Celebrity news from Hollywood including an interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and an update on Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo.Go To Pop Culture
Iâll admit it. Iâm obsessed with Thaksgivukkahâthe once-in-a-lifetime event occurring on November 28, 2013 when Thanksgiving will coincide with the first day of Hanukkah. The two holidays seem destined to go together: Both celebrate religious freedom and both involve family gatherings and special holiday foods. And, being a holiday that falls in 2013, thereâs the modern twist to this unique day:Â It has its own Facebook pages (two of them), Twitter account, e-cards, songs (check out YouTube), t-shirts, mugs, menorah, recipes and more. By the time Thanksgivukkah has come and gone we will probably all be glad that it only happens once in a lifetime!
But in the meantime, with a few more weeks left until the holiday, I wanted to make my own contribution by sharing a Thanksgivukkah Quiz with eight questions, representing the eight days of Hanukkah. Find out if youâre a Thanksgivukkah expert. Answers are below.
1. On July 26, 2013, Dana Gitell, a marketing specialist from Massachusetts, received a U.S. trademark for the name of the holiday. For which spelling did she receive the trademark?
3. How old is Asher Weintraub, the Brooklyn boy who trademarked this Hanukkiyah?
4. Which one the following is NOT one of the four versions of Thanksgivukkah doughnuts being sold at Zucker Bakery in Manhattan:
a. spiced pumpkin doughnuts with jelly filling
5. When is the next time that the first day of Hanukkah will coincide with Thanksgiving?
6. Approximately how much money has Manischewitz, a leading producer of kosher products, spent marketing products for Thanksgivukkah?
7. When was the last time the first day of Hanukkah coincided with Thanksgiving?
8.Â The Macyâs Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is 87-years-old. Besides regular helium/air balloons, the Macyâs Day Parade now also has Baloonicles (self-powered balloon vehicles). Which of the following is NOT going to be one of this yearâs Baloonicles?
a. Spinning Dreidel
HOW DID YOU DO?
Happy Thanksgivukkah to all!
If you havenât heard about Thanksgivukkah yet, itâs time to crawl out from under that rock. Iâll help by filling you in on everything you missed. This is a roundup of recent news as well as holiday ideas and resources for celebrating Thanksgivukkah, the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah mega-holiday that you wonât live to see again. Now get cooking!
Thanksgivukkah is Coming âan interfaith family guide, from InterfaithFamily
ThanksgivukkahBoston.com âthe Thanksgivukkah micro site from JewishBoston.com, with contributions from InterfaithFamily
Thanksgivukkah âthe official Facebook page
Thanksgivukkah âthe official Twitter account
Convergence of Hanukkah, Thanksgiving unleashes creativity âThe Boston Globe
6 Crazy Things for Thanksgivukkah âThe Forward
Celebrating Thanksgivukkah, a Once-in-a-Lifetime Holiday âReform Judaism
Thanksgivukkah Food Face-off âThe Forward
Why I Will Not Be Celebrating âThanksgivukkahâ âHuffington Post
Thanksgivukkah: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Holiday âThe URJâs Pinterest page
A Thanksgivukkah Manifesto âHuffington Post
Carve the Turkey and Pass the Latkes, as Holidays Converge âThe New York Times
Eight Giving Rituals for Your Family: Making the Most of ThanksgivukkahÂ âeJewishPhilanthropy
Hanukkah Gift Guide: Thanksgivukkah GoodiesÂ âKveller
Let’s Celebrate the Convergence of Thanksgiving and HanukkahÂ âThe Forward
Thanksgivukkah 101Â âChicago Tribune
Thereâs lots more out there about Thanksgivukkah. Share what you’ve found below!
The following is a guest blog post by Dina Mann, National Marketing and Outreach Coordinator forÂ Reboot, an organization thatÂ engages and inspires young, Jewishly-unconnected cultural creatives, innovators and thought-leaders who, through their candid and introspective conversations and creativity, generate projects that impact both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds.
