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Home>Jewish Living>Social Action>Inclusion of People with Disabilities>Opening the Gates of Prayer So That All May Worship

One of the Most Embarrassing Passages In the Whole Torah – Parashat Emor

Do you ever pay attention when Parashat Emor is read?

And if you do, are you as embarrassed by it as I am?

Leviticus, chapter 21, beginning with verse 16 and continuing to the end of the chapter, is a long list of those kohanim who because they have a physical defect of some kind are not allowed to officiate in the sanctuary. It is a long list. There are a dozen defects listed. Just as there are 12 defects that make an animal unfit to be offered as a sacrifice, so there are a dozen defects that make a kohen unfit to offer up a sacrifice. “If a kohen is blind, or lame, or if he has a limb that is too short or too long, or if he has a broken leg or a broken arm, or if he is a hunchback or a dwarf, or if he has a growth in his eye or if he has a scar or scurvy, or if his genitals are injured, he is not qualified to offer the food of his God. He may eat of the food that the rest of the kohanim eat — he may eat of the holy food and of the most holy food as well -- but he may not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar, for he has a defect. He shall not profane these places that are sacred to Me, for I the Lord have sanctified them.”

What is your reaction to these words? How do you feel when you listen to them?

And let me ask you a more embarrassing question: how do you think the person sitting next to you feels when he hears these words if he is a person with a disabilities?

What shall we make of these verses that seem to discriminate against and diminish the dignity of the person with a disability?

Down through the centuries, and in our own time as well, people have tried to understand this passage.

Some have explained it historically. They have said: That was then and this is now. And they have pointed out that since the fall of the Temple and the end of the sacrificial system, these laws no longer apply. Today, a kohen who is a person with a disability can duchan, can get the first aliyah, can officiate at a pidyon haben, and can do anything and everything that any other kohen can do. And that is somewhat comforting.

Others have explained it practically. A kohen who was blind or lame or a little person would have difficulty doing some of the heavy work that the kohen performed in the sanctuary and therefore he was excused. That too is comforting, but it does not explain all of the impairments on the list. Why can’t a person who has a scar do the work that the kohanim did in the sanctuary? And it does not explain the strong expression that appears at the end of the list: “vilo yichalel et mikdashi”—he shall not profane these places that are sacred to Me, says the Lord.

Is the presence of a person with disabilities a desecration of the sanctuary? And if so, why?

Rabbi Bradley Artson explains it this way: He says that this law is a reminder to us that none of us but God is perfect, and therefore that we must come before our God with the shleymut, the completeness, that comes from admitting our imperfections. That is a wonderful spiritual insight, but I don’t see how it comes out of this verse. If that is what the Torah meant to teach us, should it not have spoken more clearly, and not in a way that hurts the feelings of the person with disabilities, as this verse seems to do?

Rabbi Judith Abrams explains it this way: She says that the sanctuary was a special place. It was the place where heaven and earth met, and so it was dangerous. The kohen stood at the meeting place between two worlds, between the world of mortality and the world of eternal life, between the world of supreme purity and the world of imperfection, between the world of order and the world of disorder, and therefore he had to be healthy and strong and pure in order to serve there. That is comforting too, but it still leaves us with the question of how do the people with disabilities feel when they read this passage.

My answer to this question is: I don’t know. I really wish I did, but I don’t know. After reading all the historical explanations, or the explanations that try to explain this passage practically, or theologically, I simply do not know what it means or why it is in the Torah. I wish I do, but I don’t. And I do not want to give you any answer that is glib or facile or dishonest, for that does no honor to the Torah.

And therefore, what I want to do today, if I can, is study the treatment of people with disabilities in this passage in light of the way that the disabled were treated in the rest of the Greco-Roman world within which ancient Judaism was located, and then study with you two passages from the Jewish tradition that show how later generations of Jewish teachers felt about the disabled. And then, I have several proposals that I want to make to you for your consideration.

Let me begin with the Greco-Roman world:

I think you will agree that Plato and Aristotle were among the giants of Greek philosophy. Listen to what they say about how we should treat people with disabilities:

Plato says: “This is the kind of medical provision you should legislate in your state. You should provide treatment for those of your citizens whose physical constitution is good. As for the others, it will be best to leave the unhealthy to die, and to put to death those whose psychological condition is incurably corrupt. This is the best thing to do, both for the individual sufferer and for society.” And Aristotle was in full agreement with Plato on this. He said: “Let there be a law that no crippled child should be reared!”

Plutarch goes so far as to provide details on how the decision should be made as to who should live and who should die. He says that the decision should be made by the leaders of the community and not by the father, because the father may not be objective. Notice that the idea that the mother might have a say in this decision is not even considered.

Read these statements by Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch, and you really appreciate the Jewish tradition. For nowhere, nowhere at all, not in the Torah and not in the Talmud, and not anywhere else in Jewish literature is infanticide ever considered, even as a possibility. On the contrary, the sources are unanimous: the disabled, like the able, are made in the Image of God, and are entitled to respect and reverence. They can’t officiate in the sanctuary, but nu, compared to what was done to them in the Greco-Roman world, that is not so bad. The rabbis of the Talmud learned many, many things from the Greco-Roman world, but this, the murder of people with disabilities, this they did not even consider. And that is a context that makes our passage seem not quite as harsh as it did at first. Isn’t that so?

Now let me show you two passages from rabbinic literature that speak to our issue of how people with disabilities should be treated. The first comes from the Yerushalmi:

“Rabbi Yochanan said: Each of the 40 days that Moses was on Mount Sinai, God taught him the entire Torah. And each night he forgot what he had learned. Finally, God gave it to him as a gift. If so, why did God not give it to him as a gift on the first day?

In order to encourage the teachers of slow learners.”

Think with me for a moment about what this midrash means. Moses had the best teacher that there could ever be -- God Himself. And yet God had to teach him, and then re-teach him over and over and over again until he grasped the full meaning of the Torah. And God had to modify the way in which He taught. And if God did so, then surely so must we. We human teachers have to be patient, and more than patient if necessary, when we teach those who are learning disabled.

What a powerful midrash this is! It speaks not only to teachers but to parents and siblings and nurses and doctors and caretakers and all those who deal with people with disabilities. It teaches those who teach and those who feed and dress and care for people with disabilities that your efforts sometimes require enormous patience, but if God could do it, then so can you.

And now let me show you one more midrash about people with disabilities. It is a midrash that you are probably familiar with already, but Rabbi Judith Abrams has taught me to see it in a new light.

The midrash deals with the age-old question of where is the messiah. Its answer is that the messiah is sitting at the gates of Rome, together with the poor and with those who suffer from dreadful diseases. And how can you tell which one he is?

All the others take off all their bandages at one time, and then put them all on again at one time. But the messiah takes his bandages off one at a time, and puts them back on one at a time, just in case, so that if he is called he will not be delayed.

This midrash I knew, but I never saw the nuance in it that Rabbi Abrams catches. She says that this vision of the messiah is almost the exact opposite of the image of the kohen that we saw in today’s Torah reading. The kohen cannot serve if he is ritually impure. The messiah is ritually impure by his own choice, by choosing to live among the lepers at the gates of Rome. The kohen cannot serve if he has a physical impairment -- the messiah is chosen because he has a physical impairment. The kohen puts the lepers outside of the gates of the community when he enters the sanctuary. The messiah chooses to stay outside the gates with the lepers instead of entering the sanctuary. And yet it is he, and not the kohen, who will bring the final redemption!

Could there be any more dramatic expression of the dignity and the status of a person with a disability than this -- that the Messiah lives with them, and may even be one of them!

Look at how we have come full circle, from the passage that says that a person with a disability cannot do all the work of the kohanim to this midrash, where the person with a disability will do the work of the messiah! Perhaps this midrash is the answer to the embarrassment that we all felt when we first looked at these laws in our sedra.

And now, one more thing:

It is easy to pass judgment on the laws in the Torah and to claim that we are morally superior to it, but we can only do that if we first face up to our own practices. And so let me ask you these questions:

If Yitzchak Avinu, Father Isaac, who became legally blind in his old age, were to come into our synagogue and want to daven with us, would we have a large print prayer book available for him?

If Yaakov Avinu, Father Jacob, who was injured in an encounter with a mysterious stranger and limped for the rest of his life as a result, were to come into our synagogue and want an aliyah, would he be able to get up to the bimah here? And if not, if we don’t have a ramp that makes the bimah accessible to the people with disabilities, what would we say to him?

If Moshe Rabeynu, Moses our teacher, who had a speech defect, were to come into our shul and want to read from the Torah that he gave us, could we handle it without becoming embarrassed if he were to stutter?

We say that the Shema is the central prayer in our faith. If that is so, then what do we do for those people in our midst who are unable to hear the Shema, or who are even unable to hear the shofar, because they have a disability? Do we have people who can sign the sermon and sign the service so that these people can understand and hear the Shema? And if not, then who are we to dare to judge the Torah that we have heard today when we treat people with disabilities much, much worse than it does?

I have heard synagogue leaders say: Why should we buy large print books for those who cannot see well, or arrange for someone to sign the service for those who cannot hear well, or provide a ramp up to the bimah for those who cannot walk well when there are so few such people in our congregation?

The answer to that is obvious. If we do not provide these things that they need, why should they come? If we do not provide these things, the message that we send to these people is that we have no need for you and no concern for you in our synagogue. And that, it seems to me, is the opposite of the message that the Torah wants us to send.

And therefore, let us judge ourselves before we judge the Torah, and let us do what we should to make all Jews, including those with disabilities, welcome in our midst.

Mishneh Ha-Briyyot: A New Jewish Approach to Disabilities

I want to suggest a virtual Copernican revolution in how the Jewish tradition, and Jews along with it, should understand and treat disabilities. In order to describe this new view, I need first to summarize what the Jewish tradition has said in the past.

A Summary of the Tradition’s Treatment of Disabilities

I think it is fair to say from the very start that traditional Judaism’s approach to disability is remarkably enlightened and compassionate, especially when compared to the treatment disabled people got in other cultures. Before we get to the specific legal aspects of this, note that almost all of the biblical heroes were disabled in some way. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah are all barren for some time in their lives,1 Isaac and Jacob suffer from blindness in their old age,2 Jacob was lame for much of his life,3 and even the greatest biblical hero, Moses, suffered from a speech impediment.4 Similarly, a number of talmudic rabbis were disabled; for example, Nahum of Gimzo, Dosa ben Harkinas, Rav Joseph, and Rav Sheshet were all blind.5 The more “manly” biblical models – Esau, Gideon, Samson, and even David – are all portrayed as flawed in character. In contrast, the heroes of Greek and Roman culture were all physically perfect -- even extraordinary. American secular culture applauds those who overcome disabilities, along with those who triumph over any obstacles, and some popular movies, like Philadelphia, and some country songs, like Mark Wills’ “Don’t Laugh at Me,” warn us not to ignore or denigrate the homeless or ill, but very few, if any, commercials depict disabled people or even old people because Americans honor youth and ability. That is why Franklin Delano Roosevelt insisted on hiding his wheelchair in the last years of his presidency. Thus the fact that so many of the biblical and rabbinic heroes were disabled in various ways speaks volumes about how our tradition from its very beginnings thought of this group of people: in contrast to the Greek, Roman, and American cultures, in Jewish sources the disabled were to be construed like everyone else, and they were often leaders.

This stems from some deep Jewish convictions. For the Jewish tradition, we are all created in the image of God,6 and, as such, we have divine worth independent of whatever we do. That does not mean that we may do whatever we want; quite the contrary, God gives us 613 commandments, and the Rabbis add many more. Moreover, the fact that each person is created in the image of God does not mean that we have to like everyone or what everyone does. It does mean, though, that even when we judge a person harshly for his or her actions, we must still recognize the divine worth inherent in that person. The extreme illustration of that is that the Torah demands that “If a man is guilty of a capital offense and is put to death, and you impale him on a stake, you must not let his corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must bury him the same day. For an impaled body is an affront to God”7 – literally, “a curse of God.” That is, the image of God inherent in even such a person must be honored. How much the more so must we honor the image of God in those who have not committed heinous crimes but happen to be disabled in some way.

The Jewish tradition is remarkable not only in how it thought about the disabled, but in the actions it demanded with and for them. In Greek and Roman cultures, “imperfect” infants were put out to die, and disabled adults were left to fend for themselves and often mocked to boot. In Jewish culture, in contrast, killing an infant for any reason constitutes murder,8 and the Torah specifically prohibits cursing the deaf or putting a stumbling block before the blind.9

As Jews, we dare not forget these fundamental features of our tradition’s thought and practice. On the contrary, given how other cultures treated the disabled, we should take pride in the fundamental humanity embedded in our own tradition.

With this as a background, though, it is also important that we acknowledge that Jewish sources did put the disabled at some disadvantage. This especially affected the Temple and the biblical concept of the holy. Specifically, while disabled men born into the priestly class were not denied their part of the priestly portions, they were not allowed to serve in the Temple and were instead put to menial work such as cleaning the kindling wood from worms, for which a special area was set aside: “No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified [to offer a sacrifice], no man who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or he who is hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scurvy, or crushed testes.”10 Maimonides explains the exclusion on the grounds that “most people do not estimate a person by his true form, but by his limbs and his clothing, and the Temple was to be held in great reverence by all.”11 Somehow, for the Torah and Maimonides, one could be disabled and still function as the people’s political leader, but one could not serve in the sacred precincts of the Temple. One verse in Deuteronomy even says that a man who has crushed testes or a severed penis “may not enter the congregation of the Lord”; it is not clear whether that only refers to a man who voluntarily maimed himself that way in service of some Canaanite god, or whether it refers to any man in that condition, and we also do not know the meaning or implications of “not entering the congregation of the Lord,”12 but it clearly constitutes an exclusion of such men from normal status.

Now, as we turn from ancient rites to Jewish law now in practice, I shall summarize the various categories of disability and how the Rabbis treated them. In all fairness, by and large the Rabbis limited any legal restrictions on the disabled to the specific tasks the disability prevented them from doing, seeing such people otherwise as full-fledged Jews. That is, the Rabbis did not dismiss the disabled categorically from Jewish responsibilities and roles; they instead sought to empower them as much as possible. Still, Rabbinic law does impose some limitations on them in both ritual and civil law.

The disabilities the Rabbis discuss are the following: one who is insane or sufficiently mentally retarded to lack the mental ability to be held legally responsible (shoteh); blind (suma); epileptic (nikhpeh); sexually neuter (tumtum) or hermaphrodite (androgenus); or sterile (saris for a male; aylonit for a female). In addition, they speak about a heresh, a term the Mishnah defines as someone who is both deaf and mute, but the Talmud defines heresh as someone who is deaf but not mute, ileim beingused to describe a mute.13 That ambiguity will affect later rulings about that category.

Here, then, are some of the rulings regarding the disabled in Jewish ritual law:

  1. Blind people should say the blessing before the Shema that praises God for creating light because even though they cannot see the light of day, they benefit from it because others see them and keep them from accidents.14
  2. Similarly, even though the third paragraph of the Shema (Numbers 15:39) commands us to wear fringes so that we may see them and thereby remember God’s commandments, blind people are obligated to wear fringes because others can see them.15
  3. Along the same lines, even though the Shema begins with “Hear O Israel,” a deaf person, who by definition cannot hear either the command or his or her own voice saying the prayer, can nevertheless fulfill the commandment of reciting the Shema because others can hear him or her saying the prayer.16
  4. Since the Torah must be read and not recited by heart, blind people may not serve as the Torah reader, but they may be called up to recite the blessings over the Torah and they may read the Haftarah from a Braille text or even recite it by heart.17 A deaf person may read from the Torah as well as recite the blessings over it.18
  5. A blind person may lead the congregation in prayer because blindness does not free a Jew from the duty to pray and, contrary to reading the Torah, one may pray by heart.19
  6. A heresh (probably here a deaf-mute) cannot fulfill the obligation of the community to hear the Purim megillah read because such a person cannot speak audibly.20
  7. Despite some arguments to the contrary, a blind person is obligated to recite the Haggadah of Passover, as two great, blind talmudic scholars, Rav Sheshet and Rav Joseph, did.21
  8. A blind person may not serve as a kosher slaughterer, for one must see clearly to cut firmly and quickly to minimize the animal’s pain. A deaf-mute or even a shoteh, however, may serve in this capacity if they are supervised by a person who knows how to do this and who attests that the slaughter fulfilled the requirements of Jewish law.22
  9. Finally, a heresh, shoteh, and a minor are not obligated to hear the shofar blown on Rosh Hashanah and therefore are not eligible to fulfill the commandment for others if they blow the shofar. The later codes specify that this applies only to a deaf person, but a hearing person, even if mute, is obliged to hear the shofar blown and therefore can fulfill the commandment for others.23 This is a good example of a general tendency embedded in all of these Jewish ritual laws and in Jewish civil law as well – namely, that the Rabbis restricted a disabled person’s duties and eligibility only to those areas affected by the disability.

Now let us look at a few of Jewish civil laws related to the disabled. In general, deaf-mutes were categorized together with insane people and minors because the Rabbis had no way of knowing whether deaf-mutes understood what was happening or not; as a result, deaf-mutes, like minors and the insane, were not given much legal status. The blind and the crippled, on the other hand, were presumed to have full legal competence, except in areas that required someone to see or to walk. In other words, Jewish law worried most about legal competence (what American lawyers call “mens rea”), and that was much more likely to be compromised by mental, rather than physical, disabilities.

Here, then, are some examples, of Jewish civil laws relating to the disabled:

  1. An insane person and a minor who does not realize the value of an object cannot acquire title for themselves or for others; only an agent of sound mind (such as a parent) can acquire title for them. A deaf-mute and a minor who can understand an object’s value, however, can acquire title for themselves, although not for others.24
  2. Because inheritance to and from blood relatives requires no legal transfer of property but rather occurs automatically at death, both an insane person and a deaf-mute can make bequests and receive them. In both cases, though, a trustee or guardian must be appointed to look after their affairs.25
  3. An insane person cannot buy or sell property, but a deaf-mute and even a minor can buy or sell movable property (but not real estate) in order to sustain themselves.26 Special care had to be taken, though, to assure that the witnesses to the sale correctly understood the gestures made by the deaf-mute to indicate an intention to buy or sell.27 Someone who was mute but not deaf, however, could effect an acquisition or sale even of real estate.28 Someone who sometimes was of sound mind and sometimes not, such as an epileptic, has full ability to buy or sell both movable property and real estate while of sound mind, but the witnesses must take steps to ensure that that is indeed the case during the transaction.29
  4. Even though there were restrictions on the ability of deaf-mutes, insane people, and minors to acquire property, someone who took away anything such people found had committed theft.30
  5. Insane people were not held liable at law, and if the situation required it, a guardian was appointed to protect the interests of both the insane person and those who might suffer as a result of his or her legal immunity.
  6. An insane person may never serve as a witness, and even a sane person who is confused about a given matter may not serve as a witness about that matter. Those who are sometimes sane and sometimes insane must be tested to ascertain their eligibility as a witness.31 The deaf and mute were also excluded from most testimony because the Rabbis, interpreting Leviticus 5:1, determined that one must be able not only to hear, but to speak in order to testify.32 The deaf and mute could, however, testify to free a woman from becoming chained to her first husband and thus unable to remarry (an agunah).33 The Torah’s verse requiring that witnesses see what happened also excluded the blind from testifying, even if they recognize the voices of the parties.34 Moreover, since these disabilities barred a person from serving as a witness, they also excluded them from being eligible to serve as a judge.35
  7. An insane person could not marry because such a person could not legally consent, but a deaf-mute could.36 Sterile people could marry as long as both parties were aware of that fact at the time of marriage, but otherwise the marriage was void. Someone who exhibits no sexual characteristics (a tumtum) could marry either a woman or a man, although the marriage had doubtful status. A hermaphrodite (adrogenus) may marry a woman but not a man because the Rabbis considered such a person male.37
  8. Finally, and perhaps most indicatively, just as a person who disgraces an able-bodied person must compensate the victim with money as well as seek forgiveness, so too anyone who demeans a disabled person must pay such damages. Only an insane person is not paid for this, according to the Talmud, because being insane, in the Rabbis’ judgment, already constituted a disgrace second to none.38 That last provision may disturb us, but what is remarkable is that Jews were forbidden to embarrass all other categories of disabled people and had to pay damages if they did.

My Copernican Revolution

Dayyenu, that is enough to give you a good sense of the tradition’s treatment of disabilities. It is not a perfect picture; there are parts of the story and the law that we might wish were different. Those who would like to see changes in Jewish attitudes toward the disabled or the laws governing them base their arguments on the immense changes that have taken place in recent times in technology and medicine, enabling even paraplegics to get around, the deaf to communicate through sign language, and the blind to read texts translated into Braille. Psychotherapy and drug therapies have made good progress in relieving a variety of psychological disorders. Obviously, such disabilities often still compromise a person’s competence to do some things, but, many maintain, the advances in what the disabled can do should move us to change Jewish law in a number of particulars. I completely agree with such moves, and I think that they are completely in line with the Rabbis’ careful analysis of identifying exactly what people suffering from a particular disability can and cannot do.

In this paper, though, I want to try a completely different approach. I call it “a Copernican revolution” because like Copernicus, who got us to think of the Earth as going around the sun rather than the other way around, I similarly want to prod us to think of the world from the vantage point of the disabled. That is, I want to suggest that we think of a world in which the norm is what we now call “disabled,” and we able-bodied and sane people are the abnormal ones. What would – or should – Jewish perspectives and law look like then?

This project of mine may seem a little crazy to you, and so before I go any further with it, I would like to point out two things that might make it seem considerably more reasonable. First, the idea struck me because of what a disabled person told me long ago – namely, that from the point of view of the disabled, all the rest of us are “temporarily abled”! How do you like that description of yourself? But we all know, of course, that they are right: Even Olympic athletes will, in the course of life, most likely lose at least some of their vision and hearing, and even the most nimble and those who exercise regularly will not escape the slowing down and the aches and pains that age inevitably brings. We nervously joke about it, but even our mental processes may dull; you do not have to have full-blown Alzheimer’s to become increasingly forgetful -- and yes, often more crotchety -- as time goes on. As my wife, Marlynn, told me, the first time she heard about disabilities was at a conference of the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles in 1971, when a young woman who was wheelchair-bound told the assembled teachers: “Don’t care about the disabled out of sympathy. Care for them for your own selfish reasons, for you too will be like me some day.” My intention is not to depress you; it is only to point out that it is not so far-fetched to think of everyone as disabled, especially as the American and Jewish populations age.

Second, one is not just abled or disabled; there are degrees of disability. I, for example, have worn glasses since I was 17, and it was also during that year that I had my first asthma attack. Ever since then I have lived with these disabilities. The asthma, in particular, prevents me from engaging in fast sports. In my younger days, when the test of a male’s masculinity was all-too-often connected with his athletic abilities, and when asthma medications were much less helpful than they are now, that particular malady took quite a toll on my psychological well-being and my social standing. I mention these things not to seek your sympathy, but just to indicate that each one of us is disabled in some ways -- physical, mental, interpersonal, or all of the above -- and even if we learn to cope with these problems, they do change our image of ourselves and what we can do. So all of us who think of ourselves as able-bodied should not have too much difficulty picturing ourselves as at least partially disabled.

In such a world, then, in which the norm is being disabled and the unusual thing is to have full control of one’s physical and mental faculties and full ability to interact socially with people without any psychological problems whatsoever, how would we want Judaism to treat disabilities? I guarantee you that our whole attitude would change. Instead of thinking about humane treatment for the disabled as being motivated by our own compassion or God’s commandment, we would see it as simply caring for ourselves – much as we see any of the services that we Americans expect the government or others to provide for us.

With that as the norm, wheelchair access, for example, would not be a new and sensitive thing; it would be what we just normally assume. “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” lights at intersections would naturally have ticking sounds so that the blind would not have to depend on the sighted or what traffic they hear to know when to cross. As many college classrooms are now equipped with internet access, so too they would have facilities for Braille transcriptions of materials being discussed in class, and they would be routinely staffed by people who sign for the deaf. The same would be true for business meetings, court proceedings, and the like. Even private homes would be easily accessible for people in wheelchairs and would be arranged to ensure that the blind would have an easy time finding their way without tripping.

As the objects of society -- the nouns -- would change, so too would daily activities -- the verbs, so to speak. That is, daily activities and special events, including trips, would be planned assuming that most people are disabled in some way. So, for example, there might still be sports for the able-bodied, together with teams and league competition, and there might even be professional sports teams for the able-bodied, but such activities would be seen simply as a subset of the larger social efforts to provide athletic expressions for all of society’s members. Thus, just as there are now professional men’s and women’s basketball teams for the able-bodied, so too there would be professional teams for the blind, deaf, and wheelchair-bound, perhaps differentiated by sex as well. Courses in schools and colleges would be taught in a multi-media way so that people of all kinds of abilities and disabilities could participate. It would be obvious that school districts needed to schedule and pay for classes for autistic children and those with other developmental disabilities, with teachers specially trained for helping such children. Business meetings, court proceedings, and visits to the doctor, the accountant, the barber, and everyone else who provides a service or sells a product would all be easily handled by all people, regardless of their forms and levels of ability or disability. Even those inviting others to their homes would automatically think about not only the activities that they plan, but even how to give directions to get to their home for people of varying abilities and disabilities.

What kind of society would this be? Clearly, our whole way of looking at the world and what we expect of people would change. That would bring with it a number of objective, subjective, and interpersonal innovations.

First, objectively, massive economic and social changes would be entailed in the kind of Copernican revolution I am proposing. As I indicated through only a few examples, both the objects and activities of our lives would have a very different character. Much of that would cost considerable sums of money, and that is a real concern, but, truth to tell, the economic outlays to make this happen would be nothing like the 14% of Gross National Product that we currently spend on cosmetics.

The real difference would be one of attitude. Instead of thinking of ourselves with all kinds of abilitiesand coping with whatever disabilities we have, and instead of modeling ourselves after people with no apparent disabilities, we would instead think of human beings as coming in all kinds of shapes and sizes, abilities and disabilities.

The Costs and Benefits of Such a Copernican Revolution

While I very much encourage us to entertain my proposal, I must warn you that it entails significant costs. First, in the most literal sense of the word “cost,” my plan, as I indicated above, would require major financial expenditures. There is no getting around that, and it is a major concern. To do anything like what I am proposing would require major outlays of money. We have already tasted that in the costs of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but my proposal would require much more. If anything, American society today seems to be moving in the opposite direction, as we have seen the United States Supreme Court chip away at the ADA’s protections and its costs over the last several years. The current Administration, and American society generally, may not be ready to spend more money on these issues, and that raises real questions about the viability of what I am suggesting.

Even apart from current spending priorities, it must be acknowledged that one important reason why society is structured as it is does not stem from fear of the disabled or prejudice against them, but from the fact that the vast majority of us, for the vast majority of our lives, are, in fact, remarkably abled. We may require glasses, asthma medications, and the like; but God has given most of us bodies that enable us to do many things for many years, and God’s agents in the form of doctors and other mental and physical health care personnel are extending our abilities and their longevity yet further. Thus there is a certain plausibility in treating the abled as the norm and the disabled as the exception, not only in conception, but in creating social policy.

Furthermore – and this really gives me pause – I fear that my proposal may understate the pain involved in being disabled. After it is all said and done, it is harder to cope with life if you are blind and most people are sighted, deaf when most people are hearing, unable to walk when most people can, or unable to learn or interact with people as most people do. This increased difficulty encompasses not only the physical trials of getting around in the world of the abled, but the emotional challenges of feeling a sense of self-worth and the social obstacles of creating friendships. I certainly do not want to minimize those problems in the least; on the contrary, my proposal aims at mitigating them by resetting the default option in society, as it were – that is, by making us think of everyone as disabled in some way. Even less do I want to stand in the way of efforts to develop cures for disabilities or better tools to cope with them; on the contrary, I want to encourage such efforts as much as possible. So my proposal of making the disabled the norm should not be construed as minimizing the pain involved in disabilities or as discouraging efforts to alleviate that pain.

Moreover, to do what I am proposing would require us to do some considerable emotional work in readjusting our American way of thinking and feeling about ourselves. Currently, with the exception of doctors and other mental and physical health care personnel, most of us live in a state of denial for most of our lives about the disabilities that we ourselves will most probably incur at some later date. We do that, in part, by choosing to engage with only able-bodied people in at least the vast majority of our daily activities. We avoid visiting the sick at hospitals, not only because it is a bother and poses a real risk for infection, but also because hospitals remind us of our own vulnerability and even our own mortality, and we do not like to think about that or feel insecure.

In the society that I am proposing, though, very much like the society of our great-grandparents, people will encounter others of all ages of ability and disability on a daily basis; the disabled will not be sequestered into specific institutions for them, but will rather live at home and will regularly study and work with the more able-bodied. That may make some of us today, who are used to being protected from daily reminders of our vulnerability, terribly uncomfortable. Such feelings may pass, however, as we again get used to such a society. In many ways, this is similar to the process by which Jews of my generation gradually accepted women -- and, for that matter, men -- participating in many areas of life where they had never been before. But like the opening of roles in society to people of both genders, so too the opening of society’s spaces and activities to people of all levels and forms of ability and disability will, at least, take some getting used to.

So much for the costs of my proposal. What are its benefits? First of all, making the disabled the norm would make all of us feel better about ourselves, for such a society would be much more accepting of high degrees of disability in the various areas of life. That would not stop a bad baseball player from striving to be a better one, or a person ignorant of science from becoming more adept at it, for we would still try to develop our physical and mental abilities, as we do today.

On the other hand, this social arrangement would help to control our egos, for it would remind us that our human claim to worth is not a function of our abilities. In the Torah, God warns us against claiming that “My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me. Remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to get wealth”39 – and, for that matter, to do anything else. We certainly can and should feel proud of our achievements, but seeing the world from the vantage point of the disabled should restore and reconfirm in us a needed sense of humility.

My proposal would also make society as a whole a kinder, gentler, more inclusive place to be. People would not be judged primarily by how much they can do or how beautiful they look; since the norm would be a lack of many abilities, people would be judged primarily by what they do to help others in coping with life. That is, character world have a much greater chance to be the criterion of worth in such a society – and that, I dare say, is a very nice result.

And what about the trappings of Jewish law? The intriguing part of this proposal is that it might prompt us to look with a completely new lens at a number of the details of Jewish law regarding the disabled. As I indicated above, in most cases Jewish law makes every effort to include the disabled as much as their disabilities will permit, and we should be proud of the extent to which ancient Jewish law did just that. Some provisions of Jewish law, though, would become hard to justify if we look at the world from the vantage point where most of us are disabled. For example, if most of us were blind, we certainly would not require the Torah to be read from a scroll that is only accessible to the sighted; we might allow reading from such a scroll, but we would presume that most people would read from a Braille text. Similarly, if most of us were deaf or blind, we certainly would not exclude deaf or blind people from giving testimony to what they did perceive through their functioning senses. Now that we know that mute people are not necessarily or even usually insane, we would treat them at law like everyone else. And we probably would maintain, contrary to the Talmud but very much in line with its reasoning regarding those asleep, that those who insult the insane would be liable for damages because others hearing the disparaging remark would understand it as an insult.40 Thankfully, there are only a few such cases in which Jewish law would need to be changed, but looking at the world through the lens I am suggesting makes those areas that need to be changed crystal clear.

Epilogue

And now, with apologies to you all, I am going to pull what football players know as a “double reverse.” We owe God daily thanks that most of us, for most of our lives, do not suffer from debilitating conditions that make living life hard. Because that is the case, and because we do need to work to ameliorate the difficulties faced by people who suffer from such maladies, the norm will inevitably – and properly – continue to be people with what we have come to expect as normal human abilities.

At the same time, I hope that this thought experiment will motivate us to think much more deeply about disabilities in our society generally, and in Judaism in particular. Only when we walk in the disabled community’s moccasins, at least in our imaginations, aided by what we can learn from what the disabled themselves tell us about what they face, can we begin appropriately to judge how we think about the disabled and how we treat them in society generally and in Jewish life in particular. In the meantime, may our journey into the world of the disabled – and into the upside-down world in which they are the vast majority – make us better, more sensitive people and Jews.


Notes

In the following, M. = Mishnah (edited c. 200 C.E.); T. = Tosefta (also edited c. 200 C.E.); J. = Jerusalem (Palestinian) Talmud (edited c. 400 C.E.); B. = Babylonian Talmud (edited c. 500 C.E.); M.T. = Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah (1177 C.E.); and S.A. = Joseph Karo’s Shulhan Arukh (1567 C.E.), with glosses by Moses Isserles.

  1. Genesis 15:2-4; 18:1-15; 25:21; 30:1-8, 22-24; 35:16-20; I Samuel 1:1-20.
  2. Isaac: Genesis 27:1; Jacob: Genesis 48:10.
  3. Genesis 32:25, 31-32.
  4. Exodus 4:10.
  5. Nahum of Gimzo: B. Ta’anit 21a. Dosa ben Harkinas: B. Yevamot 16a. Rav Joseph and Rav Sheshet: B. Bava Kamma 87a. There were also a number of anonymous, blind scholars: B. Haggigah 5b; J. Pe’ah, end.
  6. Genesis 1:27; 5:1; 9:6.
  7. Deuteronomy 21:22-23.
  8. M. Oholot 7:6.
  9. Leviticus 19:14.
  10. Leviticus 21:17-21.
  11. Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed 3:45.
  12. Deuteronomy 23:2; see commentary on that verse in Etz Hayim (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2002), p. 1122.
  13. Heresh as deaf-mute: M. Terumot 1:2. Heresh as deaf but not mute, with ileim describing a mute: B. Haggigah 2b.
  14. B. Megillah 24a-24b; S.A. Orah Hayyim 69:2.
  15. M.T. Laws of Fringes 3:7.
  16. I am drawing this list from the work of Carl Astor, “Who Made People Different: Jewish Perspectives on the Disabled" (New York: United Synagogue of America, 1985), Chapter Four, a book that I heartily recommend in its entirety. In the Talmud, whether the deaf are obligated to recite the Shema is disputed (B. Berakhot 15a), but the codes rule that a deaf person can fulfill the commandment: M.T. Laws of Reading the Shema 2:8; S.A. Orah Hayyim 62:3
  17. That the Torah must be read: B. Gittin 60b. That blind people are therefore excluded from reciting it for the congregation: S.A. Orah Hayyim 53:14; 139:4. That the blind may be called to recite the blessings over the Torah: Moses Isserles, gloss and the commentary of the TaZ (Turei Zahav) by Rabbi David ben Samuel Ha-Levi there.
  18. Astor, “Who Makes People Different,” pp. 75, 107-109.
  19. S.A. Orah Hayyim 53:14.
  20. B. Megillah 19b; S.A. Orah Hayyim 689:2. M.T. Laws of the Megillah 1:2, however, leaves out the heresh as an excluded category.
  21. B. Peshaim 116b.
  22. M.T. Laws of Slaughter 4:5; see, however, B. Hullin 2a, where this special circumstance permitting the animals that they slaughter for consumption is not mentioned.
  23. S.A. Orah Hayyim 589:1-2 with the glosses of R. Moses Isserles and the Magen Avraham there.
  24. M.T. Laws of Acquisition (Zekhiyah) 4:6-7.
  25. M.T. Laws of Inheritance (Nahalot) 6:1; 10:5. As for inheritance from one’s spouse, marriage to a deaf-mute or insane person is valid only by rabbinic, and not by biblical authority, because such people could not be presumed to be of sound mind and could not pronounce the blessings with the proper intent. Therefore the usual, biblical laws of inheritance, where property is passed on automatically to relatives in a prescribed order, do not apply, and the property is treated as gifts. A deaf-mute cannot give gifts but can receive them. Thus a woman who is deaf cannot transfer property to her husband, but a man who is deaf can receive property from his hearing wife (M.T. Laws of Marriage 22:4).
  26. M.T. Laws of Sale 29:1.
  27. B. Gittin 59a, 67b.
  28. M.T. Laws of Sale 29:3-4.
  29. M.T. Laws of Sale 29:5.
  30. B. Gittin 59b.
  31. M.T. Laws of Testimony 9:9.
  32. B. Gittin 71a.
  33. M.T. Laws of Testimony 9:11.
  34. M.T. Laws of Testimony 9:12.
  35. B. Niddah 50a.
  36. B. Yevamot 112b.
  37. B. Yevamot 81a.
  38. B. Bava Kamma 86b.
  39. Deuteronomy 8:17-18; see verses 11-18 to understand the context.
  40. B. Bava Kamma 86b.

Publications on Synagogue Accessibility

Someone Is Listening — a 28-minute signed and open-captioned VHS cassette produced by the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education that concludes with an additional 10-minute teaching segment featuring 30 Jewish signs. A Leader’s Guide is available upon request. Cost: $18.

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Department of Education
155 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010

Loving Justice: The ADA and the Religious Community (1995) — a 24-page guide about how the Americans with Disabilities Act affects religious institutions including congregations, seminaries, camps, nursing homes, hospitals, universities, colleges, schools, and social service agencies.

National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.)
910 16th Street, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006

That All May Worship: An Interfaith Handbook to Assist Congregations in Welcoming People with Disabilities (1994) — a 52-page handbook to assist congregations in welcoming people with disabilities.

National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.)
910 16th Street, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006

Dimensions of Faith and Congregational Ministries with Persons with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families (1998) — a 100-page bibliography and address listing of resources for clergy, laypersons, families, and service providers produced by the Community Building Partners in partnership with the Religion Division. Cost: $10

Rev. Bill Gaventa, Coordinator, Community and Congregational Supports
University Affiliated Program of New Jersey
Brookwood II, 45 Knightsbridge Road
PO Box 6810
Pisctaway, NJ 08855
732-235-4408
gaventwi@umdnj.edu

A Rabbi’s Guide to the Special Person — a 16-page booklet developed by Rabbi Robert Layman, a member of the USCJ’s committees on Accessibility and Special Education Committee, and spiritual leader of Beth Tikvah-B’nai Jeshurun of Philadelphia and Educational Director of the Delaware Valley Region.

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Department of Education
155 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10010

Disabilities (Summer, 1998) — a briefing developed by the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism for individuals designated as Disabilities Chair for Sisterhood.

Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
48 East 74th Street
New York, NY 10021
800-628-5083

Synagogue Resources

Disability Awareness Month in the Boston Jewish Community Iyar 5766 (April 29 - May 27, 2006)

Accessibility Checklist for Events

Go here and click on “Accessibility Checklist for Events and Meetings”.

Bar and Bat Mitzvah For Children with Special Needs

Braille and Large Print Resources

For additional information about other technologies (e.g. Closed Circuit TV) and Jewish books on tape, contact the above organizations.

Disability Awareness

In addition, the Anti-Defamation League has an online disability awareness curriculum, with a secular focus, for students through 12th grade.

Conservative Movements Resources

Resources from Other Movements

Sign Language Interpreters

The Disabilities Resource Network of JF&CS, 781-647-5327, ext. 1940 or Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 617-740-1600 has information about sign language interpreters.

Words of Wisdom on Inclusion

Here is a collection of thoughts from various texts for use in preparing D’var Torahs, Sermons, and articles about disability issues. The Accessibility Committee encourages you to welcome congregants with disabilities by offering a “Disability Shabbat.”

  • When a person insults someone else it is his own defect that he is revealing. (Kedushim 70a)
  • Train a child according to his way; even when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs—Mishlei 22:6)
  • Anyone who deprives a student of being taught Torah is as if he robs him of his father’s legacy. (Sanhedrin 91b)
  • As it says, ‘Torah tziva lanu Moshe morasha kehillat Yaakov’—Moshe commanded us the Torah, an inheritance of the Congregation of Yaakov. (Devarim 33:4)
  • You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind. (Leviticus 19:14) (We do not wittingly place a stumbling block before a person with a disability, yet by ignoring their needs, we do inadvertently place a stumbling block before them.)
  • And Moses said unto the Lord: “Oh Lord, I am not a man of words, neither in the past, nor since haste Thou Spoken unto Thy servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.’ (Exodus 4:10)
  • Ben Azzai taught: Do not disdain any person; Do not underrate the importance of anything—For there is no person who does not have his hour, and there is no thing without its place in the sun. (Pirkei Avot 4:3)
  • If there be among you a needy person, thou halt not harden thy heart, but thou shalt surely open thy hand. (Deut. 15:7)
  • On the Talmud Yerushalmi, Masechta Horayot, the following Gemara appears (Horayot 3:5): Rave Yochanan said: ‘During the entire forty days and nights that Moshe Rabbeinu spent on Har Sinai, he kept learning the Torah and forgetting it. Finally, it was given to him as a gift. Why did this happen? To provide an answer for the slow learners. The Penai Moshe explains: Why, the Gemara asks, was the Torah not given to Moshe as a gift at the outset? To provide an answer for the slow learners who forget whatever they learn. When they ask, “Why should we labor for no purpose?” the answer will be from Moshe himself, who learned and reviewed even though it was all forgotten, until finally it was given to him as a complete gift.
  • And let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them (Exodus 25:8) (This is an incredible statement of priority: the Sanctuary is not a place simply for God to dwell (the verse does not say, ‘that I may dwell in IT”) but to dwell among THEM, among the people. The implication is that God dwells where the people come together. In so many ways we are trying to create the sense of community by inviting people to use the front door of the Congregation as a portal from the impersonal world of business to the personalized community of spirit. [Rabbi Rick Sherwin, Orlando, Florida])
  • In houses of worship, we may find the common faith that binds us together. In a time when declining attendance is already a concern, it is ironic that more is not being done to draw the nation’s largest minority—at 54 million people strong—into the Sanctuary. (Robert P. Bennett)
  • Religion is about faith and compassion. It is also about unity and the building of community. But it’s hard to build a community when many of those who wish to become members cannot gain access. (Robert P. Bennett)
  • Participation in the religion of one’s faith enriches lives. (Lorraine Thal, Program Assistant, National Organization on Disability’s Religion and Disability Program)
  • Give me a quiet heart, and help me to hear the thin voice of silence within me. It calls me to reflect the Divine image in which I am created. It teaches me to do my work faithfully, even when no one’s eye is upon me, so that I may come to the end of each day feeling that I used its gifts wisely and faced its trials bravely. It counsels me to judge others less harshly and to love them more freely. It persuades me to see the Divinity in everyone I meet, and to see that same Divinity within me. (Adaptation of a prayer by Rabbi Chaim Stern, by Rabbi Rick Sherwin)

Submit your “Sermon Bite” by completing our “Comments Or Questions” form.

Acknowledgements

Our appreciation to Linda Zimmerman, Special Needs Director for the Atlanta Jewish Educational Services, for preparing many of these “Sermon Bites” for March Jewish Disability Awareness Month. For more information, contact Linda at specneed@jesatlanta.org or visit www.jesatlanta.org.

Opening The Gates of Torah

You have probably never met anyone like me before who cannot speak but who can communicate by typing. I am a perfect example of how someone can be very impaired in one area but have great strength in other areas. Actually, I think that is true of all people, but it is especially true about people with autism. When I was diagnosed with autism at age 3, I could not speak or move my body properly, and 12 years later that remains true. However, if success and worth are measured by being a mentsch and giving back to others, then I would classify my life as a success. You can be the judge.

When I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 6, I was a classic case of severe autism. My behavior was so awful I hated myself. Almost everyone I met gave up on me almost immediately and believed I would never amount to anything. But there was one doctor who saw the gem locked inside my prison of autism. She smiled at me in a way that reflected her belief that I was a worthy person with the ability and desire to engage, and she waited the very long time it took for me to smile back. That was the beginning of my long and wonderful relationship with Dr. Ricki Robinson, who has been my guide as I struggle to reach my goals of becoming a productive member of society and a person worthy of respect.

Many purported experts claim that individuals with autism are not interested in socializing. This is totally ridiculous. I love people, but my movement disorder constantly interferes with my efforts to interact. I cannot start and stop and switch my thinking or emotions or actions at the right time. As a result, I am often very lonely and this is the worst thing about autism. I get very sad when I watch my wonderful twin sister going off to do fun things that I cannot do. At moments like that, I passionately hate autism. So next time you see someone like me at your synagogue or at your event, remember that they probably feel really lonely and you could be the person to make their day by smiling at them and letting them know that they exist.

Although I have often felt invisible because I can’t speak, I have also learned that autism is not entirely negative. For example, I get a VIP pass at Disneyland, and I also get to kiss all the beautiful counselors at camp and pretend I don’t know any better. On a serious note, not being able to speak means that you spend lots of time listening. In fact, most of what I know I’ve learned from listening to conversations that other people didn’t think I could hear. I’ve also observed that people with autism support each other in ways that typically developing people do not. My friends and I have all known the horrible embarrassment of having an autistic episode, so we really understand and support each other through triumphs as well as tribulations. Finally, because I have had to struggle every day of my life to do things that other kids take for granted, I think that I have experienced God’s love in a way that most kids have not. I used to get very offended at the notion of being someone’s community service project. But then I realized that while my buddies were teaching me how to be like other kids, I was teaching them how to appreciate the beauty of God’s world in a new way. All in all, who gets the greater benefit?

All of you here made a commitment to come today and spend an afternoon and evening understanding what it is like to live with a disability. To be honest, it is hard. It is an enormous effort for me to do the simplest tasks like writing my name or tying my shoe. In my daily struggle, Judaism has been a constant source of hope, comfort and guidance. From my earliest experiences in our synagogue preschool to my more recent experiences at Jewish summer camps and youth groups, I have had wonderful peers who have seen me as a person made in God’s image, with the same dreams and concerns as other kids. And while everyone else may be sleeping during the rabbi’s sermon, I am always listening because I need all the help I can get in finding the strength to make it though each day.

I want to thank all of you for inviting me to participate today and for being pioneers because I have never been a keynote speaker before. It has often been my experience that people with disabilities, especially those of us who are nonverbal, don’t get an opportunity to speak for ourselves. Our parents or our therapists or self-proclaimed experts speak for us. By including me as a presenter today, you are already light years ahead of many other communities. So thank you for believing in me and all the other kids like me.

For the past two years, I have been part of a musical theater program for kids with special needs called the Miracle Project. It was very aptly named because many miracles happened there that make the parting of the Red Sea pale in comparison. For one, I met my wonderful girlfriend Lexi, who also has autism and has the most beautiful voice and smile in the whole world. For another, I wrote a song that we used in the show and Lexi sang it. Most miraculously of all, we all accomplished far more than we ever expected because we were a team – autistic kids, siblings, volunteers and acting coaches. People with special needs don’t need to be spoken to like dogs with good job and good listening and similar phrases used to train animals to do tricks. All we need is someone patient who believes that we can fly and notices our hard-earned little accomplishments. When all those little accomplishments accumulate over days and weeks and months and years, the results can be truly miraculous!

Accessibility Comment Form

Synagogue accessibility does not have to cost a lot of money. Everyday, people find creative and low cost solutions that communicate a welcoming Synagogue environment for everyone, including people withdisabilities.

The USCJ Committee on Accessibility is encouraging all affiliated Synagogues to become fully accessible in every aspects of Congregational life. With is mission in mind, we are seeking low cost solutions that Open the Gates of Prayer So That All May Worship.

Help others learn from your experience by sharing your solutions with us. Your solutions will be posted to USCJ’s web site.

Your Direct Input to the Accessibility Committee

(Fill in the blanks and click "submit")

Contact Information
  1. Mr. Mrs. Dr. Rabbi
  2. In a short paragraph either tell us more about your project, delineate your question, or tell us about your resource.
  3. If you are describing a project, how was this project funded?

  

Thank you for your input.

Resolutions About Accessibility

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has passed two significant resolutions:

Mezuzah Accessibility

Drafted by USYers and adopted at the 1997 United Synagogue Biennial Convention, the resolution calls upon all affiliated congregations to place the mezuzot low enough within the top third of the doorpost of the entrances to the synagogue to make them readily accessible to all and encouraging individuals to do the same in their homes.

Full Text

Accessibility

enacted at its 1991 USCJ Biennial convention, this resolution calls upon the USCJ to provide guidance to its constituent congregations for the implementation of measures to make synagogues accessible to person with disabilities, urges all congregations to take immediate steps to make all synagogues physically and programmatically open and accessible to persons with disabilities, urges all segments of the congregation to become involved in the process of welcoming persons with disabilities into its synagogues, and commits to ensuring that all future conventions and public programs of the USCJ be held within facilities that provide adequate accessibility.

Full Text

Resolution of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism

Measures for Persons with Disabilities

WHEREAS, by reason of the fact that a significant segment of the North American Jewish populace are persons with disabilities who have special needs regarding the ability to worship and participate in synagogue life which must be met by both public and private sectors; and

WHEREAS, many of the constituent congregations of the UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM have not yet made adequate provisions for satisfying the needs of persons with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM clearly has a moral, ethical and practical obligation to encourage and support greater participation by persons with disabilities in the religious life of the community;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM provide guidance to its constituent congregations for the implementation of measures to make synagogues accessible to persons with disabilities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all member congregations of the UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM are urged to take immediate steps to make all synagogues physically and programmatically more open and accessible to persons with disabilities, said steps including but not limited to, the purchase of large print prayer books for the sight impaired, infra-red sound systems for the hearing impaired and ramps for entry to the premises and to the Bimah for those in wheelchairs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all segments of the congregation on the adult and youth levels become involved in the process of welcoming persons with disabilities into our synagogue; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that from this date forward all future conventions and public programs of the UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM be held within facilities that provide adequate accessibility to persons with disabilities.

