Saturday, May 8, 2010

What Does Reform Judaism Have to Offer?

Rabbi Paul Kipnes, in his posting found at, led me to an interesting "status report" to the Executive Committee of the Union for Reform Judaism.  In it, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, discusses challenges to not only Jews in general, but challenges to Reform Judaism in particular (  But what I want to include here are two things ... first, the things he said Reform Judaism has to offer: 

- We view the Jewish tradition as growing, evolving and always changing, and we celebrate creative change in all areas of ritual and practice.
- We assert that the equality of women in Jewish life is non-negotiable.
- We draw the boundaries of Reform so as to include rather than exclude, and we welcome gays, lesbians, the intermarried, non-Jewish spouses and all who bind their fate to that of the Jewish people.
- We embrace Jewish worship that is creative, dynamic, vibrant and participatory.
- We see tikkun olam [repair of the world] as an essential element of our Reform identity – in fact, as the jewel in the Reform crown.
- And we believe in real partnership between rabbis and lay people as essential to our Jewish future.

What I love about this list is that it is both a reflection of what is real within Reform Judaism today, and that the list is aspirational ... while we do some of these things well, we have much room for improvement.    : )

The second thing I wanted to point out is that only in a reform setting could you get the variety of opinions in response to Rabbi Yoffie's statements ... I love that we embrace differences and encourage discussion.  : )  

- Definitely inspired by a post by Rabbi Paul Kipnes on his fabulous blog,

When It Is Not Appropriate to Smile ...

Usually, I just listen to the news, but this morning something made me stop and watch a particular story about a sexual assault.  The anchor was reading the text about a suspect being arrested and showed his booking picture ... and I was disgusted.  The suspect was smiling.

Occasionally, feeling shame and embarassment is OK.  In fact, I can't imagine a single scenario which might lead someone to feel happy or proud that someone had been arrested on sexual assault charges, whether they actually committed the crime or not.

"Smile for the camera"?  This is one time when I wouldn't hope so. 

The Importance of Volunteers and Volunteering ...

I remember an old public service announcement which suggested that we should "Give 5" ... encouraging people to give five hours per week and five percent of their income.  Thankfully, Congregation Beth Israel has some fabulous volunteers who give their precious time to help others both within our congregation and the greater community ... and tonight was "Volunteer Appreciation Shabbat."

Our bar and bat mitzvah students are required to perform 18 hours of community service before the date of their ceremony.  When I meet with them about a year before their ceremony, most kids know exactly the project they are going to do (or at least have some ideas about things they want to do), but a few have no idea where to start ... because volunteering is not a regular part of their family's lifestyle.  With these few kids, I almost feel sorry for them because they have not yet had the opportunity to process all that one can get FROM volunteering. 

How does one properly thank volunteers?  As we each get busier and busier in our daily lives, my hope is that the work itself is at least some thanks.  (I do always make sure to discuss with our kids that the community service they do is truly not about THEM, but rather the benefit to the recipient.)  No matter what, though, it is always nice to be acknowledged.   : )

So here is another thank you ... thank you to all our fabulous volunteers who help keep CBI running ... and for all the good you do for the community ... we couldn't do all we do without you!  : )

PS ... Pirke Avot (a collection of Jewish wisdom) teaches that we are not required to complete the work, but neither are we free to desist from it ... so, perhaps we can bring back that "Give Five" campaign to help encourage more people to become involved in repairing the world.  : ) 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Letting Loose Last Saturday Night ... CBI Went "Back to the Fifties" ... : )

There comes a moment in everyone's life when you have to make a decision and commit to being a complete goofball.  For me, that moment came this past Saturday night when I played the Assistant Principal in a 1950s musical revue at "Beth Israel High."  Yes, it was fun to dress  up in period clothing ... yes, being the emcee of the show was fun ... but the most fun was being able to let loose in a safe environment and be goofy in front of so many people. 

Why was this a safe environment?  I'm not sure anyone can really be "over the top" at a costume party ... actually, maybe they can, but the ability to "try on" a different persona allowed me freedom to leave my own, more conscious-about-what-others-think personality behind and embrace the nuttiness of a script which had the Assistant Principal fawning all over the high school Music Teacher.  I don't get to express that kind of emotion everyday ... probably for good reason ... lol.

Everyone needs safe places to express their emotions.  Unfortunately, most of us have to wait for special times, either good or bad, to "let go" and share the hidden sides of ourselves.  Perhaps we can try to create more safe places for "letting it out" (both our positive and negative emotions) so we don't have to wait until some special event comes along.   : )