Traditionally, this is a day of celebration. Dancing, music and even some drinking is quite common. The question is: Whatâs everyone so happy about? Or a better question: How can we bring the spirit of creativity, excitement and joy from
Enter Unscrolled. Itâs a reinterpretation, a reimagining, a creative celebration: 54 leading Jewish writers, artists, photographers and screenwriters, plus actors, an architect, a musician and others grapple with the Torah, giving new meaning to the 54 Torah portions.
What is Unscrolled? First and foremost, it is a book that sums up the weekly Torah portion and then goes even further by creating interpretations that no medieval rabbi would think possible. More than a book, Unscrolled is a project that seeks to create a conversation around the Torah. With Unscrolled, we hope to give people who have never read the Torah, people who read the Hebrew Torah portions every week and people who think itâs a whole lot of brisket an opportunity to engage with the text in a fun, entertaining and offbeat way.
Want to get in on the action?
B’reishit (“In the beginning…”) is the first portion. Take some time to:
Bring your diverse voice to the conversation and get Unscrolled.
On Yom Kippur this year, I had the pleasure of listening to a personal, heartfelt and inspiring sermon by Rabbi Rachel Saphire of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA. The sermon got my family thinking and talking and I thought you might enjoy it too. Rabbi Saphire has been kind enough to allow us to share this excerpt of her sermon, which is approximately the first half. Enjoy.
Whether you see it or not, youâve made a choice to be here today.Â You may be thinking, âI donât have a choice whether or not to observe Yom Kippur.Â Itâs just what I do.Â Itâs what Iâve always done.âÂ You may observe in order to support your loved one or your family.Â Maybe youâre a teenager or child and your parents have simply told you, âYouâre coming.âÂ Either way: youâre here and thatâs a big deal.Â And even if you may not realize you have, youâve made that choice and THAT is a big deal, too.
I find this text to be symbolic.Â It is not only about choosing life in the physical sense (preserving our health), but I actually think itâs about choosing TO LIVE JEWISHLY in a meaningful way.Â For, the commandment to choose life is given as an instruction to connect to that which is sacred.Â Â Perhaps whatâs most important is the fact that this strong charge does not explicitly say HOW we should choose to live Jewishly in a meaningful way.Â The text only states that this choice is not far out of reach âit is very close to you â in your mouth and in your heart.âÂ What I think this really means is that the choice is within each and every one of us.Â It is upon us to choose for ourselves, from within our own being, how it is that we want to express our Jewish identity or connect to the Jewish community.Â And if that is the case, the pathway to choosing Jewish life may be different for each one of us!Â The point is that we each actively have to make the choice.Â Making this choice is a big deal.
The Torah portion also mentions that all of us stand before God on this day – every single one of us, no matter who we are â men, women, and children.Â The text also mentions that even the ger, the one who is not from the Israelite community and is not Jewish stands among us.Â Â Today, a ger tzedek, also refers to one who makes the choice to convert or join the Jewish community.Â We affirmatively call him/her a âJew by Choice.âÂ I think the Torah is teaching us that WE SHOULD ALL BE JEWS BY CHOICE!Â What would it look like if each and every one of us consciously took hold of our choice to be Jewish?
Iâve thought about this question from a very young age.Â I grew up in an interfaith family.Â My mom is Jewish and my dad was raised as a Christian.Â My parents made the decision to raise my twin brother and me as Jews.Â My mother also wanted my father to feel comfortable observing his own customs.Â What did that mean?Â Â Culturally, we celebrated Christmas at home.Â I have fond memories of decorating the tree, hanging holiday lights, putting up a stocking, listening to and singing carols, laying out cookies for Santa Claus, sitting down for a Christmas Eve dinner, and waking up to open presents.