Resolution of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism

Mezuzah Accessibility

WHEREAS, Jews are commanded (Yoreh Dea 289:6) to place a mezuzah on the top third of the doorposts of their homes; and

WHEREAS, traditionally mezuzot are placed so high within the top third of the doorpost that they are not accessible to young people and the disabled confined to wheelchairs; and

WHEREAS, placing the mezuzah lower within the top third of the doorpost is halakhically permissible, enables all Jews to fulfill this mitzvah and increases awareness in the community of the needs of those unable to reach the mezuzah

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED the Southeast Region United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism calls upon all affiliated congregations to place the mezuzot low enough within the top third of the doorposts of the entrances to the synagogue to make them readily accessible to all and encourages individuals to do the same in their homes.

“Wow, That Could Be Me” – Talking About Inclusion

APRIL 2009 – I asked myself: Why a Shabbat of full inclusion? What sense does it make to speak on a Friday night? It seemed obvious to me that although the rabbi and I invited families dealing withdisability, most are not going to able to be here. For some of these families the hour is too late, the task of leaving the house too great, and yet others are too uncomfortable to be here as their family member’s behavior, although neurologically based, is unpredictable and possibly embarrassing and disruptive to others. With this in mind, I will be addressing the people who are here tonight. I maintain that those who are here tonight are the ones who can make the difference in the lives of those members I just described. Our community is sensitized to many physical illnesses: cancer, heart disease, orthopedic injury, and many other diseases of the body. Are we as sensitive to illness and disability that impact the brain? Tonight I will be focusing on neurological and psychiatric illnesses and intellectual disabilities.

When trying to understand what it means to be disabled and what it means to be disabled in a family, I think it important to reflect on the recent history of the disabled community. I was reminded of this history when I was listening to a radio interview with a man named Jeff Daley. One day in 1957, when Jeff was 6 years old, his little sister disappeared. Every night at dinner he would ask his parents “Where is Molly?” Every night at dinner he received the same answer. “Stop asking about Molly.”

Nearly five decades later, on January 21, 2004 -- three months after the deaths of both his parents – Jeff came across his dad’s wallet at his parents’ home. Inside, he found a small laminated card printed with the name Molly Jo Daly and a social security number.

That afternoon, Jeff searched for more clues in his parent’s house. In a crawlspace he found a cabinet crammed with old files. Tucked in the back was a folder labeled Molly. Inside were a few records of Jeff’s sister’s life at the Fairview Hospital and Training Center in Salem, Oregon, where Molly had been taken nine days before her third birthday.

In the 1950s, many experts told parents that raising a child with a disability at home would be a burden to other children in the household. Support systems didn’t exist, so most people felt they had no choice but to send the child away. Many of these “throwaway” children grew up without being touched except when their diapers were changed or they were fed.

The institution where Molly was sent closed in 2000, but then Jeff found a slip of paper in the file listing phone numbers for three Oregon group homes for the developmentally disabled. His wife quickly picked up the phone. The first two numbers led nowhere. But on the third call, to a home in Hillsboro, Oregon, she yelled for Jeff to get on the line. “Do you know Molly Jo Daly?” they asked the staffer, who answered “She’s sitting right across from me.”

Jeff discovered that his sister had a club foot and a wandering eye and may have been “slow.” In 1967 at least 100,000 children (some believe the number was as high as 200,000) were housed in 162 state facilities. Most of the children had some kind of developmental delay, Down syndrome, retardation, or autism; some just were considered slow. Some children were able-bodied but their parents could not support them. Conditions were horrific; according to historians of institutionalization residents were restrained in leather cuffs or straitjackets, overly sedated, isolated for long periods of time, and in many cases sterilized. Many had little or no contact with their families. Although such institutions are becoming scarce, about 325,000 intellectually disabled adults -- many sent away as children -- are now living in small group homes or community residences. Those in their 40s and 50s in particular may not know that they have relatives of any kind. And now, as these people’s parents die without revealing any details, family contact may be cut off forever. How many of us here tonight have memories of neighbors or family members who simply disappeared? I imagine it is more than most of us think.

Where are we today? Are we more accepting? Are we more aware? I would like to think so. In all fairness, there have been tremendous strides in psychopharmacology and behavioral interventions that have allowed people to stay with their families, and some thrive there. These interventions were not available when Jeff’s sister was institutionalized. How have we as a community supported families as they attempt to cope with neurological and psychiatric illness and disability? Who among us can predict that as we age that our lives will not be touched by psychiatric or neurological illness and disability? The answer is we all are human beings and we are all at risk of having a disabling illness or injury. When we a see a child or an adult who clearly is impaired and has a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis do we say, “Wow, that could be me?” Or is “Thank God it isn’t me” a more familiar phrase?

I have heard members say “What is wrong with that child’s parents?” following an outburst from an autistic child. I even have heard a parent at my beloved Solomon Schechter say, “If that was my kid I would I would give him a good slap” when a child with ADHD had an impulsive moment. When a child has inappropriate behavior do we consider that there is more going on than, neglectful parents or a spoiled child? When a member (God forbid) has a new cancer diagnosis we rush to make a chicken, order a platter, send flowers, or make a donation. What do we do when we learn that someone has a new diagnosis of autism, tourettes, brain damage from an illness or injury, dementia, or Alzheimer’s? Perhaps a more important question is “What can we do?”

  • We can be more tolerant when a child or an adult acts “different.”
  • If appropriate, we can offer to visit and give that person the opportunity to feel connected to the community.
  • We can become an advocate for our members with neurological and psychiatric disabilities within our own synagogue communities.
  • We can allow ourselves to look past a disability and see the blessings the person does offer.
  • When we ask a person or family member how they are doing, we can pause long enough to really listen to the answer.

Being sensitive to those dealing with these kinds of disabilities is not limited to mitzvah projects, or just for Shabbat. Sensitivity and understanding must take place in our schools, workplaces, movie theaters, airplanes, restaurants, and yes, in our synagogues. It must become a way of life. We all can become or continue to be personal examples to our friends, family and community. I look forward to a day when having a Shabbat of inclusion makes as much sense as having a Shabbat for people with brown eyes, when having a neurological or psychiatric disability becomes just another understandable variation of the human condition.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Katz this week. Dan’s son, Benjamin, had bipolar disorder and committed suicide just before Passover. He was 23. This is part of the eulogy Dan and his wife wrote for their son:

In the end, we think what killed Ben wasn’t the disease, it was the stigma around the disease, and around mental illness generally. Ben felt this stigma acutely. Throughout his life, Ben wanted what every child wants. He just wanted to be just like everyone else. But he couldn’t be. He needed some extra help. He needed counseling, tutors, a program for kids with learning disabilities. But in his view, to accept these tools would be to admit that he was different, even a failure. It would mark him as “mentally ill.” Had he embraced the help that everyone around him wanted him to have, he could have realized his potential. But he rejected help because he didn’t want to be branded with the stigma of mental illness.

As a society, we’ve made huge strides in treating mental illness. We no longer lock up patients in asylums; we’re developing medications that can help control various neurological disorders. But we have a long, long way to go. If we can make one more step, even a small one, toward erasing the stigma, then we believe that we will give meaning to Ben’s life.

Therefore, we ask everyone here to join us in helping to erase this terrible stigma. We need to show empathy to people with mental illness. Sometimes this is very difficult because they often push us away. But we have to try to see the world through their eyes, to understand that their reality is different than our reality. Even if they don’t want our help, we have to keep trying.

Help us erase the stigma of mental illness and make Ben’s short life worthwhile.

If there is now or someday will be a Benjamin Katz in our synagogue, what would we do differently so another family doesn’t have to suffer this kind of tragic loss? I trust that there are answers beyond the ones I have offered here. I dedicate this opportunity to speak to the memory of Benjamin Katz; I pray that his memory can be used for a blessing. It is up to all of us to make it so.

Julie Powell has a master’s degree in social work. She is a member of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield, New Jersey.

Inclusion on the High Holidays

Question: How can we make sure that our accessible seats remain available for congregants with limited mobility and their family during the high holidays, and even during the most heavily attended services during those days? We have unassigned seating at our shul, and entrances to the sanctuary and social hall (our expanded seating area) are from just one side.

Response: When you don’t know the answer, ask someone with experience. A member of the board who has a mobility impairment encountered this situation and was interested in helping us find a solution. We include a separate sheet in our high holy day bulletin where congregants can request "accommodations." They simply complete and return their request. The office follows up with a call to verify it. We can reserve a parking space and/or seats that are accessible for people with mobility- impairments Where one partner is not impaired, we have designated a drop-off-only zone outside the synagogue. Reserved seats are held for one hour past the start of Torah service, then revert to open seating. We set aside one corner of the sanctuary close to a doorway so we can open the doors to the outside during ne'ilah, the closing service. This is important, because it's usually pretty warm and the HVAC can't keep up with a full house and the heat of the setting sun.

Source: Solution submitted by Ritual Committee Chair.

Save Darfur: Work to Stop Genocide Rally - April 30, 2006 in Washington, DC

For almost three years, the people of Darfur have endured a genocidal campaign waged by the government of Sudan and its proxy militia, the Janjaweed. Some 400,000 people have died and more than 2 million people have been brutally forced from their homes.

Abraham Joshua Heschel once said: "In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, all are responsible." Join the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in responding to the first genocide of the 21st century.

The Save Darfur Coalition is mobilizing people across the country to take part in the Save Darfur: Rally to Stop Genocide and to send President Bush postcards asking him to take stronger action. In partnership with the Save Darfur Coalition,the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the American Jewish World Service, United Synagogue is organizing the Jewish community's involvement.

Here's how you can help:

Then encourage your friends and family to take part.

Take action! Organize your local community. Get a group together to mail postcards, go to the rally. For more information, go to www.savedarfur.org, www.ajws.org, or www.jewishpublicaffairs.org, or email mid-atlantic@uscj.org.

Thank you for taking action to stop the genocide in Darfur.

 

TO ORDER POSTCARDS WITH THE LOGOS OF ARMS OF THE CONSERVATIVE
MOVEMENT go to: www.millionvoicesfordarfur.org and in the comment section
write "Conservative Movement Cards," or contact Lindsey Petersen, Save Darfur
Coalition, 2120 L, Street, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20037,
phone: 202-478-6148, Lindsey @savedarfur.org

COST FOR BROCHURES - includes shipping and bulk envelopes
50 cards @ $20
100 cards @ $40
500 cards @ $200
1000 cards @ $400

Synagogue/Organization:
____________________________________________________________________

Name of Organizational representative::
____________________________________________________________________

Synagogue/Organization Address:
____________________________________________________________________

City:
____________________________________________________________________

State/Province:
____________________________________________________________________

Zip/Postal Code:
____________________________________________________________________

Email:
____________________________________________________________________

Phone:
____________________________________________________________________

Fax:
____________________________________________________________________

Number of Cards:
____________________________________________________________________

For CREDIT CARD orders go to: www.millionvoicesfordarfur.org and in the comment section write "Conservative Movement Cards."
For orders by CHECK, payment must accompany order.

RETURN SIGNED POSTCARDS BACK IN BULK ENVELOPES (for an order of 100 or more) OR INDIVIDUALLY TO:

The Rabbinical Assembly
3080 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

 

Join Us In Working Toward Help For Darfur

It's easy to look at what's happening in Darfur and look away. What is going on there is nightmare evil - the United States government has declared it to be genocide, something we Jews know about - but it's happening far from home, in a country about which we know very little. How, many of us wonder, can we possibly make a difference? As it turns out, if each one of us speaks up clearly, together we can begin to make our voices heard. If we do something as simple as sending a postcard urging the government to take action, the government will listen. How do we know? Because it's starting to happen already.

We at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism are asking Conservative Jews to send postcards with the logos of the branches of our movement through the Save Darfur campaign. To order postcards with the Conservative movement's logos, either go to www.millionvoicesfordarfur.org and write "Conservative Movement Cards" in the comment section, or talk directly to Lindsey Petersen at the Save Darfur Coalition.

You can write to Lindsey at this address:

Save Darfur Coalition
2120 L, Street
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20037

Call her at 202-478-6148 or email her at Lindsey@savedarfur.org.

Once you have the postcard, return to our website, www.uscj.org/Save_Darfur6943.html, for more instructions on sending the postcards out to individual members, who will sign and return them; and on returning those bundled postcards to the Rabbinical Assembly, which will forward them to the White House.

We are also asking Conservative Jews to join with us, the rest of the Jewish community, and the other American faith communities to mark April 2 through April 9 as the Week of Prayer and Action for Darfur. It is a time to raise awareness of the crisis in Darfur. For more information, go to www.savedarfur.org/faith. We are also asking any Conservative Jews who can do so to join us at a rally sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition in Washington DC on April 30. Read about it on our website.

For more information about the crisis in Darfur and our response to it, go to www.savedarfur.org, www.ajws.org, or www.jewishpublicaffairs.org, or email mid-atlantic@uscj.org.

"As Jews, We Have a Moral Responsibility" - United Synagogue’s Social Action and Public Policy Committee

The Jewish community is a network. All of us are bound to each other with invisible spider silk, flexible but sticky and extraordinarily strong.

We sometimes forget that we are also bound to the larger communities in which we live. We depend on the world around us for the civil infrastructure of our lives, and we, like everyone else, are responsible to and for the world around us.

In his role as executive director of United Synagogue’s Mid-Atlantic region, Lewis Grafman tends to the ties that bind us to each other in the Conservative Jewish community. In his other role – and yes, he does have two full-time jobs – as interim director of United Synagogue’s Committee on Social Action and Public Policy, Lew helps us understand and work on our responsibilities to the outside world.United Synagogue’s Social Action and Public Policy committee has both a twofold mission and a twofold approach, Lew says. First, on the social action front, the committee helps synagogues’ own social action committees – often called gemilut chasidim or tikkun olam – to develop their own policies and programs. Second, it arranges some programming on the international level. Our hurricane relief effort so far has raised more than $800,000 for New Orleans and the storm-ravaged cities of the Gulf coast and Florida; the project is still ongoing. We are working with Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Tzohar Biloxi. Through that effort we will encourage Conservative Jews to go to the Gulf coast, even if just for a few days at a time, to held rebuild; we will match their skills to the available needs.

On the public policy side, the committee, sometimes on its own, sometimes as part of the Conservative movement, looks at general political, moral, or cultural issues through a specifically Jewish – or even more specifically, Conservative Jewish – lens. It restricts itself to North American domestic issues – other groups handle the movement’s relationship with Israel. This month, the committee is focused on two programs; together, the two say much about the Conservative approach to the world around us. The United States government has said that what is happening in Darfur is genocide. It is impossible for most of us to imagine the horrors of the carnage there, but as the direct descendants of Holocaust victims, and the survivors of those Jews who died before they had a chance to have their own direct descendants, we know that we cannot sit by and let genocide happen. The Social Action and Public Policy committee is working closely with the group savedarfur – in fact, United Synagogue is one of that group’s sponsors.Save Darfur is working to make April 2 through April 9 the National Week of Prayer and Learning for Darfur.

During that week, the group urges, synagogues should set aside time to educate and inspire their members to insist that our government do whatever it can to stop the genocide. It's not too late to email the organization to learn more about the program and incorporate some of its suggestions. The program includes material that can be read at services on Shabbat HaGadol, April 8.

United Synagogue and Save Darfur also runs a postcard campaign. The cards, with the logos of United Synagogue and other Conservative groups, are to ask President Bush to take action. On April 30, the Social Action and Public Policy Committee will join with many other organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, both faith-based and secular, in a rally in Washington on April 30. We hope that anyone who possibly can will join us there.

“As Jews, we have a moral responsibility to speak out against ethnic cleansing and genocide,” Lew says. “And we can’t just speak out. We have to take action.”

May 22 and 23, together, are Advocacy Day. As it did last year, United Synagogue is joining with the Rabbinical Assembly to go to Washington to lobby legislators on issues important to us as a movement. United Synagogue has taken positions on matters ranging from civil rights to how to deal with some mainline churches’ divestment from Israel to religious freedom in the workplace; issues are brought to the committee’s attention, the committee debates them, decides on its stand, and then presents its work for consideration by either the biennial convention or United Synagogue’s board of directors. At Advocacy Day, participants meet with prominent members of Congress and the administration; this year meetings are tentatively planned with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the House’s deputy majority whip, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-NY); Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD); and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), among others. Participants also will have the chance to meet with their own representatives, and will be offered training sessions on effective advocacy. Advocacy Day is open to members of United Synagogue’s affiliates; for information, click here or email Lew Grafman at grafman@uscj.org.

Lew, an attorney who practiced law for almost 30 years before joining United Synagogue as regional director, is a lifelong Conservative Jew. He is tied in many ways to the web of his community; he’s a former president of his synagogue, Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, a former president of his local central agency for Jewish education, and sits on the board of trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “I’ve always gravitated toward Jewish communal work,” he says. “It’s deeply ingrained in me.” Now, he’s able to put all those strands together – his many years of legal experience, his deep Jewish background in both synagogue and communal work as both a lay leader and a professional – as he helps United Synagogue pursue justice.

“Why do we do it?” he says, when asked why American Jews should care so much about issues that do not touch their lives. “We do it because that’s the core of who we are.”

USYers at the Darfur Rally

 

 

A Letter About the Tragedy, From Our President and Executive Vice President

September 2, 2005

Those of us who did not experience Hurricane Katrina directly are emotionally affected by what we have seen and read, but we know that those who were in the path of the storm's wrath are feeling pain that we cannot even imagine.

United Synagogue leaders from the affected regions - Southeast and Mid-Continent - began reaching out to the devastated communities immediately. In cooperation with our regions, our Social Action/Public Policy committee has several projects that we hope will begin to provide relief. God's creations will experience Him in the humanity that we exhibit. We are proud of the mobilization of resources and the significant contribution of professional and volunteer United Synagogue leadership in helping to respond to this crisis.

We are pleased that many congregations throughout North America have called or emailed us with generous offers of help. We take particular note of congregations in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida that already have begun to provide significant assistance; their volunteers are helping to house and feed some of the enormous numbers of people who have been displaced.

The United Synagogue's disaster relief fund already has begun to collect donations. It is important that we inspire our congregants to provide financial resources now. As in the past, the funds will be distributed in the name of Conservative Judaism to congregations and relief organizations so they can provide help where it is most needed. For information on how to contribute and for regular updates about the crisis and our response to it, please go to our web-site, www.uscj.org.

We have been told that although right now relief operations need money more than anything else, there may come a time when clothing and other supplies will be welcome. Various United Synagogue agencies already are investigating alternatives so we will be prepared to mobilize efforts to coordinate the effective collection and distribution of supplies when it is appropriate to do so.

As important as the physical and tangible aspects of this crisis are, there is a spiritual dimension to it as well. Because we are a religious movement, we do not want to lose sight of that truth. That is why we have widely disseminated a prayer written by Koach director Richard Moline and its associate director, Rabbi Elyse Winick, that may provide comfort and inspiration to our congregants. We are appending it below for your reference.

Unfortunately, this challenge will remain with us for the foreseeable future. We will update our website regularly so you will have immediate access to new developments and new opportunities for support.

In Noah's time, the Bible tells us, a catastrophic flood nearly destroyed all humanity. After the waters receded, God sent a rainbow as a sign of promise and hope to a devastated world. If there is to be such a rainbow of hope today, we cannot look to God alone to provide it. It is up to us, as God's partners, to help create the climate that will produce rainbows for all to gaze upon.

May the new month of Elul, which we welcome on Sunday and Monday, initiate renewal and renewed hope for all those who seek it.

Sincerely,

Judy Yudof
International President

Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein
Executive Vice-President

A Prayer for Guidance and Understanding

Ba' al HaRahamim - God of Compassion:

Mikolot mayim rabim - Above the voice of vast waters;

Mishberei yam - The breakers of the sea;

Adir bamarom Adonai - Awesome is Adonai our God.

In the path of Katrina's destruction, let the good in humanity rise to the top of the flood.

Give us strength to console those who have lost family, friends and neighbors.

Give us the courage to provide hope to those who despair.

Provide us with the guidance to heal those who ail, both in body and in spirit.

Hoshi' eini Elohim - Save us, O God;

Ki va'u mayim ad nafesh - for the waters have come into our souls.

Open our hearts so that we may support recovery efforts to the best of our abilities

Enable us to endure and to be steadfast in the weeks and months ahead, in the face of a tragedy whose scope is beyond our understanding.

We mourn for those whose lives have been lost. We pray for those whose lives have been shattered.

Mima'amakim k'ratikha Adonai - From the depths we call to you, O God;

Adonai shim'a b'koli - Hear our cry, heed our plea.

Voter Registration Guide

Synagogue Vandalism

"The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism condemns in the strongest manner the vandalism of Beth Shalom Congregation in Edmonton, Alberta. We abhor such senseless acts of hatred, whether directed at our own Jewish community or any minority. We encourage the Edmonton Police hate crimes unit and Canadian officials to pursue and prosecute as a hate crime such senseless acts of cowardice. Our communities must be taught the destructive nature of anti-Semitism and of hate in any manifestation and against any minority."

"The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and its lay and professional leadership express not only their shock and outrage, but their sympathy and support for the entire Beth Shalom community. USCJ stands ready to support and assist Beth Shalom in its time of need, to work with leaders of good will in the Edmonton community to repair the psychological damage that such acts of intolerance do to all minority communities, and to strengthen the fabric of tolerance and mutual respect shared by the majority of the community.

Interfaith Meeting at Conservative Jewish Campus in Jerusalem to Pray for Peace

Marking the calendrical quirk that has Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan, and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi all starting on October 4 this year, leaders from the three religions met at the United Synagogue’s Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem to pray for peace.

The meeting was held on September 21, which in 2001 the United Nations General Assembly declared to be the International Day of Peace Vigil. It was one of about 30 such vigils held in Israel; others were held 91 countries around the world. The Fuchsberg Center participated as a member of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, which also is Israel’s local chapter in the World Conference of Religions for Peace.

About 40 participants met on the Fuchsberg Center’s campus.

Isa Jaber, who is Muslim and the director of the education department for the municipality of Abu Gosh, said that Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, teaches peace, but members of his community, like others, sometimes distort those teachings and instead teach terror. Such people misuse religion for evil.

Sister Maureen Fritz, a Roman Catholic nun who is at the Bat Kol Institute in Jerusalem, agreed. Too often, she said, wars have been fought over religious intolerance. Such people have ignored the teachings of their religions, so creating violence in the world.

Rabbi Pesach Schindler, head of the Conservative Yeshiva, said that Conservative Jews understand “our obligation to work for peace as a command from God. For that reason alone, we should be motivated not only to come to services like this one, but to dedicate our lives to achieving peace.”

Rabbi James Lebeau, head of the Fuchsberg Center, said, “The Conservative movement’s tradition has been to reach out to the other religions with which we live. It’s consistent with our tradition that we host this special occasion at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center.”

Eight Do’s and Don’ts for Non-Profits in an Election Year

As an organization with 501(c)(3) tax status, there are many things your Federation, synagogue or agency CAN do, plus some things you CAN NOT do in an election year. In general, Federations, synagogues or agencies CAN NOT engage in any activity on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for political office. The following is a list of “Do’s and Don’ts.” [1]

We encourage you to share this memo with your affiliates and other agencies in your community, but please note that this is not intended to constitute legal advice, which should be sought if the need arises. If you have further questions, please contact Chuck Konigsberg, Vice President, Public Policy, or Stephan Kline, Director, Government Affairs, at UJC Washington at 202.785.5900.

Also, please note that UJC Washington has produced the document: “Jewish Federations and Social Services Non-Profits Can Lobby! …Subject to Limitations.” Both of these documents are available on the UJC website, www.ujc.org/washington.


  1. DO NOT engage in partisan political activity. E.g., your organization may NOT endorse a particular candidate, send out mailings (or in any way use your mailing list or letterhead) urging your members to support a political party, or any particular candidate, over another.It is very important to avoid even the appearance of the use of a Federation or affiliated agency for partisan political purposes.

    Who is a candidate? A candidate is someone who “offers himself, or is proposed by others” for elective office. Thus, a person who has announced an intention to seek public office is clearly a candidate, as is someone who is the target of a candidate draft campaign. By talking about a person as a candidate or desirable office-holder, the organization itself may be proposing that person for office and hence turning him or her into a candidate for purposes of these rules.

    When does an electoral campaign begin? There is no set date for the beginning of election season under the IRS’s “facts and circumstances” approach to analyzing 501(c)(3) electoral activity. You should consider the totality of the context in which an activity occurs. Obviously, the closer we get to an election, the less plausible it is that someone who is a candidate is appearing at an event in a non-candidate capacity. Criticism of incumbent legislators is more likely to be permissible on the eve of an election if there is pending legislative action your organization is trying to influence, but if the legislature has adjourned the same criticism is likely to be perceived as electioneering.

  2. YOU CAN sponsor (or co-sponsor) a “League of Women Voters” type of debate or “candidate forum.” Just be sure that: all of the qualified candidates are invited and have an equal opportunity to present their views; an independent groupdevelops any prepared questions; there is a broad range of issues to be covered; and the moderator is unbiased and neutral.

  3. Do NOT invite only one candidate to make an appearance as a candidate at an agency-sponsored event. Other than a face-to-face debate, it is best to avoid hosting an event for one or more candidates to appear as candidates.

    NOTE: as an individual you are free to endorse, support, or oppose candidates; just be clear you are speaking for yourself and not for your organization.

  4. But YOU CAN invite an officeholder or prominent person who happens to be a candidate to appear in their non-candidate capacity. For instance, an elected official may be invited as a conference speaker or workshop presenter, if you would ordinarily invite someone in that position in a non-election year. You should clearly inform the invited officials not to treat this as a campaign appearance, and request that they avoid any reference to their campaigns or the pending election. If there is any doubt that the person can follow these guidelines, it may be better not to issue the invitation.

  5. You CAN NOT use your nonprofit organization to tell people how to vote or tie voting to a particular position on specific issues.

    But YOU CAN operate a nonpartisan voter registration or get-out-the-vote effort to encourage voting – e.g., by clients, staff, board members, donors, volunteers. In these times when voter turnout is dangerously low it is important to help promote the civic act of voting. It is one of the great strengths of our democratic form of government.

    In this process you may NOT say something designed to influence how people vote.

    You CANNOT say: “We need more voters who support social services. Register here.”

    You CAN say: “Support democracy – VOTE.” Or, “Housing, human services, food, jobs. You count. Register and VOTE.” (That is, not just “housing” OR “jobs,” but a broad range of issues presented in a way that doesn’t express a position on any issue. If necessary, partner with other groups to include more issues.)

    You may target certain groups with historically low turnout or under-representation in the process. Generally You CAN work to register people in the area where you live or provide services, and you CAN focus on registering our clients, patients, families and friends.

    You CANNOT target voter registration efforts based on inforamiton about a specific populations' likelihood to support a particular candidate or party. Targeting decision should be made for reasons erlated to increased civic participation, and not connected to the outcome of the election.

  6. You CAN develop and distribute nonpartisan Candidate Questionnaires and Voter Guides.

    You CAN NOT design, use, or distribute Questionnaires and Voter Guides intended to promote one candidate or party over another, or influence how people should vote.

    501(c)(3) - Voter Guides must cover a broad range of issues and present the issues neutrally without indicating a bias toward the organization’s preferred answer. Questionnaires used to develop the guides must be sent to all candidates in a race or, for the Presidential race, a limited number of candidates meeting objective criteria for viability. All answers received should be published without editing by the organization. The guideoverall may not implicitly or explicitly rate or evaluate candidates, or compare responses to the organization’s own positions on the issues.

  7. You CAN publicize your own issue agenda during an election.

    You CAN give candidates information that addresses issues of concern to your group.

    You CA pose questions at a forum that inform candidates and voters alike, as long as you target these efforts equally at all candidates in a race.

    You CAN even ask candidates to take a public stand in support of your agenda – but

    You CAN NOT ask for a pledge of support for your position on these issues.

  8. You CAN “lobby” voters on matters decided by the voters: ballot measures, Initiatives, referenda, charter amendments, bond measures, and constitutional amendments.

    Just be sure to count this activity as “direct lobbying” because in this case, the voters are the decision makers – in effect, the voters are the legislators.

[1] This summary was originally compiled by Nancy Amidei of the Civic Engagement Project, 206.685.3168, based upon “The Rules of the Game: An Election Year Legal Guide for Nonprofit Organizations,” published by the Alliance for Justice. This summary has been further amended, at the request of UJC Washington, by Elizabeth Kingsley, J.D., of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, LLP, 202.328.3500.

Hurricane Relief Fund
Donate online, send a check, or help out a family.


United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's Hurricane Relief Fund has made substantial contributions toward the relocation of some of Hurricane Katrina's many displaced victims. Now we are starting to look at ways to help rebuild.

Shir Chadash, the Conservative synagogue in Metairie, Louisiana, has started to repair its building. United Synagogue, with the support of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Woman's League for Conservative Judaism, has pledged major sums from the Hurricane Relief Fund to help that effort.

The congregation at Beth Israel in Biloxi, Mississippi, does not yet know what it will do. Congregants are considering whether they can rebuild the building, whether they want to rebuild the building, and if they decide to relocate, where they should build a new one. We have pledged the same sum to Beth Israel as to Shir Chadash, although Beth Israel is not yet ready to draw on those funds.

We are still waiting to learn about the needs of the two Florida congregations that were affected by Hurricane Wilma, and we are reserving a significant portion of the Relief Fund for them.

We have raised a substantial amount of money through the generosity of people like you. Nevertheless, it is highly likely that the uninsured needs of the hurricane-hit congregations will far exceed that amount.

The needs of the general community, particularly in and around New Orleans, are almost incomprehensibly large. As you probably know from news reports, once the levees are rebuilt it will take huge sums of money to rebuild the city. We plan to dedicate a portion of the Relief Fund to these rebuilding efforts.

The overall need is still great. The rebuilding effort needs far more money that has been collected. The Hurricane Relief Fund remains open, and we continue to receive checks. Any contribution you can make as part of your year end planning will be greatly appreciated.

To donate to United Synagogue's Hurricane Relief Fund, send a check, payable to USCJ, to USCJ Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund; 121 Congressional Lane; Suite 210; Rockville, MD 20852; in the memo section mark that the donation is for the Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund. To reduce administrative costs, we will not send an acknowledgement unless you request it. To donate on line, click here; please note that Network for Good, the company that processes our credit card orders, subtracts a 3 percent processing fee.

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is a not-for-profit organization with 501(c) 3 status. Contributions to United Synagogue are eligible as charitable deductions to a public charity. Material contained in this website is for informational and tax purposes onlyand should not be construed as legal or other tax advice.

Dr. Richard Lederman
Director of Social Action/Public Policy
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

 
February 6 |October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19September 13 | September 9 |September 7 | September 2September 1 | August 31

Welcome to Project Tzohar Biloxi

We know that we live in a fragile world. As Jews, one of our tasks is to help make it better. We are often told to rebuild the world; in Biloxi, Mississippi, we have the chance to do it literally. We can help rebuild Biloxi.

And who is we? Congregations, social action committees, sisterhoods, men's clubs, religious school parents' groups, other committees, ad hoc groups, nuclear or extended families, couples, singles - anyone who wants to help. Anyone who wants to make a difference.

At United Synagogue, we are calling our project Tzohar Biloxi. Why? When God told Noah to create an ark, God added a specific instruction. The ark must include a window – a tzohar – God said. It was through this window that Noah first saw the rays of light telling him that the rain had stopped. It was also through this window that Noah could see what was happening to the world as it emerged around him. The tzohar was a portal for the first ray of hope, and it also was a reminder that even when we are sheltered from the outside world, we must always be aware of what is happening to others, and to the world around us.

Noah’s flood ended with a rainbow and was followed by rebuilding, renewal, and rebirth. That’s what’s happening on the Gulf Coast, too, and we are going to be part of it.


Click here to learn about Tzohar Biloxi. Here you’ll find information here about Hands On Gulf Coast, our partner in cleaning up Biloxi; you'll also learn about how to get to Biloxi, where to stay, and how to get kosher food. You’ll also learn about what kinds of jobs you might be asked to undertake, what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect.

Click here to read an account of a recent trip to Biloxi written by Harry Silverman, our Southeastern regional director.

Click here to read about United Synagogue board member Patty Werschulz's experiences with Tzohar Biloxi.

Click here to read a story about Linda Grenis’ trip to Biloxi. Linda, president of The Jewish Center in Princeton, New Jersey, and her family worked on the cleanup in Biloxi. They were all profoundly moved by the experience and urge the rest of us to consider volunteering our time as well.

The Jewish federation of greater New Orleans is coordinating volunteer opportunities in the New Orleans area.

Tzohar Biloxi 2007 is On — February 18 to 21

About the Trip
Our Tzohar Biloxi Trip scheduled for February 18-21 is on. Our volunteer work on behalf of the Biloxi community will be arranged by Hands on Gulf Coast. Feel free to check its website (handsongulfcoast.org) to get a better idea of the kinds of work we will be doing.

We have reserved a block of hotel rooms at the Holiday Inn near the airport in Gulfport, Mississippi (9415 Highway 49, Gulfport, MS, 228-868-8200). You are asked to get to and from Gulfport and the hotel on your own. Once you arrive at the hotel, we are arranging for all meals, beginning with Sunday dinner and concluding with Wednesday lunch. We also will provide all ground transportation.

Our plan is to gather at the hotel by 2 PM on Sunday, February 18. We will be engaging in some of our own informational and educational programming on Sunday, including some teaching by United Synagogue’s Rabbi Moshe Edelman. All our volunteer work will take place on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, we will tour the damaged areas and meet with some of our friends from Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi. We will return you to the Gulfport airport by 12:30 PM on Wednesday, February 21.

Finally, we must regretfully inform you that Hands On Gulf Coast does not accept volunteers under the age of 18.

What you MUST do to join us:

  1. Go to the Hands On Gulf Coast website. Click on VOLUNTEER, then click on What to bring. In addition to a list of all the things you should bring, there is a way to download the Volunteer Liability Waiver. You MUST fill that out, as you MUST fill out the United Synagogue registration form and its Release and Hold Harmless Agreement. Click here for a United Synagogue registration and release forms that you can print out.

  2. Fill out all three forms– the registration form, the volunteer liability waiver and the release and hold harmless agreement -- with a check payable to United Synagogue.

  3. Mail the forms and your check to:

    Richard Lederman
    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
    121 Congressional Lane
    Suite 210
    Rockville, MD 20852

  4. WAIT TO HEAR FROM RICHARD LEDERMAN, BY PHONE OR BY E-MAIL, CONFIMING YOUR REGISTRATION.

  5. Book your flight, or make whatever travel arrangements are necessary. Plan to arrive at the hotel, which is located near the Gulfport, MS, airport, by 2 PM on Sunday, February 18, and plan to fly out of Gulfport no earlier than 2 PM on Wednesday, February 21.

What to bring:
As noted above, Hands On Gulf Coast provides you with a list of things to bring. Some of these things pertain to volunteers who are staying at their facility, so you will not need an air mattress, a sleeping bag, or a tent. Otherwise, you should follow their suggestions. In addition, you should plan to bring casual clothes for hanging out on Sunday and Wednesday and in the evenings, as well as a siddur, kippah, tallit and tefillin (the last two are optional for women). Our unofficial weather forecaster tells us that the weather should be dry, around mid-50s to mid-60s. So much for the weather forecaster; please use your discretion.

Repairing the World, Focusing on Biloxi
By Harry Silverman,
Regional Executive Director, Southeast Region, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

I just got back to the office after three days in Biloxi with NAASE, the organization for the Conservative movement’s executive directors.

What an incredible experience it was!

Our group consisted of 15 synagogue executive directors from across the country, Rabbi Moshe Edelman, who is the director of United Synagogue’s congregational programming and standards departments, and me. We were there because NAASE’s president, Glenn Easton of Congregation Adas Israel in Washington, DC, had decided to hold the group’s board meeting in Biloxi and to combine the meeting with a tour of the disaster area, updates on the situation, and a day of volunteer work. I was asked to help coordinate the program for NAASE.

On Tuesday evening, the group was updated by Steve Richer, who is both president of Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi and executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau; LoriBeth Susman, a Beth Israel past president who sits on the Southeast regional board; and Rafaela Monchek, a young woman from south Florida who works for FEMA in Biloxi.

On Wednesday, we volunteered with Hands On Gulf Coast. Hands On really has its act together!!! It has been doing an amazing job of coordinating volunteer work in the community. For a summary of its accomplishments, click here. Hands On arranged for us to work on a severely damaged home, so we went with one of their crew chiefs to a house in Gulfport. The homeowner, who we did not know, had already removed all of the family's belongings, including the furniture and appliances. Other crews already had removed the interior walls. Our job was to remove all the remaining insulation and layers of flooring, down to the subfloor. When we finished, another crew would come in and remove all the mold so that the house could be refinished.

Late Wednesday morning, the home owner, Roger Elamore, drove by the house. He and his family had to buy another home nearby in which to live. He didn’t know we were working on the house; he just came by to check on things and found us there, and talked to us about his experience. He and his family had evacuated before the storm, he told us. When they returned after the hurricane, they found that their house had been flooded; tidal surge waters had risen five to six feet inside the house and destroyed everything. As is typical in the gulf coast, Roger’s insurance company claimed that most of the damage was flood related, and because he was not covered for such damages it paid him only $25,000 for what it called wind related damages. That $25,000 they paid him is less than he still owes on the house. Still, he considers himself lucky; most of his neighbors received little or nothing at all from their insurance companies. He is planning to sell this house for whatever he can get and was extremely grateful for our assistance. He told us how moved he was that total strangers from around the country came here to help him.

Later that day, Roger returned to his house with a photo of his family. With tears in his eyes, he told us that he just wanted us to see “who we were working for.”

That evening, over dinner, we talked about our experience that day. I told the group that 18 of us had spent a full day doing about one fifth of the work that had to be done on just one house in Gulfport. When you consider that about 48,000 homes on the Gulf Coast had been damaged, you begin to get a feeling of the enormity of the work to be done there.

On Thursday morning, we went to Beth Israel to join the congregation in a Shacharit service led by Rabbi Edelman. The synagogue building is too heavily damaged to be used, so we held the service outside. It is interesting to note that Rabbi Edelman served as a scholar in residence at Beth Israel on August 26-28, 2005. As it turns out, that was just before Katrina’s onslaught on August 29; it was the last service the congregation held in their synagogue before the storm. Our service, also led by Rabbi Edelman, was the first held at the synagogue site since the storm. The congregation has been meeting in a local church,which coincidentally also houses Hands On.

Following services, Steve Richer took the group on a tour of the Gulf Coast area to give the NAASE leadership an idea of the scope of the destruction. NAASE’s leadership was so moved by the experience that the board voted to give a $1,000 donation to Hands On and a to-be-determined monetary contribution to Beth Israel, and to donate a new Torah cover to the congregation.

The directors who came all hope to encourage individuals, families, and groups from their congregations to go to the Gulf Coast to continue the recovery effort.

Rebuilding Biloxi – We Can’t Stop Now

 

It’s been more than six months since New Orleans and the Gulf coast were devastated by Hurricane Katrina and Florida was pounded by Hurricane Rita. For those of us who live elsewhere, it seems as if a long time has passed. We’ve moved on – other stories occupy us, other sad situations tug at our heartstrings. To the people who live in hurricane-ravaged areas, though, the disaster is still fresh; it will take years before all the damage is restored. They still need help.

Many of our member synagogues have been extremely generous, donating both money and material goods. One of those shuls is The Jewish Center in Princeton, New Jersey; it has developed a relationship with Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Mississippi, and with its president, Steve Richler. But the Jewish Center’s president, Linda Grenis, decided that she wanted to do even more.

“I wanted to go there and meet the congregation. I wanted to show them that they had more than just financial support,” she said. “It’s easy to just send money – and that’s a good thing to do, and they really do need the money – but it’s different when you go and see people’s faces.” So Linda, her husband, Michael, and their three children, Ricky, 17, Billy, 15, and Caroline, 12, went to Biloxi for Pesach.

On work days, Michael, Ricky, and Billy did a number of tasks, including mold removal. Mold’s a big problem, Linda said; nothing else can be done on a building until it’s scraped off. So the three Grenises, dressed in hazmat suits, wearing respirators, scraped away. Another day was spent hauling garbage out of houses that had stood vacant since the hurricane and then beginning the demolition.

Linda and her daughter worked at a distribution center, helping load cases of donated food into cars. “It was really shocking how long the lines were, and how much people needed,” she said. “Food is so abundant for us – we take it so for granted.” They went to an elementary school whose library had been destroyed. People from across the country have been sending in books to restock it, and Linda and Caroline helped catalogue them. They also went to the humane society. Not only were some pets separated from their owners during the storm, she reported, but some have been given up for adoption by big families living for too long in FEMA trailers that are far too small. That’s so hard, Linda said; those pets are part of the family. Giving them up is a signof real distress.

The Grenises were in Biloxi for Pesach; they celebrated the first seder at a communal seder Beth Israel hosted in a local Methodist church. The next night, the Grenises shared the seder with a family, Amy and Martin Goldin and their children. “People always say that Jews everywhere around the world are doing the same thing,” Linda said. “And they are. Here -- the smell, the sounds, the tastes of a seder – they’re the same.”

According to most estimates, it will take about eight years for Biloxi to be rebuilt. The devastation brings up echoes of the biblical plagues. Because the town is below sea level many cemeteries held mausoleums rather than graves, and the storm broke them open. Bones and bodies swirled on the surface of the waters, Linda said she was told. The tide still brings in all kinds of debris – refrigerators, televisions, parts of houses – and the gulf won’t be swimmable for many years. Huge barrels of oil from an enormous refinery exploded, and the oil has now saturated everything. “What the wind and water hadn’t ruined the oil ate away; now the oil’s in the ground,” she said. “Who knows what diseases that may cause?”

“My hope is that now, when it’s not in the headlines, people will continue to support them, to think about them, to help them, to send them packages, to send them money, to go and volunteer,” Linda said. Her son Ricky, who is about to graduate from high school, has been putting together a group of his friends, who plan to go to Biloxi to work during the summer. She hopes that other groups form similar plans.

“It’s so important that we keep this message alive,” she said. “We can’t stop now.”

 

2007 Registration Form

Click here to open and print the registration form for the 2007 Tzohar Biloxi program.

Project Tzohar: February 6, 2006

I've just returned from another visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Steve Richer, the president of Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Mississippi, and past president Lori Beth Susman, past-president took me on a tour of the town and the surrounding communities. On the positive side, the Jewish community is progressing nicely. Congregation Beth Israel holds weekly Shabbat services in a church social hall; it also uses that space for meetings and children's classes The congregation's building committee is actively involved in gathering all the information its members will need to decide whether to rebuild on its current site or to move to safer ground north of Interstate 10. One of the synagogue's member families has graciously offered to donate land to the congregation, should it decide that a move is in its best interest.

Most of the members of Congregation Beth Israel are getting on with their lives. Steve Richer is still living in a trailer and trying to find licensed contractors to repair his home. Wayne and Lorraine Lutz are still living in their store in D'Iberville, while they, too, await the repairs they need to make their house habitable. Rayanne Weiss, whose home was reduced to a pile of rubble, has managed to sell her old property and move into a new house. You may recall from the report of my first visit to Biloxi that Rayanne and her husband lost almost everything they own to Katrina. They were able to salvage a few family photographs, which a local photo studio is trying to restore for them. Rayanne did tell me that they found their wedding videotape, which had been soaked in the storm. Rayanne and her husband both work for one of the local television stations and were fortunate that a technician there was able to digitize the images from the videotape onto a DVD. Rayanne told me that despite their losses, they consider themselves very lucky. They're both alive, and they now have a new, fully furnished home. Their spirit is representative of everyone I spoke with in Mississippi. Whatever their situation, they feel fortunate, even blessed. Many of the people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast who lost everything were not as fortunate as the Weisses.

Much of the beachfront area in Biloxi proper is being rebuilt. A few hotels and three casinos already have reopened, and the casinos report that their business is booming. Several of the casinos that were destroyed are being rebuilt and many more are projected along Biloxi's coast. In addition, several developers are beginning plans for high-rise condominium complexes along this beautiful stretch of coastline.

Unfortunately, however, the situation to the west of Biloxi is grim. As you drive west on US 90, which runs along the Gulf beaches, you see nothing but devastation. The CSX railroad tracks run parallel to US 90 about a quarter of a mile north of the highway. Virtually everything between the road and the tracks for nearly 75 miles is either completely leveled or falling down and uninhabitable. The area looks like it has been hit by a bomb. The beach looks like photos of the Normandy beaches after the D-Day invasion. The stately old mansions that lined US 90 facing the Gulf are gone. Entire neighborhoods have been wiped out. Altogether, some 65,000 buildings have been destroyed or are uninhabitable. In some cases, where homes are still standing but uninhabitable, residents have been able to get travel trailers and are living in them. However, some sections of Long Beach and Pas Christian will be without water and power for at least a year. For these people, living on their property in a trailer is not an option.

After driving several miles through this devastation, I asked, "Where are all the people who used to live here?" Steve said that many are living with nearby relatives or in tent cities. Some simply have moved away.

A huge tent and several tractor-trailers stand in a parking lot next to the shell of a Super Wal-Mart alongside US 90. The parking lot serves as a distribution point and a soup kitchen for people who have lost their homes. Nearly six months after the storm, people are still living in tents, getting their groceries from distribution points, and eating their meals in a soup kitchen. But when you drive through what was once downtown Long Beach, you see words painted on the remains of a dive shop, words that sum up the spirit of those who live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In bright red letters the sign reads, "It ain't over. We will be back!"


 

 

The loss of citizens' homes and personal property also creates additional problems for municipal governments. As much as 50 percent of the tax base in many communities has been wiped out. Greatly lowered tax revenues in these areas could result in reduced services to residents already suffering from storm losses. In addition, many insurance companies have told their policy-holders that the destruction was caused by flooding, not the hurricane winds, and so their homes and property are not covered. Individuals and families who lost everything in the storm now must fight insurance companies while still looking for alternate living accommodations, continuing to make mortgage payments, and paying taxes on vacant land that they may not be able to rebuild on for several years.

On Thursday morning, I had the opportunity to meet with several of the people from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau who are coordinating volunteers and relief efforts along the coast. Supplies are still needed in the area. In particular, there is a great need for canned food and such items as chips, snacks and packaged foods. In addition, toiletries, cosmetics, and personal hygiene and bath items also are needed. It would be best if these items were shipped in large quantities. I would like to suggest that synagogues set themselves up as collection centers for these items. If you get in touch with me when you're ready to ship them, I will talk to the people in Mississippi to let you know exactly where the goods are needed. Volunteers also are sorely needed. According to Romeo Brown, director of the Harrison County Volunteer Task Force, there is enough work to be done along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to keep volunteers busy seven days a week for the next five years. Many faith-based organizations have been sending volunteers to the coast regularly. Much of the volunteer work involves cleaning up the hardest hit areas. Romeo tells me that many elderly people are now returning to the coast and are in desperate need of help to remove debris from their homes. There also is a need for volunteers with either case-management or social-work backgrounds, who can meet with returnees and help them assess their needs. There is also a need for medical personnel, but Romeo said that he may need more lead time to deal with such issues as licensing. Obviously, skilled labor is also needed.

Most of the volunteers who come to the area stay in volunteer housing, which can be tent cities (large tents that have heat and air conditioning), community centers, or church and/or civic auditoriums. In all cases, cots and bedding are provided, although Romeo did say that many volunteers prefer to bring their own sleeping bags. Rest rooms and shower facilities are available, and transportation between the volunteer centers and the various work sites is provided. Some hotel space is available for volunteers who wish to pay for their own lodging, but the few hotel rooms available can be expensive. Also, depending on the size of the group, transportation may not be available to work sites from the hotels. Driving is difficult, because many traffic lights are still out and most street signs are gone.

Synagogues wishing to send volunteer groups to the Gulf Coast should contact me with the number of volunteers, the dates they will go, and the type of housing they would prefer, and I will make arrangements with local officials. We also can arrange to ship kosher food for these groups.

Harry J. Silverman Executive
Director, Southeast Region United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism


Updates:

February 6 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: October 11, 2005

Two United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism-affiliated synagogues, Shir Chadash in Mataire, La., and Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Miss., were severely affected by Hurricane Katrina. Here is a report on Shir Chadash and a letter about Beth Israel.

METAIRE, LA.
Yom Kippur, Jews believe, is in some ways a time of transition. As the 10 Days of Repentance reach their awe-inspiring climax, as the gates of repentance shut behind us, we look out toward the new year.

This Yom Kippur, temporarily storm-shuttered Shir Chadash in Metaire, La., will open again, just in time for Yom Kippur, just in time to look forward to the new year with renewed hope.

Shir Chadash, just outside New Orleans, was flooded with more than 12 inches of water by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and just about everything the water touched it destroyed. Tallitot, siddurim, chumashim, carpets, pews, school books, office equipment - all have suffered irreversible water damage or been contaminated by mold. Its Torah scrolls are safe - they were moved to a safe place on an upper floor at the local UJA Federation building the day before the storm - and so are its raised bimah and the ark that stands on it.

On the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, reports Shir Chadash's executive director, Michael Kancher, about 30 National Guard members took a bus out from New Orleans to spend the day at the synagogue. They cleaned up the buildings; mopped the cement floors, moved the pews out and set chairs up, and prepared it for services on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Mr. Kancher says that he expects about 250 people to come for services; in a normal year that number would be between 500 and 600. "I think there's a big need for it in the community," he said. "A lot of people have been asking for it." The synagogue cannot offer the services it supplies most years - no babysitting, no children's programming - but no one's bothered by that.

