May 8, 2014
A Note From Rabbi Ganzberg-Krainin & Rabbi Merow:
Just as our congregation was celebrating the completion of the elevator for our National Historic Landmark Sanctuary and affirming the vision of our congregation that celebrates inclusion and full access, we received news of a disturbing decision in Rehovot, Israel. A Masorti/Conservative congregation had been working with four special needs children and their families on becoming b’nai mitzvah in a program that the Masorti movement has provided successfully for 26 years in the State of Israel. Inexplicably, the Mayor of Rehovot, Rahamim Malul cancelled the b’nai mitzvah celebration.
Mayor Malul indicated that he would only allow such a celebration to occur at an Orthodox synagogue thereby making it impossible for the girls or for their mothers to participate. Malul has contended that holding the fully optional ceremony in a non-Orthodox synagogue (the mayor and his spokesperson repeatedly referred to the congregation as being Reform though it is, in fact, Conservative) represented “anti-religious coercion.”
We think those horrific words speak for themselves. If you are as outraged by the acts of Mayor Malul as we are, we hope that you will consider writing to the mayor directly. Ask him to be compassionate. Please write with concern rather than anger. Below are two sample letters; feel free to use them, or to write one in your own words.
Here are two addresses with which to reach the mayor:
May compassion and a spirit of inclusion find a home in all parts of the Jewish world.
Sample Letter 1:
Dear Mayor, I write out of love for the Jewish people and for each Jew. I am greatly saddened by your decision to not allow a special needs b'nai mitzvah at the Masorti synagogue in Rehovot this past week. I am asking you to respond back with the sentiment of our Torah: v'ahavta l'rayecha kamocha. Love your neighbor as you would wish to be loved.
The parents of these children were excited that their special needs children would be able to participate in a beautiful service-girls included. Know that there but for the grace Gd do any of us go. Please do not take that away from them. Show love for the Jewish people and please go back to these parents and back to our Masorti synagogue and thank them for their sacred work. Allow the B'nai mitzvah at the Masorti synagogue. You might even attend, and if you do, you will be fortunate enough to see true holiness.
With Blessings, xxxx
Sample Letter 2:
Dear Mayor Malul,
I am a member of Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park PA. Our congregation shares a strong love for Israel, and we support our Masorti congregations in Israel, Masorti NOAM youth chapters and camping, and Masorti programming that strives toward full inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in religious life. We advocate for a Zionism of hope, and we believe that Israel is the place in which the diversity and flowering of Judaism can most fully take place.
I was deeply saddened to hear of the cancellation of the B’nai Mitzvah celebration of our cherished children with disabilities at the Masorti synagogue in Rehovot. I join my voice to the eloquent voice of one of the children’s mothers when she wrote to you: “Evidently, you do not understand that autistic children are different from other children. For half a year they prepared, they rehearsed and it was hard. They succeeded in connecting and cooperating in an amazing manner with the people from the Masorti Movement. You need to understand that our children do not connect easily with other people.”
Torah teaches us to act proper with compassion and selflessness. Allowing the June ceremony to proceed in the Masorti synagogue would be an act of compassion, so these special children and their devoted families may be fully included in worship and prayer, even though they have challenges. I am inspired by the name of your city, which means “a place of flourishing expansion.” I know that the people of Rehovot are open and willing to embrace new ideas, like religious pluralism, which is avidly supported by hundreds of thousands of Israelis and millions of Jews around the world.
September 24, 2014
We are deeply looking forward to spending time with you over this Rosh Hashanah holiday. We hope that you will also have time to gather around a table with family or friends to enjoy the beauty of the season. The New Year brings with it an opportunity to renew our relationships with family, with friends, with our synagogue family, with the Jewish people, and with God, The Holy One of Blessing.
Because we will spend so much time together in shul, we wanted to share with you excerpts from one of our favorite writings by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel entitled “Upon Entering The Synagogue.” Dr. Heschel thinks with us about what one might gain by spending time in synagogue.
“What does a person expect when entering the synagogue? In the pursuit of learning, one goes to a library; for esthetic enrichment one goes to the art museum; for pure music to the concert hall. What is the purpose of going to the synagogue?