I also remember my mother sharing her strong Jewish identity with us and teaching us to take pride in being Jewish.Â We celebrated Passover and Chanukah at home with active rituals.Â A few times a year, we lit the Shabbat candles.Â In my hometown, being Jewish was also âsomething different.âÂ My brother and I were the only Jewish kids in our grade and my mom was our schoolâs âJewish mom.âÂ She would go from room to room to teach about Chanukah and sometimes she even invited the class to our house.
All of these practices brought me joy.Â I knew that I was Jewish, but I also knew my father and his family members were not.Â I also liked to fit in among my classmates.Â And so, I matter-of-factly and quite simply called myself and considered myself to be âhalf-Jewish.â
Then, something began to change my perspective midway through elementary school.Â A new kid came to town.Â He was in the same grade as me, his grandparents lived up the street, and HE was JEWISH!Â Besides my brother, I had made my first Jewish friend.Â I began to learn about his family and their deeply-rooted Jewish practices.Â With joy and excitement, their extended family gathered for holidays, including festivals I had never experienced.Â Their traditions and rituals spanned generations.Â They went to temple together.Â Being Jewish even informed the way they ate and the things they talked about.Â I was fascinated by this new-found meaning and beauty that I experienced by having a Jewish friend.
I began to explore my own identity.
âWho am I really and what is important to me?â
And then the deep Jewish questions came up, too.
âIf my friend is Jewish and he goes to temple, then why donât I?â
âCan I celebrate the ânewâ Jewish holidays that his family celebrates?â
And then a bit later as I began to visit religious school and temple functions with my friendâŚ
âMom, can I attend religious school, too?â
âCan you help me learn Hebrew?â
âCan we go to services?â
âHow about a field trip to the Jewish gift shop?â
And then things likeâŚ
âMom, why do we have a Christmas tree if weâre Jewish?â
âCan we have a youth group just like the Christian kids do?â
âCan I skip my soccer game on Yom Kippur?â
âCan I become
âCan I study with the rabbi more?â
And so I did â all of these things.Â My brother and I formed a youth group at our temple.Â And there we built our own sense of Jewish community.Â And I became Bat Mitzvah on my 17th birthday â With a new year of life came a new understanding of the depth and richness of Torah.Â And I decided that I would find my own sense of peace by attending Shabbat services every week if I could â that even meant skipping THE high school football game on Friday night.
These choices were my own, ones that I was proud to make and explore.Â Some choices were different than the ones my brother made and many were different than the ones my school friends made.Â But, they were mine -my own conscious and meaningful choices â ones that allowed me to explore my passions and the things that were important to ME.Â These choices brought me joy, connection, a sense of purpose and even the feeling of being known and loved.Â Even though I was born a Jew, it is for these reasons that I am a Jew by Choice.Â And it is because of my Jewish journey that I want each of you to have the same opportunity to make your own conscious Jewish choices today, every day, in the year ahead.
Instead of thinking of ourselves as the CHOSEN people (people for whom our destiny is chosen and dictated), we could become the CHOOSING people.Â We could choose to create a new Shabbat ritual for ourselves every week.Â We could choose to read more Jewish texts or books or explore the world of Jewish music.Â We could act in more concrete ways that heal our world.Â Or we could visit those who are lonely and in need.Â We could commit to teaching our children something of our own Jewish interest.Â We could share our own familyâs history.Â We could question and explore our faith.Â If we could choose to do any of these types of things (the choices are endless)âŚThen, we would not be passive inheritors of our tradition, but rather active participants, consciously acting upon our choice to live Jewishly.Â
I love the holiday of Sukkot! As a congregational rabbi, Sukkotâwhich comes just five days after Yom Kippurâoffers me a welcome break after the pressure of High Holy Day sermons.Â Plus, Sukkot is a lot of fun. I always have a great time putting up our Sukkah in our backyard in the days following Yom Kippur and then decorating it with my kids.