Rabbi Ted Lichtenfeld, who just joined the congregation in August, has been living in Houston since the flood, but he's been back often. His wife has had to rejoin her parents in New Jersey; she's pregnant with her first baby, due in November. Rabbi Lichtenfeld will lead Yom Kippur services. "He's been absolutely incredible for this community," Mr. Kancher says.

Everyone realizes, he adds, that the community will be changed irrevocably by Hurricane Katrina. First, not everyone will come back to live in Metaire - parents have had to enroll their children in school, and some of the older congregants are now living with their children in other states. The congregation, at least at first will be smaller. "But the bond now between people who are here is very very tight," he said. "People look forward to doing whatever they possible can for each other and for the community.

"We're trying to hold things together, and slowly we'll rebuild."


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: October 10, 2005

Rabbi Isidoro Aizenberg wrote this letter, which he calls "Finding God in Biloxi."

As a congregational rabbi for three decades I often witnessed people asking to say the Birkhat Ha'Gomel, the blessing recited by one who has recovered from a serious illness or who has survived any kind of danger. But in all those years I was never part of a community where all its members stood up to recite this blessing in unison. This was the case during the Torah reading service of the Jewish community of Biloxi, Mississipi, which I had the unique privilege in leading during the recent High Holidays. This was an exceedingly moving moment, being in the midst of a community where many of its members had lost so much to the ravages of Katrina, but who were grateful to have had their lives spared.

Retired last year from my congregational obligations, my wife and I had made all kinds of plans to celebrate the High Holidays. I had even rejected invitations to lead other congregations in these services, looking forward to joining other members of my community in prayer. Far was it from me to imagine that only six days before Rosh Hashanah I would receive a call from Harry Silverman, the southeastern regional director of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, asking me if I was still available and willing to lead the High Holiday services for Biloxi's Beth Israel Congregation, the only synagogue on the Mississippi coast. The United Synagogue would coordinate and defray the cost of our stay.

Mr. Silverman's call was obviously radically different from all the others I had received. This invitation represented an opportunity to fulfill such a great mitzvah and such a unique way of ushering in Rosh Hashanah that I could not refuse. I was left with exactly five days to prepare for the holidays, not exactly the time framework that I usually allowed myself during my years as a pulpit rabbi.

But prepare we did and together with my wife, Edna, I flew to Atlanta and from there on to Gulfport, the airport serving Biloxi. Along with us came Efrem Epstein, an enthusiastic young ba'al t'filah who had been asked to chant the prayers. Flying over the Biloxi area before landing, we could already spot the first visible signs of the hurricane'sdestruction. So many of the houses we could see were covered with a blue tarpaulin temporarily replacing roofs that had been blown away by the storm. As a member of the community told us, this is "tarpaulin city."

Upon retrieving our luggage and walking out to the warm, humid breeze of the Gulf coast, we were welcomed by a sheriff's car. Our initial surprise from this rather unexpected welcome was soon dissipated by the warm handshake of Sheriff Jerry Mathews, a member of Beth Israel, who had offered to take us to our hotel. On the way Jerry kindly took a detour so that we could see the devastation with our own eyes. No matter how much we had read about the hurricane's utter sweeping destruction, and no matter how many pictures we had seen in the press and TV news about the havoc caused by the sweeping 20-foot high waters and powerful winds, we could not be prepared for what we saw. Many of the neighborhoods brought back images of the black and white pictures of bombed Dresden after World War II. We were driving by blocks upon blocks where only skeletons of houses stood, twisted metal and torn trees. The partly sunken U.S. 90 coastal highway forced Jerry to bypass large sections of the road. An offshore casino built on two barges the size of a football field and eight floors tall had been lifted by the stormy waters and deposited two blocks inland destroying everything on its path.

Emotionally and physically exhausted from this "tour," we made our way to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. In light of the fact that much of Beth Israel's building had also been destroyed by Katrina, the community succeeded in just a few days in securing one of the base's chapels for the services, to be held there thanks to the assistance of Keesler's Jewish Chaplain, (Maj.) Rabbi Kalman Dubov. We, New Yorkers, were very conveniently housed just across the street from the chapel in one of the base's motels. Kosher holiday meals were shipped for us by Mr. Silverman from Florida. He also saw to it that the whole community of about 75 families would receive round challahs, honey and kosher wine.

After a short rest we were ready to usher in Rosh Hashanah. We had a full house. Each mahzor-all of them together with the Torah scrolls and other prayer books had been rescued before the hurricane hit-included a New Year card, one of the hundreds made and sent by children from Jewish religious schools from across the United States. Joining Beth Israel's members were a few of the enlisted Jewish personnel on the base and many Jewish volunteers who were in the area working with FEMA, the Red Cross, and other aid organizations. Wearing their ID tags and informal clothing and having taken off for just a while from their daunting work, they yearned-that is the word they used-to join with fellow Jews in turning the leaf and welcoming 5766. One young Jewish man originally from Puerto Rico told us after the conclusion of the services: "Thank you so much. I needed to be here tonight."

Among the volunteers we met young men and women as well as retirees from New York and from Oregon, from Texas and Florida. One of them was a specialist in evaluating which remaining housing was fit to be rebuilt, while two others were forensic dentists working to identify storm victims from dental records. They were all lodged in temporary housing, including airport hangars that housed as many as sixty people, while others slept in tents. All were united by the wish to help people rebuild their lives.

For as long as I can remember I have asked in the course of our services "Who shall live and who shall die? Who by fire and who by water?" But never before did these words affect me with such profound poignancy. While joining in the U'Netaneh Tokef with Efrem, I continued asking myself, "And who in the congregation lost their home and who did not? And who is despairing and who has gained the strength to rebuild? And who is asking if there is a God in the world and who has been left with faith unscathed?" I don't have answers to these questions. What I do hope, however, is that by our presence and by joining the community in the High Holiday prayers, we offered this congregation a measure of emotionalsupport and the validation of the millennial principle that all Israel are responsible one for another.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: October 9, 2005

This is a dvar Torah given at Shir Chadash in Metaire, La., by its acting ritual vice president, Will Samuels. From 1996 to 2002, Will was a USY regional youth director.

Can you believe it's been six weeks? I had to come to services that Friday night, and I didn't know until then that Katrina had shifted tracks. George Fuhrman and Jake Schwartz were talking about what they were going to do, I said "what's going on?" and they told me Katrina was on its way and they were figuring out whether to stay or go. They said "ah, we'll figure it out in the morning." So, the next morning, in schul, I went up to George and said "what's the call?" He said "we're leaving." Six weeks ago. It's almost a cliché to say life as we know it has changed so much since then.

Obviously, there's been a lot on our minds over the last couple of months, so you probably don't remember a whole lot about the torah portion when we last got together for Shabbat. It was parashat Ekev. Moses was giving his farewell address to the people of Israel. He had recapped the ten commandments in the parsha the week prior, and he was going over the journey and the laws along the way. Moses said "Remember the long way that the Lord your G-d has made you travel in the wilderness these past forty years, that he might test you by hardships to learn what was in your hearts: whether you would keep his commandments or not." He continues "For the Lord is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill: a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper."

For the people of Israel, they were coming to the end of a long journey through the wilderness. At that point, an entire generation of people had died out, so those that were ready to make the journey had been born and raised in the desert. The only way of life they knew was wandering in the desert going from place to place. Eating manna. Following a pillar of fire. Now, their entire way of life was going to change, and Moses had been giving them instructions as to how to make their new lives better. Ahead of them lay a new life in a land of milk and honey. It was up to each individual person to determine how he or she was going to make life better.

During the High Holidays, we are offered a clean slate with which to begin anew. Never has that been truer than now. The lives that we had known six weeks ago are completely different. I was taking a look at my appointment book from a couple of weeks ago. Monday night- synagogue board meeting. Tuesday night- Hillel board meeting. Wednesday- Meeting at the Ogden. Thursday- Ogden After Hours followed by a weekly dinner with my group of friends. Saturday night- Kermit Ruffins at the Blue Nile. Scattered among the meetings was working on other projects, helping to arrange High Holiday Honors, calling up potential daveners, and every so often actually going to work in my office. And, if I was really lucky, planning a social life. How things have changed in a little over a month. I spent the first week after the storm in New York mostly laying in my hotel room with one hand on the tv remote and the other on my computer. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. "Well, I can't go back to the city… Maybe I'll go cross country for a couple of months. Maybe I'll go to Israel. Maybe I'll volunteer somewhere for the Red Cross. Maybe I'll go on a drunken bender."

For the first two weeks, I had an entirely clean slate. I was in New York, St Louis, and Austin. I put together the revised synagogue database because it kept me busy and kept me sane-it was something to do, and it had to be done. From Austin I went to Houston, and I was amazed at what the Houston Jewish community had done for New Orleans. And what the New Orleans Federation was doing to make sure that our community was safe and accounted for. Their war room (a conference room at the Houston Federation) was an incredible site with tons of people, mostly volunteers, making phone calls, arranging housing, money, supplies, meals, resources, information. Anything to be a link to the members of the New Orleans community. I had planned to be a part of all of that-to do what I could to help with Federation. I figured I would go between Houston and Austin and help out where I could. First I had to pick up my car, which had been brought from the New Orleans airport to Baton Rouge. I flew in to Baton Rouge, got my car, and I figured okay, let me just drive into Metairie to check on my house then go back to Texas. If there's too much traffic or if it gets too late, I'll just head back to Houston.

I got back to Metairie on September 12, and shockingly my house was okay. I stayed there that night - I was the only person on the block. It was eerily quiet. Over the next few days, I saw the city come to life with more and more things opening up. Loews and a Bud's Broiler on Tuesday. The first grocery store on Wednesday. A gas station on Thursday. Things were beginning to spring to life. For me, it was the start of the hardest work that I've ever done. Physical, exhausting labor-dealing with my parents' house, my brother's house, my office, restaurant, and of course, the synagogue. I was blessed that my house was okay, so I had to do what I could to help others in need. My parents asked me "why are you doing so much for the synagogue?" My answer "because I can. And it has to be done."

I took a lot of video that first week back. Unbelievable images. Photos that still seem unreal. I had been a complete news glutton for two weeks, but nothing prepared me for actually being back in town and seeing things with my own eyes. Talking to people, hearing stories. I was talking with this one lady in the Marigny. She's in her 60s, and she stayed through the storm and she was telling me absolutely incredible stories about the days afterward. But those residents who stayed in the Marigny took care of each other. They developed a great community. They made sure that everybody had food and water. There was one person who had a pick up truck and every day drove around and hauled off people's trash. There was a person who created Radio Marigny and played New Orleans favorites through a generator-powered loudspeaker giving a musical rebirth to an otherwise eerily quiet town. The lady I was speaking with in the Marigny told me she got at least one hot meal every day-over by Harrahs. There was a Christian charity that came in and was cooking thousands of hot meals 3 times a day to rescue workers, military, police, medical personnel, first responders, residents-whoever wanted or needed to eat could come and get a hot meal. I went over there, and there were a number of tents set up and a huge line of people waiting to go through the buffet. There were about 10 huge propane-powered grills on which members of the military and civilian volunteers were cooking up steaks, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, shrimp, ribs, all of which had been donated. Dr. Phil donated a bunch of burgers and buns. Truck after truck came in with food and supplies.

I knew I had to help there. I went to the kitchen area and asked the first person I saw who looked semi-official "how can I help?" He said "offer bottled water to the people cooking and see if they need anything." I looked around, found supplies, and went to work. I commandeered some trash bags (commandeer is the new buzz word), and went around the tables and picked up trash. I lugged cases of drinks and refilled coolers. I restocked condiments. I cleaned tables. I had no instructions. It needed to be done. Later, I asked the same official-looking guy if there was anything specific I could do. He said, "You're doing fine. If you see something that you think needs to be done, go ahead and do it." It was an incredible experience, and it was my way to thank the thousands upon thousands of people who have been working to rebuild this city.

And we will rebuild. Over the four weeks that I've been back, I've seen tremendous growth in Metairie. People are returning home. They're cleaning out debris, they're rebuilding their lives, and they're determined to be here. The same thing will happen in New Orleans. It will take much longer, but the city will grow. We all must do our part to rebuild the city, the Jewish community, and this synagogue. We all have suffered loss-whether it's property, loved ones, a way of life, your favorite restaurant, or a weekly mah-jongg game, our ways of life are dramatically different from how they were six weeks ago. G-d has tested us with hardships, but during these High Holidays we stand with the ability to forge for us a good land-a land with Milk and Honey. This community can be stronger than ever if each of us plays a part. We will all have to do things that we would never have considered doing six weeks ago. Doing what needs to be done because it needs to be done. I was at my parents' house coordinating the sheet rock removal and mold remediation. There was a crew of people taking out everything that had been 5 feet under water. The furniture, carpet, mementos, etc. They brought in someone to do the kitchen. A young woman who went through each cabinet pulling out food, dish towels, cookware, nasty aprons, cleaning supplies that had been covered in the toxic gumbo, to use another new buzzword. I was talking with her as we were figuring out what could be salvaged, and I asked her what she had done before Katrina. She told me she was a nurse at Baptist Hospital. And here she was going from kitchen to kitchen cleaning out the nastiest stuff that I had ever encountered. She was doing what needed to be done because it needed to be done.

Neil Levith, Esther Hendler, Debbie Pesses, Danielle Spadoni and I went through a ton of moldy books from the library figuring out what could be salvaged or what needed to be buried. None of us wanted to do that. These books were covered with the nastiest goop that I've ever seen. But it was smelling up the social hall, and it needed to be clean. So, we did what needed to be done because it needed to be done.

Things are going to be different. You'll go to a restaurant and there will be a long line and there will be crappy service but they have only one or two people working, but don't you dare complain. They worked hard to re-open and they're working hard to be open to accommodate those people who want to go out to eat. If you go to a restaurant, find the manager, and thank him or her for being open.

We're going to have to adapt to a different way of life. We're lucky to have Challahs today following services. Dorignacs lost their bread baker so it was by a fluke that we were able to snag Challahs. It's going to be a while before we have a Kiddush lunch. It's going to be a while before we have a clean building. It's going to be a while before the debris is picked up. If you feel the urge to complain, tell us what you're going to do to help make things right. We're so lucky that we were able to have Rosh Hashanah services in our building and it was through the persistence of Karen Lew and Neil Levith to step up and say "we will work to make it happen. What can we do." Rather than complain about what was or wasn't being done, they stepped up and recruited people and pulled together an incredible service. They did what needed to be done because it needed to be done. We did a similar thing in Houston and the JCC was tremendous and Rabbi Lichtenfeld is truly a mensch. There was a much smaller crowd than we thought, but we pulled it off, because it needed to be done.

We are all going to have to work harder than ever before so that we can rebuild this congregation and this community. It's going to be tough. But it can be doneand it will be done because it needs to be done. We're all going to step up. We need to clean this building before Yom Kippur. We're going to need people to give divrei torah each Shabbat for the next couple of months before Rabbi Lichtenfeld gets back. We need people to volunteer to lead services or read torah or chant a haftorah. There's a lot of work ahead of us, but it has to be done.

This morning in parashat Vayelekh, we read the final commandment of the 613 mitzvot listed in the torah. "Veh-eetah ceetvu lachem et ha shirah hazot." "And now, write for you this song." From this, we derive the mitzvah of each of us taking part in writing our own torah scroll. Just as the ways of life of the people of Israel were about to change dramatically, they took the words of torah to enter a land and to make the best of a new situation in a land flowing with milk and honey. Our ways of life have changed. But we have the ability to write a new song, a Shir Chadash, and we have the ability to create a new community-one that is better and stronger, and one that can flow with milk and honey. As we enter this New Year, may G-d give us the blessings of chazak ve-ematz, to "be strong and to be brave." And let each of us make the commitment to write our own song, to do what needs to be done because it needs to be done. And together let us be strong, and let us rebuild. Amen.

Will Samuels


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 26, 2005

Read a JTA article about a trip to our Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 23, 2005

Like all their neighbors, members of United Synagogue congregations in the Houston area have been evacuated. The synagogues have been closed; the goal is to reopen them on Tuesday. In New Orleans, Shir Chadash remains closed. Shir Chadash members who were evacuated to Houston, like the other New Orleans residents who found a welcome there, once again have moved on.

We will provide updates when we get them.

On Wednesday, United Synagogue's Southeast regional director, Harry Silverman, flew to Biloxi, Miss., to get a first-hand view of the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. He toured the area and then met with members of Mississippi's only synagogue, United Synagogue-affiliated Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi.

The United Synagogue Hurricane Relief Fund is still collecting money, which is still very badly needed. Click here to see how our first disbursements have been made.

His report follows:

At 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 21, Rabbi Sam Kieffer of B'nai Aviv in Weston, Fla., its education director, Melinda Kieffer, and I joined David Keller, the president of Temple Beth Israel in Sunrise, Fla., at Fort Lauderdale's Executive Airport. David had offered to fly us to Biloxi in his Cessna 210.

I was eager to meet with both leaders and members of Congregation Beth Israel in that flooded city; I wanted them to tell me how we could continue to help them. United Synagogue already had offered to provide Beth Israel with a rabbi and a cantor for High Holy Day services. The synagogue building has suffered extensive storm-related damage, and services cannot be held there. I also wanted to help the congregation to find and fund a temporary home for Shabbat services. Both United Synagogue and our member congregations want to do as much as we can to help.

The Kieffers and I loaded David's plane with a cooler of kosher meats and cheeses provided by United Synagogue; new mezzuzot for congregation members whose homes had been damaged or destroyed; apples, honey, and art supplies to prepare for the new year; and all the challah, wine, and boxes of Shabbat candles, donated by members of B'nai Aviv, that we could stuff into the small plane. At 9:15, we were in the air.

At 11:45 central time, we landed at Gulfport Biloxi International Airport. Beth Israel's president, Steve Richer, who also is the executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a Beth Israel past president, LoriBeth Susman, who also is a member of United Synagogue's Southeast regional board, met the plane. Sam and Melinda Kieffer went with LoriBeth to prepare for the day's program while Steve took David and me on a tour of the gulf coast.

First, we drove through some of Biloxi's "lucky" neighborhoods. Homes there still stand. Many are habitable but have been severely damaged. Most roofs are covered with the now all-too-familiar blue tarps. We drove down street after street and saw pile after pile of cut-down trees and the demolished remains of residents' belongings. Recreational vehicles were parked in driveway after driveway; they functioned as temporary homes as FEMA and insurance companies decide which houses will be rebuilt.

We drove to a lot owned by Beth Israel member Rayanne Weiss. An attached photo shows a pile of debris. It is all that is left of Rayanne's home. As Steve Richer described it, "It looks like the house was put through a blender." Rayanne has spent hours filling out FEMA applications, and she's still waiting for her check. She's living with friends, but she still has to buy food and clothing, and she has to put gas in her car. Gas lines are long; the wait can be an hour or more.

We continued our tour of the coast. On the way we saw several more RVs and some tent cities. In many areas, we saw workers wearing t-shirts saying "Relief Team." Steve told us that the city is full of volunteers who have come from all over the country to help with the clean up and relief efforts. Volunteers must get to Biloxi at their own expense and provide their own housing and supplies. There is little or no available hotel space. Many volunteers live in their own RVs or in tents.

A railroad line separates the coastal area from the rest of the city. Rows of barbed wire run along the tracks and armed police guard the few entrances to the coast road. Only drivers with special passes are allowed in. Steve, of course, has access to all areas of the gulf coast. We drove down Highway 90, which runs along the beachfront. The road is badly damaged -- in many places only one narrowed lane is open - and its traffic is controlled by military police and local sheriffs' deputies. On my last pre-hurricane trip to Biloxi, I saw some of the beautiful, stately mansions and historical buildings that lined the highway. Most of these structures have been destroyed or damaged severely. Much of the area's historic buildings, including Jefferson Davis' last home and his private collection of Civil War artifacts, were devastated. All the casinos were destroyed, and most hotels sustained extensive damage.

Next, we went to Congregation Beth Israel.

The resident manager's second-floor apartment was completely destroyed. There are major holes in the walls. A structural engineer will determine whether the building can be repaired or if it must be torn down.

Steve told us that there had been 150,000 buildings in the six counties that make up Mississippi's heel; 50,000 were destroyed and another 85,000 were damaged by the hurricane.

I went to south Miami in 1991 on the day after Hurricane Andrew struck, and I saw the extensive damage that storm had caused. I think that the damage in southern Mississippi now is worse than what I saw in south Miami then.

Despite the devastation, Steve is upbeat and optimistic. He is confident that the gulf coast will rebuild and once again will be a major American tourist destination.

After our tour, we rejoined LoriBeth and the Kieffers to meet with many families who belonged toBeth Israel. The group had gathered in the warehouse and store owned by congregants Wayne and Lorraine Lutz. The Lutzes' home has been destroyed. Their store, in nearby D'Iberville, Miss., was undamaged, so theyare living in it.

After lunch - deli that we'd brought from Fort Lauderdale -- we divided into two groups. Melinda held a High Holy Day workshop for the children; they made holiday crafts projects and talked about the season. At the same time, Rabbi Sam Kieffer and Rabbi Mel Sirner of Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle, N.Y., who also came to Biloxi on Wednesday, met with some of the congregation's adults. The rabbis offered spiritual support and counseling, both individually and in groups.

Next, the group reformed for a special Mincha service of healing Sam Kieffer had prepared for Beth Israel. He and his wife had put together special prayer books for the occasion and used recordings of Debbie Friedman's MiShebarech and Barbra Streisand's Aveinu Malkeinu in the service. At its end, Rabbi Kieffer blew the shofar. After that, it was time to eat - the season's traditional apples and honey, direct from Fort Lauderdale.

I went to Biloxi to learn how we could best help storm victims, both Jews and those of other faiths. According to Steve Richer and many others, people need cash NOW. Most of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is working on a cash-only basis, and many banks were destroyed. Many stores and gas stations accept only cash. Workers clearing debris and cutting trees work only for cash. Even if people's homes are habitable, they face very large out-of-pocket expenses; they must pay cash to have trees removed, debris cleared, and their roofs covered with tarps. The cost of tarps to cover a whole roof easily could exceed $1,000. This is the tarp covering Steve's roof.

A shot I took from the plane shows many buildings with tarps on their roofs.

Even homeowners lucky enough to be covered by insurance policies that will cover most of the damage will face heavy losses. They will have to pay the deductibles, and there will be many items not covered by insurance. In Steve Richer's neighborhood, for example, few people had flood insurance, because until now the area never had flooded. Insurance companies claim that the damage houses suffered was caused by flooding, not by the hurricane itself, and therefore is not covered. And many homes and businesses have extensive mold damage, which usually is not covered by insurance.

I heard stories of people waiting in Red Cross lines for five or six hours for the $300 checks the agency is distributing. Some finally got to the head of the line only to be told that no more money was available. They'd have to come back, they were told. It is virtually impossible to call the Red Cross or FEMA. The lines are always busy. There is little or no local phone service yet, although cell phones are working. People who do not have cell phones can't even try to call for help. Most people have no access to the internet or email.

Many people are out of work, but their out-of-pocket expenses for immediate needs continue. Even people who still have jobs -- or whose employers are continuing to pay them, at least for a while -- are running through their savings quickly.

When we talked to Steve Richer and to Beth Israel's treasurer, Howard Levy, we realized that it is vitally important that we distribute cash directly to people with pressing needs. Steve works at the emergency operations center every day. He and Howard are in a position to distribute funds directly, discreetly, and sensitively to people in need. United Synagogue transferred $30,000 from our Hurricane Relief Fund to Congregation Beth Israel for this purpose. Howard will provide me with a complete account of how the funds are distributed.

Melinda Kieffer gave each child at the program a $5 bill. That money was donated by Temple Zion Israelite Center in Miami, at the instruction of its president, Franklin Kreutzer, who is also a United Synagogue past president. We also gave congregants gift cards from various national merchants; some for them, some to be distributed in the community. Those cards were donated by B'nai Aviv members.

At 6 p.m. our small group arrived back at the airport for our trip home. Headwinds and detours around some severe weather made the trip home a bit longer than normal, but we landed at the airport in Fort Lauderdale just after midnight. We were tired, but we felt that we had accomplished a little -- and we know that there's a lot more to be done.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 19, 2005

The Hurricane Relief Fund established by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is about to distribute its first funds.

Since the fund was established money has been pouring in; Conservative rabbis stressed the value of giving emergency funds as a cohesive Jewish community as they addressed their congregations from their pulpits. As the money has been collected both professional and lay leaders have been examining their options. The goal is for a mix of recipients; United Synagogue and the Rabbinical Assembly, the organization to which its rabbis belong, want to help both Jewish and non-Jewish storm victims.

"We all have been heartened by the immediate and generous response to this joint effort by the Conservative movement's rabbis and lay leadership as they respond to a domestic tragedy," said Rabbi Leonard Gordon of the Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia, who chairs the Rabbinical Assembly's social action committee. "Our decision to pass along funds to both local and national organizations and to meet the needs of both Jewish and non-Jewish communities and individuals emerges out of Judaism's concern for all in need. We look forward to offering further support down the road as new needs emerge from this ongoing emergency in the lives of thousands."

So far, $241,000 of the donated funds will be distributed as follows:

$150,000 to United Jewish Communities for food for evacuees in Houston.
$36,000 to America's Second Harvest for general food distribution.
$10,000 for Pope John XXIII Catholic High School in Katy, Texas, for books and meals for the 37 displaced students the school has taken in.
$5,000 for High Holiday services in Biloxi.
$10,000 for housing in Houston through Interfaith Ministries.
$30,000 to agencies in the Biloxi/Gulfport area.

Harry Silverman, United Synagogue's Southeast region director, is flying to Biloxi next week. While he is there, he will choose the agencies that will receive United Synagogue funding. Mr. Silverman also will tour Congregation Beth Israel, a Conservative shul and the only synagogue on the Mississippi gulf coast; the building was badly damaged and its members scattered across the region. They hope to be home by the High Holidays in October, however, and United Synagogue and the Rabbinical Assembly are providing a rabbi and a cantor to lead services then.

Decisions about how to spend the rest of United Synagogue's Hurricane Relief Fund will be made as continuing needs become clearer, and as United Synagogue learns more about the conditions of its flooded synagogue buildings.

"This tragedy has brought out the best in people of all faiths and colors, young and old, rural and urban, who have opened their hearts, their pocketbooks and in many cases their homes to reach out to the many people who lost so much," said Judy Yudof, United Synagogue's international president. "On behalf of United Synagogue, I thank all of our members who have been so generous and who will continue to be so generous."

"Just as we were devastated to see images of the suffering endured by the people hit hard by the hurricane, we are overjoyed by the generous response from all across America," said Rabbi Jerome Epstein, United Synagogue's executive vice president. "We are grateful to our membership for their overwhelming generosity, and we pledge to keep faith with them by helping both Jews and non-Jews rebuild their lives."

For more information on United Synagogue's Hurricane Relief Fund, go to its website, www.uscj.org.


February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 13, 2005

On Monday, a member of Shir Chadash in Metaire, La., was able to go to look at the building, and discovered that itis in bad shape. It had been flooded with between five and 10 inches of water; all the flooring is ruined and mold has started growing up the walls and the pews. A contractor will begin work on Thursday, removing all the wet carpets, taking out the pews, and cutting up to four feet from the bottom of any sheetrock, hoping to keep the mold from reaching up to the ceiling. Many of the walls are brick, though; brick is porous and mold can grow on it, but it cannot be removed.

The contractor also will patch up the roof.

The rabbi's house has been damaged as well.

The synagogue will need new siddurim, chumashim, and tallitot.

Its insurance company has told the congregation that it did not have flood insurance.

Residents have been allowed back into Jefferson Parish only briefly, so no one knows exactly how many houses have been destroyed, but most likely at least 30 member families are now homeless.

Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Miss., reports that it is waiting for a report from a structural engineer. Thirteen families have lost their homes; those families are scattered around in various places, some with family or friends in Biloxi and others farther away. They're trying to decide what to do next.

United Synagogue is providing a rabbi and cantor for High Holiday services, which will be held in a building lent by the Catholic diocese.

So far, more than 100 people from the Gulfport/Biloxi area are known to have died in the storm or its aftermath. Six hundred more are missing, and the longer they remain missing the greater the likelihood that many are dead. The entire community needs grief counselors.

Meanwhile, Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston has housed storm evacuees and hosted them for Shabbat meals; their children are invited to enroll in the shul's day and religious school.

Beth Yeshurun also helped when two Jewish nursing home residents died, one just before and one during the evacuation. For almost two weeks, their bodies remained in the building until both the floodwaters and the resulting flood of paperwork could be negotiated. One of the victims was buried in Baton Rouge last week; the other was brought to Houston and then on to New York.

On the other side of the ledger, a wedding that had been scheduled for Shir Chadash on the Sunday after the hurricane was celebrated at Beth Yeshurun instead.

This afternoon, Beth Yeshurun provided 14 new beds and bedding for 14 hurricane evacuees who are put up in apartments in Houston. Chabad began the project but did not have the resources to complete it.

On Thursday night, a group of shul volunteers plans to go to a local Baptist church to deliver, prepare, and serve meals to between 150 and 200 storm victims

On September 21, about 700 Jewish community members in Houston, including more than 400 from Beth Yeshurun, plan to go to the George R. Brown Convention Center to prepare and serve meals.

Please send us your news; we will post what we hear about our congregants' needs. We know that many Conservative synagogues are active in flood relief; please send us that news and we will share it.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 9, 2005

Money continues to pour into United Synagogue's relief fund; our members clearly are moved deeply by the plight of the hurricane's victims. We are touched by what that shows about our members' commitment to Jewish values.

Relief agencies need money more than anything else - they repeat that material goods, stuff, often lies unused until it turns into junk, but money easily is turned into stuff. They had also requested large shipments of half-gallon resealable plastic bags filled with toiletries. Congregation Brith Shalom in Bellaire, Texas, led an effort to put together those bags, which should hold a tooth brush, a regular-size tube of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and a travel-size pack of wet wipes. They have packed and sent thousand of bags.

Thanks to Gayle Brill Mittler, a member of the United Synagogue's social action and public policy committee, health-product manufacturer Johnson and Johnson has arranged to donate a large shipment of supplies for the bags. For information on joining that effort, email Ms. Mittler at gbm52@yahoo.com.

But please keep in mind that what is needed more than anything else is money.

Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has raised $21,000; the congregation plans to assemble 2,100 bags of toiletries and get it shipped down to Houston.

We know that Beth Sholom is just one of many Conservative synagogues raising money and doing whatever else it can to help. If your USCJ congregation has results to report, please email them to info@uscj.org.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 7, 2005

Relief Fund: The donations to the United Synagogue Hurricane Relief Fund continue to arrive. The outpouring of support and concern for those left homeless by the hurricane has been overwhelming. Thank you to all who have contributed and to all who are planning to contribute. The need is still great.

Your donations to the USCJ Hurricane Relief Fund will help us ensure that the needs of the hurricane victims are being met. We are working with other Jewish organizations and the interfaith community to make sure there is a coordinated relief effort.

Relief officials worry that although people are very generous now, they will lose interest in hurricane relief in 30 to 45 days, and that's when the supplies now on hand will run out. They hope that donors will remember to continue to give. At United Synagogue, we hope that our members will remember the flood victims as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approach, and give money as part of their individual teshuvah.

We have been told by all the relief agencies working withrefugees that the great need - and it is a very great need - is for cash. It is far too difficult to arrange shipments of goods; cash is easy to send. It is far easier for relief officials to arrange large wholesale shipments from suppliers than to coordinate trucks laden with material. Shipments are not allowed into the relief shelters unless permissions are secured in advance, and such permissions are not easy to get.

In other words, extra stuff turns into garbage, but cash can be turned into real stuff. Keep in mind, we are told, that we should donate what flood victims need, not what makes us feel better to give.

Conservative Synagogues: The news from the Conservative synagogues most directly in the hurricane's path is better than it could have been. Shir Chadash in Metairie, La., right outside New Orleans, had only a few inches of water. There is some damage to the roof. The synagogue's built on a concrete slab, so the damage seems relatively minor. Synagogue leaders brought their Torah scrolls to the Federation building's third-floor offices, where they are safe. Members have scattered; many are in Houston, some in Dallas, Tulsa, and other places. The rabbi and his wife, who is pregnant, are in Atlanta. Most synagogue members have checked in, and all are believed safe. More news should be coming today, when Jefferson Parish is opened to allow residents to look at the damage.

Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Miss., sustained a lot of water damage but its leaders believe that it can be repaired, although that will take a long time. Most families left the region before the storm; some already have returned, and some phone and electrical service has been restored. At least three families lost their homes, and not everyone is accounted for yet. Past Beth Israel president LoriBeth Sussman, who is a member of United Synagogue's Southeast region board, hope to hold services outside the synagogue this Friday evening for people who stayed in Biloxi during the storm or having returned there.

Supplies: Two Conservative synagogues in Texas have been able to help in material ways. Congregation Beth Yeshurun of Houston has donated 40,000 pounds of chicken; members will cook and serve it at the Astrodome. Congregation Brith Shalom in Bellaire delivered 3,500 personal toiletry kits for use by the refugees.

The relief agencies in Houston have made a specific request for personal toiletry kits. They will need thousands of the kits over the next several weeks. Although it is not a good idea for people to do this project on their own, United Synagogue recommends that synagogues work on putting together plastic bags with toiletries. The request is specific - get half-gallon plastic baggies, and pack each one with a tooth brush, a regular-size tube of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and a travel-size pack of wet wipes. The anticipated need is for at least 20,000 bags, so it makes sense to send them in bulk. As of right now, Congregation Brith Shalom is accepting bulk shipments of the bagged toiletries for delivery to the distribution centers and appropriate agencies. However, the situation on the ground is very fluid and distribution centers will change. Therefore, if your congregation packs toiletry kits, please email Gayle Brill Mittler at gbm52@yahoo.com when they areready to be shipped. We will let you know where to send them.

People can contribute directly to Beth Yeshurun or Brith Shalom, and those syangogues will apply those funds to their hurricane relief work.

Housing: We have been receiving many offers to house storm refugees; Harry Silverman, the director of our Southeast region, who is spearheading the hurricane relief efforts, has been storing those offers in a database. He is coordinating these efforts with the National Association of Jewish Family and Childrens Services So far, the association reports, there have not been any requests for housing, but if such requests come in we will be well positioned to fill them. The problem now is that people need transitional housing less than they need jobs. People offering housing are being told that it's a nine- to twelve-month commitment.

We will keep you updated as new information comes in.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 2, 2005

Rabbi Steven Silberman of Ahavas Chesed reports that both he and his synagogue are fine, although as of Thursday parts of the area still were without power. The home and belongings of at least two of his congregants were entirely destroyed; he has not heard from some congregants who were in Biloxi.

Many Jewish families displaced from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have gone to Houston, reports Gary Swarz, the president of Congregation Beth Yeshurun there. The congregation has set up Shabbat dinner and lunch, will arrange for kosher food, and will accept children into its day school. The congregation welcomes its "cousins" from across the South.

Beth Yeshurun also has reached out to the larger community. More than 250 volunteers will go to the Astrodome next week to help serve the evacuees sheltering there. They also have offered to go to another shelter, bringing food that they will cook and serve to about 500 hurricane refugees. This offer, being arranged through the American Red Cross and the Houston Food Bank, includes a truckload of 40,000 pounds of chicken. Beth Yeshurun members plan to cook and then serve 800 pounds of chicken at a time, and to keep coming back to cook and serve until it's all done.

Richard S. Moline and Rabbi Elyse R. Winick have written a prayer in response to the hurricane; they suggest that it be read in synagogues this weekend.

Stephen Richer, the president of Biloxi's Congregation Beth Israel, writes, "Our building survived the storm, but has been damaged. We have not yet been able to determine the extent of the damage, the location of all of our congregants, or how much our insurance will cover."

Reporting that the office building where he works on the beach in Gulfport, was washed away by the tidal surge, he adds, "Many of us don't know if we have homes to go to."

The synagogue's resident manager got out safely, and took the Torah scrolls to safety as well, he writes; but the congregation now has nowhere to hold High Holiday services.

"I don't think there is any mail going into Biloxi, Gulfport, or anywhere on the Mississippi Gulf Coast right now," he continues. "Phones and e-mail are also down, as there is no power. Power restoration is weeks, if not more away. Hundreds are dead; thousands are homeless.

"In the immediate days, we need help (as do our neighbors in Louisiana and parts of Alabama) just to preserve life. People need potable water, food, power, shelter, gas, and other basic necessities. PLEASE DO NOT SEND ANYTHING OTHER THAN CASH."


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: September 1, 2005

Laura Benjaminson, executive director of Temple Beth-El in Birmingham, Ala., writes that "we will provide free High Holiday seats and open arms for the entire season and beyond to any of your congregants and those of other congregations displaced by the hurricane. We have a very welcoming community (and we eat together a lot and would love to have your members with us.)" The synagogue's phone number is 205 933-2740.

Steve Richer is president of Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, Miss., a town that has suffered terrible damage, He emailed, "We are still in a state of noncommunications with the coast, so I don't know if Congregation Beth Israel still stands or if any of our congregants are homeless.I appreciate all of your efforts to start to raise funds. It is almost for certain that we will need help above what our insurance will cover.

B'nai Israel Synagogue in Pensacola, Fla., reports that it's okay, and eager to help by hosting families and doing whatever else it can. Synagogues in St. Louis, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla., have volunteered help as well.

Rabbi Ranon Teller of Congregation Brith Shalom in Bellaire, Texas, writes, "I have been deeply moved by the depth of caring and generosity expressed for the refugees from Louisiana. This is a defining moment for us as a congregation and a test of our commitment and religiosity.

The city of Houston will soon be flooded with refugees who will need food, volunteers, and money. The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is meeting tomorrow to coordinate the Jewish community's efforts. In addition, I have been in touch with United Way and Interfaith Ministries to coordinate efforts with the city of Houston. CBS will be partners in both processes -- Jewish and secular.

"Please come to shul this Shabbat morning to find out in person how our community will be mobilizing. Add your voice to the conversation."

He added that on Shabbat morning, an executive from the Jewish Federation in New Orleans will speak. After Kiddush, the congregation will meet to gather information, present options, and make decisions.

They will collect supplies for refugees and open the religious school to children who have fled the flood.

Many families have offered their homes to house refugees, and refugee families are invited to High Holiday services. "I will be keeping you up to date as we fulfill our responsibility to repair the world," Rabbi Teller concludes.

Rabbi Jonathan Lubliner of the Jacksonville Jewish Center in Jacksonville, Fla., says that his community offers home hospitality, including kosher food, for hurricane victims. Children can be placed in the local Solomon Schechter affiliate, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, and in the Jewish Center's afternoon religious school, until their home schools and shuls are ready to reopen. High Holiday tickets will be available. If there are any other ways in which the synagogue can help, Rabbi Lubliner and its executive director, Bruce Horovitz, will be glad to try to do so.

Families from Anshai Torah, in Plano, Texas have volunteered room in their homes to displaced families, and seats at their tables for Shabbat and High Holiday meals. The synagogue is providing holiday tickets to anyone who needs them, and Sunday and Hebrew school for any child who has been displayed by the floods. Call the office at 972-473-7718.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 | October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

Project Tzohar: August 31, 2005

We are beginning to hear from congregants who have fled the areas devastated by the hurricane, and to receive offers of help from synagogues in the region.

We will post what we know when we know it; please check back frequently for updates.

If your congregation can offer help, or is interested in learning what it can do, email Harry Silverman, our Southeast regional director, at silverman@uscj.org, or call him at (561) 372-0420.

Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B'nai Torah in Atlanta writes,

"Word is out that many Jewish refugees from New Orleans and beyond are making their way to Atlanta. It is clear that many will need to remain here, either with relatives or in other settings, for weeks or even months. Appeals will go out in many circles for money, household goods, clothes, toys, etc, and we should all give generously. But more will need to be done.

Brad May has suggested a few other ways that we as a synagogue can extend spiritual hospitality to our Jewish brethren that will go beyond the serious physical needs.

  1. Host kosher meals at the synagogue, on Shabbat and at other times.

  2. Offer home hospitality as appropriate, particularly for those Shabbats when the synagogue is not available.

  3. Welcome children and families for game or movie night at the synagogue.

  4. It goes without saying that we will also do our part to accomodate those who will still be in need of a place to go for High Holidays.

All of this will take energy and money to organize. If you are willing to help with time or other resources, of if you know of families in need (including your own relatives and friends), please write to Brad May at brad@teammay.com or call him at 404-786-4452. He will be coordinating our congregational response.

Thanks to Brad for spearheading this incredibly important work of gemilut hasadim, and thanks in advance to the congregation for undertaking this important mitzvah.

Michael Kancher, the president of Shir Chadash in New Orleans, sheltering in Houston, writes:

As I write this note I cannot tell you how much your thoughts and concerns mean to me. Shir Chadash is under water, as is most of the city. From all the television and internet reports, my home is under anywhere from 5 to 15 feet or water.

Area code 504 has not been working so trying to keep in touch with my congregants has been impossible. We were able to move our Torahs to a safe room at the Jewish Federation building. It will be a very long road, but we slow put all the pieces back together. Please open your doors to any congregants that might up to y our synagogues for the High Holidays.

Keep us in your thoughts."

Harry Silverman reports that Robert Whitlock, treasurer of Ahavas Chesed in Mobile, says the area did not get his very hard.

"While many are without power, the power company expects most power to be restored this afternoon. They have not had any major damage he's aware of. The shul has power. Trees have fallen and some gutters will need repair, but by and large everything is okay."

Sharon Nickol of Beth Sholom Synagogue in Memphis adds:

"I know I speak for all of the synagogues in the area. Please consider our synagogue doors open for any and all needs during this terrible time. I have members willing to house, feed and support your members affected by Hurricane Katrina. Please contact me at 901-683-3591, ext. 209. Our thoughts and prayers are with you."

Synagogues in Nashville, Orlando St. Louis, Houston and Dallas already have volunteered to help.

Harry Silverman adds that anyone who wants home hospitality anywhere in the region should call him and he will be able to arrange it.


Updates:

February 6 | October 11 | October 10 |October 9 | September 26 | September 23 | September 19 | September 13 | September 9 | September 7 | September 2 | September 1 | August 31

2002 Biennial Convention

The next Biennial is scheduled for February 2002 in Washington, DC

Click here to register online!


Click here to see Biennial highlights! or Here for the Full Schedule!

pdficons.gifClick here to view/print brochure & registration form. getacro.gif

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For further information, please contact the Convention offices at (212) 533-7800 ext. 2234 or via E-mail at convention@uscj.org. Fax inquires may be faxed to (212) 353-9439.


Stephen S. Wolnek International President Rabbi Jerome M.Epstein Executive Vice-President
   
Allan M. Wegman Convention Chairman Dr. Morton K Siegel Convention Director
   
Sarrae G. Grane Program Director  


At the Biennial Convention, the leadership of the United Synagogue and its constituent congregations are afforded an opportunity to exchange ideas and plan for the future. Delegates participate in informative seminars on topics ranging from synagogue financing to membership development.

At plenary sessions, top speakers address issues of concern, such as peace in the Middle East, intermarriage prevention and the state of Conservative Judaism. Resolutions sessions enable delegates to set official United Synagogue policy.

The coveted Solomon Schechter Awards, which acknowledge exceptional achievements of congregations in various areas such as social action, adult education and programming, are distributed.

Booths for synagogue suppliers and exhibitors display a wide array of objects and services. For information about the February 8-14, 2002 Biennial Convention (a joint convention with the Rabbinical  Assembly, Cantors Assembly, Jewish Educators Assembly and  North American Association of Synagogue Executives, for the first  time and unique in many other respects); contact the Department of Conferences and Special Events, Ext. 2234.

Track Highlights 
Vendors
Convention Schedule
pdficons.gifConvention Brochure.getacro.gif

Convention Highlights:

Sunday, February 10, 2002
Evening
Opening Session
: Efforts to Bring About Peace 
Ambassador Dennis Ross, Ambassador Max Kampelman,  
Ambassador Stuart Eisenstadt

Late Night Entertainment: The Capitol Steps

Monday, February 11, 2002
Morning 
Study Session with Rabbi Ismar Schorsch,
Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary
   
Tracks: 
Synagogue Presidents
Large Congregregations
Synagogue Programming 
Liturgy & Worship 
Synagogue Management and Finance  
The Synagogue As Community Conscience   
Ba’al Tefillah Institute 
Conservative Judaism               

Afternoon
USCJ Business Session 

The Synagogue of the Future
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Steven Cohen 
Respondents:  Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen, Rabbi Alan Silverstein 
Followed by breakout groups on various aspects of the synagogue

Evening 
Gala Concert – The Cantors Assembly

Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Morning     
USCJ Tracks (see Monday)

Afternoon
 
Address by Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein,
USCJ Executive Vice President
       
Presentation of Solomon Schechter Awards    
  
“Israel at the Center”
Address by Rabbi Michael Melchior  
Followed by breakout groups

Evening
Reflections on War & Peace After September 11th
Featuring a panel of journalists


Wednesday, February 12, 2002
Morning
Jewish Education: Speaker TBA 
Followed by breakout groups

Afternoon 
USCJ Resolutions Session
         
USCJ Tracks (See Monday)

Evening
Discharge of 200/02 Officers
Installation of 2002/3Officers


Thursday, February 14, 2002 

USCJ Tracks (See Monday)
   

Issue No. 1    Sunday, February 10
CONVENTION 2002
Daily Report: United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
Rabbinical Assembly, Jewish Educators AssemblyNorth American
Association of Synagogue Executives, Cantors Assembly
Editor: Lois Goldrich           
Associate Editors: Jan Baron & Arlyne Bochnek

ANNOUNCEMENTS


Please note: Unless otherwise indicated, all sessions at
Convention are open to delegates from all organizations. Please
check your program.

On Sunday and Tuesday evenings, Maariv will precede the evening
program.  Men and women will lead the service in Marriott
Ballroom 2, and men only will lead the service in Delaware A. On
Sunday, Ma?ariv will be at 8 p.m.; on Tuesday, Ma?ariv will be
at 8:30 p.m.

We thank Rabbi Jonah Layman and Shaare Tefila Congregation in
Silver Spring, MD, for providing the two Torah Scrolls to be
used at Convention.

Convention 2002 was officially called to order by Convention
Chairman Allan Wegman, who stated that he \"salutes the
participating arms of the Conservative Movement who have joined
together for the sake of our synagogues, our congregants, and
Conservative Judaism .\"He went on to add that \"We are here
because we realize that there is strength in numbers and because
we know that our synagogues and our religious affiliation remain
crucial elements in rebuilding and strengthening our lives as
citizens of a democracy and as Conservative Jews.\"

Oseh Shalom...

The joint plenary session provided the Convention body an
opportunity to acknowledge those who work to bring about peace.
In the opening session of the gathering, awards were presented
to Ambassadors Dennis Ross, Max Kampelman, and Stuart Eizenstat
for their tireless efforts on behalf of world peace.

Stephen Wolnek, USCJ President, stated in his introductory
remarks that Convention 2002 is a  benchmark of future
cooperation between the arms of the Movement.  He thanked all
the participating organizations for their willingness to give up
something to be together.

Hineinu? We are here!  stated Rabbinical Assembly President
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, who noted that we are celebrating the 100th
anniversary of Dr. Solomon Schechter's arrival in this country.
He noted that Dr. Schechter would be gratified by what is happening 
today and stated that Solomon  Schechter has had a lasting impact
on the Jewish people.

Rabbi Paul Schneider, President of the Jewish Educators
Assembly, introduced Ambassador Max Kampelman, who spoke of a
childhood permeated by Judaism. He told delegates that he had
learned in Yeshiva that there is within each of us that which is
good and constructive and that which is evil and destructive.
Judaism strengthens the light within us to overcome the dark
side. 

NAASE President Judith Kranz presented Ambassador Stuart
Eizenstat with his award, stating that the Ambassador had
explored the dark corners of history and helped to create a
memorial of lasting influence, the Holocaust Museum.

Ambassador Eizenstat stated that Conservative Judaism is at the
core of his private life and his public values.  Although the
Holocaust was never discussed in his home as a child, it became
his passion as he learned about the indignities to which man can
be subjected.  These discoveries inspired him to devote himself
to the pursuit of justice.

Cantor Sheldon Levin, President of the Cantors Assembly,
introduced Ambassador Dennis Ross, describing him as an
outstanding negotiator.

Ambassador Ross described how things have changed in the past
two years. Where once peace seemed imminent in the Middle East,
this is no longer the case. He said both Israelis and
Palestinians have lost faith in each other.  There is a need to
reestablish faith, which will take time.  Israelis need
security; Palestinians need greater freedom, but there is no
easy way to break the cycle of anger and revenge.  He said that
we must maintain pressure on Arafat; that Israelis must achieve
security without imposing such severe restrictions on the entire
Palestinian population, and that we must start to listen to the
new voice of Palestinian intellectuals.

Throughout the evening, delegates were treated to songs from the
Cantors Assembly, under the direction of Hazzan David Propis and
David Silverstein. The audience responded warmly to the music
and joined in the singing of God Bless America.

From the United Synagogue:
Getting on Track


Tomorrow we begin a unique exercise in synagogue empowerment --
the United Synagogue Track Program. From Monday through
Thursday, each delegate may participate in tracks, or training
sessions, in the following areas: Synagogue Presidents, Large
Congregations, Synagogue Programming, Liturgy & Worship,
Synagogue Management & Finance, The Synagogue as Community
Conscience, the Baal Tefillah Institute, and Conservative
Judaism. In tomorrow?s Report we will take a closer look at some
of these sessions.

