It’s Not (Just) About the Numbers

By Rabbi Adam Greenwald and Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson In our last piece in eJewishPhilanthropy we argued for the necessity of investing in conversion preparation programs as a response to our communal demographic crisis. We are a small - and as the studies all suggest - dwindling people and so it is a numerical imperative for our survival that we not only retain the Jews we already have, but open the doors to add in all those who are potentially interested to join our family. … [Read more...]

Southern Israel Comes Back to Life Thanks to the Jewish People

Children from southern Israel participate in a special summer camp run by The Jewish Agency for Israel's Fund for Victims of Terror. Photo credit: Sarah Bronson for The Jewish Agency for Israel.

By Rany Trainin At the conclusion of Simchat Torah, I had the opportunity to experience a truly moving event. More than one thousand people spanning four generations, all of them members and residents of Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the past and the present, gathered to celebrate the end of the kibbutz's sixtieth birthday year. As residents of the Gaza border region, the kibbutz members also took the opportunity to mark a return to normalcy after a turbulent and difficult summer. As Deputy Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel and a longtime resident of the region, I was overcome with emotion upon being asked to greet the gathering on behalf of the Jewish world. The event took place thanks to the support of The Jewish Agency and the entire Jewish people, whose contributions made the emotional and … [Read more...]

The Tent: Helping Jewish Leaders Look Through New Prisms

By Larry Glickman Leading a Jewish community can be a daunting task. Whether you lead your community as clergy, professional staff, or lay leadership, we all do our sacred work through different prisms. We work through the prism of spirituality. The Torah and other teachings of our ancestors guide our communities with holiness and wisdom. We work through the prism of the history of our community. Every community has experienced its own victories and challenges, and those experiences often inform how the community is led today. We work through the prism of expertise and best practices. We bring information from our “day jobs,” and we learn from others who do the same work we do. What fresh ideas do they have? What do they do that has worked or failed? These are all prisms I have looked … [Read more...]

A Bill of Rights for Conversion Candidates

Bill of Rights

I propose that the American Jewish community adopt a Bill of Rights for Conversion Candidates, to be agreed upon by any of my rabbinic colleagues engaged in the holy work of preparing individuals (and their families) to join the Jewish People. By Rabbi Arnold D. Samlan I have heard enough from those who are going through or have gone through naturalization to the Jewish people. Even before the recent revelations (to be fair, allegations) regarding one of the lead rabbis in Orthodox Jewish conversions [I prefer "naturalization," as it indicates joining the Jewish people, not merely the religion], it had become clear that the entire system was broken and that potential converts were often being misled or taken advantage of. It is not my place to detail the abuses in the system, which are, … [Read more...]

On “Activism in Challenging Times”

By Russel Neiss Like many others who read eJPhil, I am both aware and so thoroughly appreciative of the work of Lynn Schusterman as an individual, and in her role as the Founder and Co-Chair of the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and the amazing work that she has helped support in the Jewish and broader community. Which was one of the reasons I was quite surprised and saddened to read Ms. Schusterman's piece in Sunday's eJPhil advocating for a cancellation of the Metropolitan Opera's performance of The Death of Klinghoffer writing that it, "presents a singular viewpoint about a horrific act of terrorism, contains language that can only be described as anti-Semitic and goes so far as to imply moral equivalence between the Nazis and Jews." I don't know if she, like many of the … [Read more...]

Activism in Challenging Times

Our mark on the world will be characterized not just by what we stand against but also by what we stand for. By Lynn Schusterman Over the past month, we have celebrated the start to the Jewish new year and the series of holidays that includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. This year, I find myself even more reflective than usual, following a summer of great pain and turmoil and in the face of ongoing global challenges. What I have always loved about these holidays is that while they invite intensely personal moments of reflection and atonement, we are expected to celebrate them as a community. Together, we are reminded of the fragility of life. Together we are reminded of all for which we must be thankful. Together we are reminded of how we, as individuals and as a … [Read more...]

Hope in Hannover

Hope in Hanover

By Evie Rotstein, Ed.D. In response to the raging anti-Semitic demonstrations throughout Europe this past summer, a respectable crowd of 5,000 gathered in Berlin, on September 14th, to demonstrate their support to fight a resurgence of the hatred that had almost wiped out Jewish life in Germany during the Nazi era. Many applauded when Chancellor Merkel said: “Jewish life is our life. It is part of our identity.” Earlier in the summer, two hundred and fifty kilometers west of Berlin, in the city of Hannover, my family, along with 17 other Holocaust survivors and their families, were guests of the city, for a week of dedication and remembrance. They came from the US, Israel, England and Argentina. Their story is very much a part of the German story that Merkel referenced. Mr Hauke Jagau, the … [Read more...]

Who Will You Be Welcoming Into Your Sukkah?

The very people who are reading and talking about the Pew study are by in large, the people who are already engaged and not the ones that we need to try and be reaching. By Sam Aboudara On Sukkot, we remember the several decades that the Israelites spent journeying through a hostile environment in search of a promised land that they believed to exist at the end of their travels. During this time, our ancestors took shelter in temporary dwellings. Essentially, the Jews experienced homelessness. Only a short few weeks after Sukkot ends, we read Parashat Vayera, in which we see evidence of Abraham’s hospitable nature as he welcomes in three traveling guests, who for all purposes are complete strangers. Not only welcoming them into his tent, Abraham rushes to their beck and call, involves his … [Read more...]