And I love inviting guests to our Sukkahâboth real guests as well as ushpizin. Ushpizin (Aramaic for âguestsâ) are Biblical guests that are symbolically âinvitedâ into a Sukkah, a different one each night of the festival. The traditional list of ushpizin includes Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. (Other lists include the four matriarchsâSarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leahâand other Biblical heroines.) There is a ritual formula for âwelcomingâ the ushpizin and it is traditional to learn about and discuss the Biblical guest of the evening.
Many people expand on the custom of welcoming ushpizin and use Sukkot as a time to discuss who they would like to welcome as guests: people who have been part of their own lives or people they have never met, living or deceased.
This year as I prepare for Sukkot I have been thinking about who I would want to invite as ushpizinâthat is, who I would want to invite for dinner in my Sukkah. As the Director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, I have been thinking in particular about people in interfaith relationships and people with relatives in interfaith relationships (individuals from Biblical times as well as groups of people from modern times) that I would like to have as ushpizin. Here is my list:
1.Â Tziporah: Tziporah, who we read about in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, was a daughter of a Midianite priest. Tziporah married Moses and was the mother of his two sons. I would ask Tziporah what it was like, as a non-Israelite, being married to a man who went on to become the leader of the Israelites. When she first met Moses she thought he was Egyptian since he had come to Midian from Egypt, where he had been raised in the Pharaohâs palace as the adopted son of Pharaohâs daughter and from where he had fled when it was discovered that he had killed an Egyptian taskmaster. What did she think of this man, quite possibly the first person she had ever met who was not from her own people? Was she concerned when she married him that he was not a Midianite? What was it like in her day to be married to someone from a different culture and who worshipped a different god? Did they ever discuss their different backgrounds and beliefs?
2. Ruth: Ruth, whose story we read in the Biblical Book of Ruth, is often viewed as the first Jew-by-choice since she accepted the God of the Israelites as her God and the Israelite people as her people. In the Book of Ruth, Ruth said to her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi: âWhere you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my Godâ (Ruth 1:16)
I would ask Ruth why she, a Moabite woman, married an Israelite man in the first place. Then, after her husband (Naomiâs son) had died, why did she choose to leave her homeland of Moab to go to Israel with Naomi? What did it feel like for Ruth to leave behind everything that was familiar to her and did she miss her family when she left? What was it like to give up the beliefs and ways of her people? What was it about the people of Israel and the God of Israel that drew her to them? When she raised the twin sons that she had with Boaz (a relative of her deceased husband, as was instructed by the laws of levirate marriage), even though they were Israelite, did she teach them anything about Moabite culture or tell them about her Moabite family?
3.Â Parents who did not grow up Jewish who are actively involved in raising Jewish children (whether or not they have chosen to become Jewish themselves): I know many parents who grew up practicing other religions (some of whom still practice them, others who do not) who are raising their children as Jews. If I had such a group in my Sukkah, I would ask them to discuss the sacrifices they have made by committing to raise their children in a faith tradition different from the one in which they grew up. How did they come to the conclusion that they wanted to raise their children as Jews? What are the challenges they have faced, as well as the rewards? I would thank them for their commitment to the future of Judaism.
4.Â Jewish parents whose children are in interfaith relationships: I would like these Jewish parents to be able to have an honest conversation about how they feel about their children being seriously involved with someone who is not Jewish. Surely some would feel disappointedâperhaps even hurt or rejectedâand their feelings should not be ignored. Hopefully, though, they would understand that it is their adult childâs choice who they are going to date and/or marry and they would respect their childâs decision. I would encourage all of them to accept their childrenâs partners and welcome them into their family.
5.Â Rabbis and cantors who officiate at interfaith wedding ceremonies: I would ask each clergy person to share his or her own reasons for officiating at interfaith weddings. There are many clergy, like myself, who did not officiate at interfaith weddings immediately following ordination, but rather began to do so after some time for a variety of reasons. (Read why I now officiate at interfaith weddings.) I think it would be fascinating to hear about my colleaguesâ personal journeys and to hear from each of them the most rewarding, as well as the most challenging experiences they have had in working with interfaith couples.