From the RA:
Schedule at a glance for Monday, February 11


Breakfast
Rabbinical Assembly Regional Presidents -  Wilson A
Pacific SW -  Wilson B
Lunch
Southeast  - Park Tower 8201
Washington-Baltimore - Park Tower 8206
Joint Placement Commission - Park Tower 8212
Funding Task Force - Park Tower 8216
Lower Hudson Valley - Park Tower 8219
_________________________
Advocacy Day
If you have not signed up in advance for the Rabbinical Assembly
Advocacy Day Program to take place on Wednesday on Capitol Hill
and would like to participate, please see either Rabbi Lee
Paskind, RA Social Action Chair, or Rabbi Jan Caryl Kaufman by
Wednesday morning.  There are extra preparatory packets
available.  Buses will depart at 12:30 p.m. from the 24th Street
entrance of the Hotel and will leave both the House and Senate
side of the Hill at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
_________________________

From the Cantors Assembly:

Tomorrow night's concert -- to be held at Congregation Adas
Israel -- is dedicated to the enduring friendship between North
America and the State of Israel. It will include Washington
composer Cantor Arnold Saltzman's Symphony No. 1 in Bb
Major, 'An Israel Symphony,'  and will also feature Joel Lazar,
who has led the National Symphony Orchestra, and who conducted
the world premiere of "An Israel Symphony" in 1998. Rabbi
Jeffrey A. Wohlberg, Ambassador David Ivry, and Cantor Sheldon
Levin will address the gathering. Journalist/author Daniel
Schorr  will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Featured cantors
will include Elisheva Dienstfrey, Thom King, Kim Komrad, Abraham
Lubin, Jacob Ben Zion Mendelson, Alberto Mizrahi, Alisa
Pomerant z-Boro, David Propis, Arnold Saltzmanand Sol Zim, many
of whom will perform their own compositions. In addition,
important works by Cantors Charles Davidson and Charles Osborne
will be included.

* Monday and Tuesday nights, following the evening program, the
entire convention is invited to Late NightLive, where members
of the Cantors Assembly will entertain delegates with
spontaneous concerts of some of our greatest music.


Issue No. 2    Monday, February 11
CONVENTION 2002
Daily ReportUnited Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
Rabbinical Assembly, Jewish Educators AssemblyNorth American
Association of Synagogue Executives, Cantors Assembly
Editor: Lois Goldrich            Associate Editors: Jan
Baron & Arlyne Bochnek

________________________
We are pleased to announce that pictures from the Convention
will be posted on our photographer?s website starting next
Monday. Please visit
www.classic-photo.com to see what a good
time you had and to order souvenir photos.
(Simply scroll down
the left menu bar and select preview/orderonline. We can be
found under Convention 2002.)


The Rabbinical Assembly has announced that the Tuesday session
honoring Cong. John Lewis, scheduled for 11:30 a.m., has been
cancelled. The plenary (originally scheduled for 12:30) will now
be held at 11:30 in Delaware A/B. Please note also that David
Kraemer's Limud has been switched from Tuesday to Wednesday
and will be held in Virginia C.

This year, we are particularly fortunate to have so many
wonderful vendors at  Convention. Please be sure to take
advantage of this unique opportunity to shop for yourselves and
your synagogue.
_________________________
In an address presented to the entire Convention, JTS Chancellor
Dr. Ismar Schorsch spoke about the many polarities embodied by
Dr. Solomon Schechter. For example, he embraced both mysticism
and reason, applauded diversity but realized the necessity for
dogmas, loved reading serious manuscripts but was a great
popularizer, admired both the scholar and the man of faith and
had characteristics of both East and West. According to Dr.
Schorsch, Solomon Schechter was an avowed militant centrist who
left a substantial legacy. He brought a high caliber faculty to
the Jewish Theological Seminary, setting the bar for the study
of Judaism in the United States; he created a world class
library at the Seminary; he turned the rabbinical school into a
graduate school; he founded the Teachers Institute,
creating "feeder schools" for the Seminary; he opened the door
to Zionism, which at the time was an act of courage; and he made
the Seminary hospitable to women, inviting Henrietta Szold to
study there. Schechter, he said, came to New York to create a
Yavneh for America. He believed new centers of learning had to
be established here so that our great Jewish heritage would not
be lost. He believed that the study of Judaism produces serious
Jews, regardless of denomination. Indeed, he was a true
pluralist. At the conclusion of his talk, the Chancellor
congratulated Rabbi Robert Fierstein, editor of the Solomon
Schechter tribute book produced for this Convention.

Joint Session: The Synagogue of the Future
At the start of the session, Jesse Olitsky, USY International
President, spoke about the importance of USY and described its
many accomplishments over the past 50 years. He then narrated a
video presentation focusing on highlights and milestones in USY
history.

Dr. Steven Cohen spoke to delegates about new directions for our
congregations. After surveying the current state of the Jewish
community, the speaker noted: "Drawing upon some of the best
thinking and practice in the Conservative movement, I want to
suggest a strategic approach to leading Conservative Judaism in
the years ahead, consisting of four main points: Provide Jews
with personal attention and private meaning.; build meaningful
Jewish communities; establish high standards of aspiration;  and
innovate by balancing contemporary relevance with traditional
authenticity."

Dr. Cohen told delegates: "As leaders, you will grapple with,
and indeed are already struggling with, the challenges of Jewish
dispersal, of weakening connections up and down the Jewish
ethnic scaffolding, of consumerist orientations, and of expanded
personalism. At the same time you are helping to create and are
benefiting from the many positive trends in American Jewish
life, particularly the growth of a committed Conservative Jewish
core. You are the ones who need to provide Jews with personal
meaning, to build meaningful Jewish communities, to make
appropriate normative demands, and to innovate in practice and
strategy."

Rabbi Alan Silverstein, Past President of the Rabbinical
Assembly, stated in his response that "we need community. Multi-
impact" has an effect. With our young people attending Ramah
camps, Schechter schools, NATIV, etc., the statistics regarding
observance  are improving. In 1995, the Ratner Study by Dr. Jack
Wertheimer indicated that only 18%of Conservative Jews had been
to Israel by age 22, but when the Study was repeated in 1998,
52% had gone  to Israel by that age. Rabbi Silverstein remarked
that the Conservative Movement "preserves our uniqueness." He
stated that our Services are more Hebraic, more lay people are
building sukkot, Jewish camps are no longer for the elite, and
that day schools are now a mainstream option. In addition, he
stated that our "key challenge" is demographics. The Reform
Movement builds synagogues in areas where there is "new
settlement" and we as a Movement need to be pro-active.

Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen, President of Baltimore University, stated
that she is a product of USY. She went on USY Israel Pilgrimage
in 1959. She stated that ritual practice among young
Conservative Jews is increasing, and there is  an increase in
day school attendance among students in grades K-12. She also
noted that "Conservative Jews are no longer Conservative Jews by
default, but by affirmation. One problem we face relates to
congregants who are 'free riders'.They call themselves members
but they really only pay for service and reap the benefits from
the volunteer efforts of others. Dr. Geffen stated that in the
1950's, there was a fear in the Conservative Movement  that if
we demanded too much from the congregants, they would leave.
Over the years we have seen an increase in observance although
the percentage of observant Conservative Jews is still low.

And then there was music...
Following dinner, the Convention body was treated to a gala
concert by the Cantors Assembly.  Yasher Koach to all who
participated.

From the United Synagogue:
At the USCJ Business session, President Stephen Wolnek gave a
brief report, after which Rabbi Jerome Epstein noted that in
April the United Synagogue will sponsor a mission to Israel. He
then spoke of the Framework for Excellence in Jewish education
and congratulated the three schools that have already met the
new requirements.  The USCJ staff was thanked for their efforts
and certificates and pins were awarded to staff members. Judy
Yudof was formally elected president. The new slate includes Jay
Wiston (secretary), Dr. Bruce Littman (treasurer), Gary
Rosenthal (Financial Vice-President). Installation will take
place Wednesday evening. Delegates were then shown a video
presentation on the Fuchsberg Center.

Getting on Track
Glenn Easton, Executive Director of Adas Israel Congregation,
introduced Dr. Ron Wolfson to speak about "Building Sacred
Communities." He described the speaker as a visionary in Jewish
education whose enthusiasm for bringing Judaism alive in homes
and synagogues has shaped his work in the Jewish community.  Dr.
Wolfson emphasized that everyone who works in the synagogue, lay
leaders and staff, is an ambassador.  There is a need to build a
congregation that is member friendly.  It is not about programs
but about relationships.  He commented that greeting members
both old and new and prospective at the "front door" is really a
mitzvah and an obligation to reach in and out of the
congregational walls.  Welcoming members includes asking the
following questions:What are your talents? Where has your "Jewish
journey" brought you? What are you passionate about?

Rabbi Moshe Edelman began the first Presidents' session by
distributing materials for leadership training and development.
He encouraged the Presidents and Presidents Elect to become
familiar with the Alban Institute from which several articles
that were distributed were derived.  Rabbi Edelman commented
that the synagogue is the cornerstone of Jewish life and
stressed the importance of and need for organized religion.
Scott Kaplan presented the new model rabbinical engagement
agreement jointly sponsored and endorsed by the Rabbinical
Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.  It
took 14 years to develop this model contract, which promotes a
mutual relationship of affection, respect and common values.

Jerome Shestack and Rabbi  Yitz Greenberg participated in the
Synagogue as Community Conscience track in a session
entitled, "Are We Our Brothers' Keepers? Conscience and
Responsibility." They noted that the idea of human rights has a
very short history. The role of conscience is crucial in any
human rights discussion -- conscience is what makes us ethical in
the absence of clear laws or in the presence of venal laws. The
Torah is the well from which morality can be drawn. Mr. Shestack
cited the many prescriptions for ethical behavior in the Torah,
especially from the prophets. Rabbi Greenberg reminded the
audience that the Holocaust Museum was established in order to
reconcile the two mandates of remembering the Shoah and making
it certain that it "never again" happens. The mitzvah of zachor
is central to Judaism but memory alone is not enough. It must
always be connected to action. The purpose of memory is for us
to act according to the lessons learned. We must be careful of
not "othering" as we have been and of not "bystanding." Unless
we apply the lessons of the Shoah to others, we are in danger of
making it irrelevant. Because we do teach that lesson, an
average of 2 million visitors come to the Museum, 70-80% of whom
are not Jewish. The presence of the Museum on the Mall has
become a beacon of morality, teaching that. every individual is
born in the image of God  -- valued, equal and unique.

In the Liturgy and Spirituality Track, Laurie Sunshine gave
examples of personal prayer and two writing exercises. She
stated that you can create prayer as something personal or to be
shared and she spoke for a moment on how she wrote a prayer for
her child\'s Bar Mitzvah, which she then shared with the group.
In the writing exercise, she asked participants to thank God for
something good and to think of  it in a Biblical image. Let the
ideas flow. Don\'t hesitate to use music in the background. Say
it in a special way. Listen and then self edit. She had
delegates write it and look at it, asking, Does it say what you
want it to say? Does anything not make sense? Does it work? Is
anything missing? She also asked the group to write their own
seder prayer.

From the RA
Schedule at a glance for Tuesday, February 12

Rabbinical Assembly Mentors Program from 8:30-2 - Nathan Hale
Breakfast
LatinAmerican Region -  Maryland A
Eastern Pennsylvania - Maryland B
Social Action Committee ? Harding
Lunch
W. Pa/OH/KY Region - Park Tower 8206
Empire Region -  Congressional
New Jersey - Ethan Allen
Late Evening
10:00 pm Women?s Meeting  - Delaware A

Highlights of Resolutions passed today:
Full copies of the resolutions can be obtained from the Press
Office, Room 8222)

Helping The Poor In A Recessionary Economy
It was resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly support the
expansion and extension of unemployment benefits as the best way
to help those who have lost their jobs during recent recession;
and?that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon private industry to
extend generous severance packages to those employees laid off
from their jobs;?and that the Rabbinical Assembly call for a
slowdown in the phase-in of Federal tax cuts enacted in August,
2001?and that the Rabbinical Assembly work to enable public
debate, to determine the most appropriate way to share
sacrifices that must be made in light on the new economic
realities facing the United States.

Resolution On Health Care For The Poor

It was resolved that the  Rabbinical Assembly call on the
Federal government to increase its share of funding Medicaid
programs to expand health care for low income people; and that
the Rabbinical Assembly support the expansion of CHIP -- the
Child Health Insurance Program to include the parents of those
children and that the Rabbinical Assembly call on the Federal
government to subsidize COBRA premiums and to provide
transitional health insurance for those not currently eligible.

Resolution On Israel
It was resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly stand with the
State of Israel and its people in their ongoing efforts to
assure the security and well-being of the State of Israel in the
land of Israel; and, that the Rabbinical Assembly encourage
travel to Israel and participation in study programs in Israel
at this critical time.

From NAASE:
The Fellow in Synagogue Administration (FSA) Professional
Certification began in 1967 to recognize colleagues who have
attained a certain level of skills, professionalism, and success
in their positions and profession. Synagogue Executives who are
certified by the North American Association of Synagogue
Executives as Fellows in Synagogue Administration (FSA) have
demonstrated a commitment to the highest standards of
professional skill and ongoing professional growth in their
field. Since 1967, the FSA Professional Certification process
has evolved to continue to meet our professional association
standards. Its purpose is not only to officially recognize
Synagogue Executives who have met the requirements of
certification, but through the very process, to encourage study
andthought. Through the  Certification process, Synagogue
Executives have an opportunity to strengthen their image,
status, and effectiveness by focusing on knowledge of the
profession and making a contribution to Conservative Judaism
through experience, study, performance, and examination.

Executive Directors who were awarded their Fellow In Synagogue
Administration Certification by NAASE on Monday night, February
11, 2002, include:
Robert Fischer, Hewlett East Rockaway Jewish Center, East
Rockaway, NY
Iris Henley, Agudas Achim Congregation, Alexandria, VA
Marcia Newfeld, Beth Sholom Congregation, Frederick, MD
David Rothenberg, Beth Israel Congregation, Owings Mills, MD

The Deans of N.A.A.S.E. UNIVERSITY are Gilbert Kleiner, FSA and
Gail M. Bloom.Gilbert Kleiner, FSA is the Executive Director of
Beth El Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland.Gail M. Bloom is the
Executive Director of B?nai Israel Congregation in Rockville,
Maryland. The session: N.A.A.S.E. UNIVERSITY "Developing
Adminstrator Leadership" explored the forces that are impacting
the synagogue organization.  New research on Jewish beliefs and
attitudes and the nature of synagogue organizations was
reviewed.  Participants listened to feedback from a survey of
NATA and NAASE administrators.  Five areas of administrator
activity that might offer opportunities for increased
administrator leadership were identified.  Groups listed
barriers and opportunities for leadership in each and developed
some possible alternatives.

Session  presenter Robert Leventhal, The Alban Institute, Jewish
lay leader, and project consultant, STAR (Synagogue
Transformation and Renewal). Bob hold a BA and MBA from George
Washington University.

From the Cantors Assembly:

Today was an exciting day.
* Noted composer and performer Cantor Sol Zim presented  "A
Shabbat Spiritual Happening - A Musical Shabbat Siddur." Cantor
Zim presented some of his exciting new music recently published
by the Cantors Assembly. Attendees at this session  learned new
music for Kabbalat Shabbat, Maariv L'Shabbat, and Shabbat
Morning.
*  Tot Shabbat was devoted to worship and programming for young
children in the synagogue.  Created and led by Carol Chessler
and Sarah Geller, this session offered a "how to" workshop to
give participants new material and ideas on engaging the
youngest congregants in celebrating Shabbat with their families.
*  The Sounds of Prayer Around the World featured a "musical
journey" conducted by Hazzan Dr. Ramon Tassat who taught
beautiful melodies from some of the lesser-known Jewish
communities in the far-flung corners of the earth.
*  Rabbi Reuven Hammer, incoming President of the Rabbinical
Assembly, delivered the Samuel Rosenbaum Memorial Lecture on the
history and development of prayer in the Conservative
tradition. "From Silverman to Sim Shalom"  looked at how we have
come to pray as we do, and where we might be going in the
future. 

Issue No. 3    Tuesday, February 12
CONVENTION 2002
Daily ReportUnited Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
Rabbinical Assembly, Jewish Educators AssemblyNorth American
Association of Synagogue Executives, Cantors Assembly
Editor: Lois Goldrich            Associate Editors: Jan
Baron & Arlyne Bochnek

_________________________
An additional session has been added for Wednesday from 11 a.m.
to 2 p.m. It is entitled "Electing a Rabbi to Your Congregation"
and will be held in Wilson C with Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg,
Director of the Joint Placement Commission.  Ccongregations
searching for a rabbi are invited to attend.

Special offer for Convention Delegates: The Conservative
Movement in Judaism, by Elazar/Geffen is available at a special
price for a limited time only from the State University of New
York Press.  Call 1-800-688-2877 for information.

A Time to Learn
In his Limud session, Dr. Neil Gillman, JTS Professor of
Philosophy, discussed the founding ideology of Conservative
Judaism. He cited nine "building blocks" at the heart of the
Movement and listed tensions that currently exist. These include
the absence of "God talk" as well as a tension between the
academic and the spiritual. In addition, we have not sought to
empower the laity.  Given these tensions, it is hard to create the
"burning passion" or fervor that many Conservative Jews are
now seeking.

Joint Session: Israel at the Center
NAASE Convention Chair Robert Hill introduced Romy Levi, who
spoke on behalf of the Israel Ministry of Tourism. He asked that
we try harder to promote tourism to Israel because Israel is
suffering greatly. Hill then introduced David Breakstone of the
World Zionist Organization, who stated the importance of our
financial support to the Conservative Movement?s projects in
Israel. 

Rabbi Gordon Tucker, President of the Masorti Foundation,
introduced the guest speaker, Rabbi Michael Melchior, Deputy
Foreign Minister, State of Israel, who at one time served as the
Chief Rabbi of Norway.  Rabbi Melchior noted that he had
recently returned from Vilna, Lithuania ,where he picked up a
Torah saved from the Holocaust by a priest . The Torah was now
destined for Jerusalem. He noted that while the Torah survived
the Holocaust, the people of Vilna did not. While in the library
in Vilna, he found a piece of the Torah parchment that had been
used for wallpaper.  This piece is also being brought to Israel
and will be exhibited at Yad Vashem.

Rabbi Melchior said that both Jews and non-Jews must fight anti-
Semitism, which is the oldest and most persistent disaster.  He
stated that the Torah of Vilna is like the "dry bones that came
to life and made Aliyah."  He concluded by saying that we must
build together a just, pluralistic society; we must build
together a peace with our neighbors; and, we must build together
a sanctuary where God will want to be present.

In a session following the plenary, Rabbi Reuven Hammer spoke
about some of the issues facing Masorti Jews in regard to
marriage and conversion. He noted that, at present, Movement
rabbis are not authorized to perform marriages, which are only
valid when performed by Orthodox rabbis. Many Masorti rabbis
perform marriages anyway, although couples must then go
elsewhere for civil ceremonies if their marriages are to be
recognized in the State of Israel. Ironically, more than 50% of
Israelis opt to have civil ceremonies rather than Orthodox
marriages. While the situation may change, there is strong
pressure to maintain the status quo. He noted that conversions
performed outside Israel are recognized is Israel, but the state
does not recognize conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis
in the State of Israel. While the Neeman Commission did not find
a solution to this problem, it did result in the creation of a
Joint Conversion Institute, which is functioning effectively and
currently is serving some 2000 Israelis. Graduates of this
Institute,which has teachers from all three movements, are then
formally converted by the Chief Rabbinate. While this does not
solve the problem, the Masorti have agreed to this now out of a
recognition that it is important to reach out to the 300,000
Soviet immigrants, bringing them back to Judaism.


Joint Session: Reflections on War & Peace after Sept. 11
Journalists Judy Woodruff, Charles Krauthammer, Morton
Kondracke, Franklin Foer, and Laura Blumenfeld were asked by
moderator Dr. Elliott Dorff to respond to the events of
September 11 in anyway they chose. Ms. Woodruff noted that it is
a day we will always remember, a "hinge?" in time. She
particularly recalls the conversations she had with her children
following the day's events and said they are still struggling
with its implications.  She noted that we are still in a state
of shock and mourning, an unnatural state in which we are not
yet comfortable enough to openly challenge or debate the
Administration's actions.

Charles Krauthammer said the attacks of September 11 came after
a "holiday from history" in the 1990s. With the Soviet Union no
longer a threat, we entered an almost "magical" time
of "delusion." We learned however that enemies were indeed
planning and preparing for our destruction. He said that Radical
Islam is unappeasable and likened President Bush's State of the
Union Message to the Truman Doctrine, which called for patience
in the face of a long struggle. He believes we responded
magnificently and shocked the world through our display of both
will and power.

Morton Kondracke compared the attacks of September 11 to Pearl
Harbor and said once again the enemy had "wakened a sleeping
giant."The events transformed the internal compass of the
Administration. President Bush, previously a novice in the area
of international affairs, was forced to learn a good deal in a
short amount of time. He now has a new purpose and a mission to
save the world. He likened his State of the Union message to a
Churchill-like declaration.

Franklin Foer asked how the events will affect culture, not just
foreign policy. Have we moved past the social divide-- abortion,
civil rights --that  cupied our minds before the
attacks? He noted that some big issues don't  seem quite so
roubling now. It appears we have the making of a new consensus,
which President Bush has a golden opportunity to cement.

Laura Blumenfeld spoke of visiting a mosque after the attack and
hearing from a Syrian his view that the bombings were a Zionist
plot to frame the Arabs, just as Zionists had framed the Nazis
during World War II. She recounted her experience in tracking
down a terrorist who had shot her father and how in interviews
with this man had realized that in order to get revenge, one has
to chan gethe mindset of one's enemy.

Rbbi Dorff asked what we can tell our children. Laura Blumenfeld
th the quote: ?Against such darkness we
must retaliate with light.? Judy Woodruff noted that we have
been forced to move further along in our recognition that there
is evil in the world. While we must strike back, we must also
look inward, examining our values and trying to understand our
enemy. Morton Kondracke noted that his children have come to
realize that ?we must win? in our fight against evil. He pointed
out that the stakes in this struggle are very high.

From the United Synagogue:
Congratulations to Ray Goldstein, newly elected Chair of the
Council of Regional Presidents.

Also, congratulations to the many synagogues who received the
coveted Solomon Schechter Awards for excellence in synagogue
programming. Congratulations also to USY, which was honored on
its 50th anniversary.

Executive Vice President's Call to Action:

USCJ Executive Vice-President Rabbi Jerome Epstein issued a call
to action in which he told delegates that just as the Prophet
Isaiah challenged our ancestors to become an Or Lagoyim, he
wants  Conservative Jews to become an Or LaYehudim ? a light
unto the Jews.  He asked Conservative Jews to commit themselves
to a "Compact of Jewish Commitment." First,  let us pledge to take on the commitment of personal Tikkun Olam by --as a minimum -- giving
Tzedakah to one person or doing one act of Gemilut Hesed each day.
Second, let us pledge to live the Jewish calendar.  Let us pledge to light candles, make Kiddush and have a special meal as we usher in
Shabbat each week and for each of the major Festivals. Third, let
us make a pledge to eat as a Jew.  We can start by avoiding those foods
that the Torah forbids us to eat. Let us (also) commit ourselves
to begin each meal with the motzi.  Fourth, let us pledge to
learn as a Jew.   As a minimum, let us commit ourselves to read
a chapter of the Tanakh each day through Perek Yomi, which will
begin its second cycle in April.  Or, beginning this spring, let
us, as Conservative Jews, participate in Mishnah Yomit and ?
study Mishnah each day.  Fifth,  let us pledge to perpetuate
Jewish life.  Make a commitment to raise a Jewish family.
Sixth,  make a pledge to build a bridge to Israel.  Make a visit
to Israel a priority.  But, even if you're not going, set aside
some money each week to help someone else visit or live there.

(Copies of the entire speech may be obtained from the Department
of Public Affairs. Contact goldrich@uscj.org)

From the Rabbinical Assembly
For Wednesday, 2/13
Breakfast
Latin American Region
Wilson C
Chicago Region - Wilson B
Midwestern States - Harding
We are adding a Limud session entitled -The Latest Brand-New
Doable Mitzavah Projects for Shuls, Bar and Bat Mitzvah,
Kinderlach, and Any and Every Congregant. It will be led by
author/poet  Danny Siegel.
The following are among the resolutions passed by the Rabbinical
Assembly.

TERRORISM
It was resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly express its
gratitude to President George W. Bush for his forceful and
forthright actions combating the terrorism of Islamic Jihad,
Hamas and Hezbollah; and ?that the Rabbinical Assembly support
the actions of the United States government and its allies to
eliminate terrorism world-wide; and? that the Rabbinical
Assembly call on the government of the United States to
recognize the essential nature of the United States of America's
role in leading the international efforts to eliminate
terrorism; and that as people of faith, the Rabbinical Assembly
call on all people of faith to condemn the claim that suicide
bombings are a religious act; and that the Rabbinical Assembly
unequivocally condemn acts of violence and terrorism by members
of our community and call upon all people of faith to join us in
condemning acts of violence and terrorism in their communities;
and? that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon all members of the
US Senate and House of Representatives to support and/or
cosponsor S 1409 and HR 1795, requiring that sanctions be
imposed on the PLO and the Palestinian Authority if the
President cannot certify that they are meeting their commitment
to fight terrorism and end their use of violence.

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
It was resolved that the members of the Rabbinical Assembly
should preach tolerance and open-mindedness among our
constituents, in our communities, and wherever we may find
opportunities to do so; and that the members of the Rabbinical
Assembly continue to seek partners in interreligious dialogue to
break down the stereotypes that lead to hatred and suffering.

MEDIA BIAS AGAINST ISRAEL
It was resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon Jews
everywhere to pay special attention to the way Israel is
portrayed in the media and the conflict in the Middle East is
reported, and that when a violation of accuracy or media bias
against Israel occurs, that letters, emails and phone calls of
protest be directed towards those media outlets and their
sponsors.

CIVIL LIBERTIES
It was resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon the
President of the United States and the Attorney General to abide
by the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and the
statutory protections that are the cornerstones of our justice
system.

WORLDWIDE SLAVERY
It was resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon the
Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the
United States and members of the 107th Congress, to condemn the
practice of slavery and exert all possible influence on
governments of countries where these practices exist to end
these practices in their countries; and, that the Rabbinical
Assembly call upon its members to educate our constituencies as
to the widespread practices of slavery and to advocate for the
eradication of slavery worldwide and to encourage other
affiliated organizations and institutions of the Conservative
Movement to join in this effort; and, that the Rabbinical
Assembly educate its members, through the Social Action
Committee, as to the countries that practice slavery and how
they do it. 


From NAASE:
First created and delivered at the N.A.A.S.E. Convention in New
York in 2000, the Irma Lee Ettinger Memorial Lecture was created
as a venue of presentation of a scholarly work by noted members
of N.A.A.S.E. Named for the late and greatly Irma Lee Ettinger,
the invitation to deliver this lecture is considered a great
honor. Previous presenters have included Glenn Easton, FSA, Atz
of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC and Neal Price,
FSA, Atz of Hebrew Education Alliance in Denver, CO.

The presenter of the 2002 Irma Lee Ettinger Memorial Lecture was
Bernice Levine, FSA of Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue in
Toronto. Bernice has been their Executive Director for the past
27 years and was the first woman in Toronto to hold the
position.  She is a member of the N.A.A.S.E. Board of Governors,
a former member of the N.A.A.S.E. Executive Board.The topic of
her lecture was: "Hakoach B'Yadenu" - We Have the Power in OUR
Hands!.

______________________
NAASE collected over 120 pairs of gloves and $190 in cash to be
donated to the Community for Creative Non-Violence ? a local
Washington, DC shelter that houses up to 1500 nameless people a
day. 

In addition, $270 was collected and donated by NAASE members for
MAZON.

GO EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS!
________________________

From the Cantors Assembly:
Besides holding our annual meeting, we enjoyed a special program
entitled "New Music for the Synagogue." Participants gathered to
review new musicfrom the major publishers of such music.

The Joint Conservative Movement would like to thank the Tefilah
Participants:

Rabbi Judah Kogen
Rabbi Howard Hoffman
Elizabeth Pressman
Nathaniel Shudrich
Jerry Ackerman
Cantor Arlyne Unger
Rabbi Manes Kogan
Ellen Leonard
Judy Holzer
Cheryl Magen
Marc Gary
Cantor Roger Weisberg
Lois Jacobs
Cantor Emanuel Perlman
Donald Miller
Cantor Paul DuBro
Rabbi Alex Greenbaum
Neal Price
Rabbi Alvan Kaunfer
Roz Judd
George Platt
Cantor Perry Fine
Rabbi Arthur Lavinsky
Rabbi Lynn Liberman
Saul Shapiro
Harry Silverman
Rabbi Eli Havivi
Yaffa Fuchs
Alan Werbow
Rabbi Tracy Klirs
Cantor Arthur Katlin
Eddie Edelstein
Cantor Leon Lissek
Rabbi Jim Michaels
Michael Simmons
Marshall Kupchan
Al Karlsberg
Cantor Liz Berke
Rabbi Marim Charry
Marjorie Saulson
Cantor Ralph Nussbaum
Cantor Deborah Togut
Cantor Marcey Wagner
Jerry Jacobs
Rabbi Robert Layman
Cantor Frank
Lanzkron-Tamarazo
Bob Sunshine
Rabbi Marc Robbins
Cantor David Feuer
Larry Alexander
Ray Goldstein
Rabbi Alex Greenbaum
Jay Kornsgold
Cantor David Lefkowitz
Lou Meltzer
Cantor Marla Barugel
Jay Wiston

We would also like to thank
The Tefilah Committee:

Cantor Nancy Abramson, Chair
Rabbi Jonah Layman
Cantor Arlyne Unger
Miriam Benson


Issue No. 4    Wednesday, February 13
CONVENTION 2002
Daily ReportUnited Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
Rabbinical Assembly, Jewish Educators AssemblyNorth American
Association of Synagogue Executives, Cantors Assembly
Editor: Lois Goldrich            Associate Editors: Jan
Baron & Arlyne Bochnek

And more learning...
In his morning Limud session, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson
reminded us that when we plan synagogue programs, we need to
keep in mind that programs that focus on Jewishness wither. But
programs that are Judaic are essential. Every activity that we
plan should bring us to or include the study of Torah and doing
Mitzvot. We need to "educate up" and spend less time worrying
about the unaffiliated and the people who are not attending our
shuls. We need to work on engaging  the people who are there so
they will tell their friends why they should be there too. We
need to teach people that the synagogue is the place where you
go for a full relationship with God and renew our love for
Israel.

Joint Session: Jewish Education
Rabbi Paul Schneider, President of the Jewish Educators Assemly,
spoke of the  growth of the organization, which is now
celebrating its 50th anniversary. He then introduced guest
speakers Dr. David Ackerman and Dr. Saul Wachs.

Dr. Ackerman stated that the rise of day schools is an
ideological statement that the "outside" and "inside" worlds can
be integrated and that this is a positive thing. He spoke of the
pressures to which our children are subjected and noted that our
schools must provide safety and security, serving as sanctuaries
in which outside pressures can be left behind. Noting that
religion describes the transcendent, or the way the world ought
to be, he said that schools must help children imagine the
transcendent and learn how to live in relation to it.

Dr. Wachs listed different kinds of authentic Jewish
spirituality (pietistic, intellectual, aesthetic, behavioristic)
and noted that whichever one speaks to an individual, the common
thread is depth. He went on to note that if young people "shut
down" during tefilah, it is because of what was not done when
they were little. The golden years for nurturing spirituality is
when children are very young.

The most important task of Jewish education is to create a
climate of safety, he said. Otherwise, people cannot learn. We
must start by providing an atmosphere of comfort, which relates
to competence. Otherwise, "spectators" will become frustrated,
angry, and resentful. He affirmed the need for "transitional
moments" to help  ease the individual into a caring community.
He suggested, for example, that students might enter and leave a
service singing a niggun. Further, silence and meditation can be
added to the service. Techniques of meditation include repeating
words, walking meditation and emptiness, freeing our minds from
bad thoughts. Dr. Wachs said a service is not a "Hebrew literacy
drill." We should be careful about the corrections we make. He
added that young people learn by attention to details. We should
not stress relativism in teaching halakhah but rather strive for
precision and care.

Breaking Out
Below are highlights from several breakout groups held following
plenaries:

In "Building Sacred Communities," Dr. Ron Wolfson was introduced
as a visionary in Jewish education, known for his enthusiasm in
bringing Judaism alive in homes and synagogues. Dr. Wolfson is
currently Director of the Whizin Center for the Jewish Future of
the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. He emphasized that
everyone who works in the synagogue, lay leaders and staff, is
an ambassador.  There is a need to build a congregation that is
member friendly.  It is not about programs but about
relationships.  He commented that greeting members both old and
new and prospective at the "front door" is really a mitzvah and
there is an obligation to reach in and out of the congregational
walls.  Welcoming members includes asking the following
questions: What are your talents? Where has your "Jewish
journey" brought you? What are you passionate about?

Rabbi Avis Miller led a breakout session on Keruv as it relates
to the  programs that are available to the intermarried couples
in her synagogue, Adas Israel, Washington DC. The eight session
Jewish Literacy program is taught by the Rabbi, attracting non-
affiliated, non-educated Jews as well as the intermarried. She
mentioned that we need to encourage Jews to marry Jews, but if a
Jew decides to marry a non-Jew, we need to encourage the non-
Jewish partner to convert. If the partner does not convert, we
need Keruv, where we "in-reach." Congregants with little Jewish
background who want to explore their Jewish identity are invited
to participate as well, as are those who want to refresh their
memories of what they learned in Hebrew school. Rabbi Miller
stated that it is difficult to raise a Jewish child among
intermarried parents -- as it is difficult enough when both
parents are Jewish. The highest rate of intermarriage occurs
when the children have intermarried parents. In order to make
the non-Jewish spouse Jewish, we need to integrate these couples
with other Jews. She stated that support groups are not
effective. If we separate these couples, they end up defining
themselves as intermarried and possibly deciding to never
convert. If a congregation cannot meet the intermarried couples?
needs, we need to remember that the tone of voice we use is
crucial. Saying 'no' does not have to be a turn-off.

Ambassador  Aaron David Miller, Senior Advisor, Arab-Israeli
Negotiations, Department of State, Washington, DC, addressed a
standing room only crowd on the topic "Is Israeli-Palestinian
Peace Still Possible and How Can It Be Achieved?" Ambassador
Miller stated that he spent the last twenty years in pursuit of
Arab-Israeli peace and the last fifteen years he has lived his
life "in the impossible." For the last seventeen months, it has
become "a real challenge to cope as honestly and effectively
with disasters." He stated that even when times were good, and
regardless  how grim, there is an equitable solution. The only
way to resolve the conflict is through negotiations; not just
a "balance of power, but also a balance of interest". Amb.
Miller compared the situation to a good marriage, good business,
and good friendships, whereby each party allows the other sides'
needs to be met. He stated that the United States has a
fundamental role to play. An enduring US/Israeli relationship is
imperative. He noted that the peace process has been underscored
by despair, betrayal, and loss of hope.

The issue that we face today is how the Palestinians can justify
ending terror without some victory. On the Israeli side the
attitude is, "See  wh at we put on the table and now look--how
much more do they want?"  Miller stated that the current
administration in Washington is comparing Israeli actions on the
ground with Palestinian terror and violence. "This does not
undermine the US relationship with Israel, but both sides do
things that don't make things better." The speaker posed a
number of poignant questions, ranging from, Is there a military
solution? to How do you change Chairman Arafat's behavior? Can
we go back to where we were seventeen months ago? Miller
stated: "The wet man is not afraid of the rain." Mr. Arafat is
not leaving, and no one in Hamas wants his job because they do
not want the responsibility. Arafat  needs to be made to
understand that he needs to craft single messages, and assert
control. His perception of himself is that he is a "man under
siege.? He also stated that there is a  need for a political
horizon and  to find balance. We cannot create a situation where
the Palestinians are rewarded for an intifada. Ambassador Miller
reminded us that during  the last fifty years of the twentieth
century, there was a war in Israel every decade. Between 1993
and 2000, Israel maintained  a formal/informal relationship with
all Arab nations with the exception of three Arab League
members, Iraq, Libya and Sudan. It is unthinkable if we abdicate
responsibility to the "forces of history."

From the United Synagogue:
Getting on Track

The following are some highlights of track sessions held
throughout the week:
On Monday the Program Track explored the topic "Programming for
What?" The participants were divided into small groups by
congregational membership size and discussed why congregations
offer programs. Some reported that they program to bring people
into the door to get people involved, attract new members,
educate congregants, and for social purposes. Others noted that
they program to provide a sense of community and belonging, give
members good value for their dues, and provide Judaic content in
whatever they do. Yet other congregations said they program to
keep young families happy and get them to stay, to keep the
older congregants happy, and to keep the synagogue going. It was
stated that we need to remember that synagogues are holy places
and we need to remember also why we are there. Families need to
be empowered in order to bring what they learn in the synagogue
back into their homes.

Margie Pomerantz, Immediate Past President, Beth David,
Saratoga, California, and SULAM graduate, presented their
congregation's program "Yoetz Ne'eman, The Faithful Guide."  She
explained that at the 1999 Biennial Convention, she was
motivated by Rabbi Epstein's presentation "From Synagogue Center
To Synagogue Mentor."  This presentation inspired Margie to
develop their own mentoring program. Working with her
congregation's clergy and various volunteers, they developed a
grant proposal which resulted in funding for this project from
the Koret Foundation. One third of the three-year program is
funded their synagogue.

In the Liturgy and Spirituality Track, Nina Beth Cardin pointed
out the difference between formal and informal prayer. Even in
the formal liturgy, she noted, there is some room  for personal
prayer. She stated that communal prayer forces you to get away
from the self. We need community but we also need time for the
self. The group then made up a collective list detailing several
ingredients of personal prayer. It was noted that there are many
more recorded examples of women's personal prayers than there
are prayers for men. Regarding the issue, When do we pray?, it
was suggested that we pray when we need something and we have no
control. Another reason to pray is to ask God, "Let me
understand." Hannah's Prayer offers an argument to God. You
create nothing in vain. Everything has a purpose, humans
multiply. So grant me a child. (You set up the rules of
creation.) This example shows you can get a little bit "tough"
with God. The voice is not always  self-denigrating.

In the Synagogue as Community Conscience Track, Rabbi Vernon
Kurtz, President of the Rabbinical Assembly, asked the
question, "What goes on in a synagogue?" From the office to the
pulpit, from the business to the ritual, from the individual to
the family, it is the single and collective relationships that
are important. He noted that the synagogue can create a quality
of life for its members by making it a place to come for all the
right reasons, for making everyone Kadosh, holy, and for being a
model for the community. Synagogues must be viewed as a second
home, and they must treat the elderly with compassion and
respect.  We can create a holy synagogue community by modeling
behavior, dress, language, and generosity of money, time and
word.

In a session on Synagogue Preschools, Dena Horn, Director of
Synagogue School Services of the JEA Metro West Federation of
New Jersey, introduced Dr. Miriam Feinberg, Early Childhood
Consultant, Board of Jewish Education of Greater Washington.

Dr. Feinberg stated that early childhood education, which
mushroomed 30 years ago, has had its greatest numbers in the
last decade.  Though birthrates have declined, enrollment in
preschools has increased, and children are starting school
younger than ever before.  Therefore, Dr. Feinberg continued, we
need to teach age-appropriate  life skills along with the
curriculum. Early childhood education programs provide the
opportunity to bring families closer together, bring families
into the synagogue community, and educate families about
Judaism. The speaker suggested better marketing methods for the
early childhood program, good supportive lay and professional
leadership, fundraising techniques to assist the budgetary
needs, and establishing an outstanding age appropriate
curriculum.

Installation of Judy Yudof
Today was a special day for the United Synagogue, as we
installed our 24th International President, Judy Yudof.
Congratulations to Judy, to her officers, and to the entire
organization.

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Yudof stated, "I believe that the
synagogue is the institution that can and will ensure Jewish
continuity.  And I believe that The United Synagogue of
Conservative Judaism can and must play an integral role in
ensuring that our affiliated synagogues have the tools to carry
out this most important agenda." She also made reference to the
Vision Statement approved by the Board this past June: "The
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism promotes the role of
the synagogue in Jewish life in order to motivate Conservative
Jews to perform mitzvot encompassing ethical behavior,
spirituality, Judaic learning, and ritual observance."

Said the new USCJ President: "During the time that I was seeking
the nomination to be your President, I was asked if I could
articulate an independent and personal vision statement for
United Synagogue Here is how I responded:  I envision an
organization that represents the laity of the Conservative
Movement and is respected and admired by its affiliates, by its
professional staff, by its lay volunteers, and by the other arms
of the Movement.  I envision an organization that is service
oriented and that teaches by example rather than by edict.  I
envision an organization that engenders trust and practices
accountability at all levels within its structure. I envision an
organization that is responsive to the evolving needs and issues
facing Conservative Jews.  I envision an organization that we
are proud to claim as our own and to leave as our legacy to the
next generation."

Resolutions
The USCJ also adopted a number of important resolutions. For the
text of these resolutions, contact crane@uscj.org following
Convention.

From the Rabbinical Assembly
Tomorrow during breakfast, the Rabbinical Assembly Executive
Council will meet in Wilson B.
Today we held our annual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day program,
paying tribute to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) for upholding
values that have both shaped the social agenda of the United
States and are in keeping with positions taken by the Rabbinical
Assembly.  Several members of Congress spoke in Waxman's honor,
including Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), the senior Jewish Congressman.

Following the program to honor Rep. Waxman, Steven Emerson,
noted expert on terrorism, briefed us on the aftermath of
September 11. We then met with our own legislators to advocate
on such issues as support for Israel, helping the poor in our
recessionary economy, expanding health care benefits and
separation of Church and State.  Colleagues attending the
convention from Latin America were addressed by Prof. Claudio
Grossman, a leading human rights lawyer who is the dean of the
American University Law School and observer at the AMIA trial in
Argentina.

New President Installed
Congratulations to Rabbi Reuven Hammer, the head of the Bet Din
(Religious Court) of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in
Israel, who was installed as president of the Rabbinical
Assembly this evening.  Hammer, also a faculty member of the
Masorti Movement's rabbinical school, Machon Schechter, and its
founding Director, is a native of Syracuse, New York.

Rabbi Hammer has served as president of the Rabbinical Assembly
of Israel and as a member of its Va'ad Halakhah (Committee on
Jewish Law).  He is currently the Head of the Rabbinical Court
of the Movement in Israel.

Rabbi Hammer stated,  "I accept this honor not only on my own
behalf but as a representative of all our Masorti rabbis who
live and work in Israel. My election marks a turning point in
the history of the Rabbinical Assembly, recognizing the growing
importance of our Conservative-Masorti Movement in Israel and
our perception of ourselves as a world movement."

According to Hammer, "The Rabbinical Assembly is an organization
of crucial importance to the Jewish world and we have yet to
fully realize our own importance and our potential influence and
strength. The time has come for us to make our voice heard with
greater force and clarity in order to influence the Jewish
future throughout the world."

From the Cantors Assembly:
An important day, marked by a moving and emotional visit to the
Holocaust Museum. We concluded with a moving memorial to our
people whose lives were lost in the Shoah.



USCJ Convention Schedule   

Sunday – February 10, 2000

11:00

Registration Opens

2:00

Exhibits Open

3:15

Minha

  3:30 – 5:00

USCJ Board /Advisory Council Meeting

4:00 pm

First Time Delegates Orientation

6:00

Dinner

8:00

Opening Joint Plenary Session

In Pursuit of Peace Honoring Ambassadors Max Kampelman, Stuart Eizenstat and Dennis Ross, For Their Contributions to World Peace

 Chair: Stephen S. Wolnek, President, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

 Welcome:  Allan Wegman, Joint Convention Chairman

 Remarks:  Rabbi Vernon H. Kurtz, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL and President, the Rabbinical Assembly

 Awardee:  Ambassador Max Kampelman

Presenter:  Rabbi Paul D. Schneider, Krieger Schechter Day School, Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore, MD and President, Jewish Educators Assembly

Awardee:  Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat

Presenter:  Judith Kranz, Kehilat Shalom, Gaithersburg, MD and President, North American Association of Synagogue Executives

Awardee:  Ambassador Dennis Ross

Presenter:  Hazzan Sheldon Levin, Neve Shalom, Metuchen, NJ and President, Cantors Assembly

 Entertainment by Capitol Steps

Monday – February 11, 2002

7:00am

Shaharit   - 3 services

Divrei Torah

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi David Golinkin, President, Machon Schechter, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Rector, Seminario LatinoAmericano Marshall T. Meyer, Buenos Aires, Argentina

8:15

Breakfast

9:15

Convention-wide Limud   with Chancellor Ismar Schorsch

10:10 – 12:00

Tracks

Synagogue Presidents

Large Congregations

Conservative Judaism

Synagogue Management and Financial Issues

The Synagogue as Community Conscience

Liturgy and Worship

Synagogue Programming

Ba’al Tefillah Institute

12:00pm

Lunch

Council of Regional President (Lunch Meeting)  

1:45 – 3:00

USCJ Business Session

Elections

Fuchsberg Center Session

3:15

Joint Plenary Session

The Synagogue of the Future

Presenter:  Dr. Steven M. Cohen, Professor of Sociology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

Respondents:  Rabbi Alan Silverstein, Congregation Agudath Israel, Cal dwell, NJ      and President, Masorti Olami

Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen, President, Baltimore Hebrew University

4:30

Discussion groups on the Synagogue of the Future

  1. Jewish Spirituality as a New Synagogue Paradigm, Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, Professor of Liturgy, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Co-founder and Director of Synagogue 2000, New York, NY
  1. Listening to Our Youth: What We Can Learn from Teens about Conservative Synagogues, Dr. Jack Wertheimer, Provost, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Director of the Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism
  1. Keruv- The Challenge of Intermarriage and Outreach, Dr. Steven Bayme, Director, Department of Jewish Communal Affairs, American Jewish Committee, New York, NY
  1. Building Sacred Community, Dr. Ron Wolfson, Vice President, University of Judaism and Co-Founder and Director of Synagogue 2000, Los Angeles, CA
  1. Role of Music in the Contemporary Synagogue, Cantor Stephen J. Stein, Executive Vice President, Cantors Assembly and Beth El Congregation, Akron, OH
  1. The Synagogue as a Center for Adult Learning, Lee Meyerhoff Hendler, Past President, Chziuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore, MD and author of The Year Mom Got Religion
  1. Creating New Paradigm Synagogues: Success Stories from the Field, Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, Founder and President, Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, Rockville, MD
  1. Synagogue Renewal: Re-Imagining the Future, Rabbi Morris Allen, Beth Jacob Congregation, Mendota Heights, MN and Chairman, Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Congregational Development
  1. New United Synagogue Curriculum, Rabbi Robert Abramson, Director, Department of Jewish Education, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

6:00

USCJ/JEA/CA Dinner with Members of Congress

8:00

Cantors Concert at Adas Israel Congregation

Narrator: Daniel Schorr,

Greetings: Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg, Adas Israel Congregation, Washington, DC and Program Chair, Joint Convention

Greetings: Ambassador David Ivry, Israel Ambassador to the United States

Reception sponsored by Israel Bonds

Tuesday – Rosh Hodesh Adar 5762

7:00am

Shacharit

Divrei Torah

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi David Golinkin, President, Machon Schechter, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Rector, Seminario LatinoAmericano Marshall T. Meyer, Buenos Aires, Argentina

8:15

Breakfast

10::00 – 12:00

Tracks

Synagogue Presidents

Large Congregations

Conservative Judaism  

Synagogue Management and Financial Issues

The Synagogue as Community Conscience

Liturgy and Worship

Synagogue Programming

Ba’al Tefillah Institute

12:00 pm

Lunch

Youth commission Meeting (Lunch will be served)

1:45 pm

Address of Executive Vice President Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein

Solomon Schechter Awards Presentation

3:15

Joint Plenary Session

Israel at the Center:  Place, Metaphor and Reality

Introduction:  Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Temple Israel, White Plains, NY and President Masorti Foundation

Address:  Rabbi Michael Melchior, Deputy Foreign Minister, State of Israel

4:30

Discussion groups on Israel at the Center

  1. Religion and State in Israel: Problems of Conversion, Marriage and Divorce, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, Vice President, the Rabbinical Assembly and Head of the Bet Din of the Masorti Movement, Jerusalem, Israel
  1. Israel and American Foreign Policy, Dr. Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Bar Ilan University, Tel-Aviv, Israel and Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs
  1. The Old New Middle East, Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, DC
  1. Israel’s Options in the Turbulent Middle East, David Makovsky, Senior Fellow and Director of Project on America, Israel and the Peace Process, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, DC
  1. The Price of Terror: The History-Making Struggle for Justice After Pan Am 103, Dr. Allan Gerson, Professor, International Relations, George Washington University, Washington, DC  
  1. Is Israeli-Palestinian Peace Still Possible and How Can It Be Achieved?, Ambassador Aaron Miller, Senior Advisor, Arab-Israeli Negotiations, Department of State, Washington, DC
  1. Ambassador Samuel Lewis, Former US Ambassador to Israel
  1. American Jews and the Construction of Israeli-Jewish Identity, Dr. Yossi Shain, Goldman Visiting Professor of Government at Georgetown University, Washington, DC and Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University
  1. Israel and the North American Campus, Jay Rubin, Executive Vice President Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Washington, DC
  1. Conservative Movement Aliyah, Karni Goldschmid-Lahav, Shalhiah to the Conservative Movement
  1. The Political Make-Up of the Knesset and Its Impact on Masorti and Other Religious Movements in Israel, Rabbi Ehud Bandel, President, Masorti, Jerusalem, Israel

6:30

Dinner

8:30

Joint Plenary Session

The Aftermath of September 11

Moderator: Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff

Journalist Roundtable with Judy Woodruff, CNN, Charles Krauthammer, Columnist, Washington Post and Morton Kondracke, Executive Editor Roll Call, Commentator Fox News Channel, and former Washington Bureau Chief, Newsweek, Franklin Foer, Associate Editor, The New Republic, and Laura Blumenfeld, Washington Post                                                          

10:30

Regional Receptions

Wednesday – Rosh Hodesh Adar 5762

7:00am

Shaharit

Divrei Torah

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studi es, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi David Golinkin, President, Machon Schechter, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Rector, Seminario LatinoAmericano Marshall T. Meyer, Buenos Aires, Argentina

8:15

Breakfast 

9:00

Limud

Tracks

Synagogue Presidents

Large Congregations

Conservative Judaism

Synagogue Management and Financial Issues

The Synagogue as Community Conscience

Liturgy and Worship

Synagogue Programming

Ba’al Tefillah Institute

10:15

Enriching the Jewish Educational Experience

Dr. Saul Wachs, Dr. David Ackerman

11:30

Discussion groups on Enriching the Jewish Educational Experience

  1. Harlene Appelman, Director of Alliance for Jewish Education, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Detroit, MI
  1. How to Find and Keep Good Educators, Serene Victor, Consultant, Synagogue Education, USCJ, Boston, MA
  1. Adult Jewish Education, Rabbi Alvan Kaunfer, Temple Emanuel, Providence, RI
  1. Kvetching Teens, Hidden Treasures: Engaging Our Adolescents in Religious Education, Steven Freedman, Educational Director, Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, PA
  1. Special Needs, Dr. Sara Rubinow Simon
  1. Rabbi Joshua Heller, Director of Distance Learning and Educational Technology, JTS
  1. Early Childhood Education, Dr. Miriam Feinberg, Board of Jewish Education of Greater Washington
  1. Ramah as Part of An Integrated Educational System, Rabbi Sheldon Dorph, Director, National Ramah Commission, New York, NY
  1. Informal Education, Jules Gutin, Director of Youth Activities, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  1. Day School Education, Rabbi Paul Schneider, Headmaster, Krieger Schechter Day School, Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore, MD and President, Jewish Educators Assembly
  1. Music is the Life of a Congregation, Hazzan Jeffrey Meyers, Congregation Beth El, Massapequa, NY

12:45 pm

Lunch

1:30 pm

 

 

 

 

 

Tracks

Synagogue Presidents

Large Congregations

Conservative Judaism

Synagogue Management and Financial Issues

The Synagogue as Community Conscience

Liturgy and Worship

Synagogue Programming

Ba’al Tefillah Institute 

4:15 – 5:15

USCJ Resolutions

6:00

Installation Dinner

 

Tribute to Stephen S. Wolnek, USCJ International President 1997-2002

Installation of Judy Yudof, USCJ International President

Discharge of USCJ Board and Advisory Council 1999-2002

Installation of USCJ Board and Advisory Council 1999-2000

Thursday – February 14, 2002

7:00 a.m.