Many are the facilities which help us acquire the important worldly virtues, skills and techniques. But where should one learn about the insights of the spirit? Many are the opportunities for public speech, but where is the occasion for inner silence? It is easy to find people who will teach us to be eloquent; but who will teach us to be still? It is surely important to have a sense of reverence. Where should one learn the general wisdom of compassion? The fear of being cruel? The danger of being callous? Where should one learn that the greatest truth is found in contrition?
…we must learn to be sensitive to the spirit. It is the synagogue where we must try to acquire such inwardness, such sensitivity.”
We hope that your time in shul will be spiritually productive. We look forward to welcoming Hazzan Weber and his family to our Beth Sholom Congregational community. We look forward to the new music that he will bring to our community. We look forward to welcoming many, many new members and we hope that you will take time to greet them and make them feel at home here. We look forward to both new and familiar melodies. We look forward to time for silence and meditation and many moments of pure reflection. We invite you to come in with an open heart and to use this time to begin the New Year in a reflective way.
Our services begin at 9:00 AM and we invite you to plan to stay with us until their completion around 1:15 in the afternoon. Throughout the service, please feel free to sing with us, davven at your own pace, or let your mind wander. You might wish to stay for a longer time on one particular page of the prayer book. If you feel like you need a break, please enjoy some coffee in The Fischman Foyer or in the Finkel-Sterling Lounge. The Price Chapel will be set aside all day for quiet meditation. During the hours of 11:15 AM to 1:00 PM, when our teen service is taking place, please refrain from walking through the Bornstein Auditorium. Please take some time to allow us to greet you on the front lawn after services. In case of rain, we will look forward to seeing you in the Finkel-Sterling Lounge.
Please notice the 72 Israeli Flags as your enter the Carchman Glassway; there is one in memory of every Israeli soldier that has fallen during Operation Protective Edge.
Our very best wishes for a year of health, happiness, fulfillment and peace, and wishes that this time together will bring each one of us meaningful insights of the spirit.
L’shanah tovah tikateivu—may we all merit blessing in the Book of Life in the coming year.
Rabbi David Glanzberg-Krainin Rabbi Andrea L. Merow
July 25, 2014
Horrified. That is the word of the last few weeks. We are horrified by so many occurrences: war in our beloved Israel, war in the Ukraine, downed planes in the Ukraine and in Mali, the role of ISIS in Iraq; the ongoing Civil War in Syria; one-sided UN resolutions condemning the State of Israel; virulent outbreaks of anti-Semitism around the world; and so much more disconcerting news. The events are unfolding so quickly that it creates a sense of chaos in our world and leaves many of us feeling dislocated and afraid.
For many, there is sadness attached to our horror as we find ourselves losing optimism about a future in which peace and security are even possible. It was devastating to see the intricate labyrinth of tunnels from Gaza to Israel because it reminded us how desperately our enemies want to destroy us. So much so that they would rather spend funds on fighting us than on caring for their own people. We are indeed so devastated for the families of the IDF soldiers who will never return home to their families
This is truly the time to come together as a community to embrace one another, to pray together, to share our fears, and to share our hopes that one day the world will be a bit calmer, and to show our support for Israel in substantive ways.
It is time to continue to come together to support a strong and secure State of Israel.
Yesterday many of us attended a rally in support of Israel at LOVE Park. We were proud that Beth Sholom members Josh Shapiro and Risa Ferman both gave inspiring speeches. We were proud that so many of our members were there. (See pictures) We know that we will all continue to support Israel in this difficult time.
Click here to visit the AIPAC site and lend your support to American legislation aimed at supporting Israel.
Click here to donate to The Federation of Greater Philadelphia Israel Emergency Fund.
In Jewish tradition we are taught that each person represents an entire world. When that plane was shot down 298 worlds were destroyed in an instant. When each soldier is killed a world is gone. When an innocent child dies anywhere a world is destroyed. As The Psalmist says: "Out of the depths of despair we call to you God." We also call to our fellow human beings to reach out to each other in love and not hate, with compassion and not vengeance. And that is so difficult.