6.Â Children growing up in interfaith households: I would love to invite a group of children of all different ages who are currently growing up in interfaith households. I would ask them what they find to be the most rewarding and what they find to be the most challenging about growing up as part of an interfaith family. In what ways, if any, do they find that having a parent who is not Jewish impacts their Jewish identity?
7. Dating, engaged and newly married interfaith couples: I would begin by asking them to share their experiences as interfaith couples. What are the rewards and what are the challenges? Have they discussed how they are going to raise children if they have them? How can they make Jewish choices while honoring the traditions of both partners? Can they discuss these issues with their parents?
Okay, Iâll admit it: While it is true that I would love to have a group of interfaith couples in my Sukkah, Iâm also plugging InterfaithFamily/Philadelphiaâs upcoming Love and Religion workshop that starts in October. If you and your partner or a couple you know may be interested in discussing questions such as these, then you should find out about Love and Religion here.
Chag Sameach (happy holiday)!Â May this Sukkot be one in which we can all be welcoming and one in which we all feel welcomed!
What about you? Who are your dream ushpizin? If you could spend an evening with any person or group of people (real or fictional, living or deceased), who would you choose? What would you want to talk about?
The âfall holidaysââRosh Hashanah, followed ten days later by Yom Kippur and then just four days later by the week-long festival of Sukkot, which concludes with
âTurn it and turn it for everything is in it.â Ben Bag Bag shares these words of wisdom about Torah. As a child I laughed at his name, but as an adult I appreciate the depth of this rather simple statement. Ben Bag Bag referred to the Torah, the ancient scroll on which the first five books of Moses and the beginning of the Jewish bible are written. Each year Jews around the world read a segment of these stories until this week when they (finally) reach the endâŚonly to return to the beginning again with the word bâreishit (in the beginning).
Itâs such a natural cycle to turn and return. We cycle through the seasons, the yearly holidays and the cycle of life. Ben Bag Bag informs us that if we look deep into the words of the Torah we can find âeverything.â
Cain and Abel teach us that we are responsible for and cannot hide our own actions. Abraham shows us (and God) the importance of mercy when God wants to destroy Sodom and Gemorrah. Jacob and Esau demonstrate sibling rivalry while Joseph and his brothers take it one step further demonstrating the weakness of family relationships that can be restored by the strength of forgiveness. Moses teaches us that even with physical limitations, we can still do great things.
Throughout the Torah we are reminded to treat others with respect and dignity. We are also reminded to take care of the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger among us. Commentary on the Torah takes these guidelines even further and extrapolates how we treat those who work for us and our animals. For example, one must be paid for his/her work in a timely fashion, so as not to cause unnecessary strife on his/her life. We must also feed animals and pets before we feed ourselves.
The guidance one can glean from the Torah can apply to all people. Those who practice Judaism and those who do not. I think every person should strive to be a good person and I find stories from the Torah provide good examples of how to (and sometimes how not to) act.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of the Torah and/or Bible stories and start reading. Discuss what you read with your family and discuss what everyone thinks. How might you want to incorporate examples into your life? What stories will you choose to use as examples of what not to do?
A personal favorite is the JPS Illustrated Childrenâs Bible. The Bible stories included in this volume include fifty-three Bible stories (Torah and additional books), retold by Ellen Frankel. Each story is only a few short pages, so you can read one each night or each week. The full-color illustrations by Avi Katz help bring the stories to life!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and insights! Please share what you think in the comment section below.
I admit it â I was raised to think that intermarriage is wrong. It has taken awhile but I now am embarrassed by some of the comments I might have made when friends told me they were marrying someone who wasnât Jewish. I was insensitive. On this Yom Kippur, I want to ask for forgiveness from those whom I have offended. In many instances, I may not have said anything, but the negative thoughts crossed my mind and an expression of disapproval may have crossed my face. Again, I apologize.