Sharharit

Divrei Torah

8:00

Breakfast

9:00

Tracks

Synagogue Presidents

Large Congregations

Conservative Judaism

Synagogue Management and Financial Issues

The Synagogue as Community Conscience

Liturgy and Worship

Synagogue Programming

Ba’al Tefillah Institute

 

Joint Plenary Sessions at the USCJ Biennial

Monday

3:15 – 4:30

 

The Synagogue of the Future

Presenter:  Dr. Steven M. Cohen, Professor of Sociology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

Respondents:  Rabbi Alan Silverstein, Congregation Agudath Israel, Caldwell, NJ and President, Masorti Olami

Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen, President, Baltimore Hebrew University

 

            4:30 – 5:30 discussion groups:

 

  1. Jewish Spirituality as a New Synagogue Paradigm, Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, Professor of Liturgy, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Co-founder and Director of Synagogue 2000, New York, NY

 

  1. Listening to Our Youth: What We Can Learn from Teens about Conservative Synagogues, Dr. Jack Wertheimer, Provost, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Director of the Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism

 

  1. Keruv- The Challenge of Intermarriage and Outreach, Dr. Steven Bayme, Director, Department of Jewish Communal Affairs, American Jewish Committee, New York, NY

 

  1. Building Sacred Community, Dr. Ron Wolfson, Vice President, University of Judaism and Co-Founder and Director of Synagogue 2000, Los Angeles, CA

 

  1. Role of Music in the Contemporary Synagogue, Cantor Stephen J. Stein, Executive Vice President, Cantors Assembly and Beth El Congregation, Akron, OH

 

  1. The Synagogue as a Center for Adult Learning, Lee Meyerhoff Hendler, Past President, Chziuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore, MD and author of The Year Mom Got Religion

 

  1. Creating New Paradigm Synagogues: Success Stories from the Field, Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, Founder and President, Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, Rockville, MD

 

  1. Synagogue Renewal: Re-Imagining the Future, Rabbi Morris Allen, Beth Jacob Congregation, Mendota Heights, MN and Chairman, Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Congregational Development    

 

 

Tuesday 3:15 – 4:15

Joint Plenary Session

 

Israel at the Center:  Place, Metaphor and Reality

Introduction:  Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Temple Israel, White Plains, NY and President Masorti Foundation

Address:  Rabbi Michael Melchior, Deputy Foreign Minister, State of Israel

 

Discussion groups 4:30 – 5:30

 

  1. Religion and State in Israel: Problems of Conversion, Marriage and Divorce, Rabbi Reuven Hammer, Vice President, the Rabbinical Assembly and Head of the Bet Din of the Masorti Movement, Jerusalem, Israel

 

  1. Israel and American Foreign Policy, Dr. Barry Rubin, Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Bar Ilan University, Tel-Aviv, Israel and Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs

 

  1. The Old New Middle East, Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, DC

 

  1. Israel’s Options in the Turbulent Middle East, David Makovsky, Senior Fellow and Director of Project on America, Israel and the Peace Process, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, DC

 

  1. The Price of Terror: The History-Making Struggle for Justice After Pan Am 103, Dr. Allan Gerson, Professor, International Relations, George Washington University, Washington, DC    

 

  1. Is Israeli-Palestinian Peace Still Possible and How Can It Be Achieved?, Ambassador Aaron Miller, Senior Advisor, Arab-Israeli Negotiations, Department of State, Washington, DC

 

  1. Ambassador Samuel Lewis, Former US Ambassador to Israel

 

  1. American Jews and the Construction of Israeli-Jewish Identity, Dr. Yossi Shain, Goldman Visiting Professor of Government at Georgetown University, Washington, DC and Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University

 

  1. Israel and the North American Campus, Jay Rubin, Executive Vice President Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Washington, DC

 

  1. Conservative Movement Aliyah, Karni Goldschmid-Lahav, Shalhiah to the Conservative Movement

 

  1. The Political Make-Up of the Knesset and Its Impact on Masorti and Other Religious Movements in Israel, Rabbi Ehud Bandel, President, Masorti, Jerusalem, Israel

 

Wednesday 10:15 – 11:15
  Enriching the Jewish Educational Experience

                Dr. Saul Wachs,   Dr. David Ackerman

 

11:30 – 12:30Discussion groups

 

  1. Harlene Appelman, Director of Alliance for Jewish Education, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Detroit, MI

 

  1. How to Find and Keep Good Educators, Serene Victor, Consultant, Synagogue Education, USCJ, Boston, MA

 

  1. Adult Jewish Education, Rabbi Alvan Kaunfer, Temple Emanuel, Providence, RI

 

  1. Kvetching Teens, Hidden Treasures: Engaging Our Adolescents in Religious Education, Steven Freedman, Educational Director, Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, PA

 

  1. Special Needs, Dr. Sara Rubinow Simon

 

  1. Rabbi Joshua Heller, Director of Distance Learning and Educational Technology, JTS

 

  1. Early Childhood Education, Dr. Miriam Feinberg, Board of Jewish Education of Greater Washington

 

  1. Ramah as Part of An Integrated Educational System, Rabbi Sheldon Dorph, Director, National Ramah Commission, New York, NY

 

  1. New United Synagogue Curriculum, Rabbi Robert Abramson, Director, Department of Jewish Education, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

 

  1. Informal Education, Jules Gutin, Director of Youth Activities, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

 

  1. Day School Education, Rabbi Paul Schneider, Headmaster, Krieger Schechter Day School, Chizuk Amuno Congregation, Baltimore, MD and President, Jewish Educators Assembly

 

  1. Music is the Life of a Congregation, Hazzan Jeffrey Meyers, Congregation Beth El, Massapequa, NY

USCJ Tracks at the Biennial

Among the highlights of Convention 2002 will be the USCJ Track Program, consisting of mini-learning packages devoted to training congregants in particular areas of synagogue life. These intensive sessions, to be held each morning, Monday through Thursday, will provide experiential education in each of eight areas:

  • Synagogue Presidents
  • Large Congregations
  • Synagogue Programming
  • Liturgy & Worship
  • Synagogue Management & Finance
  • The Synagogue as Community Conscience
  • Ba’al Tefillah Institute
  • Conservative Judaism
  • Kehilla: Creating Community in Large Congregations

This unique exercise in synagogue empowerment was inaugurated at 1997 United Synagogue Biennial Convention. Tracks will be preceded each
day by Limud sessions of Jewish learning.

* Liturgy and Spirituality : On Monday morning, the track will explore the role of personal prayer in our lives. Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin will begin the two-part session with an exploration of personal prayer in the lives of Jews in the past. Author Laurie Sunshine will then share with us psalms she has written and will lead a workshop on expressing our prayerful thoughts.

Tuesday’s Limud will be led by Dr. Elliot Dorff. The next session will explore ways to heighten meaning in Shabbat services. A panel of hazzanim and rabbis will explore such questions as How does music enhance the service? What else needs attention? In the following session, several hazzanim will present and teach us to sing music for the Shabbat service.

On Wednesday morning, Dr. Saul Wachs will lead Limud. Later in the day he will explore different means for creating a prayerful service and will lead a panel discussion focusing on an agenda for the synagogue’s religious/ritual committee.

Thursday morning will begin with a Limud session by Dr. Robert Abramson, USCJ Director of Education.Congregations will then discuss how they have endeavored to add a spiritual dimension to the lives of their members.

On each day (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), the Commission on Jewish Education and the Task Force for the Framework for Excellence in Jewish Education will present workshops after lunch.

* Monday: Wendy Light, Consultant for the Initiative for Excellence in Synagogue School Education, will present a workshop on "The Framework for Excellence: The Education Model for the 21st Century." The next session will be led by Serene Victor, Consultant for Synagogue School Education, and will deal with "Creating a Learning-Teaching Faculty."

* Tuesday: Cindy Dolgin and Hazzan Marcey Bergman, Co-Directors and lead writers for Project Etgar, will present new materials and curriculum for middle school students in our synagogue schools. Project Etgar is a new curriculum jointly developed by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Department of Education and the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Wednesday: Wendy Light will present a workshop, "Working with the Framework for Excellence: Selecting a New Direction for your School." Serene will speak on "Benchmarks of Synagogue School Quality."

 
* The Synagogue as Community Conscience Track will begin Monday morning with a session devoted to the topic "Are We Our Brothers'
Keepers? -- Conscience and Responsibility." Featured speakers will be Jerome Shestack, Chair, Committee on Conscience, Holocaust Museum,
and Past President, American Bar Association; as well as Rabbi "Yitz" Greenberg, Head of the Holocaust Museum.

Tuesday’s Limud session will be conducted by Rabbi Michael Siegel of
Anshe Emet, Chicago. Participants in the track will address the topic "The Synagogue -- Source of Kavod and Kedushah: Building and Maintaining Successful Lay and Professional Relationships." Featured during this
session will be author/lecturer Lee Hendler, Past President , Chizuk
Amuno Congregation, Baltimore.

On Wednesday, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, President of the Rabbinical
Assembly, will lead the Limud session. The topic for the morning is "A
Jewish Response to Need." Also appearing will be Eric Schockman, Executive Director of MAZON, and Ruth Messinger, Director,
American Jewish World Service.

Thursday’s Limud segment will be led by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson.
The theme for morning study will be "Synagogue Accessibility."

* The Track on Conservative Judaism will begin Monday morning with
a lecture by Dr. Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, which will bring together the entire Convention body. Also on Monday, participants will hear a talk by Rabbi Michael Greenbaum on
"The History of the Conservative Movement" as well as by Rabbi Bill
Lebeau on "The Conservative Movement Today."

Tuesday’s track will begin with a session led by Dr. Neil Gillman. The
topic for study is "The Philosophy of the Conservative Movement."
Following Dr. Gillman, Rabbi Vernon Kurtz will speak on "Applying Movement Philosophy to Congregational Life."

Wednesday will begin with an exploration of the Halakhic Process
through text and discussion. Afternoon sessions will focus on "Halakhah
in Israel: The Masorti Perspective," and "Experiential Activity in the
Halakhic Process," the latter to be led by Rabbi Jack Moline.

On Thursday morning, Rabbi Morris Allen will speak on the topic
"Prayer: Individual/Communal Experience." Following this session,
Hazzan Elisheva Dienstfry will lead a group on "Song in the Synagogue
and at Home."

* At the Baal Tefila Institute, directed by Hazzan Jeremy Lipton, participants will study Weekday Minhah and Ma’ariv as well as Torah Trope. The goal of the track is to train attendees to lead Minhah/
Ma’ariv
services on Wednesday night and to read Torah at a service
on Thursday morning. Thursday’s session will build on these skills to
teach the Minhah Service for Shabbat.

* The Presidents Track, entitled "Creating Sacred Space, Sacred
Moments, Sacred Community," will begin Monday morning with a session conducted by Scott Kaplan on "The Sacred Relationship of Congregation
and Clergy." This will be followed by a session entitled "Organized and Together: Strategies for Guiding Synagogues," led by Bob Leventhal of
the Alban Institute. A final session on that day will address the issue of "Redesign and Renovation of Sacred Space," led by Ray Goldstein and
Alan Karlsberg.

Tuesday’s program will begin with a session led by Dr. Elliot Dorff, who
will deal with the issue of Jewish values. Nina Rone of the Movement’s
Joint Retirement Board will then speak on pension and insurance, followed
by a session entitled "Panim el Panim: Face to Face," which will include
role-playing exercises and encourage networking among synagogue presidents. This session will be facilitated by Rabbi Moshe Edelman.
Rabbi Daniel Pressman and Margie Pomerantz will then lead a session
on "Mentoring: A Synagogue Philosophy in Action."

On Wednesday, Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, "Dean" of Conservative
Rabbis, the Rabbi of Temple Israel of Great Neck, NY for nearly 55
years, will speak on the challenges facing Conservative Judaism. Later in
the afternoon, a ses sion entitled "Sacred Space for All Jews" will be led by Rabbi Avis Miller. This will be followed by a talk on "Securing the Future: Sacred Young Leadership," led by Rabbi Charles Feinberg.

On Thursday morning, SULAM creator Rabbi Moshe Edelman will lead
a session on writing and studying Torah, followed by a look at "The
Process of Professional Evaluation," led by Ray Goldstein and Rabbi Edelman. 

 

Kehillah: Creating Community in Large Congregations.  On Monday: "Edah: Creating a Community of Leaders." Participants will learn how to turn leadership and governance into a community building process, one which can provide a positive Jewish learning and living experience.

Tuesday: "Havurah: Creating Communities within Communities." Attendees will learn how to use the desire for intimacy and connection to create other smaller communities that will connect to the greater congregational community.

Wednesday: "Klei Kodesh -- Turning Staff into Sacred Vessels." The session will examine ways in which to encourage professional staff to become a team, a community of professional leaders.

Thursday: "Temikhah -- Creating a Community of Givers." A look at how to develop an Endowment Campaign that allows everyone in the congregation to become valued and integral members of a caring, giving community. Also, "Darkhei Noam: Creating a Safe But Accessible Community." Discover ways of balancing security and accessibility that allows members to feel both safe and welcome.

 
 

 

Biennial Vendors

Booth # /Company Address/City/State/Zip/Contact/Telephone

105 Harwin Studios 9101 SW 15th Avenue "Portland, OR" 97219 
Ms. Sara Harwin 503-245-8900

107 Stained Glass Designs 704 Pebblestone Court "Silver Springs, MD" 20905 Ms. Susan Fullenbaum 301-384-4691

109 Jeanette Kuvin Oren 29 Dales Drive "Woodbridge, CT" 06525 
Ms. Jeanette Kuvin Oren 203-389-6077

"110, 112" United Synagogue Book Service 155 Fifth Avenue "New York, NY" 10010 Mr. Joesph Sandler 212-533-7800

111 Simcha Chairs 29 Dales Drive "Woodbridge, CT" 06525 
Ms. Jeanette Kuvin Oren 203-389-6077

113 Pitspopany Press "40 E. 78th Street, Suite 16D" "New York, NY" 10021 Mr. Yaacov Peterseil 212-472-4959

114 Keshet-The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel Rabbi Binyamin 7 Jerusalem ISRAEL Mr. Yitzak Sokoloff 972-2-6536835

115 Avi Soffer Designs 1221 Marietta Drive "Ambler, PA" 19002 
Ms. Connie Berman 215-643-5122

203 Original Design Huppah 25 St. Nicholas Street "Lynbrook, NY" 11563 Ms. Margery Langner 516-593-4767

204 Judaic Four Corners 553 NE 28th Ct. "Pompano Beach, FL" 33064 Ms. Geri Brown 954-753-4152

"205, 207, 209" The Learning Plant PO Box 17233 "West Palm Beach, FL" 33416 Ms. Ruth T. Levow 561-686-9456

206 Chai Kids 21346 St. Andrews Blvd. "Boca Raton, FL" 33433 
Ms. Libby Minsky 561-362-4219

208 W & E Baum 200 60th Street "Brooklyn, NY" 11220 
Mr. Richard Baum 718-439-3311

210 Enjoy-A-Book-Club 555 Chesnut Street "Cedarhurst, NY" 11516 
Mr. Shimon Spirn 516-569-0324

"211,213" "A.R.E. Publishing, Inc." 3945 S. Oneida Street "Denver, CO" 80237 Mr. Steve Brodsky 303-363-7779

212 "Wilmark Studios, Inc" 177 S. Main Street "Pearl River, NY" 10965 
Mr. Mark Liebowitz 845-735-7443

214 Judaic Fiber Art 5159 Endymion Lane "Columbia, MD" 21044
Ms. Carol Bodin 301-596-5603

215 Cantor's Assembly 3080 Broadway "New York, NY" 10027 
Mr. Jay Neufeld 212-678-8834

217 Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values 6101
Montrose Road "Rockville, MD" 20852 Mr. Jack Rosenbaum 
301-770-5070

218 "MERCAZ, USA" 155 Fifth Avenue "New York, NY" 10010 
Rabbi Robert Golub 212-533-7800

223 Jerusalem T-Shirts 2/5 Ben Yehuda Street Jerusalem ISRAEL 
Mr. Edy Dwek 972-2-6254835

224 Yemenite Art from Old Jaffe "3, Mazal Dagim Street" Old Jaffe
68036 ISRAEL Ms. Patricia Avnon 97236812503

226 Gabrielli from Old Jaffe "3, Mazal Dagim Street" Old Jaffe 68036 ISRAEL Ms. Patricia Avnon 97236812503

"301,303" Presentations Synagogue Art and Furnishings 200 Lexington Avenue "New York, NY" 10016 Mr. Michael Berkowicz 
212-481-8181

302 Ethiopian Jewish Art PO Box 1308 "New York, NY" 10025 
Ms. Bizu Riki Mullu 212-864-5860

"304,306" Tara Publications 29 Derby Avenue "Cedarhurst, NY" 11576 Velvel Pasternak 516-295-2290

305 Lavi Furniture Industries Kibbutz Lavi Lower Galilee 15267 ISRAEL Mr. Aryeh Shiran 972-4-6799400

"307,309" The Jewish Publications Society 2100 Arch Street 
"Philadelphia, PA" 19103 Ms. Michelle Phelan 215-832-2017

308 USCJ KOACH College Outreach and HAZAK "601 Skokie Blvd.,
"Northbrook, IL" 60062 Mr. Richard Moline 847-714-9130

310 Ayelet Tours Ltd. 24 Wade Road "Latham, NY" 12110 
Ms. Diane Rubtchinsky 518-783-6001

311 Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life 443 Park Avenue South "New York, NY" 10016 
Ms. Martha Harrison 212-684-6950

312 Emes Edition LTD 7850 Montgomery Avenue "Elkins Park, PA" 19027 Mr. Saul Zalesne 215-635-7070

313 Lifeline for the Old in Jerusalem "14 Shivtei Israel St, PO Box 28" Jerusalem 91000 ISRAEL Ms. Nava Ein-Mor 972-2-6287829

314 Dor L'Dor 7103 Mill Run Drive "Rockville, MD" 20855 
Ms. Deborah Brodie 301-963-9303

315 Gloria's Kippot 301 Kent Road "Wynnewood, PA" 19096 
Mr. Bob Spitz 610-642-8571

316 "MCR, Inc." PO Box 276 "Center Moriches, NY" 11934 
Ms. Malka Ronen 631-874-2892

317 Artistic Judaic Promotions 4990 S. Lafayette Lane "Engelwood, CO" 80110 Ms. Terry Heller 303-789-3879

320 Torahscribe 445 Neptune Avenue "Brooklyn, NY" 11224 
Mr. Benjamin Cohen 212-981-4000

321 Ellen Mandelbaum Glass Art 39-49 46th Street "Lond Island City, NY" 11104 Ms. Ellen Mandelbaum 718-361-8154

324 Kuzari from Jerusalem "3, Mazal Dagim Street" Old Jaffe 68036 ISRAEL Ms. Patricia Avnon 97236812503

326 Synagogue 2000 15600 Mulholland Drive "Los Angeles, CA" 90077 Ms. Linda Klonsky 301-681-6175

400 Avco Graphics 3313 Shelburne Road "Baltimore, MD" 21208 
Mr. Avraham Cohen 410-358-4516

401 DONORWALL PO Box 1005 "New York, NY" 10272 
Mr. Barry Silverberg 212-766-9670

402 USCJ Youth Activities 155 Fifth Avenue "New York, NY" 10010 
Mr. Jules A. Gutin 212-533-7800

403 United States Bronze 811 2nd Avenue "New Hyde Park, NY" 11040 Mr. Peter Kasten 516-352-5155

404 The Jewish Theological Seminary 3080 Broadway "New York, NY" 10027 Mr. Tom Kagedan 212-678-8803

405 Shizre Kodesh "Khutzot Hayozer 9, PO Box 4590" Jerusalem 91044 ISRAEL Mr. Robert Kleinman 972-2-6274293

406 Membership Management Services 5301 Laurel Canyon Blvd. 
"North Hollywood, CA" 91607 Ms. Susan Gelles 818-509-1501

407 Vichinsky Judaic Pottery/Ancient Ties 1559 Rte 213 "Ulster Park, NY" 12487 Mr. Howard Vichinsky 845-338-0173

"408,410" Shalom Judaica 294 Wilson Avenue "Toronto, Ontario M3H 1S8" CANADA Ms. Esther Barak 416-633-6311

409 "Myriam's Dream, Inc." 52 Wellington Drive "Orange, CT" 06477 
Ms. Linda S. Kantor 203-795-4580

411 Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies 3080 Broadway 
"New York, NY" 10027 Mr. Nate Geller 212-870-3178

412  ;Masorti Travel Bureau 2340 NW 45th Street "Boca Raton, FL" 33431 Ms. Nancy Gilbert 561-995-8585

"413,415" Jewish Lights Publishing "PO Box 237, Sunset Farm Offices, Route 4" "Woodstock, VT" 05091 Mr. Jon Sweeney 802-457-4000

414 Bureau of Jewish Education 333 Nahanton Street "Newton, MA" 02459 Ms. Naomi Rubenstein 617-965-7350

416 Goldfarb/Batik Judaica 60 Baker Road "Livingston, NJ" 07039 
Mr. Ahmi Goldfarb 973-597-1305

419 Far Above Rubies by Cynthia Polansky 1626 Wyatt's Ridge Road "Crownsville, MD" 21032 Ms. Cindy Gallagher 410-849-2417

420 ESF Computer Services Inc. 104-70 Queens Blvd. 
"Forest Hills, NY" 11375 Mr. Nick Reiss 718-261-9797

424 Artist Studio A. Fried 2 Mevo Sivan "Kririat Gat, 82000" 
ISRAEL 
Ms. Sara Fried 972-8-6812889

"426, 428" Fiber Composition "8 Music Fair Road, Suite F" 
"Owings Mills, MD" 21117 Elan Livire 410-654-2265

500 "Circuits & Systems, Inc. (Chaverware)" 59 2nd Street "
E. Rockaway, NY" 11518 Mr. Robert Hirsch 516-593-4301

"501,503" AOS/Greenfield 66-15 Main Street 
"Flushing, NY" 11367 
Mr. Zerach Greenfield 718-263-6445

502 "National Ramah Commission, Inc." 3080 Broadway 
"New York, NY" 10027 Mr. Jeffrey Goodman 212-678-8881

504 Art Judaica 184 Beach 122nd Street "Rockaway Park, NY" 11694 
Mr. Yoav Eckstein 718-318-5874

505 Edwin C. Balis & Associates 510 McKean Avenue "Donora, PA" 15033 Mr. Edwin C. Balis 412-351-3222

506 Church Mutual Insurance Company 3000 Schuster Lane "Merrill, WI" 54452 Mr. Rick Schaber 715-539-4587

507 Project Genesis-Torah.Org./TeamGenesis.com "17 Warren Road,
Suite 2B" "Baltimore, MD" 21208 Rabbi Yaakov Menken 
410-602-1350

508 Peggy Davis Calligraphy 389 Adamsville Road "Colrain, MA" 01340 Ms. Peggy Davis 413-624-3204

509 Oaktree Software 498 Palm Springs Drive "Altamonte Springs, FL" 32701 Ms. Kristen Lindoff 877-339-5855

510 "The Aleph Group, Inc." 2 Ivory Crest Ct. "Baltimore, MD" 21209 
Mr. P. Michael Meyerstein 410-484-2373

511 Ophir Meira Collection "1641 3rd Avenue, #3A" "New York, NY" 10128 Ohpir Meira 212-860-7935

"512, 514" Micheal Gore Studios 8626 East Prairie Road "Skookie, IL" 60076 Mr. Michael Gore 847-673-4457

513 Judaicrafts 1447 40th Street "Brooklyn, NY" 11218 
Tobi Vogel 718-436-0744

515 Israeli Poster Center 29 King George Street Jerusalem ISRAEL 
Mr. Eli Zarini 972-2-6240042

517 Sofer on Site 18101 NE 10th Avenue "N. Miami Beach, FL" 33162 Rabbi Moshe Druin 305-770-3481

518 Gold of Jerusalem Cardo #7 "Old City, Jewish Qtr. Jerusalem" ISRAEL Mr. Nathan Solomon 972-26284044

"522, 524, 526" UAHC Book & Music Store 633 3rd Avenue 
"New York, NY" 10017 Mr. Stuart L. Benick 212-650-4125

600 "Levin/Brown & Associates, Inc." 15 Greenspring Valley Road 
"Owings Mills, MD" 21117 Mr. Jay Brown 410-581-0104

601 Michael Landau Associates "20 Nassau Street, Suite 99" 
"Princeton, NJ" 08542 Michael Landau 609-497-0932

602 Richard Bitterman 1701 West Chase Avenue "Chicago, IL" 60626 
Mr. Richard Bitterman 773-743-1511

603 Judaism.com 2028 Murray Avenue "Pittsburgh, PA" 15217 
Mr. Brad Perleman 412-421-5175

604 "Development Consultants, Inc." 295 Northern Blvd. 
"Great Neck, NY" 11021 Mr. Milton A. Shorr 516-829-1817

605 J. Levine Co. 5 West 30th Street "New York, NY" 10001 
Mr. Dan Levine 212-695-6888

606 Schreiber Publishing 51 Monroe Street "Rockville, MD" 20850 
Mr. Mordecai Schreiber 301-424-7737

607 Alexander Gorlin Architects 137 Varick Street "New York, NY" 10013 Mr. Alexander Gorlin 212-229-1199

608 Keter Quality Judaica 3720 14th Avenue "Brooklyn, NY" 11218 
Mr. Yehuda Cohen 718-436-6598

609 BabagaNewz 11141 Georgia Avenue "Wheaton, MD" 20902 
Ms. Shelley Finger 301-962-9636

610 Twist & Shout Inovative Editorial Design Services 143 Ogden Avenue "Swarthmore, PA" 19081 Ms. Amy Pollack 610-543-5431

611 "The Jewish Institute for Youth and Family, Inc." 1618
Waters Edge Lane "Reston, VA" 20190 
Mr. William Berkson 708-471-5344

612 "EHL Consulting Broup, Inc." "2300 Computer Road, Ste D18" 
"Willow Grove, PA" 19090 Ms. Alison Levy 

613 Jewish Education Solutions 808 Wingfoote Road "El Paso, TX" 79912 Ms. Cheryl Gordon 915-204-8054

614 Steve Henry Woodcraft/The Sukkah Project 4 Pine Tree Lane
 "Chapel Hill, NC" 27514 Mr. Steve Herman 919-489-7325

617 Rachel Gera 9 Mazal Dagim Old City Jaffa 68036 ISRAEL 
Ms. Rachel Gera 972-3-6829613

618 Silver Mind "1947 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way" "Berkeley, CA" 94704 Erez Epshtein 510-704-8618

622 Y.SH. Ghatan and Sons 8 King David Street "Jerusalem, 94101" ISRAEL Mr. Yedidia Ghatan 972-2-6234864

624 Sea of Life 1704 Franklin Blvd. "Linwood, NJ" 08221 
Mr. Bernie Cohen 609-927-2786

626 Yossi Matityahu Judaica Fine Arts Kiryat Yahrim 14 Givat Zeev 90917 ISRAEL Mr. Yossi Matityahu 972-2-6425017

700 Irene Helitzer's Midrash Pottery 72 DuBois Avenue "Sea Cliff, NY" 11579 Ms. Irene Helitzer 516-676-1056

701 Abrams Travel 2909 Friendlywood Way "Burtonsville, MD" 
20866 
Ms. Lila B. Abrams 301-384-4660

702 Art at the Center 1125 College Avenue "Columbus, OH" 43209 
Ms. Betty Klapper 614-237-5223

703 "Felson Insurance Services, Inc." 3155 Route 10 "Denville, NJ" 07834 Ms. Sandy Felson 973-361-1901

704 "CyberTropes, Inc." PO Box 1648 "Fairfield, CT" 06432 
Jackie Eskin 888-CHANT-80

705 "F & J Studios, Inc." 206 DeForest Road "Syracuse, NY" 13214 
Ms. Fay Rutner 315-682-4835

706 Mark Novak & Renee Brachfeld Stories & Songs from the Jewish Tradition 4108 Military Road NW "Washington, DC" 20015 
Mr. Mark Novak 202-362-3270

707 "Jewish Contemporary Classics, Inc." 600 Palisade Avenue 
"Englewood, NJ" 07632 Mr. Ben Dworkin 201-816-0926

708 El Al Israel Airlanes 120 W. 45th Street "New York, NY" 10036 
Ms. Mary J. Kleckner 212-852-0630

"709,711,808,810" "Oxman Studios, Inc." 110 South Brook Lane 
"Bethesda, MD" 20814 Mrs. Jenna Oxman 301-656-5032

710 Chana Cromer Judaica Textiles Rechov Dan 19 "Jerusalem, 93509" ISRAEL Ms. Chana Cromer 972-2-6733255

712 The Studio in Old Jaffa 18 Mazal Dagim Lane Old Jaffa 
ISRAEL 
Rachel Shaw/Alan Baker 972-3-6835992

715 Tova Embroidery PO Box 671 "Long Beach, NY" 11561 
Mr. Solomon 972-3-6741847

716 The Jerusalem Scribe PO Box 28145 
"Jerusalem, 91280" ISRAEL Rabbi Rakiva Garber 
972-2-5373735

800 "Unlimited Software, Inc." 6925 SW 65th Avenue 
"South Miami, FL" 33143 Ms. Norman Pollack 305-667-0253

801 REEVA's 'ritings with Ruach 253 Sunset Park Drive 
"Herndon, VA" 20170 Ms. Reeva Shaffer 703-467-9700

802 "Ascalon Studio, Inc." 115 Atlantic Avenue "Berlin, NJ" 08009 
Mr. Fred Kurtz 856-768-3779

803 "Shabbat-To-Go, Inc" 2501 Westmoreland Drive "Greensboro, NC" 27408 Ms. Catherine Magid 336-288-9220

804 Davka Corporation 7074 W. Western Avenue "Chicago, IL" 60645 
Ms. Susan Schwartz 773-465-4070

805 Judaic Art Kits PO Box 10828 "Rochester, NY" 14610 
Mr. Yurron Hackmon 716-654-6213

806 Torah Educational Software 455 Route 306 "Monsey, NY" 10952 
Mr. Peter Pomerantz 845-362-6380

807 OurJewishWedding.com "344 Duppont Street, Suite 402B" 
"Toronto, Ontario M5R 1V9" CANADA Mr. Michael Shapiro 
416-963-9029

809 Mazel Skull Cap Corp. "PO Box 199013, 1052 38th St." 
"Brooklyn, NY" 11219 David & Rivky Biller 718-435-3288

813 Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry PO Box 6429 
"Delray Beach, FL" 33482 Ms. Jody Treiser 561-274-8200x14

814 Total Synagogue Interiors PO Box 671 "Long Beach, NY" 
115612 
Mrs. Rita Abrams 516-889-3950

900 Precious Heirlooms 60 Roseland Avenue "Caldwell, NJ" 07006 
Ms. Renne Savitz 973-226-2447

901 Sanctuary Design 14 Broadway "Malverne, NY" 11565 
Mr. Harold Rabinowitz 516-599-3173

902 Blue & White PO Box 2619 "Quincy, MA" 02269 
Mr. Yehuda Vishny 781-828-3859

903 Broder's Rare & Used Books 205 Columbia Blvd. "Waterbury, CT" 06710 Mr. Gary Broder 203-755-1114

904 Jackie Olenick-Cybershuk.com 10580 SW 77th Terrece 
Miami. FL 33173 Ms. Jackie Olenick 305-412-1819

905 The Alban Institute 1470 Wainscott Way "Dayton, OH" 45414 
Mr. Robert Leventhal 937-454-7891

906 barmitzvahbooks.com 23 Holm Crescent "Thornhill, Ontario L3T 5M4" CANADA Mr. Andrew Levstein 905-881-2377

907 Lev Software Inc. 693 Racquet Club Road "Weston, FL" 33326 
Ms. Shira Levy 954-385-1919

908 Shinberg Levinas Architectural Design "4733 Bethesda Avenue,
Suite 550" "Bethesda, MD" 20814  301-352-8550

914 Costal Carvings Judaica PO Box 1821 "North Bend, WA" 98045 
Mr. Gabriel Bass 206-290-9663

920 Mikva Tikva 1360 44th Street "Brooklyn, NY" 11219 
Imanuel Ravad 718-851-4748

1000 Behrman House Publishers 11 Edison Place "Springfield, NJ" 07081 Ms. Terry Kaye 973-379-7200

1002 Jewish Communal Service Association "3300 University Drive,
Suite 627" "Coral Springs, FL" 33065 Mr. Brian Silberberg 
800-597-9245

1004 "NETAFIM 55, Ltd." 439 Millburn Avenue "Millburn, NJ" 07041 
Mr. Guy Netef 973-467-0066

1006 Haot 540 W. 51 St. Terrace "Miami Beach, FL" 33140 
Ms. Fran Levy 305-866-6657

USCJ Biennial Convention
October 26-30, 2003
Dallas, Texas
At the Fairmont Hotel


Pray Together
Learn Together
Discuss Challenges & Concerns
Exchange Ideas
Cantor's Concert
Kosher Barbecue at a local ranch
Pre-convention Shabbaton
(hosted by Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas, Texas)

Teacher/Scholars to include: 

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson
Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

Rabbi Elliot Dorff
Rector of the University of Judaism

William LeBeau
Dean of the Rabbinical School
Jewish Theological Seminary


 

 

Beatriz Matos, Director of Sales AV
Ph. 214.720.5289 ? Fax 214.720.5269
bmatos@ps-av.com

USCJ 2003 Audio Cassette Recordings

Printable Order Form

**EMAIL ADDRESS: _________________________________
Qty Sunday ~ October 26, 2003
Total

TAPE #1& 2:

Opening Session
Finding Strength in Judaism in a Challenging World (Rabbi Artson)
Response from an Israeli Perspective (Rabbi Hammer)

Qty Monday ~ October 27, 2003
Total

TAPE #3 & 4:

TRACKS: Large Congregations: Maintaining a Secure But Welcoming Synagogue

  TAPE #5 & 6: TRACKS  
  Conservative Judaism:
Conservative Ideology ~ The Religious Ideological Basis

 
  TAPE #7 & 8: Plenary Session

Recognition of Framework Congregations
USCJ Salutes Our Congregations with Framework for Excellence Synagogue School Programs

 
Qty Tuesday ~ October 28, 2003
Total

TAPE #9 & 10:

TRACKS
Conservative Judaism:
Is Change Treason? (Evolution of Mitzvah in Application But Not in Core Concept or Intent)

  TAPE #11 & 12: Plenary Session,

Discussion on Conservative Judaism's View on Homosexuality

 
Qty Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Total

TAPE #13 & 14:

TRACKS
Programming: Fundraising

  TAPE #15 & 16: TRACKS
Conservative Judaism:
Life Decisions (Bio Medical Ethics and Related)

 
  TAPE #17 &18: Plenary Session
 
  Lay Kodesh - K'lay Kodesh: Expectations & Needs for Fulfillment

 
Qty Thursday, October 30, 2003
Total
 
TAPE #19 & 20:

"Should I Close the Door?"

Confronting Issues of Harassment and Abuse
 
 

Product Description Price      

Individual Audio Tapes

Any 8 Audio Tapes ($9.50 each)

Any 20 Audio Tapes ($8.50 each)

$

$

$

10.00

76.00

17.00




* * * Ordering Instructions - Each tape = $10/ Each Session = $20 * * *
  • ALL PRICES INCLUDE POSTAGE & HANDLING
    ORDERS MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY FULL PAYMENT
  • ORDERS WILL BE TAKEN THROUGH 12 /31 / 03
  • ALLOW 2 WEEKS FOR DELIVERY
  • AFTER 1 / 4/ 04, CONTACT USCJ @ 212-533-7800 x2618
 
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The Fairmont Hotel
1717 N. Akard
Dallas, TX 75201
214/720-5269 (Fax)
214/720-5289 (Phone)

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United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
2003 biennial convention

daily reporter

Fairmont Hotel  BD14582_ Dallas, Texas
October 26-30, 2003 

 

 

Editor: Lois Goldrich             Associate Editors: Arlyne Bochnek & Richard Lederman

Be sure to check signs and television monitors for room changes throughout the day.
Remember: departure for the Circle R Ranch is between 6:30 and 6:45.
Be on time.
Look for the Hebrew -Speaking Only table at dinner on Tuesday night. Details to follow.

 

artsonNow that Convention Chair Allan Wegman has officially welcomed us all, we can get down to business. As Allan pointed out, “We will look inward and outward, at the outside world and at ourselves, and we will do it together, as part of a cohesive, committed group.”

Congratulations to Rabbi Reuven Hammer, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, who led the pre-Convention Torah Institute. Rabbi Hammer is the author of Or Hadash, a commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom. The Institute focused on the study of prayer. Said Rabbi Hammer: “Prayer has to be understood and studied carefully if it is to have meaning in our lives.”

Opening Plenary

Former USCJ President Jacob Stein introduced the speakers at the Sunday evening plenary session. Bringing greetings from NAASE, Bob Hill said that the organization is proud to be partners with the United Synagogue in the holy work of strengthening our synagogues. USCJ President Judy Yudof welcomed delegates and urged them to go back and share with their congregations what they learn at Convention.

Addressing the topic “Finding Strength in Judaism in a Challenging World,” Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, cited several challenges facing our community. These include

(l) rampant consumerism, threatening to overwhelm our moral values and leading to a spiritual barrenness; (2) radical autonomy in which people think only of themselves, ultimately leading to a radical isolation and loneliness; and (3) indifference to others, caused by a hardening of our hearts so that we need not deal with the humanity of others.

To overcome these challenges, we must reaffirm the traditional posture of Judaism, which holds that (l) We are a manifestation of the Divine; (2) The world is a purposeful creation, and God gave us a role to play in its continual unfolding; (3) God’s love is manifest in the gift of the Torah; (4) God’s love has been given to the entire Jewish people; and (5) We are “visitors” here – our true home is spiritual.

Said Rabbi Artson: “Let us recommit ourselves to a life of the heart, mind and soul in the service of God.

hammerProviding “An Israeli Perspective,” Rabbi Reuven Hammer said that the greatest need in Israel today (after peace) is for Judaism. The problem there is not a decline in the number of Masorti Jews, which is actually increasing, but rather the decline of Judaism within the Jewish State. He stated that religion in Israelhas become the property of a small percentage of the population. The average Israeli sees only religious coercion, messianism or extremism.

In North America, the synagogue is the center of the Jewish comunity. In Israel, it is an “alien environment.” In , the rabbi is a central religious leader; in Israelhe is perceived as a religious functionary. Here, religious identification is primary. In Israel, nationalism is primary.

The challenge of the Masorti Movement, he said, is to try to offer an alternative interpretation of Judaism. The Movement’s primary task is to reach out to the vast majority of Israelis and offer them a Judaism that will enhance their lives. Rabbi Hammer noted that the Leadership Council for Conservative Judaism has passed a resolution stating that all the arms of the Conservative Movement should support Masorti in this effort.

Getting on Track

Tomorrow we once again undertake a unique exercise in synagogue empowerment -- the United Synagogue Track/Mini-Course Program. From Monday through Wednesday, each delegate may participate in training sessions in the following areas: Synagogue Presidents, Large Congregations, Synagogue Programming, Worship & Liturgy, Synagogue Management and Financial Issues, and Conservative Judaism.

In tomorrow’s Reporter we will take a closer look at some of these sessions.

 

Issue No. 1
Sunday, October 26

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

2003 BIENNIAL CONVENTION
DAILY REPORTER

Fairmont Hotel
Dallas, Texas
October 26-30, 2003
Editor: Lois Goldrich
Associate Editors: Arlyne Bochnek & Richard Lederman
Announcements

Be sure to check signs and television monitors for room changes throughout the day.

Remember: departure for the Circle R Ranch is between 6:30 and 6:45. Be on time.

Look for the Hebrew -Speaking Only table at dinner on Tuesday night. Details to follow.


Now that Convention Chair Allan Wegman has officially welcomed us all, we can get down to business. As Allan pointed out, "We will look inward and outward, at the outside world and at ourselves, and we will do it together, as part of a cohesive, committed group."

Congratulations to Rabbi Reuven Hammer, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, who led the pre-Convention Torah Institute. Rabbi Hammer is the author of Or Hadash, a commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom. The Institute focused on the study of prayer. Said Rabbi Hammer: "Prayer has to be understood and studied carefully if it is to have meaning in our lives."

Opening Plenary

Former USCJ President Jacob Stein introduced the speakers at the Sunday evening plenary session. Bringing greetings from NAASE, Bob Hill said that the organization is proud to be partners with the United Synagogue in the holy work of strengthening our synagogues. USCJ President Judy Yudof welcomed delegates and urged them to go back and share with their congregations what they learn at Convention.

Addressing the topic "Finding Strength in Judaism in a Challenging World," Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, cited several challenges facing our community. These include (l) rampant consumerism, threatening to overwhelm our moral values and leading to a spiritual barrenness; (2) radical autonomy in which people think only of themselves, ultimately leading to a radical isolation and loneliness; and (3) indifference to others, caused by a hardening of our hearts so that we need not deal with the humanity of others.

To overcome these challenges, we must reaffirm the traditional posture of Judaism, which holds that (l) We are a manifestation of the Divine; (2) The world is a purposeful creation, and God gave us a role to play in its continual unfolding; (3) God's love is manifest in the gift of the Torah; (4) God's love has been given to the entire Jewish people; and (5) We are "visitors" here - our true home is spiritual.

Said Rabbi Artson: "Let us recommit ourselves to a life of the heart, mind and soul in the service of God.


Providing "An Israeli Perspective," Rabbi Reuven Hammer said that the greatest need in Israel today (after peace) is for Judaism. The problem there is not a decline in the number of Masorti Jews, which is actually increasing, but rather the decline of Judaism within the Jewish State. He stated that religion in Israel has become the property of a small percentage of the population. The average Israeli sees only religious coercion, messianism or extremism.


In North America, the synagogue is the center of the Jewish community. In Israel, it is an "alien environment." In North America, the rabbi is a central religious leader; in Israel he is perceived as a religious functionary. Here, religious identification is primary. In Israel, nationalism is primary.

The challenge of the Masorti Movement, he said, is to try to offer an alternative interpretation of Judaism. The Movement's primary task is to reach out to the vast majority of Israelis and offer them a Judaism that will enhance their lives. Rabbi Hammer noted that the Leadership Council for Conservative Judaism has passed a resolution stating that all the arms of the Conservative Movement should support Masorti in this effort.

Getting on Track

Tomorrow we once again undertake a unique exercise in synagogue empowerment -- the United Synagogue Track/Mini-Course Program. From Monday through Wednesday, each delegate may participate in training sessions in the following areas: Synagogue Presidents, Large Congregations, Synagogue Programming, Worship & Liturgy, Synagogue Management and Financial Issues, and Conservative Judaism.

In tomorrow's Reporter we will take a closer look at some of these sessions.

 
Issue No. 2
Monday, October 27

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

2003 BIENNIAL CONVENTION
DAILY REPORTER

Fairmont Hotel
Dallas, Texas
October 26-30, 2003
Editor: Lois Goldrich
Associate Editors: Arlyne Bochnek & Richard Lederman
Announcements

Have you lost your appointment book? Check the Convention Office.

Tuesday Room Changes:

  • Florentine room sessions moved to Garden Room
  • Pavillion sessions moved to Venetian Room
  • French Room session moved to Patio

Delegates interested in ordering tapes of selected Convention sessions should pick up an order form from the Convention office.


Yasher Koah to Gloria Cohen, President of Women's League for Conservative Judaism, who delivered this morning's Dvar Torah to mark Rosh Hodesh Heshvan. She stated that in recent years the new moon celebration has connected women to those who came before through modern expressions such as study and projects of gemilut hasadim. Ms. Cohen spoke about the attributes of the third President of Women's League, Dora Spiegel, who remained President for 16 years. She was born on 26 Heshvan 5639 (1879) and was a "trailblazer." Some of the initiatives she started are still of major importance today, including Torah Fund, the JTS dormitory project and scholarship fund, and Outlook Magazine. Ms. Cohen paid tribute to Dora Spiegel for her legacy, vision and wisdom.

On Track

At the Limud Session of the Large Congregations Track, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector of the University of Judaism, spoke on unity and diversity within the Jewish community. Rabbi Dorff pointed to sources suggesting that God intended us to understand Torah in multiple ways. While it might be "easier" if everything was "neat and clean," this allows no possibility for growth and change, nor does it accord with reality. We should be comforted by the fact that different views may be accommodated since they are all the word of the living God. Regarding the limits of pluralism, he noted that arguments must be for the sake of heaven and they must be based on our Torah, not on the sacred text of another religion. The speaker also noted that we need people to make decisions, even if the merits of a particular argument are not on their side in any one case. Finally, Jewish tradition itself limits those who have a share in the world to come (i.e., it excludes apostates).

The Conservative Judaism Track focused on Conservative Ideology. Rabbi Jonathan Waxman of Congregation Beth El in Massapequa, NY, and USCJ past president Jack Stein of Temple Israel in Great Neck, New York, both cited Emet ve-Emunah, the Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism, as their point of departure for the discussion. Rabbi Waxman noted continuing challenges faced by Conservative Jews as we struggle with theology, revelation and the place of Israel in our North American community, which affirms the "bi-polarity of the Jewish people" -- the continued relevance and importance of Diaspora Jewry. Since the publication of Emet ve-Emunah, he said, "we have more aggressively confronted the possibilities of change and more honestly recognized our internal diversity." Noting the USCJ's struggle to be a part of the commission that developed Emet ve-Emunah, Jack Stein implored the delegates to build a strong lay congregational movement to address pressing issues such as halakhic responses to homosexuality and intermarriage.

In the Presidents Track Rabbi William Lebeau, Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, discussed the importance of the congregational president as a leader and builder of community. He challenged presidents to invite their community into the debate on how a Conservative Jew should live. Under the guidance of Rabbi Moshe Edelman, Director of USCJ's Department of Leadership Development, delegates discussed the dispute between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai and its implications for synagogue leadership. Using the expression "You light up my life," Rabbi Edelman introduced a "candle campaign" designed to increase congregants' understanding of the meaning of light in our tradition and the notion that our souls are God's candle.

Plenary Session

In a segment devoted to the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism in Jerusalem, Debbie Israel Dubin from Brith Shalom in Bellaire, TX, spoke glowingly of her experience at the Conservative Yeshiva during the summer of 2002. Noting the numbers of young members of our Conservative congregations studying at Orthodox yeshivot in Israel, she urged delegates to encourage college graduates, retirees, people on Federation missions or anyone simply visiting Israel to experience the myriad opportunities available at the Center. "Fill Jerusalem with Conservative Jews studying in our Conservative Yeshiva," she implored.

