tuesday, I took a trip to Gonzales, Texas, a place I'd never heard of before receiving a call from a very nice boy scout troop leader.  This appeared in the "Gonzales Cannon," the local newspaper ... the writer got most of it correct (there are a couple of things I might explain a bit differently), but I have to say this was one of the best days of still-too-short rabbinic career.   : )

Here is the link:

Lastly, I think I have fallen for the young man in the last picture ... my own personal hero.  : )

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What a Strange Night ...

I looked at my calendar a couple days ago and realized that I had no appointments on Thursday, January 7th.  Thursday nights (actually, any night after school lets out) are usually pretty sought-after by families of bar/bat mitzvah students, but January 7th was flat-out empty. 

It took me a little while to realize why ... the University of Texas Championship Football game was on TV that night.  I guess people would rather watch football than meet with a rabbi.  : )