In my defense, we all are evolving. We all say things that might have been inappropriate. I donât lose sleep over insensitive comments I may have made 10 years ago. I was young. I was immature. I am not perfect. I try not to let guilt consume me, but there is a fine line between being conscientious and guilt ridden!
But here is something I hadn’t thought of until a few months ago: Our comments leave scars. I know that I offended some people and that they remember my comment or look of disapproval. So, even though I have evolved, I may have hurt their feelings and I suspect they still remember it. In fact, my act of disapproval may be the last (and only) thing they remember about me. Who was I to judge?
This reminds me of the old Kabbalah story where a child says bad things about someone to a friend. Madonna and Loren Long have rewritten this story for todayâs family in Mr. Peabodyâs Apples. In this story, Mr. Peabody is an elementary school teacher and baseball coach, who one day finds himself ostracized when a child misinterprets an incident and then spreads rumors through their small town. Mr. Peabody silences the gossip by teaching the child how we must choose our words carefully to avoid causing harm to others. The child is told to take a pillow to the baseball field and tear it open. The wind is blowing and all of the feathers fly everywhere.Â Mr. Peabody asks the child to collect the feathers and put them back in the pillow. The child tells him that it is impossible. Like feathers in the wind, we canât put our words back in our mouths.
Since we canât take our words or acts back once they are out there, this Yom Kippur I want to say:
1) I apologize for any words, actions or thoughts that may have been insensitive.
2) To anyone who might have offended me, I forgive you and know that we are all evolving. Hopefully, we can all evolve a little faster before we hurt anyone elseâs feelings.
I wish for all of us that our personal journeys take us to a place of kindness and understanding. Happy New Year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
Not long ago I was sitting at my computer playing around on the Internet and I found myself at deathclock.com, which bills itself as âthe Internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away âŚ second by second.â All you have to do is enter your date of birth, your gender, your âmodeâ (whether youâre normal, pessimistic, sadistic or optimistic), your height and weight, and your smoking status. Then you click a button that says âCheck Your Death Clockâ and it calculates your date of death.
I didnât put in my information to âcheck my death clock.â I was so freaked out by the thought of knowing my date of death (or at least what deathclock.com predicted as my date of death) that I quickly left the website, and promised myself Iâd never go back again.
But the reality is that even though I donât want to know WHEN Iâm going to die, I do have to accept the fact that I AM going to die. Rabbi David Wolpe tells the story of a man at age 93 who continues to be comforted by the consoling words that his mother had said to him while lying on her deathbed, seventy years earlier: âDonât be afraid. It happens to everyone.â
Itâs a fact of life. âŚWeâre all going to die.
And while I may never go back to deathclock.com, the reality of my mortality is something that I canât avoid thinking about this time of year. Confrontation with death is one of the significant themes of the Jewish High Holy Days, and especially of Yom Kippur.
On Yom Kippur, some Jews wear a white kittel (burial shroud) over their clothing, which serves as a reminder of our mortality. And in synagogue on Yom Kippur, Jews confront death when we recite the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, describing âwho shall live and who shall die, who shall live out his days and who shall not live out his days.â
What I love about Yom Kippur is that this âconfrontation with deathâ isnât morbid or creepy. Rather, we confront death so that we can be more fully present in life. When we recognize and acknowledge that life is precarious, we realize how truly precious it is.
Every year at this time I ask myself: What would I do if I were going to die tomorrow? How would I live my life? How would I treat the people I love? Is there someone to whom I would apologize? Is there someone with whom Iâve lost touch who I want to reconnect with? I try to use the answers to questions like these to inform how I act during the High Holidays and in the year ahead.
These questions and others that help us to become better people and lead more meaningful lives are ones that we should all be asking ourselves throughout the year. And for Jews and those who are part of Jewish families, they are questions on which we should especially focus this time of year.
Hopefully, all of us can use our answers to the question âWhat would I do if I were going to die tomorrow?â to inform how we live TODAY.