Resolutions

The following are some of the resolutions passed at today's session. A complete summary will appear in the United Synagogue Review.

A resolution on "Confronting and Combating Poverty in the United States" reaffirmed the USCJ's commitment to fighting poverty. It called on the organization to assure our government's efforts to fight poverty and encouraged our congregations to join that fight.

A resolution to support the House version of the State Department Authorization bill (H.R. 1950) that relates to the Magen David Adom Societies' full participation in the International al Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement passed unanimously. A resolution supporting Stem Cell Research and Education, based on the recent teshuvah written by Rabbi Elliot Dorff and approved by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, was passed unanimously.

Resolutions were passed calling for support of American and allied troops in Iraq and calling on governments around the world to act against anti-Semitism.

From Our Workshops

Lunchtime workshops featured sessions ranging from accessibility to marketing. In her session on Marketing, Lois Goldrich told delegates that marketing must be treated as a "campaign" - not as a one-shot effort. It includes everything you do, from how you talk on the phone to what your synagogue speaks out about, from what kinds of publications and website you offer to whether you offer babysitting during programs. In discussing the purpose of marketing, she noted that we use it to get our message out, to let people know that we exist and to give them some basic, positive information about ourselves. She stressed that we have some pretty talented synagogue members - including writers, editors, webmasters, videographers, photographers, etc. We need to take advantage of what they have to offer and to remember that happy members are our most effective sales force.

Afternoon Session

USCJ Education Consultant Wendy Light spoke of the success of the Framework for Excellence program for synagogue schools. Awards were then presented to representatives of schools "in Framework." A full list of "Framework" congregations can be found on our website, www.uscj.org

Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, spoke on "The Unique Role of the Conservative Synagogue."

Noting the decline in the percentage of synagogue members who belong to Conservative congregations as reported in the recent National Jewish Population Survey, Chancellor Schorsch urged delegates to use the report as an impetus toward self-reflection and strategic thinking. The decline cannot be attributed to what has been described as ideological murkiness, since "ideology rarely moves the masses." The decline is at least partially due to the fact that the Conservative Movement, unlike the Reform Movement, is failing to "seed" new congregations in areas to which Jews are migrating. He urged the USCJ to devote significantly more funds, energy and strategic planning to this effort.


According to the Chancellor, the Conservative Movement is experiencing tremendous growth in the area of Jewish education. As the NJPS indicates, fully 29% of all Jews ages 6-24 have attended day schools at some point in their education, and, according to Schorsch, 25% of those students are from Conservative congregations.

"These younger Conservative Jews are the best educated Conservative Jews ever," the Chancellor said, "and we are failing to capture the products of serious Jewish education." He pointed out many that graduates of USY, Camp Ramah and Schechter Day Schools eventually gravitate to the Orthodox Movement, calling it "a tragedy for the Conservative Movement."

Chancellor Schorsh maintained that the Conservative Movement must capitalize on its success in education by providing serious programming for serious Jews. He called upon large congregations to diversify their worship experience, providing opportunities for more participation within a traditional Jewish prayer service. "We've cut the Torah reading and lengthened the service," the Chancellor noted. "Shorten the service by reading the whole parasha."

Chancellor Schorsch maintained the need to build authentic Shabbat communities by encouraging congregants to live near the synagogue. His call for a refocusing on community ended with a reference to the holiday of Hoshana Rabba, which, following the individual introspection of Yom Kippur, asks us to redirect our attention to the community.

In response to the Chancellor's comments, Rabbi David Ackerman of Tiferet Bet Israel, Blue Bell, PA, commented that we as a Movement need to stop apologizing for what we believe. He stated that he grew up on "tradition and change" and is a product of USY, Ramah, and KOACH. In his lifetime, he has been a member of four Conservative congregations which he described as being full of "options." In response to the recent Jewish Population study, Rabbi Ackerman conducted a small survey of his own, using rabbinic colleagues and friends. The key words that they used to describe the unique qualities of their congregations were "balance, standards, commitment, traditional, egalitarian, parameters, flexibility, middle ground and no pat answers." Rabbi Ackerman suggested that Conservative congregants "enjoy the paradox of the center." He also noted that there are "not enough rabbis out there" and we need to do more outreach. He believes that we can draw in interfaith couples "without sacrificing standards." He also noted that our institutions are "too institutional." We need our synagogues to be more personal and more persuasive.

Respondent Roz Judd, USCJ Vice President from Temple Israel, Albany, NY, commented that the Conservative Movement, although halakhic, "bridges the gap between what is and what should be." She also noted that we as a Movement should have "shuls of excellence" not just "schools of excellence." She pointed out that there are "multiple ports of entry" and that each entry moves congregants up the ladder of observance. Ms. Judd commented on the many Conservative Movement success stories such as Perek Yomi and Mishna Yomit, Project Reconnect, KOACH, HAZAK, the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center and the Conservative Yeshiva. She mentioned that she "understands the void that our kids feel when they return home from Pilgrimage and Ramah." The kids need a place where they feel welcome to daven in a meaningful way. She talked about the role of the Conservative synagogue, calling it a place to "observe, learn, be ethical, and lead us higher and higher in our paths."

Evening Program

Food, dancing, songs around a campfire… Delegates enjoyed a traditional down-home Texas kosher barbecue at the Circle R Ranch. Yee-haw!

 

 
Issue No.
Tuesday, October 28

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

2003 BIENNIAL CONVENTION
DAILY REPORTER

Fairmont Hotel
Dallas, Texas
October 26-30, 2003
Editor: Lois Goldrich
Associate Editors: Arlyne Bochnek & Richard Lederman
Announcements

Delegates interested in purchasing audiocassettes of selected Convention sessions should visit the Business Office on the Lobby Level.

The Business Office will also be happy to ship your packages home for a nominal fee.


Morning Session

Congratulations to the congregations whose excellent programs were recognized through the presentation of Solomon Schechter Awards. A complete list of winners appears in the awards booklet "In Pursuit of Excellence" and will also appear on the USCJ website (www.uscj.org).

Report of the Executive Vice-President

Rabbi Jerome Epstein spoke on the importance of halakhah in Conservative Judaism. He said that we need to do the following:

  1. Educate Conservative Jews as to the importance of Halakhah. Ignoring the subject because they find it irrelevant is not an answer. We must create the language that will let them hear the message.
  2. Challenge congregants to commit their lives to a structure established by an external force: Halakhah and mitzvot. If we really expect people to modify their lives, it is our responsibility to demonstrate how that change will enrich their relationship with God.
  3. Develop the tools to impassion Conservative Jews to stretch their souls and choose a life of Halakhah. Without convincing Conservative Jews that their own personal commitment to Halakhah will make a positive difference, we will never create communities where Halakhah and Mitzvot are taken seriously.
  4. Reorient Conservative Jews towards "community." What Halakhah conveys is: "You are important, but you are not the center." We must, therefore, re-establish links between the individual and the community. It is when the Jew experiences the power of relationships with others that he/she will choose to submit to community norms.
  5. Make this task a long-term responsibility. No matter what strategies we employ, there will not be instant success. What is required is persistence.

Rabbi Epstein concluded by announcing the formation of a new commission of rabbis, educators and laity to coordinate the creation and utilization of appropriate tools to effectively stimulate our constituency to grow in their commitment to living the evolving Halakhah.

On Track

The Worship & Liturgy Track featured the topic "Themes in the Tefilla." Rabbi William Lebeau, Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Rabbinical School at JTS, insisted that prayer has the power to allow us to change the world. The Shaharit service, Lebeau explained, begins with a perception of the way in which the universe operates by means of every creature and every feature of creation performing its innate, divinely ordained function. Humans, on the other hand, have free will, but by choosing to accept the yoke of God's kingdom, we sanctify God's name by doing our jobs [and] by following God's instruction -- which we choose to follow.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies distinguished personal prayer, prayer that is recited on one's "own time," from liturgical prayer, which is required. The former requires kavanah, while the latter does not, since the worshipper is simply fulfilling a requirement. However, taking the Amidah as illustrative of the nature of Jewish prayer, Artson insisted that the Amidah must be recited with the understanding that we are standing with the angels in heaven in the presence of God, the King. Decrying those who insist that certain prayers do not "speak to them," Artson maintained that it's not meant to. "You are representing the Jewish people addressing the creator of the universe," he insisted.

The session ended with a demonstration of a creative, interactive Selihot service presented by Hazzan Jeremy Lipton of Beth Am, Los Angeles.

During Tuesday's Synagogue Management and Finance Track, Allan Teplinsky, immediate past president of the Pacific Southwest Region, spoke on strategic planning. He suggested that congregations engaged in this process form a broad-based group of people; create consensus on the needed elements of a plan; survey the congregation - its history, feelings, data and priorities; prioritize identified goals; create action plans/strategies; and build a marketing plan. This will take one to two years and should be a continuous, ongoing element in the congregation.

In the Conservative Judaism Track, Rabbi Joel Roth spoke on Conservative Judaism and Halakhic Change. Dr. Roth articulated his understanding of the Conservative Movement's commitment to halakhah and the way it makes change. He began by putting forth four principles:

  1. The defining characteristic of Conservative Judaism is a commitment to be bound by halakhah, Jewish law, on a personal and communal level.
  2. Jewish law is an authority based system. It is the rabbis, based on their learning, who hold this authority. He went on to explain that it has always been the case that not all rabbis were experts in decision making, but they had the authority to make decisions for their community and deferred to greater authorities on difficult matters.
  3. In its understanding that halakhah has changed over time and that their can be differences both over time and at any one time over the interpretation and decisions about halakhah, the Conservative Movement is historically correct. There has always been halakhic pluralism. Decisions can and will be different and multiple. Different practices are legitimate within the Conservative Movement providing that people behave according to the decision of their own rabbi or a decision of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.
  4. . Jewish law is evolutionary. Over time, the Jewish law is different. All legal systems must evolve. It is a system that has within it, as do all legal systems, its own rules for how law can change. The process of change must adhere to those principles or the change is not legitimate.

Council of Regional Presidents

Congratulations to Joe Gruber, immediate past president of the Northern California Region, who was elected to serve as Chairman of the Council of Regional Presidents. The Council is one of our most important assets, consisting of current, immediate past, and presidents-elect of our 15 regions. We thank outgoing chairman Dr. Ray Goldstein of Minnesota for his committed and innovative leadership.

Afternoon Session

Delegates were treated to stimulating presentations by Rabbis Joel Roth and Elliot Dorff on the topic "Halakhic Views on Homosexuality."

Rabbi Dorff began by placing his views in a personal context, noting that he first began learning about the issue in 1973, when asked to speak with a high school student who was a committed Jew but felt "condemned" by the Jewish community because he was gay. In later years, Rabbi Dorff served on an AIDS project in Los Angeles. He suggested that the issue of homosexuality may be somewhat generational since youngsters have more contact with people who are openly gay. After citing Leviticus, which describes homosexuality as an "abomination," he suggested that this is not a black and white statement since the same word is used for idolatry, eating nonkosher food, and dishonesty in business. According to Rabbi Dorff, we have both moral and medical reasons for changing the law and permitting some kind of commitment ceremony. Medically, we are obligated to take care of our bodies, and AIDS remains a lethal disease. Being involved in a monogamous relationship may help reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.

Morally, a monogamous relationship encourages people to take responsibility for one another. He would want such relationships to be based on Jewish values and take into account the importance of procreation, whether through adoption, the use of surrogates, or artificial insemination. This will help replenish the Jewish population, which is shrinking. Rabbi Dorff cited a new research study suggesting that one's sexual identify is "hard wired" and determined by genetics. He said that Jewish tradition does not want us to suppress our urges but rather channel them into legitimate forms of expression.

Rabbi Roth stated that the Conservative Movement is a halakhic movement, recognizing the halakhic system as binding and authoritative upon us, individually and collectively. "If we are not that," he said, "we should close up shop and admit that our Movement has no claim to normative Jewish authenticity and, therefore, no good reason to exist." The fact that a view is politically correct does not make it ipso facto halakhically correct. We recognize the legitimacy of innovation and change only when and if our decisions can be justified and defended from within the parameters of the halakhic system itself."

In the former, he said, he was "heralded as a hero by many," and in the latter, "he was demonized."


Said Rabbi Roth: "I affirm to you today that I undertook my research and analysis of both issues with a predisposition to say yes. What distinguishes my two decisions on these subjects is very simple: about the ordination of women I believe that there is good halakhic justification for change in established precedent, and about the status of homosexuality there is not. I saw, and continue to see, no way to say yes to the latter without so vitiating the texts of the tradition that to do so would destroy the integrity of the very legal system which stands as the unassailable foundation of our Movement."

Rabbi Roth stated: "The halakhic system, to the best of my ability to understand it, demands of gay Jews to be celibate, and that is a demand made only of agunot in addition to them. The halakhic system does not and cannot command gay Jews not to have homosexual attractions, but it does insist that they not act on these attractions. Let nobody in this room think for one minute that I believe it is easy to comply with this demand."

Evening Program

Thank you to the wonderful cantors (listed in the Convention program) who treated us to a sparkling concert - after which we enjoyed a sumptuous dessert reception!

 

Issue No. 4
Wednesday, October 29

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

2003 BIENNIAL CONVENTION
DAILY REPORTER

Fairmont Hotel
Dallas, Texas
October 26-30, 2003
Editor: Lois Goldrich
Associate Editors: Arlyne Bochnek & Richard Lederman
Announcements

There will be no Convention Reporter on Thursday. A report onthe morning plenary session will appear in the United Synagogue Review.

On Track

Synagogue Presidents studied the topic “Functioning with a Vision as a Leader.” Rabbi Samuel Barth of Agudas Achim in Austin, TX, taught the halakhah of the shaliah tsibbur, demonstrating the manner in which these rules pertain to issues of leadership. He spoke about the dialectic through which the issues of money and power on the one hand, and humility and “shatteredness” on the other, interweave.

Robert Leventhal of the Alban Institute then presented his perspective on the need for “visioning” among synagogue leaders. Indicating the tension between vision vs. management, Leventhal noted that the complexity of the modern synagogue requires more focus on vision and leadership. “Change means we have to know where we’re going,” he maintained.

Leventhal insisted on the need for new leadership as part of the visioning process, as well as the need to break down traditional hierarchies to create a “flattened” hierarchy, with more emphasis on a team approach. He also urged congregational leaders to concentrate on “gifted leadership” by looking for individual strengths and moving people into positions where they can make use of these strengths.

From Our Workshops

In a workshop entitled “You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Know,” Serene Victor discussed what it takes to be an effective teacher. She stated that when things don’t go well in schools and children are not learning well enough, the public blames and scapegoats teachers. Teachers are the key to successful student learning and they need professional development. The speaker said that schools can change in three ways: (l)Structurally, (2) Through curriculum, and (3) By developing the teacher. She noted that Hebrew School teachers are not always professional educators and yet they take on the sacred task of educating children and the next generation of teachers.  We owe them kavod and recognition, but also the opportunity to improve.

What can the synagogue do to support the teacher’s learning? Teachers can be helped and supported to acquire the knowledge that they need to master.  The process is ongoing and continuous. One critical strategy is interaction with other colleagues in professional contexts. Another is learning from one’s own experience through reflection and conversations and from the literature on exemplary practices – learning in and from practice. This will take vision, money, time, and leadership with needed skill sets.

In the session “USY As A Vehicle For Integrating Teenagers Into The Congregation,”Josh Nason, President of SWUSY (Southwest USY), stated that the most important thing a synagogue can do for its USYers is to support them. He believes that the synagogue has a vested interest in its chapter and should provide its teens with the following support: Scholarship funds to attend conventions, a place to hold meetings and events, a working youth commission, and publicity including announcement space in the synagogue bulletin. Josh stated that adults need to show their USYers that they too have a place in the synagogue. When USYers return from a USY convention as well as summer programs, they should be invited to speak from the bimah about their experiences. Bob Sunshine, co-chairman of the National Youth Commission, stated that a key element of a successful synagogue youth program is getting parents on board. USY has created a CD ROM to show prospective parents the benefits of having their children join Kadima.The CD can be used to educate parents of pre- bar/ bat mitzvah students and shows that Kadima/ USY programs are essential to their child’s Jewish education.

Congratulations|
Mazal tov to Judy Yudof, re-elected as International President at today’s Business Session, together with officers Jay Wiston (Treasurer), Dr. Bruce Littman (Secretary) and Gary Rosenthal (Financial Secretary). Also at the Business Session, delegates voted to pass the Bylaw amendment as proposed by the Board of Directors in September. The session concluded with the presentation of awards to staff members who have achieved milestones in regard to years of service.

Afternoon Session
Delegates heard International USY President David Goldberg deliver greetings to the Convention (via telephone from Jerusalem, where he is participating in the NATIV program).

This was followed by a panel discussion on lay-clergy relations, particularly as regards expectations and needs for fulfillment.

Rabbi Mordecai Miller of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel in St. Louis stated that expectations carry a lot of weight. Part of being a happy person is discovering reality in order to have realistic expectations. We must move away from petty issues and put things in context. Leadership equals service, not control. We learn from experience, which involves making mistakes. We must know how to gain authority and there must be a careful division of roles.

Norma Berlin, past president of West Suburban Har Zion in Illinois, said she is a big believer in change. When she became president, she recruited younger people to leadership positions and to ensure continuity of leadership. During her tenure the synagogue conducted a series of focus groups with members to ascertain their needs. The leaders then began to implement some of these new ideas. She stated that the best help synagogue professionals can provide is to keep an open mind. In addition, she noted that negativity does not “get results.”  She also urged the congregation to look to past leaders as a resource.

Cantor Jacob Mendelson, President of the Cantors Assembly, noted that even though he is committed to teaching congregants the correct nusah, sometimes you cannot insist on changing a melody, because it may disrupt the congregation’s “comfort zone.” Congregations should choose a hazzan they can trust. There needs to be a coming together of a hazzan who wants to inspire and a kahal that wants to participate.

Steven Markowitz, past president of  Temple Israel in Great Neck, NY, spoke about the process of replacing a retiring rabbi. During the process, the entire congregation met with the search committee. He noted that expectations work both ways. The congregation has to listen to the rabbi’s needs and expectations, which often deal with personal and family concerns.

Rabbi Daniel Pressman of Congregation Beth David in Saratoga, CA, stated that where there are positive lay-clergy relations, congregations succeed. He said that ad hominem attacks should not be tolerated. In addition, boards should be helped to become more effective, since meetings that are run poorly reward the wrong people. Boards can benefit from the knowledge of “best practices.” He pointed out that governance is not management. Roles need to be made clear and explicit and Jewish leaders should operate according to Jewish ethics.

Evening Program

Past President Steve Wolnek began the evening program by paying tribute to two giants of the organization – Simon Schwartz and Harold Kalb – who passed away since the last Convention. Both were dedicated leaders and contributed immeasurably to both the United Synagogue and the entire Jewish community.

Mark Yudof introduced State Senator Florence Shapiro, who spoke about the gains made by women in both the secular and Jewish world.  The role of women continues to expand, as evidenced by the installation of Judy Yudof as president of an international Jewish organization. She stated that we must foster the efforts of women to become role models for the next generation.

Past president Frank Kreutzer discharged outgoing officers and Rabbi Jerome Epstein presented an award to Alan Ades for proficiency in horse shoe pitching, which he displayed at the Circle R Ranch. Mr. Ades then installed the new officers as well as members of the Board and Advisory Council. He called on them to assist President Yudof in fulfilling her duties. A video recorded by US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson wished Judy well and commended her efforts on behalf of the Jewish community.

Rabbi William Gershon of Congregation Shearith Isreal in Dallas delivered the charge to Ms Yudof. He stated that Judy Yudof is known for acting with both decisiveness and creative leadership and noted the presence of Mark Yudof together with Judy and Mark’s children Seth and Samara. He urged President Yudof to have Torah as the focus of her efforts, saying it will guide her and bring holiness to her work.


judyphotoIn her speech, President Yudof stated that she has found the period since February 2002 to be “a very maturing, educational, adventuresome, and sometimes challenging part of my daily life.”   She has especially valued the dialogues and exchanges with regional and synagogue lay leaders, rabbis, cantors, educators, executive directors, and congregants, noting that “each trip is an opportunity to learn something; each trip is an opportunity to promote and share the mission and vision of United Synagogue; each trip is an opportunity to make new friends.”

The president noted that her leadership style is one of inclusion and collaboration in which she’s tried to include a wide range of lay volunteers in the committee structure of United Synagogue. In addition, several task forces and committees were comprised of both staff and laity working as equal partners on behalf of the United Synagogue.

Ms. Yudof stated that she is passionate about how we can build an even stronger and more vibrant Conservative Movement and pointed out that she currently serves as chair of the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism. A tangible example of collaboration with the other arms of the Movement was the publication, earlier this year, of a joint project between the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue, producing a sourcebook entitled "Completely Honest Weights."

She stated: “I hope to devote the second half of my administration to heightening the positive image of United Synagogue and to working in greater collaboration with our affiliated congregations to ensure that the services and programs we provide are, indeed, the same services and programs they need.”

Ms.. Yudof thanked fellow officers Bruce Littman, Secretary; Gary Rosenthal, Financial Secretary; and Jay Wiston, Treasurer. She concluded by thanking all those who volunteer on behalf of the United Synagogue.

 

 


Report from Operation Joshua
The Conservative Mission to Israel
April 28-May 3, 2002

Read below what Mission participants say about their Israel experience!

I just spent four days in Israel on a Mission of Solidarity from the United Synagogue with 25 Rabbis and 15 lay people. We met with residents of the town of Gilo where terrorists have been taking nightly sniper shots across the border from the West Bank, we met with American college students who stayed despite being "ordered" home, we met with members of the Knesset from various branches of the Israeli political

spectrum and Mayors of Haifa, Tel Aviv, Netanya, and Jerusalem who fill out the political spectrum even more, we met IDF soldiers and IDF spokespersons, we met the Minister of Tourism, and an advisor to Ariel Sharon, and got a chance to speak with Shimon Peres.

First, all Israelis needed to hear from me, and others like me, that they are not alone. They need to hear that Jews and others from around the world, but especially Jews, have not abandoned them. They need to hear that we support them and have not forgotten nor forsaken them. The deepest hurt I saw in any Israeli's eyes was the hurt when they

described the fact that Christian tourists are still coming to Israel, but Jewish tourists are too scared!

My friends, I went to Israel to deliver the message by my presence that the people of America stand side-by-side with the people of Israel in the battle against terrorism, and the battle for peace and freedom and human dignity. And, I came back from Israel to deliver the message that the people of Israel need the help of each and every one of us to connect with our human conscience, and our Jewish consciousness (or, perhaps, collective unconsciousness), and to actively seek ways to help.

Ross Goodman
Pensacola, FL

 

 

Since I've been back, people have let me know they're a little surprised I wasn't blown up, they see me back, and they're happy I'm safe. Can they possibly know or believe that I felt more at home and alive there than here. Do they see the way my face lights up when I talk about some of what I saw and did, do they hear and understand how critical our support for Israel is at this juncture? Is there any way that they can see beyond the walls the news cameras have imposed??

 

We visited a Masorti congregation in Kiryat Bialik which is, even as Israel is coping with all of the 'situation' as we know it, organizing groups of Argentinians for immigration, and absorbing at a rate of about 60/year, new immigrants from the disintegrating situation in. Argentina. The Rabbi there, Mauricio Balter, is a very

charismatic leader who commutes back and forth between Kiryat Bialik and Argentina, putting together these kvutzot, communities, having learned that Aliya with friends seems to have a better chance at success, and aliya to a community where there are others who understand your customs can help to smooth the transition. This is a community and Rabbi who are able to look beyond Israel's borders and see that even in times like these, there are others out there who are in worse shape, and need our help, and they are reaching out


In Netanya, across the street from the Park hotel, site of the Passover bombing, there is a vibrant program for new Russian immigrants. Called Shearim, it was started by Professor Ervin Birnbaum in answer to a need for cultural and acculturation programming for new olim from the former soviet union. They have activities ranging from Kabbalat Shabbat to weekly noontime concerts by established musicians to a daily nursery and kindergarten. In one room, they hold all their classes, concerts, activities, and meals, providing a center and home base with Jewish values and culture for these new immigrants struggling for a toehold in Israeli society.

 

 

We have very few chances in our live to truly make a difference. And possibly few opportunities to stand up for our beliefs. A love of the land of Israel is central to our faith. Living in America, we are not in exile, we have chosen not to live in Israel. But that does not absolve us of responsibility for her fate, it does not exempt us from doing what we can to ensure her survival. Right now, Israel's fate is hugely dependent on how much we, Jews living abroad, support her. Not just with our words,

and not even with our money, but by showing up, by being there in person, even if only for a brief visit.

We can stand in defiance of all that we are shown by a narrow, biased media, we can stand up to all the detractors who claim that American Jews are lazy and apathetic, we can stand as one with those we love in Israel, we can go there to learn about and support the Masorti movement, we can spend time (and money) in the stores, and walk in the streets, we can be there.

Rabbi Leah Gavrieli
Pelham, New York

 

 

Nearly fifty rabbis and lay people spent the week in I srael. A bit more than half of us returned this morning (Friday)in time to get back to our shuls for Shabbat. We had a wonderful experience.

Speaking for myself, my first observation is that I have never felt as safe as I did this week

in Israel. That's in part because of the success of the military action, which continues to pay dividends, and in part because many of the American public's fears, while justified, may have been harsher than the reality at times.

 

Both official Israel and the Masorti Movement rolled out the red carpet for us. We heard from three Knesset menbers, three mayors and the US ambassador, among others, and almost had an audience with Arik Sharon. We visited rehabbing terror victims in the hospital and had dinner at the Park hotel in Netanya.

We met our colleague in Gilo and several of his congregants on the front lines. We, of course, visited Machon Schechter and were duly impressed. We also saw some wonderful institutions around the country.

We saw the great work that's being done at our congregation in Kiryat Bialik with Olim - primarily from Argentina. We saw the work that our congregation in Netanya is doing with Russians from pre-school to seniors. They may have the best programmimg for Russian seniors anywhere in the world. Some of us were especially impressed by communities outside Jerusalem that we had known very little about.

Dash hamma miyrushalayim,

Rabbi Judah Kogen
Newington, CT

 

 

"Why did you go?" people have asked me. This is hard to explain. It was a need quietly growing in me for some time. I have felt that it is Judaism's emphasis on the communal that gives our people strength in times of turmoil. Even though we are divided in many lands, we are one people. Expressing this conviction was important to me. Sometimes
we become too caught up in maintaining our little spheres of identity: at work, at home, at our individual synagogues. We need to remind ourselves not to close ourselves off to the greater community.


Inside myself I debated how constructive my gesture of support would be. My husband suggested that perhaps sending money would be more helpful than my presence. In the end, I followed my own feelings and went to Israel. Later I felt gratified when a spokesman for the Minister of Tourism said that a dollar spent in Israel translates into $17 dollars for the economy.

In Netanya I met a family and heard the young mother tell of their miraculous survival of the Passover bombing. At Haddassah's hospital we took letters and gifts to victims of terrorism trying to physically pull their lives back together. In homes of friends I heard of the struggle to keep life as normal as possible.

As troubling as all of this was to see and hear, it was even more chilling to see the new walls being erected to create

save spaces around neighborhoods and schools. Walls are such powerful symbols in our history. Who has been to Israel and not been moved by the history of the remnants of the ancient walls of the Temple and the City? Who has not studied about the ghettoizing walls of Europe, or the terrible walls of barred wire in The Camps? How will these new walls color the history being made now in Israel?

 

All the Israelis that I met thanked me for coming to be with them. Even Jerusalem's Arab taxi drivers and street merchants seemed glad to see us! Israelis understand that it is difficult to visit now, but they say it helps morale and business. Traveling to Israel may not be possible for many people, but it is important to make our support known. So please support the people of Israel in all ways possible. We each, one by one, can make a difference.

Charlotte Schwartz

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    Welcome to the World of Lekh-Lekha!

    In this parashah, God promises the Land of Canaan to Avraham and his descendants.  We want the students to feel and understand that they are the very descendants to whom the land belongs.  When you reach  perek 15, lesson 2,  you will be able to give each student some of, "the land."

    You may download these pictures, print them on a color printer, and cut them apart. You may want to print them on a heavier stock of paper than is usually used.  (Just be careful that the printer can accommodate heavier paper.)

    The artwork

    Using art in teaching Torah

    To download a bigger picture, please click a picture.

     

    Banias, one of the sources of the Jordan River, in the north of Israel.
    Printed by permission: Sean Konecky, Massada Ltd.,
    Publishers. Peter A. Thomas, Israel, 1984

    The coast of Israel. Photo courtesy of Vicki Uchill.

    The Kinneret, in the north of Israel.
    Printed by permission: Sean Konecky, Massada Ltd.,
    Publishers. Peter A. Thomas, Israel, 1984.

    Landscape of Israel. Photo courtesy of Vicki Uchill.

    Multi-colored rocks in the southern Negev.
    Printed by permission: Sean Konecky, Massada Ltd.,
    Publishers. Peter A. Thomas, Israel, 1984.

    A view of Israel’s shore by night. Photo courtesy of Vicki Uchill

    Rosh Hanikra, Israel’s northernmost Mediterranean point.
    Print Sean Konecky, Massada Ltd.,
    Publishers. Peter A. Thomas, Israel, 1984.

    Welcome to Vayishlah

    The artwork

    Using art in teaching Torah

    We see art as a visual midrash: It fills in the many lacunae in the story, and tells its own story. It expresses feelings and ideas that do not require words and may, in fact, be spoiled by words. Because the power of the visual is so strong, it is important for the students to have an opportunity to see MANY kinds of art, so that no one version becomes THE interpretation in their minds. Finally, we would like them to be able to express themselves in many different ways. We hope that by giving them examples of the variety of ways of seeing the story, they will feel more comfortable accepting multiple interpretations of a single text, all of which can be supported by the pshat.

     


    How to use art in this story

    Please go to the sites, and

    1. Choose several pieces of art for your class--one per group.

    2. Print one piece of art on a color printer for each group.

    3. If possible, acquire the use of an LCD projector. (If the school does not have one, perhaps a parent can lend you one.) The computer can be plugged into the projector, and you can show the whole class the art at one time. The students will be able to point out what they saw.

    If you cannot get an LCD projector, perhaps you can use an opaque projector, and place each group's art on it.

    The story

    The story of Yaakov’s night-time wrestling match is mysterious and ambiguous. The depictions of the scene propose various interpretations of questions posed by the story. Students are encouraged first to provide their own artistic answers to the questions, and then to see how other artists have dealt with them.

    Questions that beg to be answered


    With whom or with what was Yaakov wrestling?

    When it says “Vilo yakhol lo”--who couldn’t overcome whom?

    Was this a hard fight, or a stand-off?

    What did the scene look like?

    Where to get the artwork: Click here:

    http://artyzm.com/s/spychalski/e_walka.htm
    (note size of angel; movement; faces)

    http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/dore/jacob.jpg
    (famous Dore picture: perfect balance)

    http://www.artehistoria.com/genios/cuadros/175.htm
    (Rembrandt; note time of day; dark atmosphere. Who is holding whom? How?)

    http://www.artcnet.com/Naomi_Spiers/Jacob_Angel.html
    vertical sculpture

    http://www.artcnet.com/Naomi_Spiers/Jacob_Angel_vrylrg.html
    close-up of vertical sculpture

    www.jwbart.comwww/Segal/Jacob


    http://www.ratnermuseum.com/genesis/_img0013.html
    (note balance in this sculpture, in every regard. Relate it to ambiguity of, "Vilo yakhol lo.")

    http://www.jwbart.com/WWW/Segal/Jacob.html

    http://www.gerardmburns.com/major/html/jacob/jacob.html

    For the source of these examples of art on this them, and more:

    Go to http://www.google.com/. There you will find links to all of this art. 

    • Canadian and Israeli Biblical sculptor Naomi Spiers...

    • Battle of Jacob and an Angel Polish painting masterpieces...

    • Jacob Wrestles with Angel

    • Fonte Secondary Jacob and the Angel

    • Jacob Wrestling the Angel

    • Tel Aviv link to:

      • Rembrandt
      • Salvatore
      • Dore
      • Others

      Welcome to Shemot!
     

    The end of perek dalet marks a significant moment in the
    lives of Moshe and Aharon.   They have just spoken with the people. 
    The people believe.   They have heard that God has taken notice of
    them, and they seem to trust God.  This might be the last moment of
    calm that Moshe will experience.  We know that, in the next scene,
    Moshe and Aharon will face Pharaoh.

               The question is:  How do Moshe and Aharon feel right now? 
    There are many possibilities—some focusing on their most immediate experience, some focusing on what is to come.  Another possible focus would be their current  in-between situation.

               After the students have had the opportunity to suggest the
    emotions that they believe Moshe and Aharon might have, they should
    draw pictures that express those emotions; not the scene, but the
    emotions.

               Afterwards, please show them the following four pieces of art,
    and ask them about the mood of the art.  Which piece most reflects the emotion they previously chose?  What is there about that art that fits the mood?

    Edvard Munch, "The Scream" :
    http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/munch.scream.jpg

    August Rodin, "The Burghers of Calais:
    http://www.musee-rodin.fr/images/imagra/S450.jpg

    Grant Wood, "Young Corn:
    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA98/haven/wood/images/youngcorn2.gif

    John Marin, "Brooklyn Bridge":
    http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/view1.asp?dep=21&full=0&item=49%2E70%2E105

    Unit on Toldot

     

    Perek 27, Psukim 25-29 and 37-39

    Perek 28, Psukim 1-4

     

                 The emotional struggle over Yitzhak’s blessings of

    Yaakov and Esav comes to a climax in this segment.  We

    finally find out what the focus of the competition has been.

     

    The first two brakhot contain descriptions of abundant produce.  
    In order to convey to the students a sense this lush bounty, we
    suggest showing them pictures of dew, growing wheat, grapes on the

    vine, and collections of produce.  (You might also consider taking the

    students to a farm or agricultural school, so that they can experience

    the sights and smells of growing produce.)


    Listed below are websites with beautiful pictures of the items

    mentioned in the brakhot.   If you are going display them via computer,

    we suggest that you preview them, to make sure that the links are still,

    “live.” 

     

    You may also choose to print the pictures and give a set to each group. 
    Have the students hold up each picture as you read the brakhot.

     

    Here are the sites:

     

     

    Dew: 

     

    http://test.funterminal.com/~patrick/pictures/rest/Dew%20Drop.jpg

     

    http://ski-zermatt.com/mattnet/pics/batch/2/photo17.htm

     

     

    Wheat: 

     

    www.enn.com/enn-news-archive/1999/03/032499/wheat.jpg

     

    http://wheat.pw.usda.gov/wEST/nsf/wheat.jpg

     

    http://wheat.pw.usda.gov/wEST/nsf/wheat.jpg

     

    Grapes: 

     

    http://www.visitithaca.com/images/SS-Grapes.jpg

     

    http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/projects/powell/photos.research/grapes.jpg

     

    Produce:  Fruit 

     

    http://www.hannaford.com/instore/images/fruit.jpg

     

    http://www.gunderfriend.com/notecard_jpgs/still_life/142.jpg

     

    http://www.bell-vista.com.au/images/fruit.jpg

     

    http://www.ifas.ufl.edu/~MARKETING/PAFV010.HTML

     

    Produce:  Vegetables

     

    http://www.tomthumb.com/images/produce.jpg

     

    http://www.kesmist.com/s_vegetables.jpg

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Welcome to Ki Tissa

    In Parashat Ki Tissa (Exodus Chapter 32), the students encounter a famous and dramatic scene:  Moshe descends from his most highly spiritual encounter with God, prepared to convey God’s will to the Israelites—only to encounter their betrayal of God with the golden calf.

    Two famous artists, Michelangelo and Rembrandt, created depictions of Moshe.  Rembrandt’s focuses on Moshe just at this moment.  Michelangelo’s suggests an interpretation of Moshe just before it.

    These images appear in the students’ booklets, but the reproduction quality needs enhancement. 

    We therefore recommend that you download and print these pictures either onto transparencies, or onto separate sheets of paper for the students.

    You can help the students understand the artists’ depictions of Moshe’s feelings by examining his stance, the position of the luhot and Moshe’s face.


    The sites can be found at:

    www.abcgallery.com/R/rembrandt/ rembrandt132.html

    nmaa-ryder.si.edu/collections/ exhibits/lewis/moses.html

    www.kfki.hu/.../art/m/michelan/ 1sculptu/giulio_2/moses.jpg

    Welcome to Biha-alotekha

     

    In Parashat Biha-alotekha, there are two dramatically contrasting segments. The first is at the end of perek 10, (psukim 33-36) B'nei Yisrael set out from mountain of God. They are led by the Aron Ha-Brit and the cloud of God. The famous lines we now sing before and after we read Torah come from these verses.

    The preceding chapters have emphasized the orderliness of the camp layout, the order of march, the careful census. In this segment, God's presence is reassuringly mentioned in every pasuk. This is the climax of the preparations for moving from Mt. Sinai into the future The scene is one of calm, order. and optimism



    The very next psukim changes the mood. Perek 11, verses 1-2 is troubling as well as foreboding: B'nei Yisrael are acting like complainers to God, and God's reaction is to become enraged, sending a fire that threatens the edges of the camp. The people cry out to Moshe, Moshe prays to God, and fire is quieted. However, we do not know if the people have been quieted.

    As above, God's name is mentionedthree times in two psukim, but this time the relationship is confrontational. These three short psukim, capture the whole of the Book of Bemidbar.



    Students in Ellen Rank's class at Solomon Schechter Day School of Nassau County created paper midrash to capture the contrasting moods of these two scenes. We invite you to consider the use of color, shape and dynamics in the students' interpretations.

    Verses 33-36
    Verses 1-2
     

    Solomon Schechter Awards
    For Excellence in Synagogue Programming
    How to Apply

    Printable PDF File       Click here for the pdf
    We are pleased  to share information on the USCJ Solomon Schechter Awards for Excellence in Synagogue Programming.   For over 50 years the Schechter Awards have presented a wide variety of opportunities for synagogues to be recognized for outstanding programs.

    Please review the award categories with your professional and lay leadership and consider your congregational programming for the 2001 - 2003  period to determine submitting appropriate entries.  This awards program presents an opportunity to review your successes, to bring kavod to your congregation, and to share them with other USCJ congregations. We especially encourage first-time submissions from synagogues, as well as from congregations of less than 100 members.

    The awards presentation will be at the 2003 Biennial Convention - with the theme of  Hadesh Yemeinu KiKedem: Preserving the Jewish Past, Living the Jewish Present, Building the Jewish Future -  which will take place October 26 - 30 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas.  Award-winning entries will be on display at the Program Fair throughout the Convention.  It is anticipated and encouraged that representatives from the award-winning congregations will attend the convention to accept their awards and to be present at the Program Fair to share information about their programs.

    Please do not hesitate to contact your Regional Office or the Convention Department Staff at the USCJ NY office for any additional information. Additional copies of the application form can be downloaded from here  We look forward to receiving your applications and supporting documentation by the deadline of May 1, 2003, and to celebrating with you at the Convention.

    Sincerely,
    Bruce M.  Creditor            Lisa Harris Glass
    Chair                                   Co-chair
    Solomon Schechter Awards Committee

                      opjosh-group1.jpg

    Report from Operation Joshua
    The Conservative Mission to Israel
    July 22-27, 2001

    Read below what Mission participants say about their Israel experience!

     opjosh-wolnek1.jpg From Eugene Zinbarg, METNY
    The Conservative Movement presence in Israel was made known by us with our meeting with the spokesman of Prime Minister Sharon, three members of the Knesset, the President of the State  of Israel, the Mayor of Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, and the new Ambassador of the United States to Israel. We were so newsworthy that we
    were a story in the Jerusalem Post. There is therefore no doubt that the presence of the Conservative Movement from the United States was conveyed by us to leaders of the people of the State of Israel.
     opjosh-class2.jpg

    We met with our USY-ers in the hills of the Gallil and at the Kotel in Jerusalem where we read Torah and prayed together.

    There is no question in all of our minds that Israel right now is safe andbeautiful and should be visited by us now. People who may have put off a trip because of what they read about,

    I urge them to rethink their  position. We walked the streets, shopped the stores, dined in the restaurants. At no point did any of us feel any sign of war or terrorism. Our bus went into East Jerusalem. At no time did any Arab make or do anything to make us uncomfortable. As a matter of fact the Mayor of Jerusalem pointed out that though there may be 200,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem, there are no barriers between the Arabs and the Jews. There seems to be calm and the Mayor feels no need to hunker down and to take any action. The atmosphere felt very normal.
     opjosh-tefilah1.jpg The Mission succeeded. As a person on the Mission (as did Joshua and Caleb) I report to you that Israel looks wonderful and should be visited by you in the near future.

    opjosh-group2.jpg

    From Patty Werschulz,
    President Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim, Cranford, NJ 

    The chevra:  We were 50 or so committed Conservative Jews traveling together with a purpose.  We davened together, ate together, benched together, in addition to the normal things you do on a mission.  The minyanim were very spiritual.  I saw some old friends, made some  opjosh-class1.jpg

    new ones, and met some of my virtual ones.  It was a great bunch of people but we had such a feeling of fellowship.

    Learning:  I learned so much this trip about the "situation."  No matter how well read you are in the States, (and I don't claim to be) there was so much more to learn.  We met with so many people, people in Gilo, people in the government, in the press and we continually learned new aspects.  We also learned so many positive advances that the Masorti Movement has made.  The road ahead is long and hard, but the Movement is gaining.  We also did "learning" at a shiur at the Yeshiva.  It is very exciting, and so was seeing the Fuchsburg Center as it was literally being built before us.

    USY:  We met with three groups and davened with them.  What great kids and they were having a wonderful summer.  Kol hakavod to their parents for letting them come!

    Shopping:  Tourism is so low, that every where we went, the gratitude
    was enormous, including

     opjosh-tefilah2.jpg

    shopkeepers offering bargains.  We heard over and over again how great it was we came and that USY came this summer.

    Security:  Life is full of risks, driving a car, getting into the shower, going to Israel.  The issue is whether taking a risk is reckless.  At no time did I feel that what I was doing was reckless or endangering my life.  If you have any second thoughts about going to Israel or sending a member of your family, I can't give a guarantee, but we can't just roll over and keep ourselves away anymore than we can give up driving because there are fatalities on the highways.  I have signed up for motorcycle lessons next month, and that is beginning to scare me. But this trip sure did not scare me! 

    Masorti Travel:  What a fantastic job these folks did with the arrangements.  Do consider a synagogue trip arranged through them. (You need 10 people for group rates, over twenty for better rates to  opjosh-wall1.jpg

    kick in.)  The details they arranged and the thoughtfulness of the amenities they provided.  I can not say enough.  I think it important as a shul president to be able to do things like  this mission.  We get the global picture of the Conservative Movement as well as to reconnect to Eretz Yisrael.  It recharges the old batteries!

                                opjosh-wall2.jpg
     


    Sewing Up the Safety Net

    Concern for the less fortunate is a hallmark of Judaism and Jewish teachings are replete with specific guidelines in this regard. Equating religious commitment with following the Torah -- and following the Torah with following God -- our Rabbis teach that to "follow the Lord your God" means to emulate Divine attributes. Thus, as the Lord clothes the naked, we too should clothe the naked; as God visited the sick, we too should visit the sick, and so forth.

    Similarly, we read in Ezekiel 34: "Ah, you shepherds of Israel, who have been tending yourselves! Is it not the flock that the shepherds ought to tend? You partake of the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool...but you do not tend the flock." What have the shepherds failed to do? Ezekiel continues, "You have not sustained the weak, healed the sick, or bandaged the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, or looked for the lost...."

    As we can see from the above injunctions, what is present in Jewish tradition is an ongoing concern for the needs of every human being, together with the requirement that every Jew demonstrate such concern through personal action. What is absent from these readings, however, is equally important. Significantly, nowhere in these teachings do we encounter the notion that those who perform these mitzvot should make sure that they get their money's worth. In other words, the entire concept of "cost-benefit analysis" appears to be missing from this equation.

    While catchy phrases may often help us to focus our thinking, they may also be used to foster a particular ideological viewpoint. Rather than clarifying and simplifying an issue, they may actually serve to direct our thinking by appealing to subconscious desires, needs or prejudices. An example of such reductionism is use of the phrase "cost-benefit analysis." We hear it used everywhere, to justify almost any decision. Should school lunches be maintained for underprivileged children? Should we strive to maintain clean air and clean water? Should health care be available to all citizens? The solution is clear: Simply apply the principles of cost-benefit analysis and -- all things being equal (that is, the value of a child's health being equal to the number of dollars it takes to maintain it) -- the decision will be self-evident. Clearly, this thinking stands in direct contrast to Jewish teaching.

    Today, we are witnessing a concerted effort to undo the very programs that reflect the Jewish approach to social welfare. Even more, the very groups we have been taught to protect have become the target of our collective social wrath and frustration. Whether the goal is to eliminate food stamps, or school lunches, or nutrition programs for pregnant women, or immunization programs for children, it is precisely Ezekiel's "weak, sick, and injured" elements of society that have come under attack.

    Ironically, we now hear quite a lot about the resurgence of religious values. Nevertheless, if we are truly to be guided by religious principles, we cannot tolerate or condone such heartless tears in the social safety net. Judaism teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God and thereby possess an inherent claim to dignity and self-respect. To borrow a phrase from the business world, this is "non-negotiable." To Jews, tzedakah is not charity -- it is not a voluntary undertaking. Tzedakah is justice; it is a basic requirement incumbent upon us as individuals and as a society.

    Is concern for our fellow man cost-effective? Absolutely-- particularly if the benefits of such behavior are measured in terms of tikun olam. If we abandon those we are commanded to assist, we betray not only ourselves but our religious tradition. No matter how we measure that, it is a price too high to pay.

    The Brady Bill

    USCJ Position Paper

    President Bill Clinton has called upon religious organizations to take a greater role in helping to define the policy of the nation. In the spirit of that call to action, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has inaugurated a series of brief position papers, which shall be distributed to the media on a regular basis. Each of these positions has been made known to our 800 affiliated congregations, comprising some l l/2 million Jews, and we have urged them to take the appropriate action to ensure that these views receive a fair hearing in local debates.

    Reaffirming Support for the Brady Bill January 26, 1995

    In the face of threats by Congress to repeal the Brady Bill, which restricts the use of certain weapons and requires a five-day waiting period before purchasing a gun, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has reiterated its strong support for the gun control bill. At its 1993 Biennial Convention, the organization passed a resolution stating that "a peaceful society should seek to control the acquisition and use of handguns, semi-automatic rifles and similar weapons in order to assure domestic peace and tranquility within the home and upon the streets of that society." It went on to "call upon all appropriate governmental authorities to enact and implement suitable rules and regulations restricting the acquisition and use of [such weapons], giving due consideration to the Constitutional rights relatingto this issue." Pointing out that The United Synagogue explicitly commended the United States Congress for enacting the Brady Bill, Sarrae Crane, Director of Social Action, stated that "the conditions which gave birth to this bill have not changed since its passage, and we strongly oppose any effort to undo this valuable piece of legislation."

    Shabbat Zachor: To Remember -- and Respond
    by Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein

    On the Shabbat before Purim, Jews throughout the world will turn their attention to a special reading in the Book of Deuteronomy describing how the ancient nation of Amalek attacked our ancestors in the desert. The army of Amalek traditionally has been considered the prime example of vile, inhuman behavior. Not only was the attack on our ancestors unprovoked, but it came at a time when the people of Israel were faint and weary. Amalek attacked them all -- even the most feeble.

    Shabbat Zachor -- the Sabbath of Remembrance -- is so named because we are commanded to remember the heinous deeds committed by Amalek. Although this may have been the first significant atrocity suffered by our people after they coalesced into a nation following the exodus from Egypt, it certainly was not the last. Many more are recorded in the Tanach; and, just a half century ago, the world bore witness to an almost indescribably brutal attack on the Jewish people.

    We are enjoined to remember. Why? There are many reasons, but perhaps most important is that by recalling these incidents, we enhance our sensitivity to human suffering and confront the need to do something about it. We are pained to think of the needless destruction of human life experienced by our ancestors. Should we be any less distressed by the wanton destruction of human life today?

    One cannot open a newspaper without seeing images of destruction, whether in Kosovo or in Africa. While our natural reaction might be one of discomfort, or even revulsion, that is not enough. The directive "to remember" requires that we do more. We must remember that most of the atrocities committed against our ancestors could have been stopped had neutral parties insisted on putting a halt to them.

    It is easy to permit ourselves the luxury of observing the ongoing pattern of senseless murder with an air of intellectualized disdain for the aggressors. What we need, however, is passion. Indeed, we are urged to remember precisely so that our passions may be aroused.

    It is not easy to halt violence. Strong pressure -- whether by the United States government or by NATO forces -- must be exerted; and sufficient resources, both human and financial, must be allotted. At times, we will be forced to espouse unpopular positions. We can do no less: As Jews, we are commanded to be an "or la'goyim," light unto the nations.

    In a few days, we will celebrate the holiday of Purim. It is a time of joy, during which we remember that millennia ago, the Jewish people were saved from an extermination plot hatched by a vicious enemy. Today, let us share our memories with the world and teach by our actions that evil can, indeed, be eradicated through involvement and commitment.