In our Conservative movement's prayer book there is an alternative line that was added to the musaf service in the 1980s. "V'lo yishama od hamas b'artzeinu." No more shall violence be heard in our land." The word for violence is "hamas." This is our prayer this week: May no more violence be heard in our Land of Israel-and in any land.
We were very moved by the remarks of Elad Strohmayer, Deputy Consul General, Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region from the Rally in Solidarity with Israel July 23, 2014 at LOVE park. The rally was organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in conjunction with dozens of area synagogues and Jewish organizations. Please click here to read his remarks.
"I am honored to be here today to have a few moments to share with you as we join in solidarity with our sister Israel. The strength of our community is that we are a like family. We support each other and stand up for each other, in good times and bad.
Earlier today, I had the privilege of talking with a member of my DA’s Office family, Sgt. Becca Richman. We talked on FaceTime because Becca is serving in the IDF, in the Civil Administration in the West Bank, and is a daughter of the Montco DA’s Office, her father is my ADA Bradford Richman. Becca is a graduate of Barrack Academy, a former USYer, and Ramah camper.
Becca sent me a letter to share with you so I am going to read to you her message from the field:
When I was a student in day school, my teachers and counselors would sit me down regularly and tell me to write a letter to an Israeli soldier. Though I always wrote, I never truly understood the significance of this act of support.
Then I made Aliyah and drafted to the IDF. Now, I'm on the receiving end of those letters. Even before this current crisis, these letters were deeply meaningful because we understood that the act of writing was helping build the next generation of support for Israel. It was developing in those young writers an understanding of what the world would be if Israel did not exist. That small act of sending a letter to a soldier sends a powerful message of support.
I want to thank you for taking the time from your day to come out to support Israel and all of us. As we pass the time here, we are bombarded, not just with missiles, but also with negative commentary from around the globe. People are questioning Israel’s right to defend herself. We know we are doing what is right and just. It would be easier to give in to Israel’s critics, but it would be wrong and it would lead to the destruction of Israel. Israel cannot wait for Hamas to advance their weapons before we fight back. Israel cannot wait until the casualty count is even out before we take action.
Your attendance today speaks volumes about the Zionist community in Philadelphia. This is not just a rally. You’re sending a clear message to Israel and to the world that you will not sit idly by and ignore the thousands of rockets that terrorize Israeli civilians. You are sending the message that you haven’t fallen for biased, anti-Israel propaganda so prevalent in the media. Israel will continue to defend the Jewish homeland. We will continue to oppose extremists while acknowledging that not every Palestinian is an extremist.
We need your support because it's actually my friends who are fighting this battle. It's people I care about as if they were family. But the soldiers killed in this current operation did not die so that Israel would tolerate hundreds of rockets a week being shot at innocent civilians. I'm part of an army that will do anything to protect my friends who are being torn from childhood and thrown into war. I'm so proud of every one of them. I'm proud of those fighting and those in combat support, and I'm proud of Israel. I've never been so grateful to be a part of something I truly believe in, to be a soldier in the IDF.
Thank you all for your unwavering support."
During a time when Israel is under daily assault rocket assault from Hamas and over 1 million Israelis have been forced into bomb shelters, many of us wonder what we can do? While there are a myriad of worthy organizations supporting Israel to donate to, it is especially crucial to make the case for Israel—among our friends, our families and our elected representatives. This article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post today by David Harris move both of us greatly. We hope that many of you can use its contents to talk to your friends, to speak to our elected officials, and to make the case for our brothers and sisters in Israel.
In the meantime, let us pray for peace in Israel and throughout the world.
Aveinu Shebashamayim, Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel; Bless the State of Israel,with its promise of redemption. Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Guide its leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth. Help them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land. Deliver them; crown their efforts with triumph. Bless the land with peace, and its inhabitants with lasting joy. And let us say: Amen
אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ,
בָּרֵךְ אֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ.
הָגֵן עָלֶיהָ בְּאֶבְרַת חַסְדֶּךָ, וּפְרֹשׂ עָלֶיהָ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ,
וּשְׁלַח אוֹרְךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ לְרָאשֶׁיהָ, שָׂרֶיהָ וְיוֹעֲצֶיהָ, וְתַקְּנֵם בְּעֵצָה טוֹבָה מִלְּפָנֶיךָ.