What about you? Are there questions youâve been thinking about this time of year? Iâd love to hear what youâre thinking.
The following is a guest blog post by Dina Mann, National Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for Reboot, an organization thatÂ engages and inspires young, Jewishly-unconnected cultural creatives, innovators and thought-leaders who, through their candid and introspective conversations and creativity, generate projects that impact both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds.
Every Yom Kippur, Viduy (Confessions) is recited by congregations around the world as a way to reflect on sins we did. Most of them do not apply to many of the readers here (we hope!) and can often seem a little off-putting. (We stole, we have transgressed, we have sinnedâŚ) The siddur literally creates a poem about sinning that goes from A to Z.
With 10Q, Nicola Behrman, Ben Greenman and Amelia Klein sought to do something a little different. To create a space of personal digital reflection where the important things in life could be measured from year to year.
How does it work? Sign up for 10Q and receive 10 questions in your inbox over the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. After Yom Kippur the answers to your questions will be put in a vault and returned to you the following year before Rosh Hashanah. Measure how far you have progressed and how far you have to go in your life goals. Your answers can be made private or public.
Since 2008, thousands of people have had the opportunity to reflect from year to year, and the response on Facebook and Twitter spans from heartwarming to heart breaking. Take the time to read through other peopleâs past responses at doyou10q.com.
As 5774 approaches, take some personal time to weigh your year and add more meaning when we come together to reflect.
I, like you, receive a large number of email messages every day. Messages from list serves often go unopened and unread. However, I was intrigued by the headline: âIt’s that time of the year when Craig n’ Company offers you free Inspiration for the holy days without the Guilt!â
I kept reading. Jewels of Elul Vol IX, The Art of Welcoming is a booklet featuring âJewelsâ from a wide variety of esteemed contributors. I donât usually respond to name dropping, but this time it worked. On the list I saw my childhood rabbi, music specialists I worked with throughout my career, Rabbis and communal leaders I really look up to â I was in! Of course, it took 12 days before I finally clicked on my first (second, third and fourth) messages from this group of esteemed Jewish leaders. I quickly found that each message truly is a jewel!
I want to share with you an excerpt from email #9 in the series (you can sign up to receive Jewels one by one in your inbox), the words of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Legal Counsel for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. His article, titled Treat The Stranger That There Be No Stranger posits the following:
For more than a century, American Jewryâs passionate effort to ensure that America was a welcoming country for immigrants was infused by powerful historical lessons. We were, of course, the quintessential immigrant people, fleeing from land to land, looking for those rare countries that would welcome and perhaps even protect us. Our effort was, as well, a reflection of biblical values. We take pride that the most oft-repeated command of our tradition is to treat the stranger as ourselves. But what of our own community and our synagogues?
In 1978, Rabbi Alexander Schindler vigorously called on us to reach out to âall who enter,â to open our congregations to intermarried families, later to the LGBT community, then to Jews through paternal descent. And then he called for our synagogues to become âcaring communitiesâ serving the actual needs of their members. There followed a different kind of welcoming as synagogues opened their hearts, doors and resources to absorb the deluge of âboat peopleâ from Southeast Asia; Soviet Jews, Sudanese refugees, Ethiopian Jews all followed.
Along the way, there were efforts to make our synagogues more accessible to differently abled Jews whose physical and mental capabilities made integration into our schools, our services, our programs an often discomforting challengeâŚ In this New Year, may we so treat the stranger that there be no stranger in Americaâs synagogues.
I am challenging each of us as individuals to do our part for our community (big or small, near or far, no matter how you define community). In this New Year, what will YOU do to enable the differently abled, to welcome the stranger, the new immigrant, interfaith families, LGBTQ? How will you help the poor or feed the hungry?
If each of us does one thing to help the world, we can embody tikkun olam (repairing the world) and become a stronger world because of our efforts. You may not be required to solve all the worldâs problems, but neither can you desist from trying to do your part (adapted from Pirkei Avot, 2:21).