    Rabbi Epstein is the Executive Vice-President of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.



    by Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein


    On the Shabbat before Purim, Jews throughout the world will turn their attention to a special reading in the Book of Deuteronomy describing how the ancient nation of Amalek attacked our ancestors in the desert. The army of Amalek traditionally has been considered the prime example of vile, inhuman behavior. Not only was the attack on our ancestors unprovoked, but it came at a time when the people of Israel were faint and weary. Amalek attacked them all -- even the most feeble.

    Shabbat Zachor -- the Sabbath of Remembrance -- is so named because we are commanded to remember the heinous deeds committed by Amalek. Although this may have been the first significant atrocity suffered by our people after they coalesced into a nation following the exodus from Egypt, it certainly was not the last. Many more are recorded in the Tanach; and, just a half century ago, the world bore witness to an almost indescribably brutal attack on the Jewish people.

    We are enjoined to remember. Why? There are many reasons, but perhaps most important is that by recalling these incidents, we enhance our sensitivity to human suffering and confront the need to do something about it. We are pained to think of the needless destruction of human life experienced by our ancestors. Should we be any less distressed by the wanton destruction of human life today?

    One cannot open a newspaper without seeing images of destruction, whether in Kosovo or in Africa. While our natural reaction might be one of discomfort, or even revulsion, that is not enough. The directive "to remember" requires that we do more. We must remember that most of the atrocities committed against our ancestors could have been stopped had neutral parties insisted on putting a halt to them.

    It is easy to permit ourselves the luxury of observing the ongoing pattern of senseless murder with an air of intellectualized disdain for the aggressors. What we need, however, is passion. Indeed, we are urged to remember precisely so that our passions may be aroused.

    It is not easy to halt violence. Strong pressure -- whether by the United States government or by NATO forces -- must be exerted; and sufficient resources, both human and financial, must be allotted. At times, we will be forced to espouse unpopular positions. We can do no less: As Jews, we are commanded to be an "or la'goyim," light unto the nations.

    In a few days, we will celebrate the holiday of Purim. It is a time of joy, during which we remember that millennia ago, the Jewish people were saved from an extermination plot hatched by a vicious enemy. Today, let us share our memories with the world and teach by our actions that evil can, indeed, be eradicated through involvement and commitment.


    Rabbi Epstein is the Executive Vice-President of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.



    Israel NOW and Forever: 
    a Comprehensive Solidarity Initiative Is Launched by United Jewish Communities and UJA Federations

    Smadar Steiner lives in Yehud, near Tel Aviv. One recent Monday she decided to take the day off. It undoubtedly saved her life. Smadar's car was one of two blown apart by terrorist bombs. "I thank God that I was not in the car, because it's around the time I would normally be driving to studies or taking the children to school," she said. "It seems that terrorist attacks were always far away from us... Now it's right here."

    In Yehud, as in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and communities across Israel, the resilience and tenacity of the Israeli people is being tested - and so is the strength of our unity with them. Calling Israel "a world-wide Jewish project," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called for global solidarity among the Jewish people. He said, "The solidarity of the Jewish people must be seen." The Prime Minister also called on Jews throughout the world to continue to unite and defend Israel against the distortions of Arab propaganda. And he said, "It is time for tens of thousands of Jews to visit Israel."

    In response, the leadership of United Jewish Communities (UJC), representing 189 Federations and 400 smaller communities in North America, and in cooperation with the synagogue and rabbinic organizations, has launched Israel NOW and Forever, a bold initiative of commitment and solidarity to energize and mobilize the synagogue and federation communities with a comprehensive program of education, advocacy and financial support. Synagogues and synagogue members are critical to the success of the solidarity effort. During the upcoming High Holy Days, congregants at synagogues across the continent will receive a special leaflet being prepared by UJC in cooperation with all of the major religious movements that will provide information about solidarity programs and activities and facts about the situation in Israel. Synagogue members are being urged to take personal action to express their support for Israel and to include Israelis in their prayers.

    A special Solidarity Shabbat and inter-denominational effort on September 22-23 will promote unity with Israel in synagogues and churches coast-to-coast. On September 23, the month of solidarity events will climax in New York City with a major "Solidarity Sunday" rally at 1:00 PM, with prominent Israeli officials and supporters of Israel from across the continent. "The rally will unite the energies of the entire North American Jewish community and send a strong, visible message of our solidarity with Israel around the world," said Joel Tauber, Chairman of the UJC Executive Committee. Everyone is being encouraged to show their solidarity by participating either in the New York rally or at a local event. (For rally updates, log onto www.ujc.org).

    A key element of the solidarity effort is a broad outreach to encourage people to visit Israel. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism sponsored "Operation Joshua," a solidarity mission which brought Conservative Jewish leaders from all over North America to Israel from July 22-27. Monthly Israel NOW Missions began July 21-26, followed by August 5-10, September 9-14, a Capital to Capital Mission (Washington, D.C. to Jerusalem) November 13-18, and December 2-7. The objective, said UJC Chairman Charles R. Bronfman, "is for us to be in Israel on a constant basis." (Contact your local federation about how you can participate in a mission) Along with our solidarity, it is clear that we must also help meet the enormous financial burden facing the Israeli people as the government shifts spending from social services to critical internal and external security needs. Israel NOW fundraising component will support victims of terror, traumatized children and seniors, new immigrants and vulnerable communities alike, ensuring the continued support of social and humanitarian programs. Through education, advocacy, our presence in Israel, and our financial support, we will let Smadar Steiner and all our brothers and sisters know we are withthem - now and forever. 

    -posted 7/01

    corrected 8/1/01

     

    torah.gifFOR THE PEOPLE OF

    THE BOOK: PEREK YOMI

    By Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein


    Just as our ancestors read from the Tanakh each day, there are many reasons why we must do so as well.

    First... to benefit from Jewish wisdom and guidance as contained in the mitzvot interwoven into this timeless text. As Jews, we want to know God's plan, which gives meaning to our lives.

    The Tanakh is a tapestry containing the threads of God's plan.

    Second... to discern the midot, or values, that distinguish us as Jews. Jewish values are unique -- but they are not transmitted genetically.

    The Tanakh is the ultimate source of these values.

    Third... to become familiar with the architects of our religion and the times in which they lived. We are who we are because of our history. The promise of Israel; the Exodus and the Temple; the Exile and the Prophets; all play a major role in defining Jews and Judaism.

    The Tanakh makes it possible to "experience" our history.

    Fourth... to be guided by the ethics and moral standards that challenge us to become God-like in our daily behavior. Jewish ethics are not time bound. They are Divinely inspired, but they are not inaccessible.

    The Tanakh makes it possible to be touched by Divine inspiration.

    Fifth... to become enriched by the pattern of Jewish living. While its seed was planted in Biblical times, Jewish living has evolved through the ages. Judaism as we live it and celebrate it today is the fruit of that seed.

    The Tanakh is the primary source that stimulated Rabbis and Sages throughout the ages to envision Judaism for their own generation. The Tanakh is our Jewish birthright.

    Finally... we must read the Tanakh so that we can be lifted from viewing the world as it is, to a perch where we can glimpse a vision of what we can help it to become. Through seeing the universe from the mountains on which Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, stood, and through feeling the passion of Esther, Ruth, David and Solomon, our lives take on a new and important meaning, a sense of purpose.

    The Tanakh blends holiness and humanity. It challenges us to live our lives so that we will make a positive difference to others.

    If you lack knowledge, what have you acquired?

    If you acquire knowledge, what do you lack?

    Midrash Rabbah

    Sewing up the Safety Net: A Religious Mandate
    by Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein

    Passover provides a virtual treasure chest of moral lessons. Using the Haggadah as our sourcebook, we can discuss the obligation to provide hospitality (Halahma Anya -- Let all who are hungry come and eat); the mandate to educate our children, and to do so in accordance with each child’s own level of understanding (as evidenced in the section on the Four Children); concern for those who are afflicted (We understand your plight, since we too were slaves -- Avadim Hayinu); and the need to show consideration for the stranger (You shall not oppress the stranger, having been strangers yourselves in the land of Egypt).

    We might also focus on the importance of striving for freedom and human dignity or tackle the ever-current need to speak up against abuses of power in the face of an oppressive government structure. Whatever moral teaching we choose to address, chances are our discussions will revolve around a common theme: obligation. Interestingly, while the Exodus represents perhaps the greatest miracle in the history of mankind -- and it would be natural to assume that any resulting obligations would be to God, in gratitude for our deliverance -- in fact, the primary focus of these prescriptions is behavior toward our fellow man.


    Concern for the less fortunate is a hallmark of Jewish tradition, and Jewish teachings are replete with specific guidelines in this regard. Equating religious commitment with following the Torah -- and following the Torah with following God -- our Rabbis teach that to “follow the Lord your God” means to emulate Divine attributes. Thus, as the Lord clothes the naked, we too should clothe the naked; as God visited the sick, we too should visit the sick, and so forth.


    Similarly, we read in Ezekiel 34: “Ah, you shepherds of Israel, who have been tending yourselves! Is it not the flock that the shepherds ought to tend? You partake of the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool...but you do not tend the flock.” What have the shepherds failed to do? Ezekiel continues, “You have not sustained the weak, healed the sick, or bandaged the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, or looked for the lost....”

    As we can see from the above injunctions, what is present in Jewish tradition is an ongoing concern for the needs of every human being, together with the requirement that every Jew demonstrate such concern through personal action. What is absent from these readings, however, is equally important.

    Significantly, nowhere in these teachings do we encounter the notion that those who perform these mitzvot should make sure that they get their money’s worth. In other words, the entire concept of “cost-benefit analysis” appears to be missing from this equation.


    While catchy phrases may often help us to focus our thinking, they may also be used to foster a particular ideological viewpoint. Rather than clarifying and simplifying an issue, they may actually serve to direct our thinking by appealing to subconscious desires, needs or prejudices. A classic example of such reductionism is use of the phrase “cost-benefit analysis.” We hear it used everywhere, to justify almost any decision. Should school lunches be maintained for underprivileged children? Should we strive to pass down clean air and clean water to future generations? Should health care be available to all citizens?


    The solution is clear: Simply apply the principles of cost-benefit analysis and -- all things being equal (that is, the value of a child’s health being equal to the number of dollars it takes to maintain it) -- the decision will be self-evident. Clearly, this thinking stands in direct contrast to Jewish teaching.


    Today, we are witnessing a concerted effort to undo the very programs that reflect the Jewish approach to social welfare. Even more, the very groups we have been taught to protect have become the target of our collective social wrath and frustration. Whether the goal is to eliminate food stamps, or school lunches, or nutrition programs for pregnant women, or immunization programs for children, it is precisely Ezekiel’s “weak, sick, and injured” elements of society that have come under attack.

    Ironically, we now hear quite a lot about the resurgence of religious values. Nevertheless, if we are truly to be guided by religious principles, we cannot tolerate or condone such heartless tears in the social safety net. Judaism teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God and thereby possess an inherent claim to dignity and self-respect. To borrow a phrase from the business world, this is “non-negotiable.” To Jews, tzedakah is not charity -- it is not a voluntary undertaking. Tzedakah is justice; it is a basic requirement incumbent upon us as individuals and as a society.

    Is concern for our fellow man cost-effective? Absolutely -- particularly if the benefits of such behavior are measured in terms of tikun olam. If we abandon those we are commanded to assist, we betray not only ourselves but our religious tradition. No matter how we measure that, it is a price too high to pay.

    The author is Executive Vice-President of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of 800 Conservative congregations in North America.

    May 1995

    TEARS ARE NOT ENOUGH

    by Rabbi Jerome Epstein

    Few events in human history elicit the same sense of sorrow, horror, and shared revulsion evoked by the Holocaust. Born of hatred ‑‑ nurtured by evil on one hand and apathy on the other ‑‑ the Shoah devoured an entire generation of Jews and scarred the minds and bodies of those who were fortunate enough to escape with their lives.

    Yom HaShoah, observed this year on April 19, is a time for remembering this horrible event and for mourning its victims. We mourn not only the utter devastation of that which was, but also that which might have been. It is right that we cry; it is right that our community sponsor programs dealing with every aspect of the Holocaust, loudly reiterating the atrocities committed against our people.

    In the face of revisionism, and in response to those who urge us to forget the past and move forward, we must standup and reaffirm the value of remembering. But we must be clear ourselves as to why we continue to open our wounds. We must know why we cry and why we ask our young people ‑‑ who have no first‑hand experience of the Shoah themselves ‑‑ to come and cry with us.

    Our children may remind us that some 60 years have passed, that there are now new "causes," new issues on which to speak out. We must restrain our impulse to lash out at our sons and daughters, admonishing them that they are being insensitive and separating themselves from their people.

    Our challenge is not to silence their voices but rather to create for them, and for ourselves, a very real connection between the past and the present ‑‑ to bind together our history and our future.

    For, in reality, if we cry for the victims of the Holocaust without feeling sorrow over continuing acts of anti-Semitism throughout the world or without losing sleep at the thought of the lives being lost today in Iraq; if we recoil from the horrible image of Jews pent up like animals in Nazi concentration camps without grieving over the ongoing terrorist attacks in Israel; if we weep at the sight of emaciated Jews with shrunken bodies and lifeless eyes without feeling a sense of loss at the sight of half‑dead children in Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan; or if we cringe at the sight of crematoria without being shaken by the empty hole that used to be the World Trade Center, then we have not learned the lesson our suffering should have taught.

    We recently celebrated the holiday of Passover. While at that time we were enjoined to eat and drink and rejoice in our freedom, we were told also to invite all who are hungry to come and eat, and we were instructed to consider ourselves as if we too had been slaves in Egypt. These are more than colorful phrases ‑‑ they are calls to action, to involvement, and to justice.

    Human life is a valuable commodity. In the face of mass death, we may lose sight of the inestimable value of one soul. Certainly, those who perpetuate terror place little value on the life of the individual. While death tolls have increasingly become a matter of statistics, we must not allow ourselves to become immune to horror.

    Just as the diary of Anne Frank forced countless readers to discern a personal face beneath the numbing slaughter of the Holocaust, so too must we now find a way not to lose sight of the horror of continued injustice.

    We all need ‑‑ and we are entitled to receive ‑‑ the cooperation and assistance of others, whether it be the Swedish government taking steps to save the Danish Jewish community from destruction during World War II or the Jewish community in the

    United States working together with the black community to counter the threat presented by white supremacists.

    In the face of insanity, one cannot counter with apathy. If we cannot love one another, we can at least try to protect one another from irrational hatred and arbitrary violence. The Torah commands us to "teach our children." And indeed, we must teach them about the horrors of the Holocaust. But if we do not seize this opportunity to teach them equally about our responsibility ‑‑ as human beings ‑‑ to speak out not only against our own destruction but that of other groups as well, then not only will we not have fulfilled the biblical injunction, but we also will have violated the dictates of our communal conscience and the essence of our religious teachings.

    Let us remember, but let us also act.

    The author is the Executive Vice‑President of 7he United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of  Conservative congregations in North America.

    Prayers in Response to Terrorism: Elul 5761

    We are all searching for meaningful words as a result of the
    terrorist attacks. We are suggesting that any of the following texts,
    a
    prayers and meditations may be included in our prayers.
    If you have additional suggestions, please use them and share them with us.
    --Sarrae G. Crane, USCJ Director, Social Action and Public Policy
    crane@uscj.org

    “God of our ancestors, in this month of Elul, as we approach the
    days of awe, we gather in shock and horror at the events of this
    week. In the coming week, we begin the ten days of
    introspection. During these days of awe, we pray for your
    guidance so that we may respond to this tragedy from within the
    values of our Jewish tradition. We pray: We pray for refuah
    shelemah, a complete healing of body and spirit for the
    survivors and their families.  We pray that the souls of those
    who perished be bound up in the bonds of eternal life and that
    their memories be for a blessing. We pray that in the coming
    year You bestow upon us and all people everywhere bracha
    and shalom, blessing and peace. As stated in the Torah,
    yevarechecha v’yeshmirecha, . . . v’yasein lecha
    shalom. ” May God bless us and guard us and grant peace.”

    Hayom harat olam
    The world was created today.  Hayom harat olam.  But last week,
    worlds were destroyed. Worlds of airplane passengers, worlds of
    business executives and secretaries, worlds of brave firefighters
    and police officers.

    This day the creatures of the universe stand in judgment. 
    Hayom ya’amid ba-mishpat kawl yitzurey olamim.

    This day we call on God to be gracious to the families who mourn,
    to be merciful to those who survived and to bring to justice those who perpetrated the horrific tragedies. 

    There are three words which declare the sounds of the shofar. 
    Isn’t one word sufficient?  And what is the significance and difference
    between a tekiah, a shevarim and a teruah?

    The tekiah is a unified long blast.  The tekiah is one continuous sound. 
    Let me suggest that the tekiah represents a unity of heart, a unity
    of direction, a unity of purpose of and by the Jewish people. 
    The tekiah is a shout to the heavens that the Jewish nation, people,
    Torah and God are One.

    The shofar’s shevarim is three shorter blasts.  The dictionary defines
    shevar as a breaking, a fracture, a tear -- even including meanings
    like to ruin or destroy, a disaster, misfortune or calamity.  The unity
    is gone and the three-fold blast suggests a comparable lack of unity
    in the Jewish people, in our society, in our world.

    And teruah is sounded in nine short short blasts.  In various forms,
    the dictionary offers meanings like to sound an alarm, to cry bitterly
    against something like an injustice.  A further disintegration occurs
    in Jewish life characterized by teruah.   We are factionalized and
    fractured.  We are easily destroyed when we lack any sense of
    unity.  A healthy disagreement of ideas, a variety of respected
    interpretations, a rainbow of ways to express our values can be
    meaningful.  Teruah, in 5762, amongst Jews, all too often means
    short blasts directed at those with whom we disagree.  Teruah is
    a breakdown in communication.

    The shofar’s order goes from tekiah’s unity to shevarim’s shorter
    blasts and to teruah’s nine sounds, but the cycle returns to a
    unified long tekiah.

    The world has forsaken tekiah for shevarim, or worse, for teruah
    without completing the cycle.  We must renew the tekiah.  We
    must reaffirm the tekiah with tikun olam.  A commitment to repair
    a world gone mad is the shofar’s message.

    The greatest gift we can eternally offer those we love -- spouses,
    children and grandchildren -- is the repaired sound of the shofar. 
    The lessons of the blasts begin with strength, solitude and unity;
    and after it is broken and shortened, it loses its power.  But we
    are bidden to return to tekiah.

    May the plea of our lips find favor before God who understands
    and hears, who regards and hears the various voices of the shofar.

    May we strive to tekiah.  May we strive to bring shevarim and
    teruah back to tekiah.

    May we never allow the thick smoke of destruction to obscure
    the light of Torah or the repenting call of the shofar.

    May we bless the world with our contribution to a tekiah gedolah... 
    a long lasting, united, unified sound on the shofar.
    -- Rabbi Moshe Edelman

    From The Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism

    Tonight , as we begin the Jewish New Year, the words of our liturgy"
    Who shall live and who shall die" carry a new and terrible meaning for all Americans. We share the grief of all those families who have suffered
    from the evils of terrorism in our land.

    The aim of those who perpetrated this act of war is to destroy our way
    of life and western civilization as a whole. We condemn these evil acts as
    a perversion of all religious traditions. America must now confront and
    destroy these perpetrators of evil.

    At the same time we affirm our belief that all people are created in the
    image of God. Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world, is the sacred task
    of all Americans of good will.

    Our tradition teaches that even at times of great sorrow we are obligated
    to fulfill our commandments and participate in moments of joy. These
    "commandments" include tzedakah and acts of righteousness. We
    encourage every American to contribute in their communities to assist
    these victims of terror.

    We join our fellow Americans today in prayer for a future where curses
    end and blessings begin anew.

    Cantors Assembly Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs
    Jewish Theological Seminary Machon Schecter
    Masorti Mercaz
    Rabbinical Assembly Women's League for Conservative Judaism
    United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Ziegler Rabbinical School

    Other Suggested Texts:
    Psalm 23
     
    (Sim Shalom Shabbat and Festivals, p. 197; Sim Shalom
    Shabbat and Weekday p. 523.)

    The Prayer for Our Country (Sim Shalom Shabbat and Festivals,
    p.148; Sim Shalom Shabbat and Weekday p. 415)

    Prayer for the State of Israel (Sim Shalom Shabbat and
    Festivals, p.149; Sim Shalom Shabbat and Weekday p. 417)

    Prayer fo r Peace (Sim Shalom Shabbat and Festivals, p. 149; Sim
    Shalom Shabbat and Weekday p. 417.)

    Psalm 27 (Sim Shalom Shabbat and Festivals, p. 80; Sim Shalom
    Shabbat and Weekday, p.40)





    Publications & Resources for Adult Learners from the USCJ

     

     

    8Tradition and Change: The Development of Conservative Judaisme

    Originally published in 1958, this publication of the USCJ and the Rabbinical Assembly is now available in paperback, with a new preface. An extended introduction by the editor, Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, is followed by classic statements by the founders and leading spokesmen of the Conservative Movement.

    Cost: $14.95.

    To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

     

    Course Guides on 8Emet Ve-Emunah: The Statement of Principles of

    Conservative Judaisme

    The guide for adults provides suggestions for guiding the discussion of a study group; the guide for youth, which uses a variety of means to engage learners on the theological issues raised by 8Emet Ve-Emunah,e has also been used successfully with adults.

    Cost: $15.95 for each guide.

    To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617

    Publications & Resources on Bar/Bat
    Mitzvah from the USCJ

    Tefillin: And You Shall Bind Them
    Written by Rabbi Martin I. Sandberg, this book for pre-bar and bat mitzvah age children provides a rationale and how-to information on Tefillin. It is richly illustrated with photographs and graphics. Cost: $5.95. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    Publications & Resources on Death &
    Dying from the USCJ

    A Flickering Candle: Death and End of Life Issues
    This publication, by Dr. Livia Selmanowitz Straus, uses case studies, media, discussion, and dramatization to guide classes of adults and teenagers in struggling with critical issues regarding care of the terminally ill as dealt with by rabbis, hospital review boards, the courts, patients, and families. Cost $4.95 (12 or more, $3.95). Teacherfs Manual, $2 (free with every 12 copies). To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    Publications & Resources on Jewish Education from the USCJ

    Tov L'Horot
    Designed for synagogue school principals and teachers, this publication includes descriptions of existing synagogue school programs, articles by educators, lesson plans, and resource information. Back issues with articles on videos, Purim costume-making, professionalism, Hebrew, and the like, are available. Cost: Single copies sent at no charge to synagogue presidents, educational directors and SSDS principals. Additional copies at nominal charge. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507

    Publications & Resources on Early Childhood from the USCJ 

    Your Child
    Designed for parents of young children, this newsletter is published three times a year and focuses on issues, problems and goals involved in raising and educating the young Jewish child. Cost: Individual subscription, $7.50. Bulk rates available. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

    The Nursery School Director: Functions and Responsibilities
    Outlines the functions, responsibilities and qualifications of the professional head of a Jewish pre-school. A basic guide for the job description of a nursery school director, it includes a statement regarding the role of the Nursery School Education Committee of the congregation. Cost: Single copy, no charge. To order, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

    EARLY-STEPS PROGRAM
    Early Childhood Educators Teacher Enhancement Program works with congregations to engage synagogue nursery school teachers in sustained teacher training. Involves 8±10 hours during each of 2 years in a format individualized to the needs of each school. For information, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2509.

     

     

     

     

    Publications & Resources for Middle Schoolers from the USCJ

    To Be Is To Do
    Creative, original unit in bulletin format exploring Who is a hero? for
    11-13-year-olds. Written by Beth Huppin, it tells of the actions and beliefs of Myriam Mendilow and includes a description of Life Line for the Old. Cost: $3.50; 15 or more copies @ $2.00 (includes free teachers guide) For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

    King of Children
    Creative, original unit in bulletin format exploring  Who is a hero? for
    11-13-year-olds. Written by Lori Forman, it recounts the dedication of
    Dr. Janusz Korczak in helping children in Poland during WWII and encourages concern for disadvantaged children today. Cost: $3.50; 15 or more copies @ $2.00 (includes free teachers guide) For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

     

    Resources & Publications for Schechter Schools and Day Schools from the USCJ

    Advisory Series
    Guidelines and information for day school leaders on pressing topics.
    Back issues available. To order, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

    Shibboley Schechter
    Bulletin for Solomon Schechter Day Schools containing ideas for lay and professional day school leaders, including descriptions of programs, research, and resources. Cost: Single copy no charge. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

     A Free People In Our Land: From Dream to Reality
    A teaching Israel program for Solomon Schechter Day Schools
    (fifth grade). Kit includes Teachers Manuals and camera-ready materials
    in both Hebrew and English, two videos, games and multicolor reprodu-
    cible visuals. Developed by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Solomon Schechter Day School Association and the Joint Authority for Jewish  Zionist Education. Cost: $175 ($210 for non-Solomon Schechter Day Schools).To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    Publications & Resources on Family Education from the USCJ

    Beginnings: Raising a Jewish Child: Early Years
    Written by Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs, this book takes readers through the ceremonies -- traditional and new -- marking early life cycle events.  Explains and guides with Hebrew, translation and transliteration, and includes pertinent information to help parents make knowledgeable decisions and create an authentic Jewish home environment. Cost: $7.90. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    Jewish Family Matters
    Written by Rabbi Ronald and Dr. Leora Isaacs, the manual offers step-
    by-step guidance for doing family programming.
    Cost: $32. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

     Shabbat Shalom
    A family activity guide to help parents and young children (nursery-grade
    4) celebrate together on Friday night. May be distributed by synagogues
    to encourage Shabbat home observance. Available in camera-ready form. Cost: Master copy, $25. Packets of 10 booklets, $15. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

     A Family Activity Guide for Sukkot
    Suggestions to help parents and young children celebrate Sukkot. Contains ideas for sukkah decorating, activities, entertaining, and a home service for Sukkot. May be distributed by synagogues to enrich family home Sukkot observance. Available in camera-ready form. Cost: Master copy, $25. Packets of 10 booklets, $11. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

    A Family Activity Guide for Pesah_
    Suggestions to help parents and young children celebrate Pesah_.
    Contains activities, recipes and a guide to observance. May be distributed by synagogues to enrich family Pesah_ observance. Available in camera-ready form. Cost: Master copy, $25. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

    A Family Activity Guide for Shavuot
    Suggestions to help parents and young children celebrate Shavuot.
    Contains activities, recipes and a guide to observance. May be distributed by synagogues to enrich family home Shavuot observance. Available in camera-ready form. Cost: Master copy, $25. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

    Into the Ark
    A structured group, family trip to the zoo that is both educational and entertaining. Created by Hana Berman and Lonna Picker; illustrated by Judy Nagle. Kit contains Activity Book, Handbook plus Appendix with supplementary materials. Cost: Kit, $9.95; Activity Book only, $4.85. Quantity rates available. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800)
    594-5617.

    Dapim Lamishpah_ah: Pages for Sharing with the Family
    Camera-ready pages for the synagogue and school bulletin, to bring
    Jewish learning and living into the home. Each packet contains 6 sets
    (12 camera-ready pages) focusing on a Jewish value, hero, or holiday.
    Cost: Packet A, $30; Packet B, $20. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2507.

     

     

     

     

    Publications & Resources on Jewish Holidays from the USCJ 

    Holiday Leaflet Packets:
    Selihot: Some Reflections
    Making the New Year Sweet
    Tashlikh: Casting Our Sins Away
    Welcoming Guests: Ancient Custom/Modern Lesson
    Hanukkah: Rekindling the Internal Light
    Hanukkah: The Gift of Giving
    Tu B'Shevat: Celebrating Nature's Bounty
    Eat Drink and Be Holy: The Holiday of Purim

    Keeping the Story Alive: Questions and Reflections for the Seder Table
    Counting the Omer and Making Each Day Count.

    Cost: $5. (One free copy of each is available for the synagogue to reproduce.)

    SUKKOT
    Sukkot Building and the Mitzvah of the Sukkah.

    Plans for building a sukkah and encouraging others to do so.
    No charge for single copies. To order, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, Ext. 2206.

    Make a Lulav Shake!
    A campaign to spread the knowledge and observance of the mitzvah of lulav and etrog throughout the Conservative Movement. This joint project of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue utilizes music, humor, posters and a variety of programs. A starter kit ($47) is available.
    Contact the Education Department, Ext. 2500, for additional information.

    (See also Education: Family Education)

    Luah_ 5761
    Written by Kenneth Goldrich, this joint project of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue contains the order of prayers, blessings and readings for the synagogue and home table for the year. Formatted for easy use, this liturgical calendar is in English, with pages indicated for Sim Shalom but easily used with any Siddur. A new Luah_ will be published each year. Cost: $11.75 (5 or more, $10.50). To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    Publications & Resources on Kashrut
    from the USCJ

    Keeping Kosher: A Diet for the Soul
    A newly-revised edition of  The Jewish Dietary Laws: Their Meaning
    for Our Time
    by Samuel H. Dresner. Includes a newly-revised guide
    based  on A Guide to Observance by Seymour Siegel and David M. Pollock. Cost: $7.90. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800)
    594-5617.

    Mazel Tov! Your Wedding
    A brochure designed to explain, in clear language, why the wedding meal should be kosher. Published by the Committee on Commitment and Observance. Cost: $.35 each, plus 75 cents postage; packets of 10,
    $3.50, including postage. For information on ordering, contact the
    Education Department, Ext. 2500.

    Mazel Tov! Your Child's Bar and Bat Mitzvah
    A brochure designed to explain, in friendly language, the importance of kashrut at the meal celebrating this event. Published by the Committee on Commitment and Observance. Cost: $.35 each, plus 75 cents postage; packets of 10, $3.50, including postage. For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, Ext. 2500.

     

     

    Leadership Publications & Resources
    from the USCJ

    A Congregational Self-Evaluation: H_eshbon Hanefesh Kfhilati
    A 4-part questionnaire for your officers and rabbi covering topics such as kashrut in the congregation; Shabbat in the synagogue; Jewish educational standards and programs from nursery to college; privileges/responsibilities of membership in our synagogue as well as limits defined for non-Jewish individuals. To order, contact your regional office or the Synagogue Resource Center, Ext. 2205.

    Being a Leader
    Publication containing thoughts on leadership through the eyes of the Bible and the Rabbis. Different aspects of leadership are introduced through the use of traditional Jewish sources. Cost: $1 each. To order, contact the Youth Department, Ext. 2327.

    Manual for the Congregational President
    Detailed guidance for an incoming congregational chief executive. No
    charge for single copies. To order, contact the Department of Regional/Extension Activities, Ext. 2207.

    Manual for the Regional Leader
    Detailed guidance for an incoming regional officer. No charge for single copies. To order, contact the Department of Regional/Extension Activities, Ext. 2207.

    The United Synagogue and You: A Guide for the Synagogue Board Member
    Booklet detailing the history of the United Synagogue as well as its current structure, including the work of its many departments. Includes standards for synagogue practice. To order, contact the Department of Public Affairs, Ext. 2601

    Questions and Answers about The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
    Leaflet summarizing the work of our various departments and touching on the history of the Conservative Movement. Also lists constituent arms of the Movement. To order, contact the Department of Public Affairs, Ext. 2601.

    Standards for Congregational Practice
    Standards related to various aspects of synagogue activity that are binding on all affiliated congregations. Published by the Committee on Congregational Standards. Text appears in this Directory.Contact Rabbi Moshe Edelman, Department of Congregational Standards, Ext. 2205, for questions or additional copies.

    Publications & Resources on Prayer
    from the USCJ

    Rediscovering the Art of Jewish Prayer
    Directed to Jews who want to enhance their ability to pray, this booklet by Rabbi David Golinkin presents theological and other approaches to why we pray.Cost: $4.00. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    The Learner's Minyan, Just Do It!
    A handbook designed to help you plan your own Learner's Minyan.
    First copy free, additional copies are $3.50 each. To order, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, Ext. 2205.

    Higher and Higher (Lfayla Lfayla): Making Jewish Prayer
    Part of Us

    by Steven M. Brown
    A complete examination of Jewish prayer. Deals with issues such as why people pray, the languages of prayer, the history of prayer and the structure of the Siddur. Includes an analysis of individual prayers. Cost: $8 each
    (bulk prices available upon request). To order, contact the Book Service,
    1 (800) 594-5617.

     

    Publications & Resources on Shabbat
    from the USCJ

    A Treasury of Shabbat Inspiration
    An anthology, edited by Rabbi Sidney Greenberg, of sources rich in wisdom, representing a broad spectrum of Jewish thought, expressing the joy and meaningfulness of Shabbat. Cost: $9.95. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    Oneg Shabbat: Prayers and Blessings for the Shabbat Home Table
    This booklet, edited by Joseph F. Mendelsohn, provides detailed guidance on how to perform the Shabbat table rituals and includes explanations about their meaning.  Each Hebrew blessing is accompanied by a translation and transliteration. Cost: $3.50. To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

    The Friday Night Home Shabbat Program
    This material provides direction to congregations on developing a program
    in which members host other congregants for a taste of Shabbat. Includes model letters, invitations, etc. Also available: a camera-ready booklet with the Friday night home table service. Published by the Committee on Commitment and Observance. To order, call the Education Department, Ext. 2500.

    Health Insurance Options

    The United Synagogue's health insurance plans are offered to members as a benefit of your affiliation with a USCJ synagogue.  Through our plan administrator and underwriter, Selman & Company, you can take advantage of a wide array of insurance products at reduced group rates.

    These plans include:

    Catastrophic Major Medical
    Excess Major Medical Plan
    Long Term Care
    Medicare Supplement
    Short Term Medical
    Hospital Income
    Cancer Plan

    For detailed information, contact Selman & Company toll-free at 1-877-735-6262. Or visit the Selman & Company website: www.sel-co.com

     

    PROTECTION PLUS

    A National Property/Casualty Insurance Program Designed
    Especially for USCJ-Affiliated Synagogues

    Types of Insurance

    Package policy includes Property (both building and contents, General Liability such as loss of income/extra expense, crime, and boiler and machinery, Automobile, Workers Compensation, and Umbrella Liability.

    Highlights

    Competitive Pricing - Each synagogue's pre-mium is based upon its own individual coverages, exposures, location and past loss experience.

    Customized Coverages Design - Synagogues can design their own individual program and choose the coverages, limits and deductibles they want.

    Risk Control - A loss control/safety program addressing the specific needs of synagogues is provided to participating synagogues.

    High Quality Claims Services - Claims are handled by knowledgeable professionals who understand your operations.

    Premium Payment Plans - Several payment options are available for your convenience.

    Cash Dividend Potential - Excess profits can be returned to the policyholders as a cash dividend. (Dividends must be declared by the Board of Directors of the carrier, the insurer providing the coverage, and cannot be guaranteed.)

    Special Features

    With Protection Plus you receive the following enhancements:

    • Synagogue members, volunteers, trustees, members of the board of governors, and rabbinical members are included as insureds under the policy.
    • Medical payments are covered for members of the congregation and visitors.
    • The Personal Effects of Rabbis, cantors, members and volunteers are covered.
    • Stained and art glass may be covered as part of the building.
    • Includes Professional Liability which provides coverage for the counseling activities of your Rabbi, Cantor, Executive Director and Educational Director.
    With Protection Plus It's Business As Usual…

    You continue to do business with the agent of your choice.

    Your agent works directly with Wausau Insurance (the Program Underwriter) Option Coverages Directors and Officers Liability - Covers the synagogue and any individual director, officer, trustee, employee, volunteer or staff member for lawsuits claiming damages for wrongful acts they allegedly committed as representatives of the synagogue.

      Inland Marine (Fine Arts) protects Torahs, fine arts, silverware, scrolls, historical documents, and other specially valued property.

      • Religious and Pre-Schools - Coverage can be included under this policy.
      • Employee Benefits Liability
      • Funeral Directors Professional Liability
      • Cemetery Professional Liability

      To obtain a quote, have your agent contact 212-533-7800, X2400, and ask for Flora Camhi. You must inquire 90 days before your renewal to obtain a quotation.

      Protection Plus is a National Property/Casualty insurance program developed especially to meet the specific insurance needs of synagogues. It allows for one-stop shopping for Package Policies, Automobile, Workers Compensation and Umbrella Liability coverages. Professional Liability and Religious and Pre-school coverage are also available. Wausau Insurance, the underwriter, is rated A+ by A.M. Best. With this USCJ endorsed program, your congregation will receive competitive pricing and interest-free premium payment plans plus a potential cash dividend. In addition, your synagogue may continue to work through its current agent.

      This on-line brochure is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available under Protection Plus Property/Casualty Insurance Program. It does not provide, nor is it intended to describe, the specific coverages offered by any particular insurance policy. Some state limitations may apply. Wausau recommends that a potential purchaser examine in detail any policy that is offered and consult with an insurance expert to be certain of the precise nature and specific benefits of the policy coverage.




      If you are a member of a participating association, and would like more information, please fill out the following...
      BUILDING AN INSURED ENVIRONMENT«
      Last Name: First Name: MI:
      Spouse (if relevant): First Name: MI:
      Street Address:
      City:
      State:
      Zip Code:
      Home Area Code + Telephone:
      Bus. Area Code + Telephone:
      Fax Area Code + Telephone:
      E-Mail Address:
      Association:
      Date of Birth:
      Spouse Date of Birth (if relevant):
      Please make your selection here to receive more information on any of these products:
      Major Medical Accidental Death & Dismemberment
      Medicare Supplement Insurance Hospital Indemnity
      Excess Major Medical Cancer
      Life Long Term Care
      Disability Income Homeowner & Automobile
      Short Term Medical

      CONSIDER A SWITCH TO THE

      USCJ MasterCard

      With the USCJ MasterCard you can show your support for USCJ - at no additional cost to you.

      All you have to do is use your USCJ MasterCard instead of other credit cards for routine personal and business expenses. Every time you use your card to make a purchase, we receive a contribution and its at no extra cost to you. These contributions add up, providing extra support for our organization.

      The cards also display the USCJ logo, identifying you as a member and sparking the interest of everyone who sees them.

      Here are just some of the advantages these customized Gold & Preferred MBNA America credit cards offer you:

      • No Annual Fee
      • Balance transfers and credit card cash advance checks Higher Lines of credit -up to $25,000
      • 24-Hour Customer Satisfaction
      • Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance with charged fares
      • Up to $3,000 in Supplemental Lost Checked Luggage Protection with charged fares
      • Supplemental Auto Rental Collision Coverage up to $15,000

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Gold MasterCard has all of the previous benefits, plus the following expanded privileges:

      • Up to 90-day protection against damage or theh on most charged purchases
      • Expanded Supplemental Auto Rental Collision Coverage up to the full value of the car
      • Up to $1,000,000 in Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance

      Your participation Will Mean A Huge Boost Toward Supporting The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

      The "No Effort" way to put EXTRA dollars into The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Every time you use your card or renew your account, USCJ will receive a contribution from the issuing bank at no additional cost to you.

      With your participation, our goals can be met.

      Call 1-800-847-7378 or e-mail for the only card that supports the United Synagogue!

      Directory of Programs and Publications

      The Directory of Programs and Publications is a listing of resources available from The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. For more information, or to order any of the programs or publications, contact the extension included with each entry.

      Commitment and Observance

      Enhancing Religious Observance

      • For the People of the Book: Perek Yomi
        Perek Yomi is a  daily Torah study program that invites participants to read a chapter of Tanakh per day.

      • Luah 5769
        Written by Kenneth Goldrich, this joint project of the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue includes the order of prayers, blessings and readings for the synagogue and home table for the year. Formatted for easy use, this liturgical calendar is in English, with pages indicated for Sim Shalom, Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Holidays, and Sim Shabbat for Weekdays. A new luah is published each year. $15.50
              Order online or call Book Service at 1 (800) 594-5617.

      • Rediscovering the Art of Jewish Prayer
        Directed to Jews who want to enhance their ability to pray, this booklet by Rabbi David Golinkin presents theological and other approaches to why we pray.  $4
              Order online or call Book Service at 1 (800) 594-5617.

      • Standards for Congregational Practice
        These standards discuss various aspects of synagogue activity and are binding on all affiliated congregations. Published by the Committee on Congregational Standards.

      Kashrut

      • Keeping Kosher: A Diet for the Soul
          Samuel H. Dresner, Seymour Siege and David M. Pollak's guide to kashrut. $7.50.
               Order online or call Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      Shabbat

      • A Treasury of Shabbat Inspiration
        Edited by Rabbi Sidney Greenberg. An anthology of sources from a broad spectrum Jewish thought. $9.95.
              Order online or call Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      • Oneg Shabbat: Prayers and Blessings for the Shabbat Home Table
        Edited by Joseph F. Mendelsohn. Provides detailed guidance on how to perform Shabbat table rituals and explains their meaning. Each Hebrew blessing is accompanied by a translation and transliteration. $4.
              Order online or call Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      • The Leaner's Minyan - Just Do It!
        A handbook designed to help you plan your own learner's minyan. First copy free, additional copies $3.50 each.
              Available through the Synagogue ResourceCenter, LEA.01. Call your regional director for help.

      • Torah Sparks
        A discussion guide for weekly Torah readings.

      • The Friday Night Home Shabbat Program
        Helps congregations develop a program in which members host other congregants for a taste of Shabbat. Includes model letters and invitations. A camera-ready booklet with the Friday night home table service is available as well. Published by the Committee on Commitment and Observance.
              To order, call the education department, 212 533-7800, ext. 1131.

      Tefillot

      • Higher and Higher (L'ayla L'ayla): Making Jewish Prayer Part of Us
        By Steven. M. Brown, it looks at Jewish prayer, deals with such issues as why people pray, the languages of prayer, the history of prayer, and the structure of the siddur, and includes an analysis of individual prayers. $8; bulk prices available.
             Order online or call Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      • Minhah Moments
        An attractive, wallet-sized minhah prayer pamphlet that includes complete Hebrew text and English prayer.  $.80 each.
              Order online or call Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.
      EDUCATION

      ADULT EDUCATION
      "A Flickering Candle: Death and End of Life Issues"
      This publication, by Dr. Livia Selmanowitz Straus, uses case studies, media, discussion, and dramatization to guide classes of adults and teenagers in struggling with critical issues regarding care of the terminally ill as dealt with by rabbis, hospital review boards, the courts, patients, and families.
      Cost $4.95 (12 or more, $3.95).
      Teacher's Manual, $2 (free with every 12 copies).
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Tradition and Change: The Development of Conservative Judaism"
      Originally published in 1958, this publication of the USCJ and the Rabbinical Assembly is now available in paperback, with a new preface. An extended introduction by the editor, Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, is followed by classic statements by the founders and leading spokesmen of the Conservative Movement.
      Cost: $14.95.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      Course Guides on "Emet Ve-Emunah: The Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism"
      The guide for adults provides suggestions for guiding the discussion of a study group; the guide for youth, which uses a variety of means to engage learners on the theological issues raised by "Emet Ve-Emunah," has also been used successfully with adults.
      Cost: $15.95 for each guide.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      Advisory Series
      Guidelines and information for day school leaders on pressing topics. Back issues available.
      To order, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      Program Suggestions 5762: MITZVAH DAY AND BEYOND:
      Successful programs in Hesed, Tikun Olam, Tzedakah go beyond a one day experience. Here is philosophy and social justice for the entire year in a 46 page program piece.
      Cost: $2.50.
      To order, contact ext. 2205.

      BAR/BAT MITZVAH
      "Tefillin: And You Shall Bind Them"
      Written by Rabbi Martin I. Sandberg, this book for pre-bar and bat mitzvah age children provides a rationale and how-to information on Tefillin. It is richly illustrated with photographs and graphics.
      Cost: $5.95.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      FAMILY EDUCATION
      "Beginnings - Raising a Jewish Child: Early Years"
      Written by Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs, this book takes readers through the ceremonies - traditional and new - marking early life cycle events. Explains and guides with Hebrew, translation and transliteration, and includes pertinent information to help parents make knowledgeable decisions and create an authentic Jewish home environment.
      Cost: $7.90.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Jewish Family Matters"

      Written by Rabbi Ronald and Dr. Leora Isaacs, the manual offers step-by-step guidance for doing family programming.
      Cost: $32.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Shabbat Shalom"

      A family activity guide to help parents and young children (nursery-grade 4) celebrate together on Friday night. May be distributed by synagogues to encourage Shabbat home observance. Available in camera-ready form.
      Cost: Master copy, $25.
      Packets of 10 booklets, $15.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      "A Family Activity Guide for Sukkot"
      Suggestions to help parents and young children celebrate Sukkot. Contains ideas for sukkah decorating, activities, entertaining, and a home service for Sukkot. May be distributed by synagogues to enrich family home Sukkot observance. Available in camera-ready form.
      Cost: Master copy, $25.
      Packets of 10 booklets, $11.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      "A Family Activity Guide for Pesah"
      Suggestions to help parents and young children celebrate Pesah˜. Contains activities, recipes and a guide to observance. May be distributed by synagogues to enrich family Pesah˜. observance. Available in camera-ready form.
      Cost: Master copy, $25.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      "A Family Activity Guide for Shavuot"
      Suggestions to help parents and young children celebrate Shavuot. Contains activities, recipes and a guide to observance. May be distributed by synagogues to enrich family home Shavuot observance. Available in camera-ready form.
      Cost: Master copy, $25.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      "Into the Ark"

      A structured group, family trip to the zoo that is both educational and entertaining. Created by Hana Berman and Lonna Picker; illustrated by Judy Nagle. Kit contains Activity Book, Handbook plus Appendix with supplementary materials.
      Cost: Kit, $9.95;
      Activity Book only, $4.85.
      Quantity rates available.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Figuring It Out Together"

      (See Jewish Continuity.)

      "Dapim Lamishpahah: Pages for Sharing with the Family"
      Camera-ready pages for the synagogue and school bulletin, to bring Jewish learning and living into the home. Each packet contains 6 sets (12 camera-ready pages) focusing on a Jewish value, hero, or holiday.
      Cost: Packet A, $30;
      Packet B, $20.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.


      HEBREW SCHOOL CURRICULA
      Advice on developing a curriculum is available from the Education Department. Call ext. 2503. HIGH

      SCHOOL EDUCATION
      (See "A Flickering Candle: Death and End of Life Issues" under Adult Education.)

      MIDDLE SCHOOL EDUCATION
      "To Be Is To Do"
      Creative, original unit in bulletin format exploring "Who is a hero?" for 11-13-year-olds. Written by Beth Huppin, it tells of the actions and beliefs of Myriam Mendilow and includes a description of "Life Line for the Old."
      Cost: $3.50; 15 or more copies @ $2.00 (includes free teachers guide)
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      "King of Children"
      Creative, original unit in bulletin format exploring "Who is a hero?" for 11-13-year-olds. Written by Lori Forman, it recounts the dedication of Dr. Janusz Korczak in helping children in Poland during WWII and encourages concern for disadvantaged children today.
      Cost: $3.50; 15 or more copies @ $2.00 (includes free teachers guide)
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      NEWSLETTERS
      "Shibboley Schechter"
      Bulletin for Solomon Schechter Day Schools containing ideas for lay and professional day school leaders, including descriptions of programs, research, and resources.
      Cost: Single copy no charge.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      "Tov L'Horot"
      Designed for synagogue school principals and teachers, this publication includes descriptions of existing synagogue school programs, articles by educators, lesson plans, and resource information. Back issues with articles on videos, Purim costume-making, professionalism, Hebrew, and the like, are available.
      Cost: Single copies sent at no charge to synagogue presidents, educational directors and SSDS princip als.
      Additional copies at nominal charge.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      "Your Child"
      Designed for parents of young children, this newsletter is published three times a year and focuses on issues, problems and goals involved in raising and educating the young Jewish child.
      Cost: Individual subscription, $7.50.
      Bulk rates available.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      PRE-SCHOOL
      "The Nursery School Director: Functions and Responsibilities"
      Outlines the functions, responsibilities and qualifications of the professional head of a Jewish pre-school. A basic guide for the job description of a nursery school director, it includes a statement regarding the role of the Nursery School Education Committee of the congregation.
      Cost: Single copy, no charge.
      To order, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      SPECIAL EDUCATION

      "Someone is Listening"
      A 28-minute VHS cassette which tells how a deaf teenager finds the world of Jewish life opening up to him. Video is signed and captioned and can be used to sensitize children and adults to the Jewish hearing impaired.
      Cost: $18.
      For information on ordering, contact the Education Department, ext. 2507.

      TEACHER TRAINING
      U-STEP
      United Synagogue Teacher Enhancement Program works with congregations to design a teacher-training program that meets their needs. Engages teachers in training for 12 hours during each of two years.
      For information, contact the Education Department, ext. 2510.

      EARLY-STEPS
      Early Childhood Educators Teacher Enhancement Program works with congregations to engage synagogue nursery school teachers in sustained teacher training. Involves 8-10 hours during each of 2 years in a format individualized to the needs of each school.
      For information, contact the Education Department, ext. 2509.

      ISRAEL

      ALIYAH
      Tnuat AM (Aliyah Masortit), The Movement for Conservative Aliyah
      A support network for people who want to integrate their Conservative Judaism and the process of aliyah. Regional activities are organized throughout the year and a national kinnus is held in the spring.
      For information, contact Karni Goldschmidt, the Shaliah to the Conservative/Masorti Movement,
      155 Fifth Avenue,
      New York, NY 10010.
      Telephone (212) 533-7800, ext. 2021,
      Fax (212) 533-2601,
      e-mail: aliyahcenter@compuserve.com

      Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel
      Let the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism in Jerusalem help you arrange your bar/bat mitzvah in Israel.
      For information, contact the Department of Israel Affairs, ext. 2614.