חַזֵּק אֶת יְדֵי מְגִנֵּי אֶרֶץ קָדְשֵׁנוּ, וְהַנְחִילֵם אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְשׁוּעָה וַעֲטֶרֶת נִצָּחוֹן תְּעַטְּרֵם,
וְנָתַתָּ שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץ, וְשִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם לְיוֹשְׁבֶיהָ.
Rabbi David Glanzberg-Krainin Rabbi Andrea Merow
For up to date Israeli news please see:
To Israel's Critics
By David Harris
July 9, 2014
Want to be taken seriously by Israel and its friends?
Here's your moment to demonstrate your bona fides.
If you really mean what you say about criticizing Israeli policies but not questioning Israel's inherent right to live in peace and security, then raise your voice right now.
Not tomorrow, not the day after, but today.
Speak up and say that the scores, if not hundreds, of rockets being fired from Gaza at Israel are an abomination. Say there can be no justification for such acts of terror.
Say that that this assault is a brazen violation of fundamental human rights.
Say that Israeli women, men, and children have the right to live in peace in their homes, and not be on permanent, 24/7 alert.
Say you empathize with Israelis, as they have no more than 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter, and to make sure that their young children and elderly relatives also find protection.
Say that Hamas is a terrorist organization, precisely what the United States and European Union declared it to be years ago.
Say you've read the Hamas Charter and understand the group's goal is not to end Israel's settlement policy, but Israel, period. Say you're aware that Hamas uses civilians in Gaza, including children, as human shields.
Say you know that Hamas is linked to Iran, from which it gets funding, weapons, and training.
Say you see a clear moral distinction between the arsonist, Hamas, and the firefighter, Israel.
Say there's a fundamental difference between a despotic regime, Hamas-ruled Gaza, and a democracy, Israel.
Say you know that Hamas trains children to glorify death and "martyrdom," while Israel educates children to affirm life and advance the frontiers of human knowledge.
Say you know that Hamas opposes any Palestinian effort to reach peace with Israel, and will do everything possible to sabotage efforts in that direction.
Say you know that no country, neither America nor the European nations nor anyone else, would tolerate volleys of deadly rockets fired at them with the aim of causing murder and mayhem.
Say you know that Israeli hospitals, in response to more than 12,000 rockets over the past 14 years alone, continue to provide life-saving medical care for residents of the Gaza Strip.
Say you know that Israel not only has a right, but an obligation, to defend itself, which means going after the terrorist infrastructure and its leadership.
Say you hope that the world will understand and support Israel at this precise time, when half the Israeli population lives within range of Hamas weaponry.
Say you know how to prioritize your concerns, and, whatever your other issues with Israel might be, its ability to end the deadly attacks now tops the list.
Say you'll avoid the temptation to invoke mealy-mouthed and misplaced comments about "restraint" and "moral equivalence" and "cycles of violence," as if you were playing both sides off against the middle.
Say you know that Israel left Gaza, lock, stock, and barrel, in 2005, giving this strip of land the first chance in its history to govern itself. Say you know that no one before Israel, not Egypt, not the British, not the Ottomans, no one, offered Gaza the opportunity that Israel did to chart its own destiny.
Say you know that, in 2005, Gaza had the chance to choose whether it would seek to emulate Singapore or Somalia, and chose the latter.
Say you know that Hamas took over power in Gaza by ousting the Palestinian Authority, killing many in the process.
Say you know that there is no way peace can be advanced for the Palestinians – or the Israelis – if this very same Hamas is allowed to share governance with the Palestinian Authority.
There are moments in life that define us. We don't always get to pick and choose them. They come, often unexpectedly, linger for a time, and then move on.
This is one such moment.
Speak up now – unambiguously, credibly – while literally millions of Israelis live from one alarm to another. Don't worry. There will be other occasions to voice your ongoing concerns about, and criticisms of, Israel.
But if you choose to remain silent or resort to ambiguity, please don't expect to be taken seriously the next time you preface your critique of Israel with those familiar words, "As a friend of Israel..."