      The Shirley and Jacob Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism In Jerusalem
      Contact the Department of Development, ext. 2505, for brochures on the Center and its activities and on the campaign to expand the Center at 2-10a Agron Street, Jerusalem. Also contact the Department of Development to receive the quarterly center newsletter, Pillars.
      To contact Israel directly, fax 972-2-623-4127
      or e-mail Israel@uscj.org

      The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem
      Israel contact: Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb, Yeshiva Director.
      Phone 972-2-622-3116;
      fax 972-2-623-4127;
      e-mail: yeshcon@netvision.net.il
      USA contact: Richard S. Moline, KOACH Director,
      e-mail: koach@uscj.org

      "A Free People In Our Land: From Dream to Reality"
      A teaching Israel program for Solomon Schechter Day Schools (fifth grade). Kit includes Teachers Manuals and camera-ready materials in both Hebrew and English, two videos, games and multicolor reproducible visuals. Developed by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Solomon Schechter Day School Association and the Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education.
      Cost: $175 ($210 for non-Solomon Schechter Day Schools).
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.
      JEWISH CONTINUITY/PREVENTION OF INTERMARRIAGE

      GENERAL RESOURCE MATERIALS
      "The Ideal Conservative Jew: Eight Behavioral Expectations" (pamphlet)
      Offers eight behavioral expectations to help you build the foundation of a strong and committed Conservative Jewish lifestyle.
      To order, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, ext. 2205.

      "A Return to the Mitzvah of Endogamy"
      Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein suggests that given the limited resources within the Jewish community, prevention of intermarriage must be a higher priority than keruv. Statistical data supporting this approach is included.
      Cost: $2.50 per copy.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Convert: Genuine Jew?"
      Dr. Morton K. Siegel presents a brief positive argument on the "authenticity" of a Jew by choice.
      Cost: $2 per copy.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Enriching Jewish Life: Building Blocks for Marrying Within the Faith"
      This 220-page book, produced by the New York Metropolitan Region, contains replicable programs for nursery schools, afternoon Hebrew schools, bar/bat mitzvah, teenage youth groups, families, college youth and post-college singles, to promote Jewish living and marriage within the faith. Also includes listings of informal education facilities as well as other resources.
      Cost: $25.
      To order, contact METNY, ext. 2150.

      "Intermarriage: Our Grounds For Concern-14 Questions, 14 Answers"
      Author Alan Silverstein poses the questions that someone contemplating the issues of interdating and intermarriage would ask, and then provides thoughtful answers to these questions based on the values of Conservative Judaism.
      Cost: $3.75 per copy.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "It All Begins with a Date: Parent/Young Adult Dialogues About Interdating"
      In this 35-page booklet, Rabbi Alan Silverstein poses nine common, challenging questions young adults ask when seeking to know why parents object to interdating. The piece is intended to assist dialogue about interdating in intergenerational settings of parents and their children or with groups of parents or teens.
      Cost: $5.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Why Be Jewish? What's the Gain, the Pride, the Joy?"
      In this booklet, Rabbi Alan Silverstein helps adults, and particularly parents of teenagers, consider reasons for being Jewish. Can be read alone or as part of Figuring It Out Together-A Program of Family Study and Experiences.
      Cost: $5.95 (quantity rates available).
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Figuring It Out Together"
      A manual for program facilitators by Susan Werk and Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, which guides a parent-child pre-bar/bat mitzvah program. For use in conjunction with "Why Be Jewish?"
      Cost: $9.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.



      RESOURCES FOR EDUCATORS AND YOUTH LEADERS
      "Future Thinking: The Effects of Intermarriage"
      A 10-lesson module for pre- and post- bar/bat mitzvah classes and older students, by Greta Bernard Brown. Includes a teacher's guide with lesson plans and a student notebook.
      Cost: Teacher's Guide, $5.50;
      Student Notebook, $1.25 (15 copies or more @ $1.10).
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Interdating-Intermarriage: Intervention"
      A complete program guide to help confront this critical issue, written by Edward Edelstein. Geared to teens and/or parents, it describes how to administer programs on interdating and intermarriage prevention and can be used in conjunction with "Intermarriage: Our Grounds for Concern."
      Cost: $5 per copy.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Intermarriage: What Can We Do? What Should We Do?"
      Filled with concrete advice and practical guidance for congregational leaders, both lay and professional, on how synagogues can respond to the multifaceted dimensions of the problem.
      Cost: $2 per copy.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Principles and Compassion: Guidelines and Casebook for Teaching with Children of Intermarried Parents in Our Synagogue Schools"
      This publication, written by Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, is designed for rabbis, principals, teachers, and lay leaders. It includes recommended policies and procedures as well as 20 case studies for staff discussion and training, with analyses and suggested responses.
      Cost: $9.50 per copy.
      To order, contact the Book Service, 1 (800) 594-5617.

      "Syllabus for the Teacher of Choosing Jews"
      Curricular outlines for introduction to "basics" of Judaism (including ideological, historical, and communal material).
      Cost: $15 each.
      To order, contact the Book Service , 1 (800) 594-5617.

      LIFE CYCLE

      BAR/BAT MITZVAH

      "Tefillin: And You Shall Bind Them" (See Education: Bar/Bat Mitzvah) "Mazel Tov! Your Child's Bar and Bat Mitzvah" (See Commitment and Observance: Kashrut)

      FUNERAL PRACTICE
      "Guide to Jewish Funeral Practice"
      Booklet provides guidance on Jewish funeral procedures. Published by the Committee on Congregational Standards.
      One to nine copies, $1.75 each;
      10 copies or more, $1.50 each.
      To order, contact Department of Congregational Standards, ext. 2205. Text appears in the Directory.

      "Guide to the Hevra Kadisha"
      Guidance on performing the mitzvah of preparing the deceased for burial in accordance with Jewish tradition. Published by the Committee on Congregational Standards. No charge.
      To order, contact Department of Congregational Standards, ext. 2205. Text appears in the Directory.


      NEWBORN CEREMONIES
      "Beginnings - Raising a Jewish Child: Early Years" (see Family Education)

      "Celebrating our Daughters: The Brit Bat Ceremony." United Synagogue Review, Fall 1992.
      To order, contact the Public Affairs Department, ext. 2601.

      WEDDINGS
      "Mazel Tov! Your Wedding" (See Commitment & Observance: Kashrut)

      OUTREACH

      COLLEGE STUDENTS
      World Wide Web and E-Mail
      Program enabling students to connect and communicate via KOACH Listserv. Issues pertinent to the Conservative student on campus and current Jewish events are discussed at length. The web site has many resources (www.koach.org). For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      "A Guide for the New Jewish College Student"

      Booklet by Rabbi Neil Gillman giving practical suggestions for college students on how to build a personal Jewish community on campus.
      To order, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      "Shabbat . . . an oasis in time . . . a taste of the world to come."
      First in a series of introductory pamphlets on observance on campus. To order, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      KOACH Kallah
      Yearly conference of college students from the Conservative Movement, held each February. Brings together students from across North America to discuss issues of concern on campus and to the Conservative Movement; includes social activities, scholar-in-residence, prayer and friendship.
      For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      KOACH Faculty Program
      Arranges campus visits by young Jewish educators for role-modeling and Shabbat programming.
      For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      "KOACH On Campus"
      Webzine by and for college students, published three times a year. Articles on campus issues and concerns.
      To order, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      "Meeting the Needs of Our College Students"

      Pamphlet giving program suggestions for congregations on how best to serve their college population; both those away at school and college students in the community.
      Visit www.koach.org.

      Israel Trips
      In coordination with birthright israel, KOACH offers free trips for first-time Israel travelers between the ages of 18-26 to tour, study and experience Conservative Judaism in Israel.
      For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach, ext. 2230.

      Regional Conferences

      Shabbat weekend experiences are held on many different campuses throughout the year. Most are open to students from surrounding campuses.
      For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      KASHRUT: Connecting the Physical to the Spiritual
      The maning of keeping Kosher designed especially for college students.
      For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      Lekh-Lekha: A Ceremony of Going Forth

      A special Shabbat ceremony designed as an appropriate "send-off" for new college students.
      For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach/KOACH, ext. 2230.

      Israel Center on Campus
      Programs for students spending a year or semester at universities and institutions in Israel.
      For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach, ext. 2230.

      KOACH Creative Grants Program
      A modest grants program supporting programming for our students on college campuses across North America and Israel. For more information, contact the Department of College Outreach, ext. 2230.




      UNAFFILIATED/MISCELLANEOUS
      "On Creating Conservative Mitzvah Missionaries: A Plea for Peer Outreach"
      A call to action by USCJ Executive Vice-President Rabbi Jerome Epstein, urging synagogues to establish groups through which synagogue members help fellow congregants to grow Jewishly.
      To order, contact the Synagogue Resource Center, ext. 2205.

      "This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is Our Land"
      A guide for the USY chapter on how to integrate new American teens into the synagogue's youth community. Copies of a USY promotional brochure in Russian and English are also available.
      To order, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2321.

      PROGRAMMING: SYNAGOGUE RESOURCE CENTER

      To order the items below, call ext. 2205, Department of Congregational Programming. Preferred order in writing or by fax, (212) 353-9439.

      Program Suggestions 5750
      Building a Better Shul: Creating a User-Friendly Synagogue. Twenty-five programs that worked. Initiatives in Torah study, Sukkot and Shavuot activities, aufruf and baby naming programs, Shabbat and Kashrut programs that welcome people. Membership outreach approaches.
      By Rabbi Moshe Edelman.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5751
      Centrality of Mitzvot. Program ideas that reflect the relationship of human beings, one to the other, and our relationship to God.
      By Rabbi Barry Starr.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5752
      Community and Spirituality. Programs that guide the congregation to build a sense of community on the holidays-Purim, Pesah, Yom HaAtzmaut and TuB'Shevat. The synagogue as a spiritual home for new parents, strangers and newcomers; and loving humanity.
      By Rabbi Barry Starr.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5753
      Enhancing Your Synagogue's Religious Program. Shabbat Fair, Shabbat and learning, holiday observance ideas. The synagogue as a model community. Responding to intermarriage. Israel in the synagogue's program.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5754
      Deeds of Lovingkindness is a comprehensive Social Action Guide for programs and events to create a sense of communal responsibility. Lists resource organizations. Includes Blood Drive, Food Collection, Volunteer Project on December 25, Earth Fair, AIDS Care Team.
      By Janet Dundee.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5755
      Building a Shared History of Being Jewish. By creating programs that connect Jews with each other, we build a history. Mitzvah Mania Day, Hagaddah Happening, Ritual Arts Festival, Nostalgic Nosh and more.
      By Harlene Winnick Appelman.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5756
      Designed to help your congregation develop the USCJ Jewish Living Now Campaign. Includes an implementation guide for the program. Descriptions and instructions for a campaign for Kashrut, Talmud Torah and Shabbat.
      By Rabbi David Kunin.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5757
      Second booklet for the Jewish Living Now Campaign for your congregation. Descriptions and instructions for a campaign in Tzedakah and Tefillah; complements the 5756 ideas.
      By Rabbi David Kunin.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5758
      The focus is on Family Education and the process of "home to synagogue to home." Intergenerational projects which create encounters in Jewish learning and living. Published in cooperation with the Commission on Jewish Education.
      By Lonna Picker.
      Cost: $2.50

      Program Suggestions 5759
      An exciting presentation of Mitzvah Gorreret Mitzvah for a three-year cycle. To be used for developing personal mitzvah growth for adults and involvement with Hesed Committees. Excellent for Solomon Schechter Schools, USY groups and especially parent-student growth in mitzvah motivation.
      By Amy Jackson.
      Cost: $2.50.

      Program Suggestions 5760
      A new compilation of successful fundraising programs.
      Cost: $2.50.

      Program Suggestions 5761
      Adult Education: Scholars-in-residence, lecturers, musical programs (40 pages of recommendations.)
      Cost: $2.50.

      Program Suggestions 5762
      Mitzvah Day and Beyond: Hesed Committee, Tikum Olam, Derekh Eretz, Tzedakah are intrinsic Jewish lifestyle values. Here are ideas for your congregation.
      Cost: $2.50



      JEWISH LIVING NOW
      Publications
      A thought-provoking and useful series of seven booklets on Jewish Living Now. These booklets provide both discussion starters and concrete program suggestions in all the areas of Jewish life focused on by Jewish Living Now. $2.00 each, see below.
      To order, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, ext. 2205.

      The Synagogue: A House of Study, Rabbi Ronald Isaacs.
      A strong Jewish community requires a laity that is both Jewishly committed and educated. This booklet examine ways in which we can develop and/or strengthen our adult education programs, what we can do to meet the educational needs of our members and encourage them to participate in our programs.

      A Strategic Plan for the Synagogue, Rabbi Alan Silverstein.
      The synagogue is the central institution of the community. It provides the leadership and sense of community essential for Jewish survival. This booklet suggests a program plan that can help synagogues better fill the needs of the community of the present and the future.

      Living a Life of Prayer, Rabbi Bradley Artson.
      Judaism requires us to engage in prayer throughout our lives. Synagogues must therefore provide opportunities to help enhance congregants' prayer experiences. This booklet presents ideas to enable synagogues to encourage congregants to make prayer part of their everyday lives.

      The Synagogue as Bet Nissim, A Place of Miracles, Danny Siegel.
      Jewish Living requires serious engagement in tzedakah. This booklet examines the many opportunities that synagogues have to interest and engage their members in projects for the betterment of the community.

      Making Shabbat, Dr. Ronald Wolfson.
      Shabbat plays a central role in shaping our identity and our approach to the world. This booklet presents ideas for congregations to excite their members about observance of Shabbat.

      Kashrut, Adding Holiness to our Lives, Rabbi Jack Moline.
      Kashrut has been a defining Jewish ritual since biblical times. It is impossible to separate Kashrut from living a Jewish life. This booklet presents programs designed to excite congregants about Kashrut and to encourage them to observe it in their own homes.

      Reaching Out to the Jewish Community, Rabbi Avis Miller.
      A strong and vibrant Jewish community depends on the full participation of its members. This booklet examines programs to enable synagogues to reach out to unaffiliated Jews to encourage them to participate as full and committed members of the community.
      Full series: $12, or $2.50 for each.
      To order, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, ext. 2205.

      Tikun Leyl Shavuot
      A comprehensive package developed to hold a program of all-night study on Shavuot. All materials needed to set up the program, including PR material, logistical guides and a comprehensive study guide. The theme for the Tikun study guide embraces the areas covered in the Jewish Living Now Campaign: Study, Synagogue, Tzedakah, Prayer, Shabbat and Kashrut and Outreach to Jews. The study material is adaptable for use throughout the year.
      Cost: $5



      PROGRAMMING RESOURCES
      Timely Program Ideas (TPI)
      A quick reading series designed for synagogue leaders and programming chairpeople. This series gives complete descriptions and details of topical and timely programs that can be replicated by congregations. Copies are available upon request on 19 topics. Contact the Department of Congregational Programming, ext. 2205.

      Synagogue Resource Center 2006-2007, Revised and Supplemented
      The Department of Congregational Programming maintains files of resources on various aspects of congregational life and programming, including administration, finance, holidays and education. These files are available to member congregations of the United Synagogue.  For more information on the Resource Center and a complete listing of files, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, ext. 2205, or call your regional executive director.

      HADASH:
      The E-mail program of the month. Free. To sign up for free, go to uscj.org/hadash. More than 50 programs are available.


      PUBLICITY

      "Putting Your Best Foot Forward: A Guide to Synagogue Publicity"
      A manual providing detailed information on how to define and promote the public image of the synagogue. Includes guidelines for writing press releases, designing congregational bulletins, and creating membership applications.
      Cost: $5.
      To order, contact the Department of Public Affairs, ext. 2601.



      SENIORS
      HAZAK Manual
      An organizing and program manual for the formation of HAZAK chapters. Includes information related to the organizational meeting, obtaining a charter, chapter events and projects, membership applications and ideas for programming (Second Edition.)
      For further information, contact Dr. Morton Siegel, ext. 2234.



      SINGLES

      "Magnet Synagogues: A New Look at Singles Programming"
      A manual wth a step-by-step guide for the planning and administration of congregational and regional singles programs.
      Cost: $5 each.
      To order, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, ext. 2205.



      SOCIAL ACTION
      "HaMa'aseh"
      A quarterly publication of the Commission on Social Action and Public Policy which includes suggestions forimplementation of United Synagogue resolutions, information on current issues, updates on projects of the Commission and successful congregational programs that may be replicated in your synagogue. To order, contact the Department of Special Projects/ Commission on Social Action and Public Policy, ext. 2618.



      SOCIAL ACTION/PUBLIC POLICY
      Resolution Implementation Packets
      To order, contact the Department of Special Projects/ Commission on Social Action and Public Policy, ext. 2618.

      "The Abortion Controversy: Jewish Religious Rights and Responsibilities"
      This packet explains Conservative Judaism's understanding of abortion in the light of Jewish law and tradition, as well as the current political situation, and the USCJ's position and efforts in this area. It contains programming ideas and a list of books and articles.

      "Judaism and Smoking"
      This packet is intended to help congregations begin a campaign to save lives by reducing smoking. It contains suggestions for education, prevention and smoking cessation programs, an article on smoking by a Conservative rabbi, and a list of organizations that can help you to find additional resources. We hope that you will mobilize your congregation's energies and resources for this life-saving work.

      "Judaism, Courtesy and Civility"
      This packet focuses on the issues relating to public and private discourse. It includes background material on courtesy and civility in Jewish tradition as well as program ideas and study discussion topics. It emphasizes the importance of choosing words carefully.

      "Cults, Missionaries, and the Jewish Community-A Resource Guide"
      This packet acquaints you with the resources available to educate the Jewish community to the danger posed by cults.

      "Judaism and Health Care Reform"
      This packet is intended to help you and your congregation become advocates for just, adequate health care reform. The material includes traditional Jewish sources, a contemporary text for study, suggestions for action, information about health care reform organizations, and additional resources for program planning.

      "Judaism and HIV/AIDS"
      This packet includes Jewish source material, programming ideas, and a list of resources available in both the Jewish and general communities.



      EMERGENCY RELIEF
      Conservative Movement Natural Disaster Relief Fund
      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, The Rabbinical Assembly, Women's League for Conservative Judaism, The Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America have established this ongoing fund to assist congregations and individual members in areas affected by such catastrophic occurrences as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, storms, fires, etc. Requests for assistance should be directed to Sarrae Crane, Department of Special Projects, ext. 2614. Contributions should be made payable to the United Synagogue and sent to Natural Disaster Relief Fund, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rapaport House, 155 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.



      ENVIRONMENT
      "Environmental Handbook"
      This publication provides educational material, concrete projects and initiatives for individuals or groups as well as a listing of Jewish environmental materials and organizations.
      To order, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2319.



      HUNGER

      Operation Isaiah
      Conservative Jews affirm their commitment to feed the hungry and care for the homeless by bringing foodstuff to the synagogue before Kol Nidre. Educational material for use in classrooms and informal settings is also available. For information on how to organize Operation Isaiah, contact the Education Department, ext. 2500.



      UNITED SYNAGOGUE POSITIONS
      Resolutions
      Pamphlet of positions on Conservative Movement issues, topics of Jewish concern and public policy matters adopted by the United Synagogue at its 1997 Biennial Convention.
      To order, contact the Department of Special Projects, ext. 2618.
      SYNAGOGUE FINANCING

      FUNDRAISING
      Deferred Giving Program
      Designed to help congregations raise funds by building up an endowment program.
      For further information, call the Department of Development, ext. 2522.

      "Focus on Fundraising"
      A sampling of successful synagogue fundraising projects and programs, developed by congregations of various sizes. Prepared about 1990.
      No charge. Limited supply. Still valuable.
      To order, contact the Department of Congregational Programming, ext. 2205.

      Program Suggestions 5760
      New collection of fundraising projects that were gathered from recent successes in synagogues. Fifty-five pages of great ideas.
      Cost: $2.50.

      "Resource Guide for Synagogue Fundraising"
      Resource guide outlining successful components of synagogue fundraising campaigns, including annual campaigns, capital campaigns, endowment funds and planned giving. Also includes list of available fundraising resource materials and offers suggestions regarding the use of fundraising consultants.
      To order, contact the Department of Development, ext. 2505.

      YOUTH ACTIVITIES

      PROGRAMMING RESOURCES/MEMBERSHIP

      Youth Commission Handbook (PDF file - 47 pages)
      By David L. Srebnick, USCJ Department of Youth Activities. A comprehensive guide to planning, developing, and managing youth activities in the synagogue. Includes information on budgeting, fundraising, structuring youth activities, sample job descriptions, and more. Now available on our website: Youth Commission Handbook www.uscj.org/Youth_Commission_Han6374.html

      USY & Kadima Online Program Bank
      Extensive materials for the USY and/or Kadima chapter on subjects including leadership development, membership, fundraising, religion/education, Israel, Shabbat, Jewish identity, etc., in an easy-to-use searchable database. An index of programs is also available to browse, as well as an online form to request copies of older programs from the USY office. Website: www.usy.org/pbank/.

      PUBLICATIONS

      "Achshav!"
      USY's quarterly magazine for all affiliated members. Contains articles of interest on current events, the chosen theme for the issue, Israel information, and Social Action/Tikun Olam information. Cost is included in member fee. For a sample copy, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2326, or visit the website at www.usy.org/achshav/.

      "B'kol Echad"
      The best-selling songster found in homes throughout the world. Includes Shabbat and Holiday blessings, Z'mirot, Hebrew songs, Grace after Meals, Songs of Israel, and Wedding blessings. To order, contact the USCJ Book Service Department, ext. 2003. Personalized Books: Personalized covers are available for your organization or family celebrations. For separate pricing information and to place an order, contact the Youth Department at ext. 2326 or visit the website at www.usy.org/benchers/.

      "Kol Kadima"
      The official magazine for all affiliated members of Kadima. Contains educational material, social action ideas, regional and chapter updates, and games and puzzles. Cost is included in membership fee. For a sample copy, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2326.

      "Ma'asei Yaldeinu - The Parents' Newsletter"
      Newsletter for all parents of USYers and/or Kadimaniks. Contains articles of interest to parents on topics such as social action, summer programs, Jewish identity, etc. For more information or for a sample copy, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2326.

      "Shalhevet"
      USY's official creative arts magazine, published annually at the USY International Convention. All USYers are eligible to submit material on a variety of topics, including Israel, Jewish Identity, the Holocaust, and more. For more information or for a sample copy, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2326, or visit the website at www.usy.org/shalhevet/.

      "Tikun Olam Publications"
      A series of pamphlets addressing a variety of social action issues. Includes "116 Practical Mitzvah Suggestions," "Environmental Handbook," and "Brother Can You Spare a Dime". Booklets with fundraising ideas are also available. Index of items available upon request. Most pamphlets and booklets are available in quantity at no charge to United Synagogue congregations and other Conservative institutions.
      To order, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2319.

      USY Sourcebooks
      The Department of Youth Activities publishes sourcebooks covering topics such as Shabbat, Kashrut, Israel, Judaism, Tefillah, and much more. These books can be used in a formal or informal educational setting. A listing is available upon request.
      Cost: varies by publication.
      To order, contact the USCJ Book Service, ext. 2003.

      SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS

      Abraham Joshua Heschel Honor Society
      The Heschel Society is a very special core group of USYers who are committed to their Judaism. In order to become a member, a USYer must demonstrate active involvement in each of the following three areas: the study of Torah, prayer, and acts of loving kindness.
      To join, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2327.

      Hechalutzim
      A special group for USY members who want to know more about Israel. Members receive "Hechalutzon", the society's newsletter. Cost: $10 annual membership fee.
      To join, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2321.

      613 Mitzvot Club
      A club for USY members with a special interest in tzedakah and g'milut hasadim projects. Members receive "Eit La'asot", the club's newsletter.
      Cost: $6.13 donation to Tikun Olam; Lifetime - $61.30 donation to Tikun Olam.
      To join, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2319.

      TRIP & LONG-TERM PROGRAMS - DOMESTIC

      USY on Wheels
      USY on Wheels, a six and one-half week cross-continental tour of North America, is a total experience in Jewish education and Jewish living. Participants have the unique opportunity to see the sights of the United States and Canada while living Jewishly and meeting new friends from across North America.
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2314, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      USY on Wheels, Mission: Mitzvah
      Mission: Mitzvah Wheelniks have the opportunity to interact with and learn about various communities throughout North America through carefully planned, intensive social action and mitzvah projects. In addition, Mission: Mitzvah Wheelniks participate in many of the same social, educational, touring and sightseeing programs as the "classic" Wheels program.
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2314, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      Summer in the City
      Participants spend four weeks taking classes at Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary,experiencing all New York City has to offer, while living and learning with other Jewish teens.
      For information, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2319, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      Outdoor Adventure, Pacific Northwest
      Participants spend four weeks on a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest with USY combining hiking, canoeing, and sea kayaking, while learning how to live a Jewish lifestyle in the great outdoors.
      For more information, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2327, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      USY International Convention
      Held each December during the winter vacation period in a different city, over 1,000 USYers and staff gather at a luxury hotel for a week filled with study, social action programs, leadership sessions, and plenty of ruach!
      For more information, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2314, or visit the website at www.usy.org/ic/.

      TRIPS & LONG-TERM PROGRAMS - ISRAEL & ABROAD

      "Classic" USY Israel Pilgrimage
      For six weeks, the teenagers will be exposed to the history and contemporary realities of Judaism and Israel. They will experience the sights and sounds of the Jewish homeland, from the Negev desert to the Kinneret. The group also participates in the Gadna Israel Army simulation. Lifelong friendships will be developed with teens from all over North America.
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2316, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      Eastern Europe/Israel Pilgrimage
      Participants on this program spend two weeks exploring the history and culture of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Emphasis is placed on the past, present, and future of these extraordinary Jewish communities. Following this experience, the USYers travel to Israel for four weeks of follow-up and discovery as they tour the length and breadth of Israel.
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2316, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      Israel Pilgrimage/Poland Seminar
      Participants begin the summer with one week in Poland, visiting Warsaw, Cracow, and Lublin, including the concentration camp sites of Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka, and others. The USYers spend time in Poland exploring the Holocaust as well as the history of the Polish Jews. Following this experience, the USYers travel to Israel to spend five weeks touring the length and breath of Israel and seeing all it has to offer. (Limited space available; applicants are carefully screened.)
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2316, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      Spain/Israel Pilgrimage
      Explore the great heritage of Jewish Spain, including many philosophers, commentators, writers, and poets, such as Maimonides, Abarbanel, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, and Ibn Gvriol. Visit the exciting cities of Madrid, Cordoba, Sevilla, Granada, and Toledo, while discovering an important side of the Jewish roots in Spain. Following this experience, the USYers travel to Israel to spend five weeks touring the length and breath of Israel and seeing all it has to offer.
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2316, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      Etgar! Ultimate Israel Challenge
      This five-week program is for those who have already participated in the USY Israel Pilgrimage or a similar program. This group will go beyond the souvenir stands and discover the Israeli side of Israel, meeting the challenge of study combined with volunteer work, hiking, and interaction with NOAM (USY's sister movement in Israel).
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2316, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      European Experience
      Participants in this program spend four weeks exploring the Jewish history of four European nations. USYers travel to France, Portugal, Spain, and Italy, while learning about the distinctive nature and histories of the Jewish European community.
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2316, or visit the website at www.usy.org/escape/.

      USY High
      Spend two months of high school in Israel reliving history and culture from ancient to modern times, with Israel as your classroom. This exciting program is run in conjunction with Ramah Israel Programs. (Open to high school juniors and seniors.)
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2321, or visit the website at www.usy.org/high/.

      Nativ - College Leadership Program in Israel
      Nativ is a year-long program in Israel. Participants spend the first half of the year studying at either Hebrew University or the Conservative Yeshiva, with the second half of the year spent either living and working on kibbutz, or participating in various volunteer projects in Be'er Sheva. The program also features leadership training, lots of touring, and personal growth.
      To apply, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2321, or visit the website at www.usy.org/nativ/.

      MISCELLANEOUS

      USY Program Certificate
      Parents or friends can purchase gift certificates good for future USY Summer Programs. The gift certificates are good for up to ten years after purchase, and are available in any denomination starting at $25. For more information, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2322.

      USY Alumni Database
      In an ongoing effort to better serve its members, past and present, USY offer the Alumni Database. USY alumni can register and use this online resource to find old friends and establish new ties.
      For information, contact the Youth Department, ext. 2319, or visit the website at www.usy.org/alumni/.


      How You Can Participate

      Silent Auction
      Join us at the event and bid on unique items at our silent auction tables. A sampling of items is listed to the left. Photos of some items are posted on the Silent Auction page.

      Live Auction
      Either join us at the event or bid by phone. To arrange to bid by phone, please contact Debbie Cheerman at 212-533-7800, ext. 2502, by November 9th. A list of items available in the live auction will be posted and updated on the Live Auction page. Additional items may be added during the auction. Consider arranging to bid with a group of friends.

      Highest Bid Auction
      A select group of auction items will be available for a "highest bid" style auction for which you can submit one bid - your highest bid - in writing in advance of the auction closing. All bids will be held in a box until closing at which time the highest bid in the box for that item wins the item. A list of the items available for "highest bid" will be posted and updated on the Highest Bid Auction page. To participate in the Highest Bid Auction without attending, please fax your bid for each item to Debbie Cheerman, by November 9th, at 212-353-9439 as follows, noting the Minimum Bid for each item on the web site list:

      Name and Address:
      Phone Number:
      Fax Number:

      Number and Title of the Item
      You Are Bidding On: _____________________

      Your Highest Bid for That Item: $____________

      Naming Opportunity
      USCJ is pleased to offer you a chance to name a dormitory room in the Youth and Education Center at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, an opportunity otherwise available for a contribution of $25,000. At the November 11th event, for a contribution of $100 per ticket, you will be entered into a drawing to be held that evening. You may purchase the tickets on the response card or at the event. The drawing of names will be held at the event. You need not be present to win. More information on the Youth and Education Center may be found on the Naming Opportunity page.

       

         

      Live Auction Items
      1. A Scholar-in-Residence Weekend with Rabbi Joel Roth, Professor of Talmud and Jewish Law at the Jewish Theological Seminary and member of the Joint Beit Din of the Conservative Movement, anywhere in the continental United States
        - Compliments of Rabbi Joel Roth

        Minimum Bid: $1,500
      1. Shofar blown by Rabbi Irving Elson, Jewish chaplain for the U.S. armed services, in Fallujah, Iraq on the High Holy


      Days and the American flag that flew over Camp Fallujah on Yom Kippur 5765 while Jewish services were conducted in the Camp.
      - Compliments of Rabbi Irving Elson

      Minimum Bid: $750


      1. 3 evenings of teaching at home by Rabbi Dr. Elliot Dorff, renowned Professor of Philosophy at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. These unique opportunities must be held in a West Coast location.
        - Compliments of Rabbi Dr. Elliott Dorff

        Minimum Bid: $1,500
      1. Rare wool tapestry by Agam with a rainbow design. It was created in Israel in the 1970's. It is approximately 4' by 3'. The artist, Agam, signed each one that he created.
        -Compliments of Udi Merioz

        Minimum Bid: $2,000

      1. Beachhouse stay in Oxnard Shores, California at the Mandalay Shores Resort for up to 6 people for a week (in 2-story, ocean view unit with 2 bedrooms, pools, Jacuzzi, full kitchen, fireplace, washer and dryer) on a cul-de-sac street ending at the beach and ocean. It is one hour away from Los Angeles and 45 minutes from Santa Barbara, along the same coast line as Malibu, close to premium vineyards. Short driving distance to harbor activities including whale watching and cruises to the Channel Islands. Subject to availability in any month in 2005, Sunday afternoon through Sunday morning.
        - Compliments of Jackie Saltz

        Minimum Bid: $1,000


      2. “Batter up” with Ed Kranepool, 1969 Mets world champion first baseman Ed Kranepool will come to your local batting cage and provide a 1-1/2 hour private batting lesson for you or a friend or relative. This unique experience is available in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
        - Compliments of Grandstand Sports

        Minimum Bid: $1,800
      1. Set of 7 sukkah panels by artist Sharon Binder of the harvest symbols of the seven species with which Israel is blessed. These panels may be used as a sukkah interior or as wall hangings for synagogues, Jewish institutions and homes. (Each panel measures 39" wide x 79" long)
        - Compliments of Sharon Binder

        Minimum Bid: $1,500

      1. Visit to the set of "The Young and the Restless" soap opera in Los Angeles and meet star Eric Braeden. The visit will be arranged at a mutually convenient mid-week date. A unique opportunity for any daytime television fan! A two night weekend stay at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel Los Angeles Airport is provided.
        - Compliments of Eric Braeden, Joyce Becker and Allan Sugarman, and the Sheraton Gateway Hotel Los Angeles Airport

        Minimum Bid: $2,000
      1. Torah cover by Jeannette Kuvin Oren of hand-painted silks depicting "Robinson's Arch," the site near the Western Wall where Conservative minyanim meet and daven. The Torah cover is made of hand-painted silks with quilting and embellishments.
        - Compliments of artist Jeanette Kuvin Oren

        Minimum Bid: $1,200

      1. "Fiddler on the Roof" limited edition, signed and numbered bronze Chanukiyah by Yaacov Heller. This unique piece is one of 22 that will be made. It is 25 inches tall and 16 inches wide, in the shape of a violin with five individually sculpted figurines.
        - Compliments of Yaacov Heller and Jaque Rubin

        Minimum Bid: $4,000

      1. One year membership at the Mamaroneck Beach & Yacht Club in Mamaroneck, New York (for a couple or family), 2005 season, New members only. Membership does not include food, beverages, day camp and additional private services. Full, shared cabana is provided.
        - Compliments of Mamaroneck Beach & Yacht Club

        Minimum Bid: $2,000


      2. Helicopter ride in Israel with retired General Dagan (including a military briefing and an "inside look" from his helicopter)
        - Compliments of General Dagan

        Minimum Bid: $500
      The list of auction items, and the category of auction in which they are offered, are subject to change by The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
         

      Silent Auction Items

      We have over 60 spectacular silent auction items. We hope to see you at the Gala so that you can view them for yourself."

      The list of auction items, and the category of auction in which they are offered, are subject to change by The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
         

      Highest Bid Auction Items
      1. A Unique Israeli Experience: 2 days of guided touring in Israel conducted by David Keren, Israel Director of USY programs; a Shabbat of Torah, fun and learning with Rabbi Paul Freedman and Nina Freedman in their Jerusalem home for an individual or family; and a personal tour of Jerusalem's Talpiot neighborhood with Charlie Kalech (including the Temple Mount, an archaeological site, Herod's aqueduct and the Jerusalem Peace Forest). Available after mid-January 2005, subject to scheduling with all donors.
        - Compliments of David Keren; Paul and Nina Freedman; and Charlie Kalech

        Minimum Bid: $600


      2. Performance by story-telling duo Mark Novak and Renee Brachfeld (choice of "This Ain't Your Bubba's Yiddish Theatre" (for adults) or a religious school or family audience). Performance may be held either in the late afternoon/evening of December 19 in the NY/NJ Metro area or at a mutually agreed upon date in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area.
        - Compliments of Mark Novak and Renee Brachfeld - Stories and Songs From the Jewish Tradition, www.Jewishstorytelling.com

        Minimum Bid: $750
      1. Performance by the Jerusalem Lyric Trio (internationally acclaimed soprano, flutist and pianist) for a weeknight concert in May or November 2005.

      (Domestic transportation and hotel accommodations must be provided for the artists.)

      - Compliments of Jerusalem Lyric Trio

      Minimum Bid: $750

      1. 7-night stay at the Marriott Grande Ocean resort on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (11/26-12/3/04) for up to 6 people in a two-bedroom suite with its own kitchen; fitness center, beach, pools, putting green, tennis courts, bike rentals nearby golf and many more amenities on 17 oceanfront acres.
        - Compliments of Rabbi Dov Lerner and Barbara Lerner

        Minimum Bid: $600


      2. Round of golf for three at The Polo Club, Boca Raton, Florida. Driving range balls and lunch are included.
        - Compliments of Jay Wiston

        Minimum Bid: $300


      3. 4 VIP Viewing Passes for the 2004 Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, at the private 77th and Central Park West Grandstands. These seats are not available to the public.
        - Compliments of Macy's

        Minimum Bid: $500
      1. Handmade Havdalah set by Ludwig Wolpert
        - Compliments of Michael Strauss Silversmiths, Ltd.

        Minimum Bid: $1,500
         
         
      The list of auction items, and the category of auction in which they are offered, are subject to change by The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
         

      Naming Opportunity

      Youth and Education Center
      The Alan Tichnor Youth and Education Building will be home to programs such as USY Israel Pilgrimage, which brings nearly 700 young people to Israel every year for 12 week sessions; Nativ, the one year-post high school program for up to 45 participants that combines study at Hebrew University or the Conservative Yeshiva, several months on a kibbutz, volunteer work and leadership training; USY High, a two month tour-study program serving at least 40 young people each year; and the many Solomon Schechter school groups that regularly come to Israel for touring, studying and volunteering.

      In connection with the November 11th event and its exciting live and silent auctions, the United Synagogue is pleased to offer you a chance to name a dormitory room in the Youth and Education Center at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, an opportunity otherwise available for a contribution of $25,000. At the November 11th event, for a contribution of $100 per ticket, you will be entered into a drawing to be held that evening. Please complete and return the coupon below.

      *****************************************

      An Evening to Benefit the United Synagogue
      Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem
      November 11, 2004

      Name: ____________________________

      Phone: ____________________________

      Address:___________________________
      __________________________________

      Enclosed is my contribution of $100 per entry for the drawing for the naming opportunity:

      ____ entries @ $100 per entry

      Total contribution: $__________

      Make checks payable to: United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, 155 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010-6802 Attn: Deborah Cheerman

      All mailed entries must be received by November 10, 2004. You need not be present on November 11th to win the naming opportunity. Your name will be transcribed from this entry form onto uniform entry blanks for the drawing.

         

      Auction Rules

      All items in the event auctions are sold "as is" and no guarantee or warranty with respect to the property is made by United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism or the donors. Some items may have restrictions, which are stated in the description and cannot be changed. Please read the descriptions carefully. All sales are final. No exchanges or refunds on auction items are permitted.

      All items involving services, tickets, events, etc. are subject to the conditions set by the donor. If you have successfully bid on any items requiring the arrangement of dates and times, we ask that you please call the donor directly and promptly so they can provide these arrangements.

      The silent auction and highest bid auctionwill close at the times announced by the event coordinator during the event. Silent auction bids must follow the rules on each bid sheet; i.e., the minimum bid and minimum increment for each following bid stated on the bid sheet must be followed. The determination of a winning bid by the event coordinator is final.

      The live auction rules will be as stated during the live auction by the auctioneer. Telephone bids will be accepted if arranged in advance of the auction and a credit card number is given prior to bidding. The determination of a winning bid by the auctioneer is final.

      United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations made through the auctions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Generally, auction item donations are deductible to the extent that the contribution exceeds the stated value of the item. Where the stated value is "Priceless," we suggest that you consult your tax advisor.

         

      The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center

      The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center is the primary address of Conservative Movement activities in Israel. Visitors from all over the world enjoy a sense of home and hospitality and may choose from a wide array of programs and services -- from academic programs and assistance with travel to bar and bat mitzvah arrangements.

      Like few other institutions in Israel, the Fuchsberg Center also plays a critical role in building bridges with Israelis. Located in the heart of Jerusalem, the Center makes a visible statement about the presence of Conservative Judaism in the Jewish State.

      A few highlights:

      Israel Youth Programs.
      Hundreds of young people each year experience the sights, sounds, and flavor of Jewish history and contemporary reality through USCJ programs in Israel such as USY Israel Pilgrimage, USY High, and Halutzim.

      The Conservative Yeshiva.
      The Center houses the only yeshiva in Israel offering intense Jewish study from a Conservative perspective. This egalitarian institution promotes both group and personal study.

      NATIV.
      High school graduates enjoy a unique, one-year program combining study at Hebrew University or at the Conservative Yeshiva with kibbutz living and leadership training.

      The Center on Campus.
      Targeted to young adults from North America, the program offers a variety of programs to Conservative Jewish students studying at Israeli universities.

      Congregational Groups and Visitors.
      The Center ensures that the many needs of Conservative visitors and congregational groups are met during their stay in Israel.

       

         

      Contact Information for the Gala

      Deborah Cheerman
      212-533-7800, ext. 2502
      Fax: 212-353-9439

         
      December 4-8, 2005 Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, MA
      October 2004
      The NEW International Biennial Convention of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

      A convocation of workshops, seminars, institutes, meetings, and academies for members of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's international congregations in North America.

      December 4-8, 2005
      Boston Park Plaza Hotel Boston, MA

      Additional Features will include:

      • Rabbi Harold Kushner - Opening Night Speaker
      • Spouses Program
      • Solomon Schechter Awards for Synagogue Programming
      • Framework of Excellence Awards for Congregational Schools
      • Judaica vendors (Israel and U.S.)
      • After Hours Entertainment
      • All registration and tours will be handled by Ayelet tours www.ayelet.com
           

      Plan to attend this stimulating and informative gathering for:

      • Leadership training you seek
      • Programming skills your congregation needs
      • Resources to produce stimulating programs
      • Confidence to create exciting/meaningful Experiences and events for your members
      • Networking networking networking
       

      Our International Biennial Convention format will feature a menu of workshops, seminars, institutes, meetings, and academies that delegates will select when they pre-register. These single or multi-day programs will run till mid-afternoon. All convention attendees/delegates will then gather for stimulating/topical plenaries, award presentations, delicious kosher meals, entertainment, socializing, and more. Attendees/Delegates will choose from (list subject to change):

      • FUNDRAISING INSTITUTE (2 days)
      • YESHIVA (2 days) Presented by The Conservative Yeshiva and the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center
      • PUBLIC AFFAIRS INSTITUTE (2 days) Presented by USCJ Social Action Committee
      • TROP or TEFILLAH ACADEMY Presented by the Cantors Assembly
      • Much Much more!
       

      Additional offerings from

      KOACH,Women's League, NAASE, USCJ Department of Education, Solomon Schechter Day School Association, and more will be announced as they are confirmed. Please visit the USCJ website at www.uscj.org for monthly updates as more offerings and events are confirmed.
           
      Different items each time. Direct links to sites of organizations participating, programs being highlighted, Schechter Awards page, etc.
           

      Alan Karlsberg
      Alan Karlsberg is a past president of Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua, NH., a past president of the New England Region of United Synagogue, and a past vice president on the National board of USCJ. Alan is currently on the NE Regional board, and chairs the Information Technology Committee on the International board.

      Aside from his activities within United Synagogue, Alan is a charter member of the Raymond Street Klezmer Band, and also played for a number of years with a Boston area big band.

      Alan has held various engineering management positions at Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq Computer Corporation, and also Hewlett-Packard.

      To volunteer or give feedback please contact Alan Karlsberg at alkarlsberg@comcast.net.

      Bruce Creditor
      Bruce Creditor is a past president of Temple Israel of Sharon, MA, as well as the uncle of the Assistant Rabbi there, Menachem Creditor (no, he wasn't on the search committee!). Besides being active in USCJ - president-elect of New England Region and chair of the Solomon Schechter Awards, the real passion in his life is music - of various kinds. A clarinetist by training and vocation, he has had an association with the Zamir Chorale of Boston since his college and courting days, and for almost two decades he has been the Orchestra Personnel Manager of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. He has attended USCJ International Biennial Conventions since 1991 (Concord) through 2003 (Dallas), and can guarantee that CONVENTION 2005! will be like no other biennial before.


      To volunteer or give feedback please contact Bruce Creditor at brucecred@aol.com.
           
       

      For additional information please e-mail Convention@uscj.org

           
       
      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
      155 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
      646.519.9251
      convention@uscj.org
      International Biennial Convention 2005
       

      Lighting the Way!
      Park Plaza Hotel
      Boston, Massachusetts
      Sunday, December 4
      to Thursday, December 8

      More than 700 people -- lay leaders, rabbis, educators, other professionals, and synagogue members -- joined us at our international biennial convention in December.

      DVDs of some of the talks at the convention are available. For details about buying DVDs with talks by Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Rabbi Neil Gillman, Fran Immerman, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, and Professor Elliot Dorff, click here.

      You can read the Convention Reporter and learn about some of each day's newsworthy events.

      Click here to read the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's story on the convention.

      At the convention, we looked seriously at United Synagogue's evolving approach toward intermarried families. As we work to develop new models for working with the intermarried, we are talking and thinking about how to reach out to them more passionately and welcome them more warmly. Click here to read RAbbi Jerome Epstein's talk, Beyond Keruv to Edud; click here for more background.

      To read the resolutions proposed by the social action and public policy committee and passed at the convention, click here

      If you are a Schechter award winner and had your photograph taken at the convention, go to www.ultramoments.com. Your password and reference number are USCJ2005, and no matter when they were taken all the photos are dated December 6.

      To see a list of who won our Solomon Schechter Awards for Synagogue Excellence, click here; for a more detailed look at the winning programs and the philosophy behind the awards, click here.

      A wide range of vendors were at the convention; for a vendor list, click here.

      To read an article about the convention that ran in the Fall/Winter United Synagogue Review, click here.

      To see the convention brochure, click here.

      To see what was scheduled for the convention, click here here.

       

      Monday Reporter | Tuesday Reporter | Wednesday Reporter | Thursday Reporter | Convention Resolutions | Solomon Schechter Awards | Convention Vendors | Convention Schedule | What We've Got Planned | Biennial Convention Brochure

       
      Sponsored by:
       
      December 4-8, 2005 Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, MA
      November/Kislev 2004
      The NEW International Biennial Convention of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

      A convocation of workshops, seminars, institutes, meetings, and academies for leaders of United Synagogue congregations.

      December 4-8, 2005
      Boston Park Plaza Hotel Boston, MA

      Additional Features will include:

      • Presentation of Solomon Schechter Awards (see below)
      • Presentation of Framework of Excellence Awards
      • Gala exhibition of Judaica vendors
      • Exciting evening entertainment
           

      Plan to attend this stimulating and informative gathering for:

      Opening address by Rabbi Harold Kushner
      Sessions devoted to leadership training, programmatic skills and resources, and the fostering of valuable networks
      NEW: Spouses Program (Mon-Wed), with each day dedicated to a specific topic - Jewish Boston, Cultural Boston or American History Boston -- including a presentation and a field trip
       

      Delegates may choose from the following sessions (list subject to change): ·

      • Fundraising Institute (2 days)
      • Yeshiva (3 days) Presented by the Conservative Yeshiva and the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center and designed for both continuous and "drop-in" learning
      • NEW
        Making a Good Match for Your Congregation
        (l day): How to overcome the angst of preparing your congregation to search for a new rabbi, cantor, educator or administrator
      • Public Affairs Institute (2 days) Presented by the USCJ Public Policy Committee

       

       

       

           

      Additional offerings from

      KOACH,Women's League, NAASE, USCJ Department of Education, Solomon Schechter Day School Association, and more will be announced as they are confirmed. Please visit the USCJ website at www.uscj.org for monthly updates as more offerings and events are confirmed.
           

      SOLOMON SCHECHTER AWARDS - The 2005 Edition!

      Every two years, the prestigious Solomon Schechter Awards are presented at the USCJ International Biennial Convention to recognize excellence in congregational programming and to help spotlight "models" that may be emulated by other synagogues of USCJ.

      The Awards are presented in diverse categories, recognizing that all aspects of synagogue life require hard work, commitment, and creativity. Categories range from Education, to Worship and Ritual, to Judaica, Fine Art and others. Entries are judged by a panel of experts in their field.

      Won't you consider sharing your successful programs with your fellow Conservative synagogues, and then bask in the limelight of well-deserved recognition for your efforts? The participation of many congregations helps us to learn where the Movement is -- and should be -- headed.

      Please remember that a special volume, describing all winning entries in detail, will be disseminated to all affiliated congregations (as well displayed on the USCJ website) so that others may benefit from these programs. In addition, winning entries will be prominently displayed at Convention 2005 as a prime example of what our synagogues are capable of achieving.

      Applications will be available in January. Please check your synagogue mail.

           

      Last month we met Convention Co-Chairs Alan Karlsberg and Bruce Creditor. Now we are pleased to introduce

      Irv Nitkin, Convention Program Committee

      Irv is a past president of Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, BC, a past president of Pacific Northwest region, and is currently a vice-president of the international board of USCJ. He is currently a member of two synagogues, Har El in West Vancouver and Congregation Emanuel in Victoria. Irv has served on the boards of a number of Jewish organizations in Vancouver, including the Jewish Community Centre, Canadian Technion Society and the Jewish National Fund.

      A retired structural engineer, Irv fills his days (and evenings) as chair of his strata council, volunteering for Jewish Family Service Association, and together with his wife of 42 years, Betty, visiting their grandson in Victoria, BC as often as possible. In keeping with the musical tradition of Biennial 2005 chairpeople, Irv took up the cello as a retirement project and hopes someday to be able to actually produce something that sounds like music.

      Alan Karlsberg Bruce Creditor
           
       

      For additional information please e-mail Convention@uscj.org

           
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      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
      155 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010
      646.519.9251
      convention@uscj.org
       
      December 4-8, 2005 Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, MA
      January/Tevet 2005
       
      In the last two editions of our International Biennial Convention 2005 newsletter, we introduced our Convention chairpeople, listed program highlights, and presented a selection of our workshops as well as special features.

      Be sure to review our previous updates in last month's newsletter As we move forward, we continue to add new sessions and programs. Check below for the latest updates.